Victor Bout, one of the world’s most famous and wanted arms traffickers, was arrested Thursday in Thailand. The guy has been tied to efforts to fuel blood-soaked wars in Angola and Liberia, Afghanistan and Columbia, and many others. He has long been blacklisted by the United States Treasury Department and signaled out by the United Nations. He inspired the Nicholas Cage movie “Lord of War.” The New York Times has a story on his arrest up here. It is good news.
Left out of the New York Times’ story, however, was the United States military’s own documented role in hiring companies tied to Bout’s empire. Back in 2004, I wrote about refueling records that showed planes owned by a company the United Nations had tied to Bout were landing on U.S. military air bases in Iraq. This was happening despite a Treasury order that made it illegal for any U.S. company or person to do business with Bout. I was unable to identify the specific contract for which the U.S. government had hired the Bout-connected planes.
Months later, Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff was able to confirm what I had only suspected. The Bout-tainted planes had been hired by Kellogg Brown and Root, then a subsidiary of Halliburton, as part of a logistical support contract for the military. If Bout goes to trial, an uncertain possibility according to Bout-expert Douglas Farah, it will be fascinating. This guy knows where a lot of skeletons are buried.