05 April 2012

Lord of War and a Life Sentence

Looks like he might just be the lord of a jail cell.

Russian man who became known as the "Merchant of Death" for his exploits in the arms sales markets worldwide is set to learn how long he'll be in prison after his defense lawyers asked a judge to set him free and prosecutors asked that he never get out.
Viktor Bout, 45, faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and possibly life during sentencing Thursday for his conviction on terrorism charges. His lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to throw out his conviction, saying he's a political prisoner who stepped into a vindictive U.S. government sting operation.
Federal prosecutors say Bout should spend life in prison because he agreed "without hesitation and with frightening speed" to ship "a breathtaking arsenal of weapons," including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles along with 10 million rounds of ammunition to men he believed represented a foreign terrorist organization willing to kill Americans in Colombia.
They say his weapons fueled armed conflicts in some of the world's most treacherous hot spots, including Rwanda, Angola and the Congo and that he was looking for new arms deals in places like Libya and Tanzania when he was arrested.

So we're putting a guy in jail for fast, responsive customer service? I mean, if he had agreed to ship weapons to Colombia, but not "without hesitation and with frightening speed" would the prosecution still be so intense?
What if he was just shipping staple guns, and not "a breathtaking arsenal of weapons"?
What if they were intended to kill Peruvians, and not Americans?
Is the zeal with which the prosecution is proceeding due to the triangulation of efficiency, lethality, and target choice? How does changing any one of those change the approach to the prosecution?
Let's get real here: we're after him because he agreed to try to help kill Americans. We didn't care when he was supplying Rwandans, or Angolans. Keep his activities confined to Africa, and no one gives a rip. But come into our backyard, and suddenly, he's the world's greatest criminal, and-look-at-all-the-other-bad-things-he's-done-for-years** for which he should be locked away for life, and then jettisoned into the sun for good measure.

It just feels like we're trumping up justifications for pursuing a bad guy who we should've pursued a long time ago, if he was really that bad. And if the reason we care now is because he wanted to help kill Americans, then fine. Just come out and admit it, instead of hiding behind the faux-humanitarianism of putting a dent in the world arms trade.

By: Brant

** while we've been ignoring him

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