Inside the Murky World of International Arms Smuggling
• Global weapons sales boom proving adage: ‘War Is Sell’
By Victor Thorn
Union General William Tecumseh Sherman once said, “War is hell.” But to those who profit off the sale of weapons, war is big business that brings in huge profits. That explains why, even in these tough economic times, global weapons sales are booming, with United States corporations being some of the biggest arms peddlers.
The global arms market can be split into three sectors: First are the legal sales whereupon governments buy arms from corporations. Second are sales on the black market. And third is a legally gray area where governments, militaries and intelligence agencies rub shoulders with shady and corrupt dealers in order to carry out covert agendas such as regime changes and assassinations.
On March 2 The Guardian reported: “Sales of weapons and military services exceeded $400 billion in 2010 . . . [and] the top 10 arms producing companies account for 56% of total arms sales.”
To Americans, what should be most troublesome is the role the United States plays in bombarding the world with deadly weaponry in this half-trillion dollar market.
In a recent article entitled “America: Arms Dealer to the World,” reporter William Astore wrote, “From 2006 to 2010, the U.S. accounted for nearly 1/3 of the world’s arms exports.” However, in 2010, Astore claimed that, in spite of a recessionary downswing, “The U.S. increased its market share to a whopping 53%.” As the undisputed masters of war, America shipped weapons to 62 different countries.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, of the top 20 global weapons dealers, 16 are U.S. corporations. These include: (1) Lockheed Martin, (2) Boeing, (3) Northrop Grumman, (4) General Dynamics and (5) Raytheon.
Rounding out, the biggest arms selling nations in the world include Russia, Germany, France, Britain and China. Taken together with the U.S., these countries supply more than 80% of total weaponry.
If arms are being manufactured and sold, obviously somebody has to be buying them. On March 19, Agence France-Presse provided an analysis of these purchasers. India was far and away the No. 1 importer of weaponry, followed by South Korea, Pakistan, China (which is also a big exporter) and Singapore. Overall, these five countries accounted for 30% of all international arms imports.
But leaders who stock up on weapons can find themselves in serious trouble.
After Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi surrendered his weapons of mass destruction in 2003, Britain, France and the U.S. began selling him billions of dollars worth of arms. Oddly, at the same time, anti-Qaddafi rebels were tapping the black market for high-tech weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. As everyone now knows, in 2011, a NATO-led army of the same countries that previously sold weapons to Qaddafi led an attack on Libya, which ultimately resulted in the death of Qadaffi and about 20,000 others.
Arms dealing is “the single most lucrative business there is,” said Houston-based international defense attorney Frank A. Rubino. “It’s unbelievably profitable,” he added.
Rubino should know. As the lead trial counsel for Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega as well as arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Rubino was also involved in the Pan Am 103 bombing trial at The Hague. Such a background allows Rubino to frequently defend individuals involved in the illegal arms business.
During an April 26 interview with this writer, Rubino said: “Black-market arms deals occur in the dark shadows. But the amount of money generated is incredible. We’re talking about millions and millions of dollars, and the profits are extremely high.”
When asked where the hottest spot on the globe is for this type of nefarious activity, Rubino replied: “Africa, because of all the warlords and private armies in countries such as Somalia who are always looking to acquire arms.”
Middle Eastern countries are the world’s No. 2 hot spot for illegal arms sales, he explained.
He broached the subject of last year’s Libyan invasion. “The forces opposing Qaddafi clearly bought their weapons on the black market from individual profiteers,” he said. “They probably originated or were manufactured in Russia or China.”
AMERICAN FREE PRESS inquired as to how much of this Libyan firepower found its way there from America. “I’m not sure how many guns came from the United States,” said Rubino. “That’s a question for the Central Intelligence Agency, not me.”
Rubino pointed out that, “the CIA also puts a lot of weapons on the streets. They give weapons to one side, then the other side so it’s balanced. These countries always get more than they need, so plenty of guns go out the back door”
More to Mexico Gunrunning Op Than We’ve Been Told by Feds?
By Victor Thorn
No article on the illegal arms trade could be complete without an acknowledgment of the United States official gunrunning program “Fast and Furious,” which leads directly to Eric Holder’s Department of Justice. But could an even larger conspiracy be at hand?
On July 13, 2011 Diana Valdez of El Paso Times highlighted how a notorious Mexican gang called the Zetas was smuggling guns through El Paso, Texas. Ms. Valdez quoted Phil Jordan, an ex-CIA agent and former member of El Paso’s DEA Intelligence Center .
Jordan said, “They [Zetas] are purchasing weapons in the Dallas area and are flying them to El Paso, [where] they are taking them across the border into Juarez.”
Political columnist Bob Owens quoted Jordan as well in a July 22, 2011 article. According to Jordan, “The Obama administration is running guns to the violent Zetas cartel through the direct commercial sales of military-grade weapons. . . . What’s ironic is that the DEA also uses the same Fort Worth airport for some of its operations.”
To support these claims, Owens spoke with Robert Plumlee, a former CIA operative who has ties to the Iran-contra affair, the CIA’s efforts against Fidel Castro and even the JFK assassination. “A company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the U.S. Direct Commercial Sales program, and that company may have had a direct link to the Zetas,” said Plumlee.
Plumlee’s comment was highly interesting given that the sales program is run by a federal agency.
“The U.S. Direct Commercial Sales program is run from the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls,” said Owens. “It regulates and licenses private U.S. sales of weapons overseas.”
How profitable was the State Department’s Direct Commercial Sales program under Hillary Clinton? Ms. Valdez of El Paso Times wrote: “Last year, according to U.S. statistics, the program was used to provide Mexico $416.5 million worth of weapons and equipment, including military-grade weaponry.”
Biggest Arms Dealer Tied to United States
By Victor Thorn
He’s been called the world’s biggest arms dealer, a globetrotting outlaw and someone willing to work for anyone. His name is Viktor Bout, and in March 2008 DEA officials arrested the Russian in Thailand. On April 5 Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and delivering anti-aircraft missiles to a terrorist organization.” But there’s more to this story.
During a November 9, 2011 interview with talk show host Kojo Nnamdi, Andrew Feinstein, author of The Shadow World, said: “Between the years 2003 and 2005, while there was an international arrest warrant out for Viktor Bout’s arrest, the United States was using him to transport equipment, weaponry and ammunition into Iraq.”
Bout had been running arms all around the world for at least two decades to rebels in the Congo, the Taliban and armies in numerous war zones.
U.S. protection of this arms dealer for hire became so pronounced that in 2003, after Interpol issued an arrest warrant, U.S. intelligence agents helped erase his plane from radar screens so that he could avoid detection before landing in Greece.
The U.S. military had a vested interest in his safety because, when cargo planes began delivering weapons into Iraq after the 2003 invasion, Bout owned many of them. In fact, mercenaries affiliated with the U.S. government channeled $60M to Bout to keep his planes flying into Iraq.
Bout worked for the Department of Defense until 2007, whereupon his fate mirrored those of other former U.S. partners in crime like Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Barry Seal.
Israel’s Black Marketeering in Weapons
By Victor Thorn
When the murky realm of black market arms sales is considered, one must naturally look to the terrorist nation of Israel. In fact, a Jan. 7, 2010 article in Israeli newspaper Haaretz asked, “Why are so many Israelis arrested over illegal arms deals?”
The author, Yossi Melman, began: “At least seven Israeli arms dealers are currently in jail in four countries—the United States, Russia, France and Britain—on charges of illegal arms dealing . . . forgery, bribery, money laundering and violating UN Security Council embargoes.”
Each arrested man had close ties to Israel’s Defense Ministry and U.S. military contractors. Moreover, these illegal sales provided a significant amount of revenue to Israel, making the ministate a major player on the global stage of weapon exporters. To facilitate this lucrative market, it’s no secret that the Israeli government and Defense Ministry turn a blind eye to black market sales.
Regardless of the arrests, Israel refused to restrain itself, causing some damaging pushback via a bribery scandal.
On March 20, United Press International (UPI) reported, “India’s Defense Ministry blacklisted state-owned Israel Military Industries—a major blow to Israel’s defense sector, which relies heavily on military exports. The ban from India is for 10 years.” This move will prove costly to the Jewish state, as India is one of its largest arms purchasers.
As a result, UPI added, “Israeli defense contractors have been ordered to observe a ‘compliance program’ intended to eradicate corruption on defense deals.”
If Israel’s past history is any indicator, such a move is nothing more than window dressing.
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 50 books.