Thursday, August 09, 2007

Honey, I Lost a Planeload of Assault Rifles (GAO Report on US Equipment not reaching Iraq) )

Even though I’m a liberal, I grew up with fantasies of James Bond, the Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission Impossible, etc. As much as I talk about the rule of law, open government, and checks and balances, I’ve always had a soft spot in my bleeding liberal heart for the possibility that America really does have super-competent covert agents who protect us from harm. They might not follow the letter of the law, but they understood and always respected its spirit. If it can’t be James Bond, even Kiefer Sutherland might do. Sadly, despite the right’s tendency to confuse the show 24 with the real war on terror, James Bond and Jack Bauer aren’t real. I was especially reminded of that when I came across the July 31, 2007 GAO Report, Department of Defense Cannot Ensure that US Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security Forces.

It turns out that the U.S. funded equipment was 110,000 AK 47s, 80,000 pistols, Body armor, and protective helmets that American taxpayers paid for to help make us safer back in 2004-2005. The Department of Defense didn’t use normal channels to procure the equipment. Instead, the weapons came through Bosnia (buy American doesn’t seem to be an important thing when it comes to taxpayer-funded arms sales) and was supposed to be flown by a Moldovan Airlines to Iraq and then distributed to Iraqi police through the Ministry of Interior and Iraqi army units through their Ministry of Defense.
The American General in charge of supplying the Iraqi units with these weapons was a guy named, David Petraeus. Because the DOD didn’t use normal channels, the arms buy didn’t adhere to any standard DOD procurement procedures. All of the weapons simply disappeared.

Most people believe that most of the weapons wound up with insurgents. Some point to a story of an entire Iraqi unit that suddenly disbanded and began fighting against the coalition instead of with it back in 2004. It’s possible that the weapons have turned up in places like Somalia, the Sudan, or even with Columbian drug lords. For all we know, the items may be getting sold at weekend gun shows throughout the United States to believers in the second amendment. The group in charge of the operation never even recorded the serial numbers of the weapons. This wasn’t James Bond or Jack Bauer as much as it was straight out of the Nicholas Cage movie, Lord of War (a kind of parable about freelance arms dealers).

A year ago, when I started following the DOD report known as Measuring Stability and Progress in Iraq, I noticed that the Iraqi police were being issued AK47’s. It’s not a big deal, but it did strike me as a little odd that the US was supplying another country with Russian-licensed weapons. The only people who ever answered my question told me, “Gee, the AK47 is a great assault rifle and that’s what the Iraqi army and police used traditionally.”

Well if we disbanded the army and De-Baathified most of the police, why reequip them with Russian weapons? There must be plenty of starving U.S. munitions makers who would gladly have cranked out m-16s for them. Similarly, why was a Moldovan airline involved in delivering this stuff? Btw, the Moldovan airline, Aerocom, was criticized by the UN for arms dealings in Liberia. Furthermore, if these units are supposed to work with Coalition forces, isn’t there a matter of interoperability?

Another odd thought is that if the insurgent/terrorists wound up with body armor in 2004-2005, many of them actually had proper US standard body armor before our own troops in Iraq did thanks to this adventure. There are also stories that Petraeaus has been arming Sunni groups who have indicated some willingness to take on Al Qaeda (some say the same groups have also been fighting the Shiite dominated government). Given this story, I’m wondering how these groups were being armed and to what actual end.

These are my questions:

1) Why did they need secret arms sales to supply Iraqi soldiers and police? We had authorized 19.2 billion dollars to do so officially. So why so secret and why such a weird delivery path?

2) The more I read about the war, the more I worry that incompetence is the real enemy. Why is everyone so focused on “corruption” when simple incompetence is this blatant? I’d say the same thing about the justice department scandal. If no one there can remember any significant decisions or key details, then does it matter if someone did something criminal? You shouldn’t have idiots running a major Government agency. Anyway, according to the GAO the Department of Defense was at the top of the chain of command for this disaster. At the time, Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. The White House surely knew by 2005 that the DOD had lost 110,000 AK 47s, shades of the ammunition dumps that went unsecured after the invasion in 2003. Honestly, I’m a little worried about General Petraeus’s name being in the middle of this thing and the way the White House now seems to be leaning on him as their man in Iraq.

The GAO report comes with a response from DOD that essentially says, “Yes, bad things happened. We’ll implement some controls next time.” My question, was anyone really held accountable for this disaster? And why is DOD swearing to fix the procurement system for these side deals in August 2007? As in, once it happened, shouldn’t they have fixed it? So, how many of these weird adventures have there been? The 2007 Measuring Stability report did note that the Iraqi army is doing an inventory of available personnel and equipment. I thought Republicans were supposed to be good at “management”. What’s going on here?

3. Why does this whole story smell strangely similar to Iran-Contra and Oliver North, John Negroponte, Robert Gates, et al. ? Mmmmm....hold on, maybe I don't need an answer to that question. :}

4. So, where are James Bond and Jack Bauer these days? It sounds like the other side had their equivalents. Where were ours? Could that have anything to do with the administration outing its own agents?

see also Viktor Bout the man behind Aerocom and the inspiration for Lord of War



At 8/11/2007 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Cup said...

What a freakin' clusterf*ck this war is ...

At 8/11/2007 01:22:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

that's one way of summarizing it :}


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