The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac with Cari Lynn

10685037Nonfiction — print. Palgrave MacMillan, 2011. 240 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

Subtitled “Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight For Justice”, Bolkovac explains how she went from being a Nebraska police officer to an investigator of gender-based violence, sex trafficking, and human rights violations in war-torn Bosnia. In the course of her investigations, however, Bolkovac found that some of her fellow peace-keepers were involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution. Yet her efforts to prosecute these people were stymied by the military contractor she worked for, DynCorp.

I remember watching the movie version of this book (although I later discovered that the film’s distributor has said the movie is not based on the book) with my jaw open in shock and left with a need to scrub my skin clean afterwards. Despite that, I immediately added Bolkovac’s book to my TBR list because I wanted to learn more about the military contractors and more about Bolkovac’s story.

The movie focuses on the trafficked women and how Bolkovac tries to help them, but that was only a small portion of this book and one of the weaker aspects. The stories were marginalized (maybe to protect the women?) in favor of laying out the cover-up by DynCorp, the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, and the misogynistic superiors Bolkovac had to deal with. This cover-up was successful in large part because military contractors are protected under diplomatic immunity.

I do wish Bolkovac had more succinctly explained the hierarchy of the peacekeeping mission. I was often times confused where the military contractor ended and the UN or the US Army began, and many of the acronyms Bolkovac used were unfamiliar to me.  Overall, though, an interesting and important read.

Although Bolkovac manages to draw a line from poor hiring practices to the outcomes of this story, it appears that her story has gone unnoticed. DynCorp is still in business today and has received more contracts from the U.S. government despite incidents of corruption and sex crimes occurring in both Afghanistan and Iraq after the company promised to changed their ways in light of Bolkovac’s story.

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