More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs, and America's Wars in Colombia

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"The estimated 6 million Americans who use cocaine and heroin spend at least $46 billion a year on the drugs. For the past two decades, the United States government has spent more than $7 billion a year to destroy the coca and poppy plants used to manufacture cocaine and heroin, to prevent the illegal drugs from arriving in the U.S., and prosecute those who traffic in them. Yet these drugs are cheaper and more plentiful than ever. The "war on drugs" is a spectacular failure." "At first, the effects of America's drug consumption on Colombia were
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Overview

"The estimated 6 million Americans who use cocaine and heroin spend at least $46 billion a year on the drugs. For the past two decades, the United States government has spent more than $7 billion a year to destroy the coca and poppy plants used to manufacture cocaine and heroin, to prevent the illegal drugs from arriving in the U.S., and prosecute those who traffic in them. Yet these drugs are cheaper and more plentiful than ever. The "war on drugs" is a spectacular failure." "At first, the effects of America's drug consumption on Colombia were mainly visible in the lavish lifestyles of a few kingpins, an increasingly corrupt political process, and the many lives cut short as a result of the violence linked to drug trafficking. Now, illegal armies from the political left and right are prime beneficiaries, and they use drug cash to equip thousands of troops to fight over the spoils. Massacres have become a daily horror, and no place in the country is truly safe. Caught in the crossfire are most Colombians, who are simply trying to stay alive." More Terrible Than Death is an invaluable history lesson about the U.S. role in the conflict and a gripping narrative about the Colombian lives most affected by the violence. It is vital reading for anyone interested in Latin America or the emerging war on terrorism and its links to America's drug policy.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Extraordinary and compelling... brings to life the various strandsthat have made Colombia the most brutal killing field in our hemisphere.
The Miami Herald
In These Times
thoughtful and provocative... It is impossible to read this book and come away with one's view of Colombia unchanged.
Seattle Times
Heartbreaking... puts human faces on the quagmire and makes a plea to raise awareness of the worsening tragedy.
The Miami Herald
Extraordinary and compelling... brings to life the various strandsthat have made Colombia the most brutal killing field in our hemisphere.
Wall Street Journal
A vividly written and often mesmerizing first-hand account of the violence [in Colombia]...capture[s] the reality of the violence itself... splendidly.
Publishers Weekly
Mapping the destructive effects of Colombia's drug war from the ground up, Human Rights Watch researcher Kirk (The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru) personalizes the devastation created by the violence among the paramilitary, the guerillas and the drug cartels. The result is a very readable and heart-wrenching narrative blending interviews, personal experiences and observations about the violence that has defined and destroyed Colombia for decades. Unfortunately, the book's insider perspective is both its greatest asset and its greatest failing, as the account centers more on an individual American's experience than on America's war in Colombia. Although Kirk is adept at explaining complicated internal problems within Colombia and detailing the general misery and bloodshed there, her personal anecdotes and tenuously related observations do little to advance the book and too often get in the way of the powerful accounts she is trying to present. The key to the drug war-the connection between the United States and Colombia- gets less than its due, as the majority of the narrative details internal problems in Colombia having little to do with the U.S or, at times, with drugs. Given Kirk's experience in the region and obvious investigative talent, it is disappointing that she doesn't provide an in-depth analysis of the role the U.S. has played in the region, why Colombia's plight should matter to Americans, and prospects for the country in the future. (Jan.)
Foreign Affairs
A long-time researcher for Human Rights Watch, Kirk brings the reader to a closer understanding of the conditions that have turned Colombia into what she sees as a vast and horribly violent slum, with Colombian society becoming brutalized and fragmented by the destructive impact of the drug trade and multiple guerrilla insurgencies. The U.S.-supported drug war, she believes, is frozen in place. On the one hand, the United States refuses to deal with the problem of demand, instead emphasizing supply-side eradication and interdiction. And since September 11, Washington has compounded the problem by accepting the self-interested arguments long advocated by Colombia's generals: that it is a war against leftist terrorists as well as a struggle against narcotics traffickers. As a result, the United States overlooks the Colombian military's abuses against civilians — notwithstanding Congress' demand that military aid be linked to human rights. Meanwhile, American politicians fear cutting military aid on human rights grounds because they do not want to appear to be soft on drugs. The story Kirk tells is not new, but she offers vivid touches rarely provided in most reports, stemming from her many years of research on the front lines. In effect, she concludes, the United States is fighting on both sides, "funding illegal arms with our purchases, and then fighting them with our charity." A depressing but vital contribution to the growing literature on Colombia's tragedy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586481049
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 1/7/2003
  • Edition description: FIRST
  • Pages: 311
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.11 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2003

    Good introduction to the conflict

    Kirk does a good job explaining the problems in Colombia in a simple fashion. This book contains a lot of history, so you don't have to be an expert on the political and narco conflicts in Colombia in order to read this book. However, Kirk gives the reader more than just the history of the FARC. She also tells the emotional stories of the people she has met. These poor people have gotten caught up in and incredibly brutal war. But Kirk has hope that one day, the country can end the violence that has plagued it for so long.

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