Ever since George W. and company climbed on their horses to go off and corral them some terrorists in Iraq, there's been talk of them going even further afield. Periodically, one of the gang, Deadeye Dick, Dapper Don, or even Curious George himself would throw a clay pigeon up in the air for target practice to see if expanding the territory was a viable option.
During the days of full scale insurrection, when there was still fighting going on between American troops and a visible enemy, there were all sorts of suggestions being tossed around in the press about who was supplying what to whom. The two names at the top of everyone's list as being the biggest suppliers of arms to those resisting American occupation were always Iran and Syria.
Now, neither country has the best of reputations when it comes to the training and arming of those whose interests run counter to that of the West and animosity between Iran, Syria, and the United States has been something that's been pretty much a guarantee for the last twenty-five plus years. (All of which made the Reagan administration's sale of arms to Iran in the mid-eighties to circumvent Congress' refusal to fund a terrorist organization — the Contras — even more cynical.)
Syria has been the ipso facto ruler of Lebanon for who knows how long, and has been rumoured to have been supplying aid and succour to the proscribed organizations for even longer. But in spite of that, the U.S. has not made a habit out of making overt threatening gestures toward that country. Whether there is some connection between that and Syrian willingness to torture individuals at the behest of Western governments is anyone's guess.
Ever since the overthrow of the Peacock Throne of the Shah of Iran (another example of the U.S. propping up a despotic ruler and earning the hatred of the locals) by the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s, relations between the U.S. and Iran have been on this side of outright war. In the hopes of doing away with them without any direct involvement, they heavily armed the regime of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and had him attempt their dirty work.
Unfortunately, he was far too incompetent and insecure a leader to have permitted the survival of able military minds and the Iran/Iraq war became a bloody stalemate, with neither side ceding territory and both sides suffering massive losses. It was only after it was discovered that Saddam had experimented with biological warfare on a Kurdish town in Iraq that the Americans began having second thoughts about him as an ally in the region.
When he decided to re-annex Kuwait back into his territory, it was the excuse the Americans needed to move against him. Proving the old adage "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" has merit. What they didn't succeed in doing in the early '90s, they have partially accomplished now. Saddam Hussein is no longer ruler of Iraq, but neither, it seems, is anyone else. They have a government in name only, and if it wasn't for the American army and friends, they probably wouldn't last a month due to continual outbreaks of violence ranging from suicide bombings to minor firefights on an almost daily basis.
Originally, the plan for the neighbourhood probably included a couple of more stops on the Axis Of Evil tour, but as Iraq has dragged on, the clay pigeons fired off dealing with the invasions of either Iran or Syria receive cooler and cooler hearings. No matter how often it's repeated that the weapons being used against American soldiers and the rest of the coalition are coming from one of those two countries, the enthusiasm for expanding the war just isn't there.
The news today out of Washington, after an audit of the military hardware supplied by the Pentagon to Iraqi security forces, isn't going to help that argument in the slightest. According to figures released by the office of the special inspector general for the reconstruction of Iraq, the U.S. Defense Department can't account for four percent of small arms delivered to Iraq.
While four percent may not sound like much, it adds up to 14,030 semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and other weapons that have simply vanished off the face of the earth or can't be accounted for. Now we're not talking about regular G.I. inventory — what each soldier carries and a unit keeps in reserve — we're talking about brand new equipment purchased specifically for the Iraq security forces. That means this stuff went directly into the hands of the new government in Baghdad.
I don't think anyone would have too much trouble believing the majority of that four percent has ended up going to others than those for whom it was originally intended. How many American troops have come under fire from small arms manufactured in the same factory as the weapons they carry? That can't be much of a morale booster to find out your buddy was blown away by arms bearing a "made in U.S.A." sticker.
Now obviously, 14,000 plus weapons aren’t going to be sufficient to arm all those forces keeping American troops stuck overseas, but they have to be playing a significant role in the proceedings. Maybe before George and the rest of the gang take on anyone new, they should learn how to ensure they don't supply arms to the people they're fighting. It might make the job a little easier.