Former West African Bureau Chief of the Washington Post Douglas Farah and Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Stephen Braun detail how a small circle of U.S. officials and international investigators worked doggedly to shut down Viktor Bout's arms pipelines, only to be trumped by Bout's ingenuity and by their own inability-and, in some cases, unwillingness-to confront the dark side of the new world order.
- Together, Farah and Braun have produced an impressive, investigative work, outlining not only how international arms traffickers such as Bout, and especially Bout, operate - but also the ironies of the international response to their activities.
Bertil Lintner , Asia Times
- A riveting investigation of the world's most notorious weapons dealer, Viktor Bout, whose post-Cold War arms network has stoked violence worldwide.
- A new book on Victor Bout by American journalists Doug Farah and Stephen Braun contains allegations that the Russian had a much wider remit than just Africa. The authors describe a hydra-headed network of companies which emerged from the ashes of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s - all of them associated in some way, the book says, with Mr Bout.
- An outstanding service to journalism and the public interest, Farah and Braun have written a book that should be read by everybody interested in knowing the depths of human greed and its involvement with terrorism. It is disturbing to imagine how many Viktor Bouts the collapsed Soviet Union loosed on the world, and whether they might not, as many fear, end up selling nuclear materials or other weapons of mass destruction to groups like al-Qaida or Hizballah. Bout's associates still operate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the setting for Joseph Conrad's original Heart of Darkness, on which Coppola's Apocalypse Now was based.
Viktor Bout has lived in the heart of darkness, a character in a horrific reality show we could call Apocalypse Forever. As noted, the reach of Bout's network is staggering. His presence is so pervasive that when Nicolas Cage starred in the movie Lord of War (2005), supposedly based on Bout's life, an aircraft used in the production was one of Bout's Antonovs. Bout professed to be unimpressed by the film. "Merchant of Death" reads like a thriller, made all the more amazing by the fact that it is a true story. Kudos to Farah and Braun.
- Farah, a former West Africa bureau chief for The Washington Post, and Braun, a national correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, do a masterful job of researching a figure who is reclusive and enigmatic. They paint a portrait of a man whose sales have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths yet speaks about protecting the environment in the Congo, who socialized with ruthless warlords yet talked about a normal life for his daughter, and who is driven by a quest for the greatest profit yet treats his employees with kindness.
The authors successfully navigate a trail of forged paperwork and sketchy contracts. The result: an authoritative profile of one of the world’s most dangerous men.
Scott Fontaine, The Tacoma News Tribune
- Merchant of Death is a fascinating book, and it paints a pretty damning picture of Bout, who, according to the authors, "has fueled internecine slaughter in Africa and aided both militant Islamic fanatics in Afghanistan and the American military in Iraq."
The Dallas Observer
- Douglas Farah and Steve Braun have co-authored a new book, Merchant of Death, recounting the life and times of the most prominent player in that market, Viktor Bout... PCR will be hosting Farah on September 12 - details to follow.
The Prevention, Conflict Analysis, and Reconstruction Project
- Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible pulls back the curtain to reveal the gears of war and the human beings they grind into powder. The book is a fast-paced and expertly researched biography of star-caliber arms dealer Victor Bout, whose bloody thumbprint can be found on conflicts ranging from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Colombia to Afghanistan (both sides) and Iraq. Its authors, Douglas Farah (formerly of the Washington Post's West Africa bureau) and Stephen Braun of The Los Angeles Times, are perfectly positioned to unravel not only Bout's globetrotting misadventures, but the Western malfeasance that has helped protect and even expand his empire of blood.
James Norton, Flak Magazine
- Merchant of Death is a clarion call for a better appreciation for the efficacy and need for soft power tools. The authors quote a U.S. official as describing how "the Rwanda experience brought home to us that you can't just look at the order of battle for the state, but you have to look at the gray market, nonstate actors that can be brought to bear." Precisely. That we failed to realize this as Bout was becoming rich is disturbing. The "name and shame" process of the U.N. arms embargoes, though ineffective, brought the first detailed, public reports on Bout and his operation, but they received little attention. Bout and his associates laughed at us. We knew the truth but could not harness to proper remedy.
In the end, we are left with a good story. Hopefully, we have learned something in the process. In a world where alliances change so quickly, morality should play a role in choosing who we deal with and who we target, even if our would-be partners happen to temporarily look good because we happen to share enemies. We must get past the famous argument by the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick that we should tolerate immorality by right-wing dictators because they are a necessary counterweight to Communism. If morality matters and Bout is an example of a nonstate actor that should capture our attention when conjuring appropriate exercises of soft power, we should have found a way to harass him. No amount of expediency in the touch challenge of rebuilding Iraq should have justified going into business with him. Hopefully, we have learned our lesson.
Jeff Breinholt, Family Security Matters
- From the pens of two amazing journalists comes "Merchant of Death," a telling story about international arms trade, terrorism and the true story of one man at the center of it all. Despite the high quantity of books available in the "guns and terror" genre, Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun put together a fresh page-turner. This is the story of Viktor Bout, who took advantage of the Soviet collapse to supply weapons and machinery to regimes and forces around the world. This is a book that author James Risen said documents Bout's "troubling role in the Bush Administration's Global War on Terror, his ties to Washington almost seem inevitable." This is simply a great piece of reporting that's not afraid to be bold and go somewhere others may fear to tread. "Merchant of Death" is a must-read.
John Guilfoil, Blast Magazine
- The FP piece was but a teaser for their newly-released book, also called Merchant of Death. Farah and Braun's 308-page book goes into more detail about the rise of Bout's network in the 1990s, using old Soviet airplanes leftover from the Cold War. They detail how Bout was able to deliver weapons to everyone from FARC in Colombia to child soldiers in Sierra Leone to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even the U.S. government has unwittingly received supplies transported by Bout. Consider this book full of details that we wanted to print in FP, but didn't have the space for.
Foreign Policy Magazine
- Need some beach reading? Hell, even if you aren't taking a vacation take some time and get yourself a copy of Doug Farah's and Stephen Braun's latest Merchant of Death, which marks another stellar effort in Farah's oeurve on terrorists and general bad guys. I don't know Braun but Doug is an old friend. I first became aware of his work when I was at the CIA working on the Contra war and Doug was slogging around the jungles of Central America. Doug and Stephen get you up close and personal with one of the world's most notorious arms merchants, Viktor Bout.
Larry C Johnson, No Quarter
- Farah and Braun examine Bout's life and business in minute detail; their work reflects painstaking excavation of an industry that prefers the shadows, and it consolidates interview material and intelligence reports not only from arms-control experts and intelligence professionals, but from Bout's own associates.
Graeme Wood, American.com
- What is known — and is made abundantly clear in "Merchant of Death," Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun's exhaustively researched, extensively footnoted expose of Mr. Bout and his clandestine network — is a compendium of venality and amorality that pushes the edge of the envelope for the definition of "bad guy" to new and repulsive horizons.
- An extraordinary and timely piece of investigative reporting, Merchant of Death is also a vividly compelling read. The true story of Viktor Bout, a sociopathic Russian gunrunner who has supplied weapons for use in some of the most gruesome conflicts of modern times--and who can count amongst his clients both the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the U.S. military in Iraq--is a stomach-churning indictment of the policy failures and moral contradictions of the world's most powerful governments, including that of the United States.
Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad
- Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah are two of the toughest investigative reporters in the country. This is an important book about a hidden world of gun running and profiteering in some of the world's poorest countries.
Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden
- In Merchant of Death, two of America's finest reporters have performed a major public service, turning over the right rocks that reveal the brutal international arms business at the dawn of the 21st Century. In Viktor Bout, they have given us a new Lord of War, a man who knows no side but his own, and who has a knack for turning up in every war zone just in time to turn a profit. As Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun uncover and document his troubling role in the Bush Administration's Global War on Terror, his ties to Washington almost seem inevitable.
James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
- Braun and Farah have crafted a impressive and damning dossier on this mysterious figure, a raw capitalist at work in an anarchical world.
Mark Bowden, author of Guests of the Ayatollah and Blackhawk Down
- A riveting investigation of the world's most notorious arms dealer-a page-turner that digs deep into the amazing, murky story of Viktor Bout. Farah and Braun have exposed the inner workings of one of the world's most secretive businesses-the international arms trade.
Peter L. Bergen, author of The Osama bin Laden I Know
- Viktor Bout is like Osama bin Laden: a major target of U.S. intelligence officials who time and again gets away. Farah and Braun have skillfully documented how this notorious arms dealer has stoked violence around the world and thwarted international sanctions. Even more appalling, they show how Bout ended up getting millions of dollars in U.S. government money to assist the war in Iraq. A truly impressive piece of investigative reporting.
Michael Isikoff, coauthor of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
- Journalists Farah and Braun center their absorbing exposé of this source of global misery on its most successful practitioner, the Russian dealer Viktor Bout... an engrossing, detailed description of this wildly destructive traffic.
- In the final analysis, the authors maintain in this gripping book that arms control pacts among nations are ultimately ineffective as long as such renegades as Bout are allowed to roam the world, ready to hire out their men and deadly machinery to the highest bidder.
Steve Goddard, History Wire