Thursday, March 6, 2008
Refusal to learn
Is anyone surprised to hear that the United States paid a fugitive international arms-dealer $60 million to fly supply missions for U.S. troops in Iraq? Is unbelievable corruption a necessary component of war? ABC News reported today that U.S. officials knowingly contracted with companies that subcontracted to companies owned or associated by Viktor Bout, the Russian arms and drug dealer who was the inspiration for the 2005 film Lord of War. Bout made his fortune in the 1990s selling Soviet-made weapons to some of the world's most violent rebel groups and most hated despots, including Charles Taylor in Liberia and Mobuto Sese Seko in Zaire, and was regarded by the United States as one of the world's most wanted men in 2000, according to ABC. But the U.S. military contracted with Bout-owned companies from 2003-2005 and even supplied 500,000 free gallons of fuel to Bout's cargo planes from bases in Iraq. Bout may have worked for the United States as late as last year, according to one of the authors of a book about the situation, "Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Plans, and the Man Who Makes War Possible" by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun. In an interview on state-run Russian television last year, Bout called the charges "very funny" and said the United States had no proof of the allegations. But even U.S. intelligence regarded Bout as a major threat, on a par with Osama bin Laden, while it dealt with him, ABC reported.