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Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible 1st , Kindle Edition
|Length: 324 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled|
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Bout is reported to have made substantial amounts of money shipping goods in Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s and 2000s, and the former military translator for the Soviet Union may well have fed the flames of various African civil wars by supplying vast quantities of arms during the Nineties. He has also been dubbed a “sanctions buster” because of allegations that he violated UN arms embargoes in trading with Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Congo during the same decade.
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.
Unfortunately, the editing, proofreading and translating/transcripting (especially of Russian or Ukrainian names) are very poor, which is a shame for such an interesting book.
And as time of writing (Jan 2011), Victor Bout has been arrested and extradited from Bangkok, Thailand to the U.S, after a operational sting by the FBI/CIA, posing as Colombian paramilitaries, requiring to buy a large assortment of Missiles, RP-Gs, etc, to fuel a fresh conflict in Colombia. That's a better story line than any Hollywood film could offer.
I do not want to get into too many details of the book, and spoil it for you, but I do recommend this book, if you like a good, true story, with plenty of action.
And finally The journalism of this book is not the best, but the story of his life compensates for that.
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