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Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470261965
ISBN-10: 047026196X
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"...absorbing expose." (Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2007)

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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047026196X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470261965
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the story of Victor Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, possibly with ties to Soviet military intelligence. He was able to take advantage of a fortuitous time: the collapse of the Soviet Union meant a vast drawback of the Russian army from many of its far outposts. It also meant a lack of money and oversight of military equipment. That in combination with Bout's pilo skills learned in the air force, as well as a faculty for languages possibly nurtured while he worked as a translator for Soviet intelligence, led to a bonanza for Bout.

Bout essentially stole abandoned Soviet cargo planes right off their runways, then stole or bought on the cheap old military equipment, then flew his planes to warzones to sell to the highest bidder. Bout would sell materiel to both sides of a conflict and to terrorist groups. He spent time with the Taliban, and was involved in many still cloudy operations with moneymen in the Persian Gulf states.

Many in European and American government and law enforcement agencies began to Bout as a threat to stability in the 1990s. American intelligence and state department officials tried to interdict him, but were roundly refused by the Russian government, who became a protector of Bout. At the time of the publication of the book Bout was still free, though in 2010 he was finally detained in Thailand and deported to the United States for trial on charges of funding terrorism.

Probably the biggest headline to come out of this book is that even though many recognized Bout as an outlaw and supporter of terrorism, it did not stop the US military in contracting logistical work through him during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003.

This book by acclaimed investigative journalist Douglas Farah has many such anecdotes about the doings of Victor
Bout. This is a great read, and I highly recommend the book.
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