Friday, October 12, 2007

The Merchant of Death

While there’s no shortage of books on international terrorism, drug cartels and genocide, the international weapons trade has received less attention. Journalists [Douglas] Farah and [Stephen] Braun center their absorbing exposé of this source of global misery on its most successful practitioner, the Russian dealer Victor Bout (pictured, in the Congo). Throughout the Cold War, they show, the Kremlin supplied arms to oppressive regimes and insurgent groups, keeping close tabs on customers; after the USSR 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 UN 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.

-Publishers Weekley

A fascinating interview with Merchant of Death author Douglas Farah on Al Jazeera's English service. Includes a phone conversation with Richard Chichakli, a close associate of the elusive Mr. Bout.


Anonymous said...

Farah is trying to sell a busted book that no one is buying. The book is filled with alleged witnesses who cannot be identified, and accounts that cannot be verified.
Douglas Farah is obviously making up the story to stay "important" since all he ever met fame with is the Bout story he invented. No one but Douglas Frah had ever supported with facts what Douglas Farah had invented.

Aaron said...

Anonymous, would you care to substantiate that? I think our readers would be interested in reading more about this (I know I would), if you could provide a link or two.

Aaron said...

I might add that Farah is not the only one running this story; the Jamestown Foundation ran a piece (, as did the BBC ( Though Bout's name typically stays out of the news, his companies do sometimes get in it, as when the Mirror ran an article (,HAVE).

Lucie said...

Have you seen the Nicholas Cage movie, Lord of War? Seems based on this type of weapons dealing. Decent, not magnificent.

Richard Chichakli certainly has a very Soviet mentality of denial by attack. Crafty sobs.