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

Blood from Stones

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Now The Fun Begins With Russia Over Bout Arrest
It did not take the Russian government long to the Russian government friends and lawyers for the recently-arrested Viktor Boutto begin working to protect him again.

The tactic now is to seek the extradition of Bout, arrested in Thailand in an elaborate sting operation run by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), back to Russia, rather than the United States.

Of course, Bout, who has armed rebels, criminals and terrorists from the Taliban in Afghanistan to the RUF in Sierra Leone to the FARC in Colombia, has always operated under the protection of Russian military intelligence.

Sending him home is setting him free, without ever going to trial. There are no charges against him in Russia and Russia, although a member of Interpol has, since 2002, ignored an Interpol arrest warrant issued at the behest of the Belgians.

Bout is a valuable commodity to the Russian services (as he has been a useful commodity to the U.S. Defense Department, the British military, the United Nations etc. etc.), and know where many, many skeletons are buried.

There must be a degree of panic among parts of the Russian intel structure that Bout could sink them all if he is not brought back home.

As my friend Lee S. Wolosky, a former National Security Council deputy who led the effort against Bout for the Clinton and Bush administrations, told the Los Angeles Times,
Bout "really needs to come into U.S. custody quickly. Otherwise, there's ample opportunity for others to mess around."

There are already rumblings in Washington that some parts of the Bush administration (Secretary Rice and others), anxious to appease the new Russian administration, is not fully committed to backing the Justice Department's extradition request.

This would be a serious mistake.

The arrest of Bout will not stop the illicit arms trade or, perhaps, even put a long term, significant dent in the overall operations.

But it is a powerful symbol of the limits of power, arrogance and impunity. If Bout walks before going to trial, the concept of building a coherent front against transnational organized crime and the growing ties to terrorist networks will be shattered.

The image of impunity will be strengthened and the rule of law will suffer another significant blow.

Congressional leaders across party lines have pushed to put Bout out of business. The same leaders should now push to make sure the Bush administration doesn't cave to the Russians on an issue of such consequence.
What the FARC Papers Show
Viktor Bout Arrested in Thailand in a Perfect Storm
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