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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly accurate
I have spent 20 years working in various parts of Africa and already knew that most aid projects were pointless - but had assumed that the effects of the aid were at worst neutral if not vaguely benign. I was already aware that after the Rwanda genocide, the Tutsis got no aid, whereas the refugee Hutus (who carried out the murders) were overloaded with aid.

It...
Published on 9 July 2010 by Mr. Peter Roberts

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not the whole 9 yards!
I bought the book hoping for an in depth critique and analysis of the subject and some answers to the problems thrown up by the author....but I was disappointed!

It was interesting insofar as it publicised problems associated with the subject but only in a gossipy sort of way, it was journalistically lazy I felt! I know these problems exist due to my work, but...
Published on 30 May 2010 by SG


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly accurate, 9 July 2010
By 
Mr. Peter Roberts (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I have spent 20 years working in various parts of Africa and already knew that most aid projects were pointless - but had assumed that the effects of the aid were at worst neutral if not vaguely benign. I was already aware that after the Rwanda genocide, the Tutsis got no aid, whereas the refugee Hutus (who carried out the murders) were overloaded with aid.

It is therefore depressing to learn from Linda Polman's excellent book that this is not the case: much aid actually has a negative effect on the victims and on the countries it is given to. Indeed even that some aid is solicited by the country in question in order to carry out humanitarian crimes such as mass internal relocation of rebel populations: this was the case for Ethiopia and the 1984 Band Aid aid campaign.

Aid prolongs conflicts and increases deaths.

There will be exceptions, but probably only for small projects: the big ones are tainted. Darfur (now), Ethiopia (1984 et seq), Biafra (1967), Rwanda (1994).

Aid is big business for the aid organisations and some are not so scrupulous about how they discharge their responsibilities. We should leave aid to Governments, but monitor properly how they are spending our money. In my own experience I am aware that UK Government aid to finance primary schools in Uganda in the early 1990s was inadequately controlled and much just ended up in the pockets of fraudsters.

A book that is easy to read, but deporessing: should be on the reading list of Government MInisters.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sceptical view of aid to Africa, 9 Jun 2010
By 
Professor Ian M. Johnson "Ian" (Aberdeen, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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The United Nation's "Millennium Development Goals" set out to halve the number of poor people in the world by 2015, without defining which half, or what would happen to the other half. Yet, twenty of the world's poorest countries still receive little or no aid. It is therefore important for a sceptical eye to be cast over what is happening to the aid funds that we contribute through taxes or collection tins, particularly for causes and crises in Africa.

This book by a Dutch journalist sets out to do precisely that, beginning by reviewing the creation of the concept of humanitarian aid in the middle of the Nineteenth Century with the foundation of the Red Cross with a presumed duty to relieve human suffering unconditionally. The author's case is that by doing so, the aid agencies put themselves at the mercy of the belligerents and the corrupt.

Using well documented examples, she demonstrates how TV and the Internet have raised awareness of crises, and how - as the news media cut costs - journalists have become passive processors of the agencies' publicity. The agencies themselves manipulate the media by highlighting or even exaggerating the worst cases of need to help them in the competition to raise money. That might be considered `fair game' were it not for the fact that insurgents and corrupt regimes deliberately worsen situations to attract attention.

Many of the smaller agencies are inexperienced and provide inappropriate assistance. Their multiplicity only serves to make the situation worse. If one refuses to help, there will always be another willing to step in to justify its existence, assisting corrupt governments which have maintained the crises in their countries to enable them to milk the agencies by taxing imported food and medical supplies or by ensuring that services available to them can only be provided by associates of the regime.

It is widely estimated that 60% (or more) of aid money is lost through corruption. The delegation of responsibility to sub-contractors makes it almost impossible to check whether money is being spent properly.

Inevitably, given the content, the book depends heavily on anecdotes and unattributed comments from agency staff, but there is enough hard evidence elsewhere, such as the US Auditor General's reports on aid to Iraq, and World Bank reports. The presentation in the book is aimed at giving pause for thought in an arena in which hearts rather than minds have too often influenced decisions. There is no easy solution to the problems she raises, but at the moment no one is talking about them. Perhaps this book will do a little to help to end the conspiracy of silence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two titles - one book, 29 Jun 2013
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This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
Linda Polman's War Games is, apart from an introduction, the same as her Crisis Caravan. I could not get the contents of Crisis Caravan as this was a kindle edition. But the first chapter of both books is Goma -a total ethical disaster.
I know this as I bought both books, thinking, obviously, they were different.
As I had to rate the book for the purpose of this review I have given it 5 stars, because I think it is excellent
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worrying book that more people should read, 29 Jun 2011
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This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
This book is a quick and easy read and I would like to see more people reading it as I think it raises a lot of questions that deserve to be answered. Though the book is about aid to developing countries in general, it does focus on Africa as that is where most aid goes at present. Really, what is it about aid that makes people ignore common sense? I can only suppose it is the desperate situations that people get caught up in that make any action seem better than no action at all. Billions of pounds have been poured into Africa without producing anything. It is senseless to carry on like this and hard questions and hard actions need to be taken as it seems that the main result of so much aid is rampant corruption. I don't know how accurate the author's facts are as I am not in a position to judge. However, if even a fraction of it is true, it's horrifying enough. The idea that the rebels of Sierra Leone might have amputated more limbs from their victims to get more of the world's attention and therefore aid monies is monstrous. What are we achieving with aid?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars war games----aid to foreign countries, 28 Aug 2010
The book arrived in very good time and in excellent condition. It had been recommended reading in The Times. It described how terribly awry all aid can go and be positively dangerous for helping the wrong parties. Corrupt governments intercept monetary and material aid and/or it simply gets distributed to groups who use it towards their own cruel ends. The contents of the book can seem repetetive---unhappily having to illustrate on so many fronts and in so many situatuons how utterly wasted much of the well-intentioned assistance becomes.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not the whole 9 yards!, 30 May 2010
I bought the book hoping for an in depth critique and analysis of the subject and some answers to the problems thrown up by the author....but I was disappointed!

It was interesting insofar as it publicised problems associated with the subject but only in a gossipy sort of way, it was journalistically lazy I felt! I know these problems exist due to my work, but some of the issues cited were not put in context or in some cases were factually wrong! This lead me to think that if this was the case with the few circumstances cited in the book that I personally knew about, how much of the other instances cited about other situations in other regions were also wrong?

Having said that, valid points were made about certain aid agencies and their dealings with children, but the points about the role aid agencies play in supporting the perpetrators of wars eg rebel groups can't be addressed by aid agencies alone, a much stronger political will from the international community needs to be factored in, particularly regarding policing of the help given.

I felt the tone was rather one dimensional, but nevertheless a useful book to draw public attention to the problems and situations faced by aid agencies!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and mind-opening, 11 Jun 2014
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This represents Linda Polman's experiences as a journalist across many war- and catastrophe- zones. It is a counter view to that with which we are presented with in the media and exposes the underbelly and corruption of the aid game. From ethics, to the commercialisation of aid to the manipulation by aid agencies to the corrupt control of aid camps by rebel gangs...
There is too much to say, and too much to fully comprehend, but what she exposes is something we all need to think about. Her message is that International Aid needs to change, to block corruption internally and externally.
And to deliver help to those that raeally need it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Biting, intensely readable, surprisingly hilarious, 30 May 2014
This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
I came to this book via my local library, having been deeply impressed by her previous book "We Did Nothing", about the failures of UN peacekeeping. Polman turned her attention to the unholy connections between aid and war, and has produced a work which, while it might not win awards for academic rigour, succeeds brilliantly in its purpose of showing us how the almost unimaginably vast sums our governments and charities spend in our names are rarely used for their supposed purposes.

The opening chapter's description of the gigantic refugee camp set up after the Rwandan genocide in 1994, in Goma, Zaire (now Congo), makes for astonishing reading. I was unaware that this well-reported creation was, in fact, populated mainly by Hutus, the ethnic grouping responsible for the genocide. They were using the camp as a base to launch attacks back over the border and some in the camp grew very rich on the proceeds of stolen aid, robberies which the aid organisations were unwilling to confront because it might mean they would have to give up their lucrative jobs and leave.

The thesis of the book is that aid is so poorly administered that, in the majority of case, it causes far more harm than good. To her great credit, Polman offers no simplistic solutions: she does not call for the ending of all aid, which would be both moral cowardice and rebound on us here in the developed world. But, as she states, we are far too willing to believe everything we're told by self-interested governments, institutions and non-governmental organisations. We need to question much more, to demand that our money is spent wisely, or not spent at all. Personally, I would go further and greatly reduce overseas aid budgets, which from all the evidence are out of control. We should also be a lot less naive about NGOs and charities before we set up that direct debit, recognising that these are, at heart, businesses like any other, and demand that they show that the long-term effects of their activities are providing value for our money and genuinely helping people who can't help themselves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars nice book, 18 Mar 2013
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This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
a very good description of why aid fails to work and how humanitarian work is more a business than more humanitarian.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - ignore the detractors, 20 July 2011
I find it very interesting that some of the reviewers of this book view it as having too many anecdotes, and not enough empirical backing. HOW ironic, given that a major line of her arguement is that empirical measures to justify aid are either non-existent, made up to please donors, or anecdotal themselves. A lack of empirical evidence to present doesn't undermine her theme... it simply reinforces it!
This book will stir emotions of anger in even the most stoic, and will shake your conscience such that you may never donate money to an aid organisation ever again. Be warned!
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War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times
War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times by Linda Polman (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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