Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Operation Dark Heart

Every week I listen to one of the funniest shows on public radio: Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me! Using a game show format, the one-hour broadcast does topical humor on the week's news.

This week I listened to the podcast on Sunday afternoon. Host Peter Sagal began a segment this way:
"Anthony Shaffer's new war memoir, OPERATION DARK HEART, promises to be a damning expose of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Well, the Pentagon is upset about all this information that's about to come out and have decided to do what?"
Celebrity contestant Luke Burbank first guessed that the Pentagon decided to crash the Amazon Kindle website and later suggested that perhaps the Pentagon decided to "disappear" the author.

Peter offered the hint that the Pentagon decided to take advantage of Amazon's free shipping for more than ten thousand copies. Luke then correctly guessed the Pentagon decided to buy up all the copies. Peter explained:
"The book alleges that the U.S. military had the chance to defeat the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but they screwed it up. The Pentagon--rather than allow the book to hit shelves--is negotiating with St. Martin's Press to buy the entire ten thousand first print run in order, they say, to protect classified information. This means that OPERATION DARK HEART will be an instant, if inexplicable, best-seller."
Peter also suggested other Department of Defense employees were rushing to release their own exposes. My favorite was WHERE THE WILD THINGS (AND OUR TROOPS) ARE.

I was so tickled by the news story, which I had not heard previously, that I googled OPERATION DARK HEART.

The Washington Post carried the story on September 10 here:
"Operation Dark Heart," which was scheduled to be published this month by St. Martin's Press, recounts the adventures and frustrations of an Army reservist, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who served in Afghanistan in 2003, a moment when the attention of Washington and the military had shifted to Iraq ... A new print run, without the disputed passages, is being prepared by the publisher. Meanwhile, the first printing is sitting in a warehouse in Virginia.
Macmillan, parent company of St. Martin's, had this to say here:
On Friday, August 13, 2010, just as St. Martin’s Press was readying its initial shipment of this book, the Department of Defense contacted us to express its concern that our publication ofOperation Dark Heart could cause damage to U.S. national security. After consulting with our author, we agreed to incorporate some of the government’s changes into a revised edition of his book while redacting other text he was told was classified. The newly revised book keeps our national interests secure, but this highly qualified warrior's story is still intact.
If the Department of Defense paid retail, taxpayers are out $260,000. I'm hoping they negotiated for at least a 60% discount considering that SMP saved on shipping costs and got some great publicity out of the deal.

If you want to hear the entire Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me! podcast, go here.


Kaz Augustin said...

Try as they might, it appears that some copies have escaped the buyers at the DoD and, so I've read, are being sold on eBay at massive prices. (I'd give the link but I've forgotten where I read it.)

ARCs perhaps? Priceless.

Maya Reynolds said...

Kaz: Yes, the Washington Post article indicated that there were copies sent to reviewers.

The free market at work.