Ex-Russian Air Force officer Viktor Bout, accused of selling weapons to insurgents across the world for two decades, has been extradited to the US to face terrorism charges. Bout was flown from Bangkok to New York Wednesday and directed to the Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan and appeared in Federal Court yesterday.
Touted as “The Merchant of Death,” Bout, according to the Wall Street Journal, pleaded not guilty to charges that he agreed to supply Colombian terrorists with weapons with the intent to kill Americans.” An earlier, updated NY1 story included accusations that Bout provided support to “groups in Africa, South America, and the Middle-East who tried to kill Americans,” the recurring theme.
Bout’s wealth is purported to be $6 billion. Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008, and his extradition comes despite pleas from Russia for Thailand to release him. Bout claims to be a legit businessman, innocent of all charges. Yet, not only has the case impacted negatively on relations between the US and Russia, it endangers further cooperation on issues including arms control and the war in Afghanistan.
The WSJ reported that Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said at a press conference, “The so-called ‘Merchant of Death’ is now a federal inmate,” referring to a nickname Bout received for his activity over the years. No one is beyond the reach of the law,” Bharara added. He said Bout “was secretly recorded advocating that his weapons be used to kill Americans and that he supported FARC’s goals.”
The WSJ also writes about Bout, “He was added to the specially designated nationals list at the Office of Foreign Assets Control in July 2004 for weapons trafficking activity in Liberia and the indictment says 30 more companies and four individuals linked to him were added in April 2005.”
According to the indictment,
“U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents, working undercover with confidential sources posing as agents of the Colombian rebel group FARC, convinced Bout to sell them weapons including 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 firearms, unmanned drones and land mines, for the purpose of killing Americans. The conspiracy with the agents lasted from November 2007 through March 2008, when Bout was arrested at a hotel in Bangkok.”
Again, this sounds like entrapment, a sting to snare a purported “terror kingpin.” If Bout is convicted on all four counts, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, or a minimum of 25 years in prison.
What’s doubly questionable is why Bout has been taken to New York at this time, when New York City has just booted the Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial from the city (and state), given its expense, disruption of life, and putting on our map another purported face of terror, unsettling as it might be to our Joe the Plumbers, et al.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who confessed to everything but the sinking of the Maine, was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003. KSM’s torture-taken confessions were asked to be retaken terror-free by George Bush, after being criticized by human rights groups. Of course KSM held tight to his claim of being the “Mastermind of 9/11,” and looked forward to meeting his maker.
US Attorney General Eric Holder was put on notice to rid New York of the KSM trial, but no state has been picked yet. Perhaps KSM will spend the balance of his days riding in an armed vehicle in an armada of armed vehicles, like a man without a country.
Bouts’ extradition from Thailand was fought hard by the Russian government, and it could imperil U.S.-Russian relations, as mentioned. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the extradition an “extreme injustice,” claiming his government will defend Bout “by any means,” the WSJ reported.
Also at the press conference, “Bharara announced the guilty plea of Andrew Smulian, who faced the same four counts as Bout’s associate. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation, and faces a maximum of life in prison, or a minimum of 25 years.” He sounds like the mole in the operation.
Holder added, in a statement, “Viktor Bout has been indicted in the United States, but his alleged arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts in Africa has been a cause of concern around the world. His extradition is a victory for the rule of law worldwide.”
However, Holder didn’t mention that the US operates and/or controls between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide, which leverages our power over life and death globally. Anybody have any complaints about this as world terrorism?
Estulin to the defense
The noted author of The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, Daniel Estulin, and most recently of Shadow Masters — How governments and their intelligence agencies are working with international drug dealers and terrorists for mutual benefit and profit, claims that “Viktor Bout, named the ‘Merchant of Death,’ has been designated second only to Osama bin Laden as the world’s most evil person.”
His personal investigation of Bout claims to “have ripped the lid off one of the most sinister and mind-boggling deceptions of recent times.” Estulin spent over six months in Thailand, attending court hearings and visiting Bout in prison, obtaining exclusive interviews. And, with unprecedented access to Bout’s business files and personal materials, the author shows the [past] accusations to be less than the truth — a fable serving the needs of the Shadow Masters, i.e. the unseen forces of political power.
In Shadow Masters, Estulin devotes a 74-page chapter to Viktor Bout’s trial and career as an arms dealer. In my review of his book, Shading corruption for the appearance of truth, I wrote of Estulin’s chapter, “We are introduced to the enigmatic Viktor Bout: an old fashioned Russian gun-runner or a ‘modern day Satan,’ second only in the press’s eyes to Osama Bin Laden, himself a patsy for the WTC bombings.
“Bout, nicknamed ‘The Merchant of Death,’ turns up in major media as responsible for almost every conceivable form of weapons-running imaginable, including for Kellogg Brown & Root and subsequently Haliburton.”
Estulin questions the media-myth-making versus realities of who Bout is. As Bout was finally arrested in Thailand, given a six months long trial, Estulin attended trial hearings, and, as stated, gained exclusive interviews with nearly absolute access to Bout’s financial records. Estulin’s conclusions show that the accusations against Bout were less than the truth and that he finally was released.
So if Viktor Bout was released after a six-month trial in Thailand, from one of the worst prisons in Southeast Asia, why then is he being booted to the USA against the protestations of his native country, Russia? Could it be to continue refreshing the “terrorist among us” myth, the ongoing phys-ops of US intelligence?
Bout, born in Russia in 1967, was originally posted as a military translator in Mozambique in a two-year stint in the late ’80s, not long after the Soviet Union began its implosion. He returned with his wife in 1991, the implosion in full bloom.
That’s when Bout entered weapons trafficking, specializing in Russian arms, small-caliber arms as well as sophisticated weapon systems, according to Estulin. Admittedly, associates ranged from former US military personnel and Russian officials to African heads of state and organized crime figures. He is closely linked to African dictators and rebel leaders like the late Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi; to former Liberian president, accused mass murderer Charles Taylor, but also to Northern Alliance (Afghanistan) leader Ahmed Sha Massoud, who was Bout’s friend and our ally till he was murdered by the Taliban, Estulin points out.
Bout mixed legal and not-so-legal airline activities, Estulin adds, carrying legit wares of all kinds as well. In Estulin’s opinion, “the notion of an amoral man selling death for profit is extremely unpalatable. The idea of living off someone else’s misery, fueling conflicts the world over, makes me cringe.” This description, Estulin found, did not fit Bout.
Lee Scott Wolosky, former National Security Advisor, and adviser to both Clinton and Bush, claimed that Bout, in his heyday, had close to 200 planes flying. But he was scaled back to 60, significantly less after 9/11/2001, Estulin reports. So, Bout was no angel, nor was he a demon, Estulin says, like so many suddenly unemployed Russian pilots. This is an image Estulin, a fellow Russian, who’s family had to flee Russia due to his father’s political beliefs, can live with. For the complete story, read Estulin’s fine book, a fairer, more balanced look at Bout, whom Estulin does not consider a “devout terrorist,” which seems to be what he’s being set up for now.
Returning to the sins of our own CIA, remember they recruited, armed, trained, and financed the Muslim Mujahadeen, including Osama bin Laden, on whose laptop was the FILE titled Al Qaeda, ‘the base,’ which included the outstanding fighters bin Laden encountered in the war against Russia in Afghanistan.
The CIA turned Al Qaeda into the brand name for terrorism, in a brutal war that bled Russia’s resources and ended in humiliating defeat and the Taliban’s rise. We seem to have taken no lessons from Russia’s futile combat in a country that drove out Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the British Empire. So why are we stoking the embers of disaster with Russia (not to mention Afghanistan) again — over one of Russia’s wayward citizens whom they want back?
Yes, Viktor Bout is an arms dealer, but so is the US quite frankly, and Israel, France and other nations. But why do we add the hook that Bout supplied arms to “groups who wanted to kill Americans only,” as if his sole purpose was to single us out and only us? Was he angry at us for decimating his nation and its economy?
After all, Israel sold billions in arms, including nuclear weapons to the Apartheid government of South Africa for 20 years, from 1975-95. And France helped Israel build its first nuclear reactor at Dimona in the Negev Desert in 1956. So here we have entire nations, let alone individuals, still playing these games. Are these nations’ leaders brought to the Hague and tried, any of them?
Nevertheless, we’ll sit by as one arms dealer turns into the poster boy, post bin Laden, for providing support to most of the “groups in Africa, South Africa and the Middle-East who tried to kill Americans,” or as he’s tortured into a confession.
The effect will be to buttress our “good-guy” fantasies in the face of brutalities for which we are called “terrorists.” In fact, I’m still waiting for Lloyd Blankfein, Ben Bernanke, or any of the financial terrorists of Wall Street to serve their time for spreading Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction. So far, there’s one: Bernie Madoff. Dozens more would be great.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. His book State Of Shock – Poems from 9/11 on is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.
[DS added the video.]
Daniel Estulin: Bout just a pawn, endgame – to get at Russia
RussiaToday | November 16, 2010
Moscow has dubbed Thailand’s extradition of Russian businessman Viktor Bout to the U.S. as “illegal”. Washington is accused of using ‘unprecedented political pressure’ to have him handed over. America says the man nicknamed the “Merchant of death” trafficked arms to dictators and conflict zones around the world. For more RT, talks to Daniel Estulin – an investigative journalist who has written about the links between governments and those outside the law.