Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Guns, Money, Bad Guys And "Good" Guys

By Cernig

Does anyone seriously believe General Saint Petraeus' story about 190,000 guns - weighing in excess of 475 tons and worth over $50 million - being "misplaced" because they were kicked out of helicopters?

Especially when there are tales of crooked arms dealers and back-door deals with the mafia?

I for one don't. The more is revealed about the corruption surrounding the biggest heist in history - the theft of half the Iraqi defense procuration budget of around $1.3 billion - which occured while Petraeus was in a position of oversight responsibility, the more it seems likely to me that at least some of that activity has seen the same kind of corruption alleged in the case of Maj. James Cockerham, recently arrested for the largest Army contract-rigging and bribery case to emerge from the Iraq reconstruction effort. It's not like he's the first US officer to face such allegations.

Nor is this about mere graft, as The Fifth Estate points out. It's about either graft or weapons being used to kill US troops or both. Fifth Estate has also been counting reports and figures the number of missing weapons is far higher than admitted so far. Perhaps as much as 300,000 missing guns, plus ammunition, worth around $100 million all told. Although it pales by comparison with the 363 tons ($9 billion) in cash that the US occupation managed to lose in Iraq, it's still not chump change.

And as an LA Times article yesterday pointed out, the probability of bad things happening goes way up when you insist on using bad guys to do your dirty work. International black-market arms dealers Viktor Bout was given the contract to flie at least a portion of the weapons the US bought in Bosnia to Iraq. Previously he worked for the Taliban and he's now arming the radical Islamic leaders who briefly seized control of Somalia. With people like Bout involved, bribes and corruption are inevitable.

So far, there's been suprisingly little Congressional oversight of the entire process. Yet the entire sorry and foggy affair of arms deals in Iraq impinges directly on the credibility and efficiency of the general who will tell Congress in September that they should continue the surge. During the entire period when such frauds and shady deals were going on, Petraeus was the man tasked with organising and overseeing the process. The buck should have stopped with him, but so far it hasn't.

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