Friday, September 14, 2007

The Pentagon's Grey Arms Dealer

By Cernig

There are few stranger and sleazier episodes in the cataglogue of Iraqi occupation errors than when the U.S. used an infamous international arms dealer with a history of selling to dictators and terrorists as their contractor for flying weaponry into Baghdad to arm the Iraqi security forces. The same guy who armed Congolese warlords and the taliban, working on behalf of the Pentagon and Kellogg, Brown & Root.

Laura Rozen interviewed the author of a new book about that arms dealer, Viktor Bout, over at MoJo yesterday. Journalist Douglas Faraj told her:
The U.S. government response to revelations of the use of Viktor Bout to fly for government contractors in Iraq (not just a few flights, but hundreds, and perhaps a thousand) has been mixed. Bear in mind most of these flights occurred after President Bush had signed an executive order making it illegal to do business with Bout, because he represented a security threat to the United States. The State Department, under a congressional inquiry initiated by Senator Russell Feingold, found it had used Bout companies, acknowledged it, and stopped. Paul Wolfowitz, while at DOD, did not respond to queries for nine months, then acknowledged that DOD contractors had subcontracted to Bout companies. Despite the public revelation, the congressional inquiry, the executive order, and a subsequent Treasury Department order freezing the assets of Bout and his closest associates, the flights continued for many months, at least until the end of 2005. The Air Force cut him off immediately, but other branches of the military continued to use him.
The book should be a hell of an interesting read.

But I find myself wondering about folk like Bout shuttling weaponry around the world for vast profits (legally or illegally), corrupt national officials lining their own pockets by selling of badly-guarded government arsenals, and the ease with which even the U.S. military can become infested with the kind of corruption that can "lose" a few hundred thousand assault rifles.

With all of that going on, it seems to me that no-one can make the kind of hard and fast claims of definite leadership direction and culpability that the Bush administration and the U.S. military want to make about Iran alleged meddling in Iraq on the kind of evidence they have presented for those claims to date. To keep doing so, surely, is a definite case of fixing the intelligence around the policy - of biasing assessments based on what you want the story to be, rather on what you can actually say for certain.

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