BY WILLIAM C. HENRY “A Manhattan federal grand jury on Wednesday convicted Russian arms trader Viktor Bout of four counts of conspiracy to sell anti-aircraft weapons and other arms to purported Colombian rebels to kill Americans. He faces a term of 25 years to life in prison.” Thus began a Washington Post article last week describing the end of the two-decade-long career of the man known alternately as “Merchant of Death” and “Lord of War,” who shall live out the rest of his day in infamy as the most prolific independent purveyor of illicit weaponry ever to ply the detestable trade. Maintaining his own air-cargo fleets, Bout had gladly supplied his murderous means to any dictator or despot with sufficient funds in the bank and enough level ground to land the planes. Ever the sociopath, he cared not a whit about motives, morals or political bent. If you had the want and the wherewithal, Viktor had the wares and the wiles to deliver.
This glimpse into the illegal arms trade got me to wondering just who the other major disseminators of death and destruction might be, and what manner of fortune was sparing them from a fate such as Viktor’s. Well, imagine my surprise (okay, not really) upon learning that the biggest and baddest blow-’em-up beast of them all turns out to be none other than US with an A on the end! In fact, it quickly became clear that this magnanimous peace-loving nation of ours is soooo far and above the numero uno worldwide merchant of misery, there would be little or no purpose served in identifying the rest. And, needless to say, that all-too-significant two-faced fact also unburdened me of the need to delve any deeper into that “what manner of fortune was sparing” stuff either, since, heh, heh, the standard we’ve set for holding responsible those of our highly-placed own who commit REALLY UNCONSCIONABLE CRIMES–if you get my Dubya-and-five-deferment-Dick-sized drift–isn’t exactly what you’d call stellar.
Did you know that there is a special department inside the Pentagon whose sole mission it is to promote and facilitate the sale of armaments produced by American manufacturers? It’s called the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and last year it spent about 2.7 billion of your tax dollars doing just that. Can you believe it? We even spare our main makers of murder and mayhem the expense of maintaining their own sales departments! Is this a great country or what?! But I digress.
It has always pleased me no end to point out the heights of hypocrisy and deceit to which our government is willing to climb in its ongoing efforts to convince you they’re the guys in the 10-gallon white hats, while, even as they speak, flames are engulfing their pants. Talk about an arms trader! Folks, this country’s history is drenched in the creation and maintenance of some of the most despicable despots and dictators ever to blight the planet. In countless instances, we’ve provided the finances and fire power to lift them to prominence, and the money, military means, blind eye and held-nose to keep them in power! Here’s a sampling of thugs, tyrants, despots and dictators we’ve kept armed to the teeth over the years, and, sadly, there are literally dozens more.
1) The Pinochet reign of terror in Chile. We were complicit in the downfall of the duly elected Allende government and Pinochet’s assumption of power. Some 3,200 Chileans and at least three Americans died as a result. But at least he wasn’t a commie!
2) The Shah’s reign of terror in Iran. We literally put him on the throne. He and the CIA create SAVAK, one of the most despicable secret police organizations in history. Together they tortured and murdered thousands of Iranian citizens. But, come on now, should that be enough to make them hate us?
3) The Somoza reign of terror in Nicaragua. Some 50,000 Nicaraguans killed, 120,00 exiled, and 600,000 made homeless. We were in it up to our eyeballs. What a friend we had in Anastasio!
4) The Saddam Hussein reign of terror in Iraq. We created him. We armed him. We financed him. Our weapons and training helped him murder thousands of his own people. Then, under false pretenses, we sacrificed 4,801 and 32,200 of our own dead and wounded to supposedly rectify things. But, hell, what’s an abomination or two among friends.
5) The Mobutu Sese Seko reign of terror in Zaire. Sure he tortured and murdered thousands of his own people, and stole literally all of the country’s money, but does that necessarily make him a bad person?
6) The Guatemalan reigns of terror. We overthrew the duly elected Jacob Arbenz government and replaced it with a series of brutal dictatorships. Thousands of Guatemalans were slaughtered as a result. So?
7) The King Abdullah reign of terror in Saudi Arabia. One of the most abysmal human rights records ever recorded, but, what the hell, he’s our man in the middle east. Trying our best to give him $60 billion more in combined military assistance. Apparently the oil business just ain’t what it used to be.
8) The King Abdullah II reign of terror in Jordan. $300 million in military aid in 2010. Freedom of speech there is harder to find than a forest of pines in the Arabian Desert. Torture abounds. Obviously he’s our kind of guy.
9) The Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov reign of terror in Turkmenistan. He never met a human rights violation he couldn’t learn to embrace. But when you’ve got huge gas reserves and enough land to lay down a U.S. air strip, you’re our kind of man.
10) The Islam Karimov reign of terror in Uzbekistan. Same old sad story. Vast energy resources and shares a border with our favorite abomination. Initiates forced child labor during the cotton harvest and brooks zero dissent the rest of the year. Enjoys boiling the opposition.
11) The Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo reign of terror in Equatorial Guinea. Large oil reserves. End of story.
Regrettably, there’s little else to say. What fuels this abhorrent government behavior is nothing more than unbridled capitalism. Under our system the pursuit of profit is paramount. Oh, sure, we exercise a modicum of principle, morality and/or ethics now and then, but, make no mistake, our preeminent motivation is–and unless or until corporate bottom lines evolve consciences–will surely remain, the almighty buck. All of which is no doubt great solace to the descendants of those we’ve dispatched in our near century-old shameless pursuit of foreign friendship, influence and profit. As the facts herein attest, if ever there was an example of hypocrisy and greed run amok, we are it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.
1,833 = The number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan
18,342 = The number of Americans wounded in Afghanistan
0 = The number of financial industry kingpins indicted for having committed the most massive FRAUD in American history and wrecking the global economy, plunging untold millions into lives of misery and deprivation.