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Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5762

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Consumer Reports

Has Soldier of
Fortune gone soft? -- ADS for tactical assault gloves, night weapons sights and SA58 carbines, you expect to find in Soldier of Fortune.

First-person stories about the daring actions of U.S. special-ops forces behind Taliban lines, you also expect to find in Soldier of Fortune.

And where else would a retired Army Ranger shopping for a new civilian battle rifle find an in-depth review of the new H&K SL8-1 (with 600 meter folding sights)?

But an op-ed column by that semi-commie author Salman Rushdie? And one by that quasi-conservative William Safire, who thinks military tribunals would be too hard on terrorists?

Reprinted in Soldier of Fortune's February issue with permission from - gag - the pages of the New York Times? What are these wimps and wussies doing desecrating the sacred pages of America's toughest magazine? Shouldn't somebody call Gov. Ventura?

At ease, ex-SEALs and wanna-be mercenaries.

SOF - as it likes to call itself - has not been taken over by "a pack of easily spooked eastern print pundits," which is how editor/publisher Robert K. Brown describes the liberal press in his cover story, "Spec-Ops in Action: Accounts from Inside Afghanistan."

The civilian military monthly is its old, endearing, trigger-happy self.

Rushdie merely argues that the war on terrorism is about Islam and the refusal of Muslim countries to separate mosque and state, while Safire warns about the dangers of building anti-terrorist coalitions with oppressive, terrorist-nurturing thug-ocracies such as Saudi Arabia.

With its full-page ads for Bin Laden toilet paper and targets, anyone to the left of Charlton Heston would agree that Soldier of Fortune has good reason to be delivered to subscribers, as its own house ad promises, "in a secure and discreet opaque polybag."

SOF is a hoot. But only a cranky anti-gun nut could deny that it contains good, informative and entertaining stuff.

For example, in gun scholar John R. Lott's column, "Israeli Homeland Security Tips," we learn this rarely reported fact: Israel's government tries to thwart terrorists by encouraging 10 percent of its citizens to carry concealed weapons.

One SOF feature is "Torture to Prevent Terrorism," an examination of the nasty torture techniques the French used against Algerian rebels. Another is "Underground Combat," which describes how much fun the Soviets had trying to blast freedom fighters out of the amazing maze of ancient and modern caves under Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan, of course, is nothing new for SOF. As it rightfully boasts, the magazine's correspondents have been traveling with Afghan warriors and "gathering intel" there since 1980.

America at war is to SOF what Oscar Night is to Vanity Fare. But if you think the magazine's only encounter with mainstream (i.e., unarmed) civilian culture is its ads for paintball gear and SOF Travel mugs, you're wrong.

Check out its behind-the-scenes preview of "Black Hawk Down," the coming movie about the military mess-up in Mogadishu, Somalia, that left 18 U.S. soldiers dead.

According to writer Jim Morris, an ex-Special Forces guy who's covered eight wars for SOF, it promises to be so authentic, so moving and so realistic it'll give nightmares to a Delta Force soldier. Which means it may even please SOF subscribers.

JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald