Karl Rove has resigned, and for the moment that seems like good news -- although given the history and M.O. of the Bush gang, it will probably lead to something worse in one way or another. For example, look how much better things are now that Don Rumsfeld has gone! We've progressed from his last-days, panicky memos about curtailing the war (while spinning it as a victory) to a full-bore, wide-open escalation of the conflict which the chief surger, Gen. David Petraeus, tells us could last for 10 more years. Or for another, even more glaring example, look how things improved at the Justice Department after John Ashcroft was replaced by Alberto Gonzales. Colin Powell was a weak and pathetic bagman, whoring his media-inflated prestige to sell a war he didn't believe in -- but aren't things so much better with Condi Rice in charge at State?
No, if there's one rule of thumb that consistently applies to the Bush Gang, it's this: every move they make -- whether by choice or forced by events -- makes matters worse. So while we all wait for the other shoe to drop on Rove's resignation -- i.e., the real reason behind his sudden bug-out -- the Bush Gang will doubtless be putting the boot in somewhere else.
But of course, for all the media oxygen it has consumed -- and will continue to consume -- Rove's departure is small potatoes. Despite his vaunted "genius" for political skulduggery, in the end Rove too is a drab factotum, a bagman, a greasy cog in a vast machine that will keep grinding on, killing and corrupting, without him. (Assuming that Rove is actually stepping away from the machine, which is most unlikely.) Stories of far greater significance than the slinking exit of a dirt-smeared toady have appeared in the last two days -- items far more revelatory of the hellish world that the porcine minion has helped make on behalf of his masters.
The boiling core of this hell is Iraq. Stories breaking while Rove and Bush were puddling up on the White House lawn revealed a new abyss of criminality in the war crime that the tearful tyrant and his henchman have engendered: the Mafia running guns to Bush's favored extremist factions in Iraq. As the Guardian reports, Italian anti-Mafia police, tracking down a drug deal, instead came across shipment of 105,000 AK-47s procured by the underworld for their paying client: the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The Ministry said the guns were intended for its security forces -- i.e., extremist sectarian militias in government drag. The Pentagon denied knowledge of the Mafia guns, but the middleman for the deal was a Dubai company with "scores of supply and service contracts for the U.S. occupation," the Guardian reported. The company, "citing the names of 'friends' in top U.S. military ranks in Iraq," said it had written approval from the Pentagon authorizing it "to do all kinds of business."
On the same day, Newsweek's Christopher Dickey wrote of how thousands of American weapons ostensibly intended for Iraqi security forces have been flooding the Middle East, often ending up in the hands of extremist groups -- or violent loners. As Dickey notes, this influx of deadly weapons on the streets is tied to last week's revelations about the vast arsenal of weapons that have disappeared from American training programs for Iraqi forces:
At least three U.S. government agencies are now investigating the massive "disappearance" and diversion of weapons Washington intended for Iraqi government forces that instead have spread to militants and organized gangs across the region. The potential size of the traffic is stunning. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office last month showed that since 2004, some 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, bought with U.S. money for Iraqi security forces, have gone missing.
And looming behind all of these deals and disappearances involving small arms is a far more deadly and far-reaching dereliction of duty: the scarcely-reported failure of the U.S. military to secure the vast dumps of weapons and explosives left behind by Saddam's army in 2003. As David Gardner reminds us in the Financial Times:
This discovery [the missing 190,000 weapons] might be considered the mother of all known unknowns, were it not that in March this year the GAO published a drily damning report on the coalition’s failure to secure scores upon scores of arms dumps abandoned by the Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion – and that by October last year it had still failed to secure this giant toolbox that keeps the daily slaughter going in Iraq.
All of this sounds like rank incompetence: "Whoa, we didn't even notice that Interior Ministry deal with the Mob! Goodness me, we just plumb forgot to track those 190,000 AK-47s! Golly gee, we were just too busy to get around to those arms dumps. Been meaning to do it forever, but something always came up."
But it isn't incompetence. Certainly, the decision not to find and secure the weapons dumps was a matter of deliberate policy. The decision not to track the vast store of American arms being given to Iraqi security forces was also deliberate policy -- perhaps devised by the general in charge of arming and training Iraqi security forces at the time: one David Petraeus. And the arms trafficking with the underworld by factions in the Bush-installed Iraqi government is almost certainly deliberate policy as well, either with the direct connivance of Washington, or else with the usual wink and a nod and a looking-away.
The Mafia arms deal is one of those glimpses we get from time to time into how the world really works, in the finely meshed intertwining between the underworld and the "upperworld" -- "respectable" Establishment society, "legitimate" governments led by "honorable" officials. The BCCI affair in the 1980s was another such glimpse. BCCI was an international bank that fronted for what the U.S. Senate later called "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history." Backed by Establishment grandees and national governments around the world, BCCI ""laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution," as journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation, put it.
The George Bushes, father and son, were hip deep in BCCI sleaze. Bush I used the bank to secretly fund Saddam Hussein's war machine -- then intervened to quash federal investigations of the scam. George II was bailed out of one of his many business failures with a $25 million honeypot from a BCCI bank, brokered by the mysterious money-man Jackson Stephens, who in the 1992 presidential election had the signal distinction of being a top contributor to both Bush I and Bill Clinton. Bill has since been "adopted" by the elder George as an honorary son. And why not? When he took office, Clinton killed off the ongoing probes into his predecessor's entanglements with BCCI, and even killed a lot of Iraqis over an almost certainly bogus attempt on his future "dad's" life. (For more on the cozy Bush-Clinton connection, see A Tale of Two Houses. For more on the Bushes and BCCI, see Scar Tissue.)
The chaotic nexus where organized crime, terrorism, drug-running, covert ops and government policy churn and thrash together is where the business of the world gets done. It fuels the machine serviced by tools like Rove, the machine that has brought so much death and anguish to Iraq -- and is slowly devouring the entrails of America as well.
For more on the machine and its ravening hunger, see these stories that have appeared since Rove's resignation:
Escalation by the Numbers (TomDispatch)
Military families live in dread, while the rest of America is busy shopping (Guardian)
Unaccountable Contractors (Scott Horton)
US tumbles down the world ratings list for life expectancy (Guardian)
Sectarian Cleansing in Iraq (LA Times)
The Mercenary Revolution (CounterPunch)
The Middle East Peace Process Scam (London Review of Books) ***