What’s one more criminal in the mix, anyway? So what if a government contractor supplied weapons to Liberia’s Charles Taylor and the Taliban (italics mine):
Viktor Bout, was paid tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while illegally flying transport missions for the United States in Iraq. Bout is the notorious Russian weapons merchant whose fleet of aging Soviet aircraft rivals that of some NATO countries in its size and capacity. By marrying his access to Soviet bloc weapons with his airlift capacity, Bout established himself as the world’s premiere purveyor of illicit weapons to the world’s tyrants– a one-stop shopping source for everyone from Charles Taylor and his armies of child soldiers of Sierra Leone and Liberia to the Taliban in Afghanistan, from Jonas Savimbi in Angola to the FARC rebels in Colombia.
As shown in the new book Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible by former Washington Post correspondent Douglas Farah and the Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Braun, Bout flew hundreds of flights for the Pentagon and its contractors in Iraq. He did so despite having been: 1) identified by U.S. and British intelligence as a supplier of weapons, ammunition and aircraft to the Taliban and, indirectly, to al Qaeda; 2) the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant at the request of the Belgian government; 3) named in almost a dozen U.N. public reports as the chief illegal provider of weapons to Africa’s rogue regimes, and; 4) the subject of an executive order signed by George W. Bush in July 2004 making it illegal to do any business with Bout. The executive order was followed by an order from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in May 2005, freezing the assets of Bout, his senior partners and main companies, again making it illegal for U.S citizens or their government to do business with any of the named entities.
Yet the flights in Iraq went on, at the request of Halliburton, KBR and others, on behalf of the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, until early 2006. Farah and Braun, based on flight and refueling records from Iraq, estimate Bout’s companies may have flown up to 1,000 flights as a secondary contractor for the U.S. government. Each flight cost about $60,000 — not a bad chunk of taxpayer dollars. Bout managed to up his profit margin considerably by having his pilots apply for and receive special refueling cards that allowed them to gas up for free when they landed in Iraq.
Oh, here’s some extra BONUS corruption: Bout is thought to be involved in stealing 200,000 AK-47s and ammunition that was supposed to support our allies in Iraq. That happened two years before his contracts were cancelled.