Or, the gang that couldn’t scam straight.
“ ‘Do I agree with the Iraq War?’ Diveroli asked Packouz and Podrizki one night as they passed a bong around….No. But am I happy about it? Absofuckinglutely. I hope Bush invades more countries, because it’s good for business.’ ” You’ve got to like a book that charges headlong in the same dopey spirit of its subject, but as the story turns serious, so does Lawson (Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con, 2012), whose writing for Rolling Stone is the basis of this book. The subject is three stoners from Miami who dealt a little pot on the beach, avoided work as much as possible, and seemed destined for a go-nowhere future until the more ambitious of them happened on a government website listing civilian contracts available to award. A few clicks of the mouse later, and they were arms dealers—and soon implicated in a shadowy world in which government officials didn’t want to know what was happening as long as our allies were being equipped with arms. Being criminal-minded but capitalistic as well as stoned, the trio decided to buy as low and sell as high as they could, turning over barely serviceable arms from former Soviet states to the Afghan army, among other customers. How things went south, as they were destined to once the trio got greedy and fell victim to avarice and betrayal, is the subject of Lawson’s rollicking yarn, which is oddly entertaining: mix up James Fallows’ sturdy but humorless reporting, 30-odd years ago, on the procurement shenanigans surrounding the M16 rifle with a solid dose of gonzo and a pile of coke, and you’ve got this book.
An eye-opener and an excellent job of reporting and writing. The only drawback will be the dawning realization that as bad as the three stoners were, the government is sanctioning far worse in its zeal for secrecy and deniability.