THE MAKING OF A LEGEND: VIKTOR BOUT
The legend of Viktor Bout as ‘Merchant of Death’ and ‘Lord of War’ was created in the period between the years 2000 and 2007, however it also had a pre-history in 1996 – 1999. The following narrative is fully based on open publications including the book by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun ‘Merchant of Death’.
The image of Bout as ‘the biggest international illegal arms dealer in history’ was built by the efforts of very few people who managed to ‘sell’ this story to the mainstream US and international Media, to the UN and to the intelligence agencies of several countries including Belgium, the US and the UK.
The authors of the legend were not driven by any evil intention against their protagonist. On the contrary, in their writings a certain respect for Viktor Bout is often evident. Their intentions were mostly good, the first and foremost among them being an intention to save the world, to protect it from crime and war. But with their good intentions they paved a road to hell. Not for themselves. They paved a road to an individual hell for Russian citizen Viktor Bout.
Viktor Bout, the international arms dealer, was invented in Belgium by Johan Peleman in 1996. Even in the Douglas Farah/Stephen Broun book there is no earlier record of Bout. They say that in the late 1990s the US intelligence community started getting hints about the alleged arms dealer of Eastern European origin named ‘Bout’. Apparently, the book doesn’t say exactly when and where those ‘signals’ originated apart from hinting at telephone intercepts.
However the book by Farah and Braun documents the involvement in the ‘Bout affair’ of Johan Peleman, a philosophy major at a Belgian university, working for his first NGO, as the earliest investigation of Bout, by placing it in the year 1996.
Most probably Peleman, a desk researcher with no investigative background who decided to turn himself into an expert on arms trafficking, got his first hint of Bout from another Belgian NGO based in Ostend, not far from the place where he worked. The local NGO was engaged in a battle against Bout on behalf of local residents who were troubled by the persistent noise of the aircraft taking off and landing at all hours, day and night.
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