37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
It's a shame that, at the moment, this is the only book on Bout,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible (Hardcover)It's difficult to write a balanced review of this book: it really is that poor. If you want to know about Victor Bout, you're better off reading the various UN reports about his operations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and elsewhere.
Unlike Farah and Braun's effort, the UN reports are well researched and documented, well argued and reasonably well written. This book, unfortunately, is none of these things.
Here's a quote, from p. 215 , that's fairly representative:
"On one night flight, electronic alarms aboard Walker's C-130 suddenly wailed, warning that a manned surface-to-air missile had locked in on the plane's heat trail."
Manned missiles! Can you believe it! Well actually, no -- it's nonsense: no one has used manned missiles since Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove"...
Most of this book is cobbled together from unattributed sources and hearsay, and it's a shame that this sort of thing now passes for "investigative journalism". Here's another quote to give you an idea of how rigorous Farah and Braun's research is: on p. 200 they receive "reliable information... that certain individuals, including Victor Bout... may be tempted in the future to become involved in the illegal supply of arms."
Is he? Has he? May he, or some other "individuals" be tempted to, in the future? Perhaps?
The writing is hackneyed (every route, for example, is "circuitous"), often ungrammatical and in places downright unintelligible:
"Ruprah was also was given a Liberian diplomatic passport" (p. 158)... "just about anything... were up for sale" (p. 158)... "Bout was sentenced in abstentia [!]... Without direction from above, the group treaded water (p. 212)."
What's most worrying is the authors' stance on civil liberties and the rule of law. On p. 187 they sympathize with a US agent who complains that, before Bush took over as president,
"There was a limit to what the United States could do... We couldn't hold people for three years at Bagram Air Base, like they do now. We knew eventually we would have to have him [i.e. Bout] in a court somewhere and make the case against him.'"
They're disappointed (on p. 189) that other countries insist on evidence:
"'We did take it seriously, but it needs to be within our law', D'Olivera [South Africa's special prosecutor] explained in 2002... 'Without concrete evidence, there's nothing one can do.'"
They cite accusations made during a "military tribunal" in Guantanamo Bay and then conclude: "Gul [the prisoner] denied the charges, but he remains in US custody at Guantanamo" (pp. 139--40) -- as if being indefinitely held at Guantanamo, against all international law, proved anything.
It's a shame that at the moment this is the only book specifically on Bout because, frankly, it's rubbish.