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Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible Hardcover – July 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0470048665 ISBN-10: 0470048662 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470048662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470048665
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While there's no shortage of books on international terrorism, drug cartels and genocide, the international weapons trade has received less attention. Journalists Farah and Braun center their absorbing exposé of this source of global misery on its most successful practitioner, the Russian dealer Victor Bout. Throughout the Cold War, they show, the Kremlin supplied arms to oppressive regimes and insurgent groups, keeping close tabs on customers; after the U.S.S.R. collapsed, the floodgates opened in the 1990s. With weapons factories starved for customers, Soviet-era air transports lying idle and rusting, and dictators, warlords and insurgents throughout the world clamoring for arms, entrepreneurs and organized criminals saw fortunes to be made. The authors paint a depressing picture of an avalanche of war-making material pouring into poor, violence-wracked nations despite well-publicized U.N. embargoes. America denounces this trade, but turns a blind eye if recipients proclaim they are fighting terrorism, they say. Ruthless people who shun publicity make poor biographical subjects, and Bout is no exception. The authors' energetic research reveals that rivals dislike him, colleagues admire him, enemies condemn him, and Bout describes himself as a much-maligned but honest businessman. Although an unsatisfactory portrait, the book surrounds it with an engrossing, detailed description of this wildly destructive traffic. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

* While there’s no shortage of books on international terrorism, drug cartels and genocide, the international weapons trade has received less attention. Journalists Farah and Braun center their absorbing exposé of this source of global misery on its most successful practitioner, the Russian dealer Victor Bout. Throughout the Cold War, they show, the Kremlin supplied arms to oppressive regimes and insurgent groups, keeping close tabs on customers; after the U.S.S.R. collapsed, the floodgates opened in the 1990s. With weapons factories starved for customers, Soviet-era air transports lying idle and rusting, and dictators, warlords and insurgents throughout the world clamoring for arms, entrepreneurs and organized criminals saw fortunes to be made. The authors paint a depressing picture of an avalanche of war-making material pouring into poor, violence-wracked nations despite well-publicized U.N. embargoes. America denounces this trade, but turns a blind eye if recipients proclaim they are fighting terrorism, they say. Ruthless people who shun publicity make poor biographical subjects, and Bout is no exception. The authors’ energetic research reveals that rivals dislike him, colleagues admire him, enemies condemn him, and Bout describes himself as a much-maligned but honest businessman. Although an unsatisfactory portrait, the book surrounds it with an engrossing, detailed description of this wildly destructive traffic. (Aug.) (Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2007)

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Customer Reviews

Goodbye Viktor Bout!!!
Brian
For a dry, VERY non-fiction book, it's still a very easy read.
Jake McKee
The timeline is also somewhat confusing.
Brian M. Lebow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on July 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a frightening book. Victor Bout, the Russian merchant of death, is a guy who pushes the "free marketplace" ethos as far as it can go. Each year he black-markets millions of dollars' worth of weapons, from pistols to missiles, to any government or group with the scratch to pay for them. Ideology means nothing to him. He's perfectly happy to sell weapons to both sides in a civil war, for example. He's simply, as he describes himself, a "businessman" looking for the best deal. (Diabolically, he also calls himself a "humanitarian" because of his occasional highly publicized "charities"--which always, by the way, earn him huge profits.)

We all know that arms merchants, legal or otherwise, are big global players (the Nicholas Cage flick, "Lord of War," publicized the industry). But what may be less known is that many of them, with Bout at the top of the list, operate with the at least implicit complicity of governments around the world. So long as Bout markets his stuff as "weapons in the war against terrorism," so long as he sells to thugs whom governments approve, he seems to have lots of friends in high places who shield him from international police warrants and criminal prosecution.

So one of the more chilling subtexts of Farah and Braun's book is that creeps like Bout aren't really outlaws so much as allies of governments. He's like one of those slightly embarrassing cousins that you don't especially want at family reunions, but which everyone in the family secretly turns to when they need something. The Bouts of the world come and go. But their perennial presence in our midst is guaranteed by oceans of surplus weapons built by past and present superpowers, and the willingness of the remaining superpowers to turn a blind eye so long as those weapons are sold to the right people. Dirty hands all the way around.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wondered how all these poor impoverished nations waging civil wars can get their hands on seemingly endless supplies of weapons, you'll find some answers here... Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible by Douglas Farah & Stephen Braun. It's an interesting look into the murky world of arms merchants, and a big player in that game... Viktor Bout.

Contents: The Delivery Man; Planes, Guns, and Money; A Dangerous Business; Continental Collapse; At a Crossroads; The Chase Begins; The Taliban Connection; Black Charters; Gunships and Titanium; "Get Me a Warrant"; Now or Never; "We Are Very Limited in What We Can Do"; Welcome to Baghdad; Blacklisted and Still Flying; Epilogue; Notes; Index

Farah and Braun dig into the history and background of one Viktor Bout, a Russian who has built an empire in transporting cargo. Using old Soviet-era planes, often barely airworthy, he flies anything and everything into global hotspots related to war and combat. While many of the loads do involve legal items like appliances and food, quite often the trips are much more clandestine and involve massive amounts of weapons. This can be anything from crates of AK-47s to full attack helicopters. And he's not terribly selective in who he sides with. On a number of occasions, he's actually supplied the weapons for both sides of the conflict. So long as someone will pay, he'll deliver the goods. Using global shell companies and partnerships, he can change plane registrations, launder money, and operate in violation of numerous UN sanctions and restrictions. Based on the research here, it doesn't look like any of the resolutions and embargoes have had much effect on his operations.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jake McKee on September 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you're buying this book to get a novelized version of the "Lord of War" film, look elsewhere. This book is a very, very non-fiction account of a wealth of data that has been assembled.

Don't get me wrong, this was a fascinating and interesting read. The mountain of data the authors have collected is amazing. The story this data weaves is engaging and scary all at once.

For a dry, VERY non-fiction book, it's still a very easy read.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Fred Meier on August 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was a fascinating book. I have none of the doubts shared above regarding the credibility of the information... these are experienced, well-informed media professionals -- they are not, however, novelists.

Read this book for a fascinating look at black market arms trafficking from Russia to the tip of Africa and the "business" of one amoral opportunist -- but don't expect engaging prose or a creative and well-structured story; the book reads like a 250+ page news article.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Riddell on June 29, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An incredibly eye opening look at the most infamous gun runner, Viktor Bout. The book is incredibly well researched, although severely in need of an update after Bouts arrest and subsequent imprisonment in Thailand as part of a DEA sting in 2008 and extradition to America late last year
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Martin Woodward on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This well-written book was delivered on time and in good condition. My review title is light-hearted, the subject of the book is not. This is an inside look at the rise of Victor Bout, a former Soviet Air Force officer, as the superstar of modern gun running. The details of how he did it, and how the US and other nations and NGOs tracked and treated his organization, are all in the book. This is an eye-opener for the common citizen on one of todays most pressing transnational threats.
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