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More Terrible Than Death: Drugs, Violence, and America's War in Colombia

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More Terrible Than Death is a gripping work that maps the dramatic new relationship between the United States and Colombia in human terms, using portraits of the Colombians and Americans involved, the author's experiences in Colombia as a writer and human rights investigator and an insider's analysis of the political realities that shape the expanding war on drugs and the More Terrible Than Death is a gripping work that maps the dramatic new relationship between the United States and Colombia in human terms, using portraits of the Colombians and Americans involved, the author's experiences in Colombia as a writer and human rights investigator and an insider's analysis of the political realities that shape the expanding war on drugs and the growing U.S. military presence there. Looking at the war from the ground up, interviewing and profiling human rights activists, guerrillas, and paramilitaries to explain how it has changed their lives, Robin Kirk gives depth and meaning to the headlines that leave unexplained the intimate dimension of the U.S./Colombian relationship.


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More Terrible Than Death is a gripping work that maps the dramatic new relationship between the United States and Colombia in human terms, using portraits of the Colombians and Americans involved, the author's experiences in Colombia as a writer and human rights investigator and an insider's analysis of the political realities that shape the expanding war on drugs and the More Terrible Than Death is a gripping work that maps the dramatic new relationship between the United States and Colombia in human terms, using portraits of the Colombians and Americans involved, the author's experiences in Colombia as a writer and human rights investigator and an insider's analysis of the political realities that shape the expanding war on drugs and the growing U.S. military presence there. Looking at the war from the ground up, interviewing and profiling human rights activists, guerrillas, and paramilitaries to explain how it has changed their lives, Robin Kirk gives depth and meaning to the headlines that leave unexplained the intimate dimension of the U.S./Colombian relationship.

30 review for More Terrible Than Death: Drugs, Violence, and America's War in Colombia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I have to admit that the cover of this book made it difficult to pick up. Do I really need to read more about violence in Colombia? But within the first few pages I was drawn in by the warmth, humanity and readability of Kirk's writing. She tells the history of Colombia from La Violencia on-wards the beginning of Uribe's term through the stories of the people who have lived it as well as an astute eye to the way the US government has fueled the conflict here. She clearly names the cycles of faile I have to admit that the cover of this book made it difficult to pick up. Do I really need to read more about violence in Colombia? But within the first few pages I was drawn in by the warmth, humanity and readability of Kirk's writing. She tells the history of Colombia from La Violencia on-wards the beginning of Uribe's term through the stories of the people who have lived it as well as an astute eye to the way the US government has fueled the conflict here. She clearly names the cycles of failed repression and failed diplomacy while honoring the stories of hope. Indeed, the stories human rights workers are front and she paints a rich portrait of the incredible sacrifice and strength made by Colombians who stand up against repression. For over 10 years as a Human Rights Watch worker she experienced first hand the way the Colombian military targets human rights workers, both Colombian and international, by labeling them the unarmed wing of the FARC and ELN (the two main Colombian guerilla groups). I read this book over four days while I was accompanying a community in Colombia threatened by the same forces of wealth and power that Kirk lays bear. Her narrative rings true to what I saw during my time there and what I've seen on previous trips to Colombia. This book is a must read for anyone in the US who cares about how our foreign policy impacts other countries and especially for those with an interest in Latin America. Finally, this is the only non-fiction book I remember reading that has moved me to tears at the ending.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Griswold

    "More Terrible Than Death : Violence, Drugs, and America's War in Columbia" is not for the faint of heart. Robin Kirk provides an honest look at Columbia for the outsider. Every chapter is marked by death linked in some way to the blossoming drug trade which is one of the few profitable industries in Columbia. The drug trade has rained buckets down on Columbia's citizens. Every page of the book is shadowed by the stench of the death. Through personal stories captured throughout her travels, Kirk "More Terrible Than Death : Violence, Drugs, and America's War in Columbia" is not for the faint of heart. Robin Kirk provides an honest look at Columbia for the outsider. Every chapter is marked by death linked in some way to the blossoming drug trade which is one of the few profitable industries in Columbia. The drug trade has rained buckets down on Columbia's citizens. Every page of the book is shadowed by the stench of the death. Through personal stories captured throughout her travels, Kirk discusses the drug trade, the kidnapping industry, and weaves a narrative that captures the essence of a country where experiencing a bloody and violent end appears nothing more than a foregone conclusion. It is however, highly depressing but will make anyone with a beating heart think deeply about life and American policy in Latin America.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Informative book but heavy going in parts when it goes into the politics of Columbia and the factions controlling parts of the country. Learnt a few bits I didn’t know about the country and it’s troubles. Charts the country and it’s politics and leaders from the early days until the 90’s.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe Hiller

    read many year ago. formative for my understanding of the political and human rights situation in Colombia. read in Colombia, in Barrancabermeja, while staying with christian peacemaker teams.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    I learned a lot from this book. It showed me how much suffering and truly horrific events have occurred in Colombia in recent history, since La Violencia. While things have improved so much for the better in recent times, the horror of it all is still fresh in the minds of many Colombians. And the most shocking thing I learned from the book was the scale of the violence. I had always heard of the danger in Colombia due the guerilla, paramilitary, and drug lord warfare. But I had thought of it as I learned a lot from this book. It showed me how much suffering and truly horrific events have occurred in Colombia in recent history, since La Violencia. While things have improved so much for the better in recent times, the horror of it all is still fresh in the minds of many Colombians. And the most shocking thing I learned from the book was the scale of the violence. I had always heard of the danger in Colombia due the guerilla, paramilitary, and drug lord warfare. But I had thought of it as the type of violence you may find in inner city Detroit or Chicago. That is, a dangerously high amount of murder and individual violence between gangs. Crimes against individuals, not whole groups, not massacres. But the suffering that so many Colombians have been through in recent years is not on the individual level or a level between "bad" groups, it is on the level of how whole nations and ethnicities suffered under Nazi Germany in World War 2. What I mean is that La Violencia and the "war on drugs" in Colombia was/is not just a spree of individual murders, but it has involved massacres of whole villages, mass executions, trapping women and children in buildings and burning them, assassinations of anyone trying to fight for justice, common people living in constant fear and knowledge that if they make the wrong step or speak to the wrong person, the local guerilla group, paramilitary, military, druglord will kill them. The horrific and macabre events which Robin Kirk both witnessed and heard tell of during her years in Colombia are truly saddening. It is wonderful that things have improved since then, though there is still improvement to be had, especially out of the large cities. However, I give the book 3 stars because of the style in which Kirk wrote the book. She wrote it as a recollection of her many stories as a human rights worker/journalist in Colombia. Thus, while she inserted a good foundational thread of historical accuracy and information throughout the book, it was often a confusing and hard to follow conglomeration of stories. She skipped from place to place and time to time and with the many new names and places it was difficult to follow at times. Thus, by the end, despite the good baseline understanding I received of the recent war going on in Colombia, it became wearisome to slog through the pages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    This was a very informative book. It did cover massacres, it touched on drugs, and I really could have done with more of America's war. It was more Columbian history and current events than anything. I'm really glad that I read this book and it had loads of information, but I'm only giving it four stars for a couple of reasons: 1. It was hard to follow in parts. I think I'm pretty good at following what authors say, and sometimes I found myself going, "Huh?!?!" Maybe I wasn't paying close enough a This was a very informative book. It did cover massacres, it touched on drugs, and I really could have done with more of America's war. It was more Columbian history and current events than anything. I'm really glad that I read this book and it had loads of information, but I'm only giving it four stars for a couple of reasons: 1. It was hard to follow in parts. I think I'm pretty good at following what authors say, and sometimes I found myself going, "Huh?!?!" Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but she seemed to throw a ton of names out there with little to no explanation on who they were. Sometimes I felt she got sidetracked and it just confused me in some parts. 2. She kept saying that Americans are fueling the cocaine problem in Columbia with their "consumer habits." She never really supported it with any evidence, she just seemed to be blaming the whole situation on cokeheads, ignoring the fact that cocaine is both illegal and a powerful addiction. It just annoyed me how she kept saying "American consumer habits" and "American consumer culture needs to change," even though only 2-3% of the population uses it, with around than .5% of the population using the majority of it. It felt like she was trying to guilt me into "changing my ways" even though I've never even SEEN cocaine. Anyway, minor gripes. Overall it was a good book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I read this book after returning from a vacation to Colombia and felt that it deepened immensely my understanding of the place I had just visited, especially with respect to the complex, heartbreaking violence of the last half century. I felt enormous respect for the courage of the author, a human rights worker with Human Rights Watch, who risked her life on many occasions to establish and publish the painful realities of violence in multiple factions of Colombian society, including the guerilla I read this book after returning from a vacation to Colombia and felt that it deepened immensely my understanding of the place I had just visited, especially with respect to the complex, heartbreaking violence of the last half century. I felt enormous respect for the courage of the author, a human rights worker with Human Rights Watch, who risked her life on many occasions to establish and publish the painful realities of violence in multiple factions of Colombian society, including the guerilla groups, the army, and the various paramilitary groups. She is particularly eloquent in her detailing of the helpless situation of multitudes of innocent farmers and other rural inhabitants who cannot escape the brutality of the multiple warring factions. Ms Kirk is even-handed and informative in her treatment of the role America and other western powers have played in Colombia's war-torn history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    What happens when paranoia reaches its perfect pitch? Here's how Robin Kirk describes it: "Contact was contamination and contamination was death. Had a store owner bought from or sold to a guerrilla? Death. Had a telephone exchange operator placed a call for a paramilitary? Death. Had a teenage girl danced with a teenage boy who happened to be an army recruit? Death." Welcome to Colombia, where the War on Drugs meets the War on Terror--and where drugs and terror win every time, as Kirk vividly de What happens when paranoia reaches its perfect pitch? Here's how Robin Kirk describes it: "Contact was contamination and contamination was death. Had a store owner bought from or sold to a guerrilla? Death. Had a telephone exchange operator placed a call for a paramilitary? Death. Had a teenage girl danced with a teenage boy who happened to be an army recruit? Death." Welcome to Colombia, where the War on Drugs meets the War on Terror--and where drugs and terror win every time, as Kirk vividly demonstrates in More Terrible Than Death. http://www.citypaper.com/arts/review....

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    Kirk´s personal integrity and deep knowledge, understanding and commitment to making the Colombian situation better makes this the best history and analysis I have read of what´s going on and why in Colombia. It is readable, interlaced with compelling personal stories, and comes from the perspective of someone who put in ten years of work on the ground to document the human rights situation in Colombia. Excellent.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer

    A recommendation from my brother in law. I made a trip to Bogota a few years ago and became interested in their contemporary literature. This book talks about what had happened in the worst times in modern Colombian history. Unfortunately, the US does not look so good in the story. Gruesume but well presented. If you like history of latin America, this is a good book for you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michele White

    fascinating content, but a bit dense, potentially because i don't know that much about latin america. but i would get confused about which farc leader or militia person was doing what when. that said, the story of colombia is really incredible and so this is worth a read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

    Fantastic guide for understanding contemporary Colombia, with a particular focus on how U.S. policy and direct military and/or CIA involvement has significantly affected (worsened) the situation. Well written and engaging, not dense.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Gifford

    Extremely helpful in understanding the conflict.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Excellent portrayal of drug trafficking effects on Latin America.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    so far an interesting insight in to the US fuelled drug trade

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ann Hardman

    Not necessarily a fun read, but great for learning the past 50 years of Colombian history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kyzner

    If you are a novice of Colombian history and politics, then this is a nice introduction. Kirk gives excellent explanations differentiating the ELN, FARC, paramilitaries, and M-19 from one another.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Digressive. Read like she took notes from years of traveling and started typing without a plan. Frustrating to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fernando

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erik

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicolás Díaz

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tetyana Ivanishena

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tryggvi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jack A Raslich

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vik

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

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