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Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade Hardcover – October 7, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1ST edition (October 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684827263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827261
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

One of the most important stories that's rarely in the newspapers is the foreign sales activities of American defense contractors. But an important issue it is, as illustrated by this book. Spoils of War focuses on the overseas marketing of helicopters to Turkey, which results in nice profits for Sikorsky, but has awful consequences for the Kurdish refugees they're used against. John Tirman, active in left-wing think-tank and publishing circles, makes the case that the main result of U.S. arms makers' market-making for weapons that the Pentagon doesn't want is a Third World human rights fiasco--one that, despite the company line, doesn't really help state and local economies.

From Library Journal

In this engaging and challenging look at the disastrous consequences of America's seemingly unmitigated appetite for arms sales abroad, Tirman, executive director of the Winston Foundation for World Peace, examines the nature of America's militarized economy and society and evaluates the impact of military sales on such faraway places as the Persian Gulf and Kurdish villages in Turkey. The author paints a disturbing portrait of government officials, including many so-called liberal Democrats, who pay lip service to the promotion of democracy and human rights while supporting policies diametrically opposed to such ideals. Tirman challenges the United States to change its role as the world's policeman and the largest arms dealer by undertaking a morally responsible road in its foreign policy. A welcome addition to the critical literature on U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War era; highly recommended for public and academic libraries.?Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, Ala.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

My focus on the "human element" of war goes back several years. Most of my books have engaged the causes and consequences of war for the innocent people caught up in conflict. This is a neglected topic in academic research and gets little attention in the news media. Somehow, the ordinary people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and other venues of war don't seem to count for much. The topic is not only important politically and morally -- for how we shape war policies -- but is fascinating (often heart-rending) as stories. Millions of people have been killed in U.S. wars (and other wars, of course), many more millions have been made homeless, destitute, and damaged. Yet we seem as a society to care very little for these people. It's an enormous puzzle, really, why so many civilians suffer in war and why we do so little about that.

I recall one of the best war documentaries ever, "Hearts and Minds," which was about the Vietnam War. Near the end, a Vietnamese man was sobbing over the rubble of his home, which had been bombed by the U.S., asking why his village, which had no military value, was destroyed, and his family destroyed with it. "Tell Nixon she was only a little girl," he cried about his young daughter, "a little schoolgirl." You see this and you must wonder, How could this possibly happen?

So I have set out to explore how and why ordinary people are buffeted by war. Much of my work at MIT is focused on these kinds of questions. The "terrible swift sword" of war strikes all around, even the innocent, particularly the innocent. This -- and the hope to prevent it -- is my life's work.

For a fuller and more conventional bio, see

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zachary L. Stauber on September 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this when it was first published a while back. Tirman outlines how the U.S. defense industry, helicopters and small arms in particular, was kept alive by conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia during President Reagan's administration, by the numbers. I'm not surprised the Turkish reviewer didn't like his take. Mr. Tirman accuses Turkey of persecuting Kurds much more than Saddam Hussein (the anti-Kurd in American mainstream media), with American hardware. But you don't have to listen to any academic discourse; he lets the numbers speak for themselves. Turkey was the biggest recipient of U.S. military aid until recently, and the only Middle Eastern country to be involved in F-16 fighter production.
Mr. Tirman also outlines American involvement in Iran while supporting the Shah (King), in Afghanistan while supporting the Mujahideen, and gives a very simple, believable explanation of why Israel has become the recipient of so much American military aid.
To my knowledge there has been no serious criticism of Mr. Tirman's book and certainly nobody has refuted his numbers, which are a matter of public record but startling to read as he puts them together.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Spoils of War
by Spiros Rizopoulos,

Senior Associate, The Western Policy Center

Spoils of War, John Tirman's analytical work on U.S. arms sales to allies, challenges the political and moral rationale behind U.S. foreign policy choices, particularly during the period from 1968 to the present, and criticizes the standards by which the United States has selected its "favorite" allies during this period. Tirman provides insight into the relationship between U.S. interests abroad and the aid Washington has given its allies, particularly Turkey. He also explores the role of pork barrel money in strengthening U.S. domestic industrial interests concerning the sale of arms to these allies.

Tirman begins the book by describing the historical rivalry between the civilizations of the West and the East, which began in 2,000 B.C. and led to the Crusades and the occupation of Christian Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, marking the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. According to Tirman, cooperation between Christian countries of the West and Muslim countries of the East, such as the alliance between the United States and Turkey, is not viable today because of historical antagonisms stemming from the Crusaders' efforts to contain the spread of Islam.

To illustrate this conclusion, Tirman describes Washington's relationship with Iran in the 1970s. Under the Nixon administration, the only way the U.S. was able to avoid being hurt by the Shah of Iran's proposal that OPEC members limit their oil exports to the West was to sell arms to Iran in exchange for oil.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chastity Wilde-Bush on July 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Spoils of War, John Tirman makes an invaluable contribution to understanding the plight of the Kurds in Turkey. He does an excellent job of revealing the role of the US in contributing to their annihilation (there can be no other word.) However, Tirman falls down when it comes to conveying the broader context into which Turkey, and the Kurds, fit.
Like most journalists Tirman is most comfortable with contemporary facts and figures, but, when it comes to history, he tends to be credulous to the point of superficiality. His knowledge of the oil industry, for example, is surprisingly weak, given the importance of petroleum to his story. As a case in point, in the very first chapter of the book, Tirman sets the stage for his later argument by claiming that at the time of the oil embargo of 1973-74 half of US imports came from the Gulf. Had this in fact been true, then Tirman's later claims that the embargo panicked the US into fostering policies that established the Middle East as an area of national security would have had some basis. However, as a brief glance at Department of Energy data will show, (and it really only takes a minute), oil imports from the Gulf amounted to less than five percent in 1973. The misnamed "embargo" - actually a very small reduction in output -was largely a symbolic flexing of muscle by Saudi Arabia to prove to the rest of the Arab world that it was not a toady to the US. In terms of US oil consumption, the embargo was a mosquito bite. In terms of politics, however, it was a godsend.
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8 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Tirman's book is a typical example of western intellectuals' failure to understand Turkey and her complex relations with European/western countries.
Tirman simply treats Turkey as an Islamic Eastern country that solely depends on western powers, essentially United States for survival in an hostile region. The major failure of the book lays in perception of Turkey.
Since early 60's different political parties with different political agendas have dominated Turkish politics. True, there were military coups and interruptions to democracy, but Turkey is the only moslem country where proper elections are held and most of the non-govenmental organizations enjoy the same level of freedom with the other European countries.
Most of today's inhabitants of Turkey are descendants from the lost territories in Balkans and Caucasus. Traditionally, todays Turks are not related to Arabic or Iranian people of Middle East. Without understanding the country, people and its internal dynamics, Tirman puts Turkey in the same basket with the despotic regimes of Middle East.
You can read this book and see how an American intellectual, who is living in a crystal castle without getting out for decades, sees the world.
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