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

Blood from Stones

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Russia Seeking Bout's Release
Well, that did not take long. According to my sources, confirmed by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times, Russia is actively seeking to get the State Department to help spring Viktor Bout from his Thai prison home.

One of the reasons the DEA held its sting operation that led to Bout's arrest so close to the chest was precisely because the agents understood the high risk of political interference in the case.

There is a strong desire in the State Department, derived partly as a legitimate function of the department's role, to seek to pacify other nations and make sure that they like us.

This institutional tendency is in play in an effort to engage the new Russian government on a variety of issues.

The argument is that there are other, larger issues at stake if the U.S. pushes Bout's extradition to the U.S. and a trial here. Better to suffer the short-term humiliation of finding a way to free him (and likely blame the Thais) than the long-term humiliation of having him expose his ties to numerous governments while carrying out his bloody business.

The counter-argument is that this is a high profile case that has the potential to show America's willingness to end impunity for transnational criminal figures, even if it means the pain of some unsavory revelations.

The Bout case is also a healthy challenge to the expansion of Russia's criminal enterprises that enjoy a high level of government protection.

But ultimately the moral weight of holding accountable someone responsible for fueling wars that left hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people dead, wounded, maimed beyond repair, abducted and raped, should stand on its own.

The sheer scale of his past operations put him beyond the scope of petty international bickering and fears of embarrassment. At some point, the tradeoffs don't matter.

Will lives be saved by not prosecuting Bout? No. But we will all lose tremendously if he is not.

And, on another note: Russia has decided to extradite another old friend of mine, Yair Klein, an Israeli-Russian mercenary who trained the drug cartels in the use of explosives and sophisticated weapons, back to Colombia.

From Colombia, where the retired lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army was filmed training right-wing paramilitary death squads in sophisticated military tactics and weapons use, Klein moved on to Sierra Leone, where he as arrested and held for 16 months for dealing diamonds with the Revolutionary United Front. He was arrested in Russia.

Now, the Russia courts say he can be sent to Colombia, where he was tried in abstencia and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Let's see where that one ends as well.

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