I covered the wars and victims of the arms trade as a correspondent for the Washington Post in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nicolas Cage’s film “Lord of War” was based somewhat on the bout, and I co-wrote with Stephen Braun a non-fiction account of the wildness he was capable of. There are no words to describe the human toll of the bout’s activities on the thousands of people, from disabled children in refugee camps to scorched rural settlements, burned to the ground by children victimized for killing their own families.

Bout ran an aviation and arms empire from the collapse of the Soviet Union until his arrest in Thailand in 2008. He built his business by transporting lethal weapons to buyers in exchange for cash, diamonds and timber. He was acting, his brother said, only as a taxi service—a driver who had no responsibility to know the contents of the passenger’s luggage he was carrying. But he knew exactly what he was doing.

In addition to delivering weapons to mankind’s worst-hit areas, Bout flew for US forces in Iraq during the war there. Finally, he was arrested while attempting to sell weapons to undercover Drug Enforcement Administration informants posing as buyers for Colombia’s notorious FARC guerrillas. In a meeting prior to his arrest, Bout offered a series of sophisticated weapons that he believed could be used to kill US military advisers in Colombia.

In contrast, Griner went to Russia to play professional basketball just before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. After proving herself to be one of the best players of all time, the unfortunate timing of her visit turns her into a terrified young woman, illegally detained under brutal conditions for a minor misdemeanor. And a pawn that the Russians immediately accepted. (Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to carrying cannabis oil, but his ultimate fate is unclear.)

So why consider the potential offer? First of all, Bout is an expendable force that will be out of jail in a few years anyway. His business depended on personal relationships and trust between the parties. After being out of business for over a decade, none of the bout is left in the shady world he once operated in. Second, the bout required access to a global network stretching from Afghanistan to Europe, Africa and South America. That network has transformed through generations of new actors, markets, and gatekeepers. Bout no longer has any currency in that world.

Finally, Bout relied on the gross negligence of former Soviet states in the early years to allow him to ramp up aircraft and weapons in a de facto privatization spree of one of the world’s most advanced arsenals. In his later years, controlled by the Russian state under Putin, he was no longer able to emancipate freely and without access to a massive cache of weapons. It is unlikely that he had any freedom of movement in the arms trade unless he was in the direct service of the Russian intelligence services, and is now burned beyond the ability to be useful in any significant capacity.

Many who campaign to eliminate bouts’ ability to commit crimes against humanity would disagree with me. The search for Bout was long and arduous, and the operation that led to his arrest was the stuff of the best spy thrillers. Diplomatic and Justice Department efforts to take Bout to the US for trial were proof of how a whole government approach can work when done well. And the trial showed the world at least a small piece of who Bout is and the monstrous nature of his crimes.

There should be no mercy for Bout and only his victims can forgive. But now is the opportunity to act of compassion for an innocent life; His low-risk release would be a fitting finale for someone who has caused so much harm. Bout has already lost what he valued most – his ability to move freely around the world and act as an agent of chaos in the service of his Russian handlers and his own interests. His freedom could not restore him, and he would forever be known as the Merchant of Death, a stain he would never be able to remove.

If Griner regains her freedom, she will regain the family who fought for her release, a spouse who worked tirelessly by her side, and, I hope, a place among the basketball pantheon of greats. its rightful place. It may not be absolute justice, but it is a closer version of it than wrongfully imprisoning an innocent person only to confine a guilty person who can no longer cause more harm.

#opinion #deal #Brittney #Griner #exchange #Merchant #Death

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