REVIEW: ‘Guns, Girls, and Greed’ Offers a Ground-Level Look at Modern Warfare

Gun Girls Greed
by Greg Young


History is written by the victors but rarely gives the view of the people who fought it. Politicians and military generals talk about war in platitudes, while the ones they send to combat rarely get their stories out. Guns, Girls, and Greed; I was a Blackwater Mercenary in Iraq flips this paradigm by giving the reader a ground-level perspective of the war in Iraq.

In the vein of Catch-22, the author is unrelenting in calling out the insanity of combat and diplomatic missions in Iraq in 2004–05. Lerette shows how military and political hubris collide to create a new way to wage combat—using private military contractors under the guise of diplomacy to wage war.

The author has the reader ride along as a passenger in his convoys, showing the emotions, thought processes, and abject fear that haunted him each mission. The text starts with a bang, taking the reader through shooting at a vehicle as it approaches the convoy and the diplomat his team is protecting. Later, he describes the party at Saddam’s pool, where contractors get drunk and rowdy on a nightly basis. It was all just another day in Iraq.

The book doesn’t slow down as Lerette makes repeated trips down Route Irish – the most bombed road in Iraq, and battles the infamous “Baghdad Bug” like so many other US service members. Like many service members, dark humor is used as a coping mechanism to alleviate the daily stress of dodging mortar fire and the debilitating fear of driving around IED-infested streets.

His hubris and naivety begin to fade as the book moves on, and he starts to take a harder look at the war and how it’s being fought. After several traumatic events, the human toll of it settles over him. He becomes jaded toward military leadership, talking about how well the war is going on the news while hearing car bombs explode outside the gate nightly, before deciding that if the people of Iraq don’t care enough about their country to secure it, why should he?

He begins to feel the effects of PTSD (not knowing what it was) as he becomes short-tempered and angry. The lure of money keeps him in Iraq at the expense of his relationships with his family back home. At one point, he says Iraq feels “more like home” than his native Arizona.

This is a story about coming of age in war. On its surface, Girls, Guns, and Greed is full of harrowing tales and dark humor, but if the reader looks deeper, they cannot ignore the human toll that combat takes on those who wage it. It takes a hard look at how the Iraq war was poorly planned and executed by political and military leadership, which led to the need for “civilians” to take on traditional military roles. It’s up to the reader to decide if private military contractors are a net benefit or detractor in Iraq.

Private military contractors have become a mainstay of US foreign domestic policy since Iraq. They are currently being used in combat zones like Ukraine and Syria to train local militias to fight at the behest of US interests. They are being used to traffic unaccompanied minors from the US-Mexico border into the US. They’ve become a stopgap for politicians to use when they don’t have the political capital or resources. Is this how we want the US to operate?

Mr. Lerette’s candid and gritty look at modern war, full of the profanity and humor used by soldiers and contractors alike, gives a view into the Global War on Terror and how private military contractors continue to operate in foreign and domestic lands today. This is a must-read for those wanting to understand how contractors and service members struggle with the morality of war and where PMC’s fit into it.

Guns, Girls, and Greed may be the most important book about the reality of one of America’s longest and most controversial wars—and how America still operates in the gray in hot spots and wars around the world.

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Greg Young is host of the nationally syndicated Chosen Generation Radio Show, which airs Monday through Friday on stations coast to coast.  He served as a Russian linguist at the USAF.  Discover more at
Photo “Battlefield Maneuvers” by Morgan Lerette

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