|Viktor Bout extradited to the United States aboard a Drug Enforcement Administration plane on Nov. 16, 2010. Photo by Drug Enforcement Administration (in the public domain).|
The NY Times notes that Andrew Feinstein, a former member of the South African Parliament, is the author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade.” The Times fittingly published Feinstein’s op-ed about corruption in the world arms trade on Veterans Day 2011.
As I read this piece, I wondered how long it would take before the likes of Victor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” would be marketing worldwide the means for manufacturing Predator Drones, if not the actual missile-firing, unmanned air vehicles.
I’m speaking here of the same UAVs that destroyed the convoy in Libya mistakenly believed to be transporting Gaddafi, who was later found in a sewage pipe by rebels. According to videos, his captors brutally beat and humiliated their man before executing him.
Make no mistake, since 9/11 the U.S. has actively participated in returning world civilization to ca. 1780 B.C., the era of the Hammurabi Code, a Babylonian law code that defines justice as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
Take a look at Feinstein’s op-ed and see if it doesn’t give you chills:
LAST week’s conviction of Viktor Bout, the so-called Merchant of Death, was a rare moment of triumph in the fight against the illicit arms trade.
But it points to the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of the global trade in weapons: Governments protect corrupt and dangerous arms dealers as long as they need them and then throw them behind bars when they are no longer useful.
Arms deals stretch across a continuum of legality and ethics from the formal trade to the gray and black markets. In practice, the boundaries between the three markets are fuzzy.
With bribery and corruption de rigueur — a Transparency International study estimated that the arms trade accounted for almost 40 percent of corruption in all global trade — there are very few arms transactions that do not involve illegality, most often through middlemen, agents or dealers like Mr. Bout.
Mr. Bout made fortunes providing “transport and logistical” services — an oft-used euphemism favored by arms dealers — to conflict zones around the world on behalf of governments, the United Nations, large listed companies and myriad covert operators.
His clients included, among others, the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, the Northern Alliance and then the Taliban in Afghanistan, a number of the protagonists in the Balkans, the Angolan government and its mortal enemy the Unita rebel movement, and all sides in the complex conflict that continues to rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo.