I just finished reading the riveting true story of Kathryn Bolkovac, author of The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice. Here is an excerpt from the back cover:
When Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three Kathryn Bolkovac saw a recruiting announcement for private military contractor DynCorp International, she applied and was hired. Good money, world travel, and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country sounded like the perfect job.
Bolkovac was shipped out to Bosnia, where DynCorp had been contracted to support the UN peacekeeping mission. She was assigned as a human rights investigator, heading the gender affairs unit. The lack of proper training provided sounded the first alarm bell, but once she arrived in Sarajevo, she found out that things were a lot worse. At great risk to her personal safety, she began to unravel the ugly truth about officers involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution and their connections to private mercenary contractors, the UN, and the U.S. State Department.
Fiction author Steven King says that readers expect fiction to be believable and non-fiction to be unbelievable. Based on the fact that several times I caught myself collecting my jaw off the floor while reading this book, it is safe to say the Whistleblower falls into the latter category. The book confirms what I wrote in a previous post about how some DynCorp (America’s largest military contractor) and UN peacekeepers exploit the vulnerability of women in war-torn countries.
Dive in. The book gets to an exciting start and reads like a story, making it easy to follow while weaving important factual information into the plot.
Shocking discovery. DynCorp background checks for the people they hire are poor or non-existent, and training for the field is minimal. Considering that these people are going to be working within different cultures, political climates, and economic landscapes, thorough training is absolutely essential if they are to affect positive change.
Bolkovac tells of how many of her co-workers simply wanted to blow things up and show locals how to use force. This reminded me of a U.S. soldier I met on a plane who boasted to me about shooting whatever he wanted overseas because he could. Hooligans should not be permitted to serve in a place where war, death, and pain still hang heavily in the air.
First alert. Bolkovac’s first exposure to peacekeepers creating demand for sex trafficking victims was hearing a co-worker boast about where to find “really nice twelve to fifteen year-olds.”
Breeding Ground. The book does a good job explaining why conflict zones are especially attractive to human traffickers:
Bosnia fit the bill for a healthy breeding ground. Human trafficking follows a predictable path of infestation: it seeks out environments that are warm with tumult, such as the aftermath of war or the fall of communism. Then it preys on desperate victims who are brought in over porous borders and past bribable guards. Strategically, it breeds near a region teeming with internationals, because they are the ones who have the money to feed it (p.85).
Irony: How is it that those who are supposed to be spreading peace in the world are in fact fueling and participating in the flesh trade? The sheer number of colleagues that Bolkovac found guilty of this crime, combined with the ‘sweep under the rug’ attitude of those in leadership, makes us all long for justice.
Evidence gathered. I struggled reading about how Bolkovac was mistreated by her superiors due to her discoveries, but was fascinated by her ability to collect evidence against her co-workers. She was demoted and later fired, and escaped Bosnia because of threats to her own safety – from the very company that she had worked for!
Admiration. Bolkovac took DynCorp to court and made headlines. How many people are courageous enough to take on a corporate giant with government ties? Since then, DynCorp has changed their legal jurisdiction to Dubai, where it is virtually impossible for new lawsuits to be brought against them effectively.
Out of Your Pocket. To bring it closer to home, those of you who live in the U.S. are paying for DynCorp’s operations with your tax money. Is this kind of behaviour what you want your money to support?
There is so much more I want to write about this book, but will leave the rest for you to read yourself. You can buy the book here. And for those of you who don’t like to read, you will be happy to know that a movie is being made about Bolkovac’s experience! I will keep you posted.
Has anyone else read this book? What do you think of international peace keepers buying and selling women and children? Do you have an experience with DynCorp you’d like to share? Would love to hear your comments below.