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International Car-theft Ring Busted
The head of the New Jersey State Police auto unit called it "This is the largest auto-theft fencing ring I've seen since I've been on the force."  They are claiming the car-theft ring stole more than 1,000 luxury vehicles in the past year and shipped them to West Africa and the Middle East.  Apparently, it is a status symbol to be driving a flashy new car in Ghana sporting US tags.

That recent report reminded me of another report from 2005 that has always troubled me because it was never resolved.

Cars Stolen In US Used In Suicide Attacks
The FBI's counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering some vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior US Government officials.

What I think we are looking at here is a new twist on an age-old story about the confluence of money, power and crime.  This is important because a major blind spot in the liberal/progressive analysis is the impact of organized crime on political reality.

As the Watergate source known as Deep Throat so famously said, "follow the money."  Well, now we know that Deep Throat was none other than W. Mark Felt, former assistant director of the FBI during the Nixon Adminstration.  So you can basically take that advice to the bank.

War is a racket.  That is not an opinion.  That was documented by Gen. Butler in his famous book called, "War Is A Racket."  What he was talking about was the "legitimate" merchants of death who profited from war -- copper companies, oil companies, or banks like the one run by Prescott Bush.  

The notion of war profiteering is not new.  During the Civil War there were terrible problems with war profiteers.  To cite one particularly infamous example, one company sold defective rifles to the Union Army knowing full well they were likely to misfire and kill or maim the soldier shooting them.   I wouldn't be surprised to find examples of this sort of chicanery in the Revolutionary War.  But all those examples, while criminal, are basically people gaming a legitimate system and taking advantage of it in the course of normal business.

I think something very different is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia and some other areas where we have an active military presence.   Were you surprised to see Colombia on that list?  You may be  surprised to learn that Colombia is the third largest recipient of US foreign aid, right behind Israel and Egypt.   You may be even more surprised to learn that five helicopters sold to Israel were seized in Colombia during a drug raid.  This is not the first time Israeli arms have wound up in Colombia.  One of the offshoots of the BCCI scandal was the granting of letters of credit to Israeli firms so they could sell weapons to Colombian drug lords.

The Colombian connection is mentioned because selling arms to drug dealers is not part of any legitimate governmental operation.  There are real criminals making a killing in these conflict zones.  Once you realize this is not an aberration or isolated incident, the disappearance of billions of dollars in cash in Iraq takes on a whole new significance.  A million here, a million there... that you might be able to chalk up to incompetence.  But billions?  That's incredibly effective incompetence.

Add private military forces to the mix of hot guns and drug money and you can see how this might become a volatile mix.   Simply looking at the problem in Iraq as a military problem with a political dimension doesn't solve the criminal problem.  The magnitude of profits being generated is such that criminals actually have an interest in prolonging the conflict.

This brings us back to the stolen cars blowing up in Iraq.  The two reports were different operations.  The one that got busted the other day was based in New Jersey and Maryland.  The one associated with the car bombers in Iraq was based out of Texas and California.   I don't recall the West coast operation ever being shut down.  

I realize this is so far out of the mainstream it will sink like a stone in the diary list.  But I think it is important to raise it, if only to document the point that calling this war illegal goes beyond your average run of the mill war crime.  There are real significant economic interests in keeping this conflict going.  Not to make money on the oil, but to make a killing on a whole variety of fronts.   Those interests are getting rich and growing.

Originally posted to 8ackgr0und N015e on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:31 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Important to consider the connections (8+ / 0-)

    like these, that the media will NEVER talk about.  The heroin from Afghanistan has GOT to be making organized crime a pretty penny; I don't see how it can't be.  There are a lot of people whose interests are served by an Afghanistan in chaos.

    Reminds me I should read that book too.


    •  Makes you wonder about the timing (6+ / 0-)

      The Taliban had just finally managed to rein in the poppy farmers in 2001 after years of trying. Here's a graph showing opium poppy production in Afghanistan - it dipped to near-0 in 2001 and shot right back up to previous levels in 2002, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that US military operations began in late 2001 and continued in earnest through 2002. Perhaps instead of a government conspiracy surrounding the attacks, we should be looking at a (probably much more credible) organized crime connection?

      During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

      by kyril on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 11:06:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are absolutely correct about the connection (5+ / 0-)

        I left that whole story out because it just gets too unmanageable for folks to keep all the parts in their head.

        The worst part of the opium problem is that AT THE TIME it was argued that eradicating the crop would be critical as a component of force protection.  If the opposition can't rearm, they have a harder time shooting.

        Instead of attacking this when they were down, Franks said it was not a military priority.  That played out really well, didn't it?

  •  Shocking and important information (7+ / 0-)

    I hope this diary does NOT sink like a stone in the diary list. This is new information to me:

    This brings us back to the stolen cars blowing up in Iraq.  The two reports were different operations.  The one that got busted the other day was based in New Jersey and Maryland.  The one associated with the car bombers in Iraq was based out of Texas and California.   I don't recall the West coast operation ever being shut down.  

    War profiteering by the companies who supply contractors for Iraq is common knowledge. However, the other "significant economic interests" are no doubt influencing the people who COULD end this occupation. Our soldiers are risking their lives so others can become rich.

    Thanks for this important diary.

  •  Important and shocking - thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ekaterin, kyril

    Do you perchance have the link to the news reports, so we could read them in full?

  •  Links? (2+ / 0-)

    It's very well to make assertions.  It is hard to assess the assertions without a link to sources.

    •  Here are a few (4+ / 0-)

      recent bust

      2005 stolen car report

      Israeli arms going to Colombia

      I am having trouble locating the report about the blackhawk helicopter in Colombia.  As I recall what happened was it was sold to  Israel and later showed up in a DEA bust of a drug dealer in Colombia.  After a lot of hemming and hawing... it was claimed they had surplused it to a dealer who was supposed to sell it to Mexico.  

      •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is a fine thing to source one's quotes.  I had no doubt, btw, that your initial story of luxury cars turning up in ME were correct.

        Do you think that the popularity of Florida plates might be related to Bush's 2000 "election?" /snark

        •  I would have sourced it but I lacked the space (0+ / 0-)

          in the opening you see the links are very long.

          I guess I could have tagged them at the end of the article or something.

          I'm still trying to find the story about the misplaced Israeli helicopter.

        •  Story re: Israeli helicopter found in colombia (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          IDF choppers in service of drug cartels

          I didn't realize there were 5 of these. I amended the essay to reflect that.

          Here is the full text, in case it gets deleted elsewhere.

          IDF choppers in service of drug cartel

          American officials demand Israel provide explanations for how U.S.-made choppers sold to Israel ended up in service of Columbian drug cartel. Incident may cloud relations between countries
          Itamar Eichner

          Another diplomatic incident threatens to taint U.S.-Israeli relations: The American government has recently demanded Israel clarify how five U.S.-made helicopters sold to Israel in the mid-70s found their way into the hands of a Columbian drug cartel.

          An U.S. embassy official met with an Israeli foreign ministry official in Jerusalem several days ago, where he informed him that the American Foreign Ministry has requested the embassy to launch an investigation into the matter.

          According to American sources, the military copters currently serve the drug mafia in the South American country.

          Top diplomatic sources fear that this incident will once again heat-up tensions between Israel and the U.S. and cloud the strategic dialogue between the two countries, which is scheduled to renew in November, after talks were suspended for more than a year-and-a-half.

          Kosher deal went sour  

          The dubious affair, which was already investigated by the Israeli Defense Ministry, and later turned over to the hands of the police, was uncovered about two years ago.

          Investigators revealed that the Defense Ministry signed a deal with an Israeli company three years ago, contracting it to negotiate the sale of five IAF helicopters for a sum of USD 100,000 per aircraft.

          The ministry permitted the choppers, of a MD 500 Defender model, be sold either to the Mexican federal police, or to the Spain firefighters department. However, contrary to the terms of the license, the copters ended up in Columbia, by way of Canadian mediators.

          A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said in response that "after suspicions were raised that an illicit exchange took place, the ministry launched an initial investigation into the matter last year."

          "According to instructions of the chief prosecutor, the case was handed over to the police in 2004," she added.  Sources at the Defense Ministry refused to comment on the matter.

          Itamar Eichner writes for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's leading newspaper

  •  Excellent diary (5+ / 0-)

    I've been pondering Deep Throat a lot lately, maybe because of the flashbacks to Watergate, but mostly because every time I 'follow the money' I see... so many things that are horribly, criminally connected.

    Thanks for picking this up.

    Remember, remember the twelfth of December, the hanging chad, treason and plot; I know of no reason why vote-counting treason should ever be forgot.

    by feduphoosier on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 11:12:27 PM PDT

  •  Illicit trade is intricately linked with our (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    so called "War on Terror". Another possible example to explore is the booming opium production from Afghanistan.

  •  It's not just cars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hhex65, klangfarben, rapala

    Unfortunately, more than just cars are being stolen in the United States and sent abroad.  Everything from computer chips, to aluminum construction materials to firearms are being stolen in the U.S. loaded into organized crime "gift boxes" and being sent overseas.

    When a criminal steals something that can be traced in the United States they have to either turn it into scrap or send it out of the country.  Obviously, when you scrap something it's value is vastly diminished, however, with very expensive items, such as computer chips, technology gadgets, weapons, etc, there is more profit to ship them somewhere else that doesn't have tight regulation on stolen property.  The profit to organized crime is absolutely huge.  

    And if you want to think as cynically as possible, consider that the companies we contract overseas buy a number of their projects from the countries they are based in.  Would it surprise anyone to find out that some of the employees of the no-bid contract companies are over in Kuwait or elsewhere driving around in a "pre-owned" luxury car, liberated from somewhere in America?  (I'm not actually accusing the hypothetical Americans of knowing the vehicle was stolen, but I'm sure someone would know)

    I look forward to hearing more from you!

  •  Drugs a recurring story of criminality in war (0+ / 0-)

    Alred McCoy "The Politics of Heroin in SouthEast Asia" in the 1960's traced the smuggling routes then.

    The corruption as to where the lure of huge money turned many officials and government personnel into supporting and growing the cartel is an old, old recurrent story.  

    Afghanistan is now at all time record production.
    That is what a civil war creates conditions for, with the addition of a foreign army conducting operations there. Coincidence or inevitable connection between the two?  

      Drugs became a huge problem for US forces in Vietnam.  The complicity and aiding and abetting by many inside the US establishment accelerated and grew the trade. The partnership with warlords in Laos who were also patrons of the went on and on and on.

    America has been stolen, your citizenship is a hollow fraud, and you have no power. What will YOU do to reverse these hurts, crimes, outrages?

    by Pete Rock on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 04:58:52 AM PDT

  •  Helicopter story a little more nuanced (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you look at the date of the original sale,these were military helicopters sold to Israel over 25 years ago.  The replacement,updated helicopters were sold, so these were probably surplused out to buyers on the used market. Of course the controls on who got them were non-existent (these should have been returned and scrapped). So a scandal.

    America has been stolen, your citizenship is a hollow fraud, and you have no power. What will YOU do to reverse these hurts, crimes, outrages?

    by Pete Rock on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 05:02:10 AM PDT

  •  The war "crimes" in Iraq are countless (0+ / 0-)

    Missing explosives, missing weapons, missing billions, and missing oil

    ALSO: You've got to love the use of slave labor to build our mega-embassy in Iraq.

    What a country!

    ALSO: How would one move all that contraband around? You might need to hire a shipping company.

    Defeat Bu$hie Яepublikans...Steal these pics

    by Duke S on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 08:44:38 AM PDT

  •  Don't you hate it when (0+ / 0-)

    you go away for awhile, and then find a diary that you really, REALLY should have been around for.

    I'm in British Columbia right now, er... British Colombia now. Here we have the Triad, Vietnamese gangs, Hells Angeles and MS-13 negotiating trade and specialization of services. The new hybrids like "the United Nations" gang makes things even more weird, but the ties to foreign political conflicts and terrorism are obvious (if difficult to actually unravel).

    Word is the RCMP and CSIS know how it all fits together, but aren't doing a damn thing to stop any of it. Every gangster shot or house shot up is "known to the police" but they never seem to make an arrest (even when they have cause).

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