Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Tale of Kasim

Kasim Al Safar is a name that is going to haunt the Pentagon for weeks if not months to come. No, he’s not one of Al Qaeda’s number two’s, he also isn’t head of some new, obscure but upcoming terrorist organization. In fact, Al Safar was a friend of the Bush Administration’s and may very well still be a friend of the Pentagon’s.

Not having learned that trusting people is a very different thing in the Middle East than it is here despite their run in with Allawi, the Bush Administration thought long and hard about how to quell the insurgency back in 2004 when it was rapidly gaining speed. Now you’re thinking: they entrusted Al-Safar with making sure that as few weapons as possible got into Iraq, a tactic which may have only slowed the insurgency a little, but which at least would have had some positive effect. You would be wrong.

Bush Administration officials paid Al-Safar large sums of money to import and distribute weapons in Iraq. They were supposed to go to the new police force and the new army. But Al-Safar, bless his soul is a business man so he set up a business selling guns. Quite illegally, but with apparently full knowledge of the Pentagon.

Now you’re thinking: clever! He and the USA could make money from these weapons by selling them to the ‘good guys’ instead of giving them away. Wrong! Kasim sold the weapons to whoever showed up with cash including insurgents that struck at US troops and terrorist PKK members who attacked Turkish troops with the very same guns. You can’t believe it can you? Nor could I. But the whole sordid tale of how the USA lost some 190,000 firearms in Iraq between 2004 and 2006 is in this New York Times article. To quote John Tisdale, a retired Air Force master sergeant who managed an adjacent warehouse:

“This was the craziest thing in the world, they were taking weapons away by the truckload.”

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