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Be Not Afraid, for You Have Sons in America: How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the U.S. into the Kosovo War Hardcover – May 27, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Kosovo Liberation Army was sparked and sustained by a roof contractor in Brooklyn who personally bought and shipped arms, massively fund-raised and provided ideological and tactical support to the fledgling guerrilla force. Sullivan, who covered the Balkans in the '90s for Newsweek, mixes reportage (sometimes reconstructed) of the insurgent group's battles with Milosevic's Serb forces after Yugoslavia's disintegration with the KLA's improbable U.S.-based, backstory, gleaned after the conflict was messily resolved by a U.N.-led coalition (commanded by Wesley Clark). She is terrific in detailing the life of Florin Krasniqi, a Kosovar Albanian who emigrated illegally to the U.S. via Mexico in 1988, and took it upon himself to get the KLA off the ground once Milosevic's intentions (and the inefficacy of nonviolent resistance) became clear to him. Anecdotes of buying assault weapons at gun shows and taking them to Albania on conventional flights, of shopping for Stinger missiles in Pakistan and of the Muslim Krasniqi getting a great price on uniforms from Brooklyn Hasidim are as funny as they are unsettling. Snappily written with a keen eye for telling personal tics and crushing political ironies, Sullivan's book reveals that this crucial, underreported event of the late '90s was more multilateral than anyone imagined.
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"Stacy Sullivan allows us to peer into the shadowy world of revolutionaries, gangsters, gun runners and war profiteers who work below the surface of every conflict. Her story is as timeless as it is compelling. She chronicles the awful machinery of war, the high idealism and base cynicism, the brutal politics and utopian visions, which propel young men into battlefields and often leaves them broken and scarred. She captures, through her dogged reporting, the dark and frightening labyrinth of war."
- Chris Hedges, author of the national bestseller and finalist for the National Book Critics Award for War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

"Be Not Afraid is a war reporting tour de force - tough, thorough, and gut-wrenching. In the tradition of Anthony Lukas' Common Ground Stacy Sullivan gives us an unforgettable character - the avenging Brooklyn émigré Florin Krasniqi - to capture the full emotional toll of a brutal war we only thought we understood."
- Todd Balf, author of the New York Times bestseller The Last River and The Darkest Jungle

"Thanks to years of reporting, Stacy Sullivan has managed to hunt down the inside story of how a Brooklyn roofer helped launch a guerrilla army in the Balkans. With her remarkable tales of gun-running, intrigue, high politics, and murder, Sullivan has given us a work of contemporary history that reads more like a crime thriller. She has also offered a disturbing glimpse behind the scenes of one of the only wars ever waged on humanitarian grounds."
- Samantha Power, Pulitzer prize winning author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (May 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312285582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312285586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Be Not Afraid" is very hard to put down. It brings to life an important story from a region whose names and rival groups are nearly impossible to keep track of by following the daily news. The Onion's headline summed it up best for many people: "CLINTON DEPLOYS VOWELS TO BOSNIA: Cities of Sjlbvdnzv, Grzny to Be First Recipients".

The book offers a sense of personal understanding of the way that groups like the Kossovo Liberation Army are started and the way that populations, governments and the media are manipulated by the actors involved in a conflict. While from the outside, the actions of these warring tribes appear like inexplicable madness, when reading their story you can almost place yourself in their position. For many readers, Florin Krasniqi's life in Brooklyn will make the story particularly compelling.

My only criticism is that the author does not take seriously some of the stronger arguments against the 1999 US-led NATO bombing of Kosovo and Belgrade. Instead, taking the approach favored by the major media networks like her employer (Newsweek/MSNBC), we hear a lot from US Government and military sources and virtually nothing from their most compelling critics.
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Format: Hardcover
Having just finished Stacy Sullivan's "Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons In America," I can only say that it an extraordinarily undervalued gem. Not unlike Chuck Sudetic's "Blood and Vengeance," Sullivan takes a complex international disaster and makes it intelligible by weaving "big picture" historical, stategic and political facts into the lives of the ordinary people who always make history.

Anyone can find the history of the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular by perusing the recent texts that focus on the governmental players, but this book sees the tragedy in the lives of those who experienced it and make it ever so real.

The book is also highly relevant to our post-Sept. 11 world. It depicts how Albanian-Americans were able to use the openness of our society and gulibility of our leaders to subvert American foreign policy in ways that were totally legal. Her chilling message for today is clear. If blue collar expats in Brooklyn can fund and arm an insurgency across the world, how much easier it would be for weapons of destruction to be acquired and utilized right here at home? Sullivan's book makes the Oklahoma City bombing - much less the continuing threat of Al Qaeda - very close indeed.

Did Sullivan get every just right? As someone who has travelled to Albania and the rest of the Balkans and read more than a little, there are some facts she missed (such as the role of the Berisha family), but not much. I learned a great deal from this book.

Finally, even if the reader has no interest in the intricacies of the Balkans, this book should be purchased and read. It is one great tale.
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Format: Hardcover
Every few years I read a book that makes me wonder most of all -- How come the literary/bookseller world isn't paying more attention to this one? I fell upon this one by accident and it is a gorgeous piece of reportage from a place we isolated Americans know nothing about. Also, it is an amazing, classic kind of American story, too -- beautifully rendered by a skilled reporter and told engagingly -- at times with great humour and always, admirable skill. Don't judge a book by its cover or either, the lack of buzz. This one's a winner.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written, readable account of the guerrilla war in Kosovo. The author spent years in and around Kosovo, and is clearly in command of her topic.

If you're not familiar with the Kosovo conflict, this is a very solid introduction to it. If you are, it's still very much worth reading. This is the first book examining in detail how Albanian-Americans supported the KLA guerrilla movement, and it adds a lot to any discussion of the Kosovo issue.

Stacy Sullivan's writing is light and very readable, but she has done her homework, and the tone never lapses into sentimentality or self-indulgence. There is a clear pro-Albanian bias, but this is hardly surprising... she spent most of her time on the Albanian side of things.

(This has definitely affected the book's reviews. You may notice that several reviewers have said "it's great" and then given it low reviews, because it didn't agree with their own opinions about the war. This is unfortunate, because it's a book well worth reading whether think the Kosovo intervention was a good idea or not.)

I have some quibbles with the book. She really doesn't give enough time to KLA atrocities, including the ones that have caused KLA members to be indicted to the Hague. She largely ignores the strange cross-currents in the province, like the killings of "collaborators" (who may or may not have been such). And some of the numbers in the final chapter are a bit iffy.

But these are quibbles. There are a lot of wonderful pieces in here: her Albanian-American protagonist shopping for Stinger missiles in a Pakistani arms bazaar, young Americans in a disorganized KLA "boot camp", Geraldo Rivera setting off an artillery strike. And the general quality of the writing is high, and the book takes a complicated subject and boils it down into a clear narrative.

Highly recommended to anyone who's interested in this still-controversial topic.

Doug Muir
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