Arms and the jihad, I sing…

glock19.jpg 80,000.

That’s how many Glock 19’s and other pistols the GAO figures have gone missing among the 190,000 weapons that are “lost” in the Iraq War zone.

Newsweek offers a thoughtful examination of the history of how this hemorrhaging of weaponry is helping to destabilize the Middle East.

— A fifteen year old Muslim with a “grudge against the West” used one such gun to murder a Catholic priest in a coastal Turkish town….

— Another Muslim fanatic used a Glock last May to shoot up the Turkish Supreme Court. One justice was killed and four others were wounded….

Turkish – and American – authorities have since learned from Glock, the weapon’s Austrian manufacturer, that the guns used in these attacks were only two of thousands that have streamed into Turkey and other countries from Iraq. And that the serial numbers on the guns match those assigned to “US Mission Iraq.”

The American military has repeatedly investigated the loss of these guns originally intended for Iraqi governmental forces (both military and police). The investigations, which many believe led to the suicide of Col. Theodore Westhusing, the highest ranking soldier to die in Iraq, and an ethics professor from West Point, reveal that massive corruption infests the Iraqi government. Worse, Westhusing found out the weapons distribution program, overseen by the State Department and handled by private contractors, was engaging in widespread fraud – including sending weapons to the black market for re-sale to insurgents, terrorists, assassins, and criminals not just in Iraq, but across the Middle East. Simply put, the weapons that are supposed to be used to bring law, order, and stability to Iraq are instead being used to destabilize the entire region:

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

The contractor of record in the Westhusing case, USIS from Virginia, owned until recently by The Carlyle Group, has just received a new 21 million dollar contract from the Department of Homeland Security. The Carlyle Group, of course, has ties to the George H. W. Bush. Some have speculated that Westhusing’s involvement in investigating USIS fraud and corruption drew him into conflict with powerful forces that harassed him and drove him to his self-destruction.

Whatever the truth is concerning Westhusing, 80,000 Glock 19’s are circulating in the Middle East and being used to wage jihad when they were supposed to make Iraq safer for both its citizens and our troops. And thus far, while possible explanations for such behavior have been offered, no one has been held responsible.

6 replies »

  1. I think a problem here is we are sending very desirable and expensive weapons into countries where people are poor, hungry, and dependent on a black market. Even if our own troops and American private contractors were lily-white, we could expect losses to the black market. Hand a local a box full of glocks for a fledgling police force, and don’t be surprised when you come back a few days later that the box is light a few guns. Take one home to protect your family, hand one to your brother for his family, sell a couple to buy medicine or food on the black market. Hand a few off to settle debts or appease the local big shot.

    The locals aren’t stupid, they know we are keeping poor records, that our manpower is stretched thin and we’re hampered by our own politics and the language barrier. Pilfering is a part of war. As far back as the ancient Greeks people have looted bodies and shorted the supplies train.

    While I’m surprised by the number of weapons missing, I’m not surprised it’s happened. Besides the issues I’ve listed above, you’ve also got soldiers and private contractors who will always have bad apples. How many soldiers and sailors came back with contraband after World War II or Korea? Whether it’s just “I always wanted one of those” (slips into pocket) or selling whole crates under the table, there will always be someone who sees no further than the health of his or her wallet.

    Yes, I think there should be an investigation, and if any party is found to be involved, they should be prosecuted. But anyone who’s surpised by these events has had their head in the sand.

  2. I don’t think the issues here that should be of deepest concern to us, Lara, are the ones you enumerate. Yes, pilfering and “spoils to victors” activities are normal parts of war behavior. And one can hardly think that Iraqis who are struggling to survive won’t take a gun out of the box for personal use – or perhaps a few guns for family and close friends.

    But Westhusing evidently found out about systematic fraud – and the more he explored, the more dangerous what he found out became to him. Or maybe he had an inflated sense of honor that couldn’t accept the sorts of “real war” behaviors you mention. But we do know that he received information about contractor misconduct with weapons. And that led him places where he became fearful or disillusioned enough that he took his own life.

    If contractors are systematically skimming guns to sell on the black market, that’s a far more serious issue that Iraqis taking weapons to protect themselves. And if the guns we’re giving to Iraqi soldiers and police are simply being sold to Al Qaeda or other groups, that’s a whole other mess.

    I think the point of all this is that we’ve made a mess of everything we’ve done in Iraq because we’ve tried to run the war as a business and not as a matter of state. Enriching government contractors – especially by allowing them to get away with black marketing war materiel – is part and parcel of that “military-industrial complex” problem Eisenhower warned us about nearly 50 years ago….

  3. Let’s think about this, friends.

    Who benefits if the entire Middle East remains in turmoil?

    Who benefits when war follows war and low-intensity conflicts from the Horn of Africa up to Afghanistan keep the fear of terrorism alive?

    Who benefits from a police state?

    Who benefits from unrestricted wiretapping?

    Who benefits if oil prices remain unstable?

    Any particular coalition of interests spring to mind?

    Just asking. ‘Cuz the answer I get is so horrible it would have been dismissed out of hand as a bad pulp political thriller ten years ago.

    It’s always about money.

  4. I agree, Tom, that this is about money. That’s what’s wrong with this war – its motivation was money (i.e., Iraqi oil), its prosecution has been about money (private contractors taking over many traditional military operations), and its extension into some indeterminate future is about money (again for contractors both here and at home as well as for further possible adventuring in pursuit of more oil – from Iran)….

  5. Wasn’t Petreus the General in charge of arming the Iraqis at the time those weapons went missing? Why does this smell to me like a black flag CIA/Cheney/DIA kinda off the books thing to get more money for something nefarious?