Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Press Releases

Some of the Missing Weapons to Iraq Transported by Viktor Bout's Network
Today's Washington Post brings the disturbing news of tens of thousands of weapons that were supposed to be delivered to Iraq from Bosnia that are now unaccounted for.

In fact, the number is likely far larger than the 190,000 mentioned in the story. And as the story notes, many of those missing weapons have likely been used against U.S. forces in Iraq, having been acquired by the insurgents.

This incredible lack of control, and the deadly blow back such negligence has on U.S. troops fighting under already-harsh circumstances, is one of the main themes (pardon the promotion, but it is valid, I think) of our new book, Merchant of Death.

While the GAO report on which the Post based its story is useful, in fact the problem is far larger, as we show. Viktor Bout's aircraft, we found, transported at least 200,000 AK-47 assault rifles from Bosnia arsenals, supposedly to Iraq in 2004, although there was no record of the weapons ever having arrived in Iraq.

Our reporting was triggered by this Amnesty International report from August 2006. The report shows that "Large quantities of small arms and light weapons from the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) war-time stockpiles and tens of millions of rounds of ammunition were exported and supposedly shipped to Iraq by a chain of private brokers and transport contractors under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) between July 31, 2004 and June 31, 2005."

Our reporting verified this, and that many of the weapons were flown by one of Bout's flagship carriers, Aerocom, in four flights on Aug. 7, 8, 21, and 22, 2004. The flights were allowed fly despite the fact that the IL-76 carrying the weapons, had its Moldovan Air Operating Certificate revoked the day before the flights began.

So, to recap, we have a person known to have flown for the Taliban, FARC and Gadaffi transporting weapons with End User Certificates issued by the US Department of Defense, on aircraft that should not be flying, with weapons that appear to never have reached their destination.

"They really have no idea where they (the weapons) are," Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information who has studied small-arms trade and received Pentagon briefings on the issue, told the Post. "It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors."

So, we hire bad actors to take weapons that end up in the hands of bad actors, pay good money for the privilege of having the weapons likely turned against U.S. troops fighting an insurgency.

Just as banks are finally recognizing the need to "know your customer," air freight contractors must learn to know their companies. The argument many U.S. officials have made in justifying using Bout companies to fly things is that he is a secondary contractor, so it is not their responsibility.

But if that contractor is known to fly weapons for Hezbollah and the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia, is there really a good reason not track him and cut him off from receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars? I can't think of one.
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