Lawyers, Guns, Money and Drugs
For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese - Warren Zevon
I'll be returning to the "Grave Mysteries" discussion as soon as I can, but I don't have time tonight to do much more than point you toward this article in Wednesday's Village Voice (with thanks to Paul Thompson for the head's up), that makes sound parapolitical sense of the UAE port deal vetted by the office of John Negroponte.
Regarding the cuts to operational capacity of the Coast Guard and the inadequacy of Customs, James Ridgeway writes:
This is a dream setup for any arms or dope dealer, and that's exactly what the United Arab Emirates is all about.The ties between its top officials and royal family with the Taliban and Al Qaeda go back at least a decade.
The UAE is not only the center of financial dealings in the Persian Gulf, it is switching central for dope and arms dealing. The dope comes out of Afghanistan into the UAE where tax monies are collected and used to buy arms, which were sent back in for the Taliban. Some of this money is thought to have helped finance the 9-11 attacks. A money trail is set forth in the government's filings in the Moussaoui case.
Long at the center of this operation is the mysterious Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout.... His planes are registered to various companies all operating out of the United Arab Emirates.
In fact, the United Arab Emirates have been viewed as hub for trade going and coming to Afghanistan, with drugs coming from Afghanistan on their way to the West, and weapons from Bout, going back. While transportation was via Bout's different air cargo interests, it also involved the Afghan state airlines, called Ariana Airlines. The airline was controlled by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda agents masquerading as Ariana employees flew out of Afghanistan, through Sharjah, one of the emirates, and on to points west.
Bout, naturally enough for someone beyond the reach of any arm of justice, has been a wildly successful contractor to United States forces in Iraq. Last month, Douglas Farah wrote of Bout's Pentagon connections:
Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russell Feingold first raised the issue of Bout's coalition military contracts on May 18, 2004, in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Feingold asked then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage about reports of U.S. military links to Bout's companies. It took Wolfowitz eight months to respond.
In a January 31, 2005, letter to Feingold, Wolfowitz acknowledged that "both the U.S. Army and the Coalition Provisional Authority (in Iraq) did conduct business with companies that, in turn, subcontracted work to second tier suppliers who leased aircraft owned by companies associated with Mr. Bout.... Although we are aware of a few companies that are connected to Mr. Bout, most notably Air Bas and Jetline, we suspect Mr. Bout has other companies or enterprises unknown to the Government."
In fact, as the Los Angeles Times first reported in 2004, Bout aircraft were in constant motion into Iraq after the invasion. A single Bout company, Irbis, flew more than 140 flights into Iraq for the U.S. military and its contractors by the end of 2004.
Over a period of eight years, the United States government has repeatedly asked the UAE to shut down Bout's businesse "as required by UN charter," but Dubai only ventures that it will "study" the issue. Of course: not only are the UAE's rulers Bout's business partners, but they can see the US winking at them even as it makes the "demand."
So there we have it, and a familiar narrative it is, too. Many observers have already concluded that the UAE deal wasn't about security - after all, the enemy is already within - but about money. It should be clear now what kind of money (the kind that's unaccounted for - the best kind), and why Bush made this, of all causes, the first for which he vowed to use a veto in its defense.
This seems a through the looking glass moment for many who stuck by the rhetoric of the administration until now. If this were a legitimate government and these were normal times, its officials would be back on their heels if they were still on their feet. But instead, they're even emboldened to piss away their base with a move that makes no political sense. But then, we're way past politics here.