If Anyone Runs Out of Guns and Grenades, Here’s a Shopping Market in Baghdad That’s Well-Stocked

You know how it is. You just get back from a trip to the store and your significant other says “Honey, I just realized we are all out of AK-47s. And while you’re at the market, could you also grab a couple of mortars and some grenades in case your mother stops by again unexpectedly?”

Yes, it could be Texas, but it actually is what’s going on in Baghdad.

Iraq news site Niqash tells us about a market in Baghdad’s Sadr City, where masked men display their wares on open tables the same way vegetable sellers do in other city markets. Next to grenades on the tables are rockets, mortars and plenty of other weaponry, with markings that indicate they come from a number of different sources. Welcome one and all to Maridi market, one of Baghdad’s, if not, Iraq’s, most famous “illegal” arms markets.

There are a lot of ways he obtains weapons, said one trader in the market. The most significant route is across unguarded border crossings from NATO ally Turkey. The guns and other weapons enter Kurdistan (another American ally) and are then brought to Baghdad; checkpoints (manned by Iraqi security forces the U.S. pays for) don’t seem to be a problem and if they are, counterfeit ID cards or a bribe will often work.

“Most of the weapons come from the military, especially those located near the front,” a vendor told Niqash. “Soldiers who lose their weapons during fighting are not questioned as to why. If a soldier dies fighting, lost weapons are registered in their name. So a lot of the lost weapons are registered in dead soldiers’ names. And those weapons go to the arms dealers.”

Thanks to many Iraqis wanting to leave the country, soldiers and members of the state security forces also sell their weapons as part of efforts to raise funds. Some soldiers simply want to supplement their income.

This all could have something to do with why the U.S. can’t seem to win the war in Iraq, but I just can’t put my finger on it right now.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

10 thoughts on “If Anyone Runs Out of Guns and Grenades, Here’s a Shopping Market in Baghdad That’s Well-Stocked”

  1. So…if we wish to truly exercise our Second Amendment Rights, we have to move to Iraq.

    See, Dubya did bring them “Freedums”.


  2. These are not “weapons on the free market sold to lawful citizens”. They have already been paid for by US taxpayers. Now that they have “dropped off the back of a truck” they can be sold again. Unfortunately they are not going to be sold in the context of a law-abiding society. Thugs, gangsters, sectarians, terrorists and rowing death squads will find use of these. Some will be used for last-ditch “home defense” purposes but those should be few and far between (Try defending against a few highly-trained shoot-to-kill dudes breaking down your front door in the middle of the night – or the day – possibly with full backing by “the authorities”? Good luck with that situation.)

    1. Indeed. It’s how Oliver North and his merry band of “libertarian” pirates made 300 marines go bye-bye in Beirut. They perfected their (personal, it’s been going on forever) marketing skills in the Mekong Delta. Which still has tribes who owe no allegiance to the Annamese controlled government of VietNam, or similar governments in Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand. Outcasts. And while it seems that use of the word “libertarian” would be easy to interpret wrongly, Reagan and North and Poindexter et al were considered the Libertarian(ish) wing of the Republican party. I have to switch computers to finish this up.

      1. It’s just another way to avoid scrutiny by adopting a label they really don’t represent. And street level pundits of all political stripes use the terms Nazi, Commie, Socialist, Fascist, etc kind of Liberally or Conservatively as the current dialogue dictates.

        The individual tribes get used as puppets for the Empires but sometimes squirrel out from under that burden. The Hmong tribe in the Delta have a reputation for that. They’re lumped into a tribal and ethnic non-state, like Kurdistan has to endure, called Montagnards, which is French for “hillbilly”.

        None of the tribes individually can do much more than shake their fists at the establishment. Something I’m familiar with.

        But instead of just tossing out neo-revolutionary words, I took a lot of the actual government sponsored words and especially press releases. One such press release was by in the “green berets” novel/history. Not the John Wayne movie where the Delta jungles looked suspiciously like well maintained parklands. The book that spawned it.

        Where the relationship the Greenie Beanies had with the Montagnard tribes gets a little bit of attention.

        Long story shorter, the next time the Hmong got mentioned in the Western media was an article that they were still in the opium trade. But, yeah, the “fell off a truck” or “taken from a dead soldier” theme creeps into all the official narratives.

        Officially, the only items you don’t have to turn in a dead one to get a new one are soldiers and hand grenades. It’s called bean counting. You want a fresh roll of toilet paper you turn in an empty core. If you have a job that involves emptying trash containers and you get as many empty TP cores as you need.

        Also dead light bulbs. If you’re a corporal or E4 Sergeant and thus get the chore of filing forms you can make a lot of sht disappear. If you’re an officer wanting to exploit that you better be nice to your corporals.

        You don’t actually need a really tight accounting scam err system, you just need one that’s good and tight about burying embarrassing losses under a mountain of paperwork.

        Some would call that stealing. But they’d also be kicked off the goodies truck when they need to procure, for instance, a roll of TP or a light bulb. There’s another neat aspect of that, from the official story of the invasi.. ummm “liberation” of Iraq, the day counting down to the bombing of Baghdad, had this reported. The only stores open in Baghdad were OB/Gyn offices who were doing induced labor, because aerial bombardment, according to the RAF and USAF from WW2, causes a lot of birth complications… (so much for the Republican “right to life” or as I just mistyped “right to Lie”)

        And the other shops opened were gun shops.

        Kind of puts a shadow over the notion that a heavily armed citizenry is a guarantee against tyranny.

        I call it “dueling propaganda” and the only reason I like it is you can take two statements coming from just any corporate entity and you’ll have contradictions between the narratives. And sift through enough of them, you can sometimes find ways to separate the bull from the sht. And it’s fun to make professional liars squirm a bit.

        So-called grey areas in the narrative are important. Absolutes are needed for effective mass indoctrination.

        And we are in the middle of an election where mass indoctrination is the only statements from the Major Candidates. And their “separate” parties are expanding the War and the export of the existing American Police State to the entire world. That Navy theme about “A global force, for good”. really irritates me. One thing about it is that I ofttimes bespeak myself in archaism . One such is the use of “for good” meaning “eternally”.

        There’s quite a lot of weapons available. Hasn’t stopped crime in America or anywhere else. The actual fighting for one side or the other on gun control has spawned it’s own little node of criminal activities. There’s not real debate about it.

        Just a lot of people shouting about it and distracting the focus from the massive armed ripoff by the Empire.

        1. The Hmong and the Degar (Montagnard) are different ethnic groups. Both groups inhabit(ed) the hills of the Central Highlands, not the Mekong Delta. The Hmong primirialy live in Laos, not Viet Nam.

          1. it’s a crowded little corner of the world. And according to the Army any incursions they had into Laos and Cambodia were “accidental”. Because it’s so much better to let a river that has a general shape that is usually recognizable be the border between countries which have recurring wars. Better than having accurate borders. The ethnicity is a lot like what you would have here in america where there might be 10 different tribal entities, with different languages etc… all in a weeks ride from each other. That’s probably where I went wrong. At least I’m not shooting at anybody there or here based on geographic features. I came up from El Paso, where the “border” is based on a river, much smaller than the Mekong, with an American Indian Tribe with triple citizenship (the Tigua) having sovereignty centered on a glorified sand bank called Ysleta del Sur… Right between Mexico and the U.S. There’s a lot of that going on with American borders, of which we have exactly two. Not counting Reservations because we have sovereignty AND citizenship. Now, if we had our lands back, that would make everything nice. And not being lumped into the definition “Mex” and harrassed by the Border Patrol and their Klumsy Komrades the MinuteKlan. That’s kind of off topic but not by much. All the issues weave a pattern that some perceive, some ignore but all endure. And by golly they’re all election issues too.

          2. The gunrunning and money-laundering that led up to the 300 marines getting blown up in Beirut, that was a territorial dispute at first. I should say “3000 years ago” because it’s a reccurrent problem. The clearest parts are that Poindexter and Secord are the darlings of Wall Street and in the 90s were working on a quasi-governmental project called Carnivore, which is a (at the time) Super Computer system designed to monitor communications.It was designed to augment or replace the Echelon system used by Interpol. Again, at the time. That courteously provided by Nova magazine. It’s a geek thing. And Olly and the rest got away with 300 counts of capital murder and is now telling War Stories on DumFox. and if anybody wasn’t paying attention, Carnivore is a direct synonym for Beast.

          3. Everybody knows it was an Iranian ultra-deth unit that disenfranchised the Beirut branch of the USMC. Or at least they’re paying for it.

          4. yeah. Dealing arms to all sides of a regional conflict. And financing it. Sort of when the Bu’ush faction here stateside laughing about the WMDs and saying “we know they have them, we kept the receipts”

            I don’t much speculate on how low they can possibly go. It seems knowing it would be like instant onset PTSD. Some of it came really close to home. El Paso Texas was suddenly awash with cocaine. Before it was a rich guy thing. In 85 and start of 86 there was a weed famine in the land. But coke was so common the poorest people could afford (sort of) smoking it.

            Which, I’ve always been a bit leery of white powders. Because the people who sell them use them. And it makes them really crazy. It was almost time for me to stop smoking weed. Glad I didn’t pick up anything to take its place. Paranoia might just have saved me.

            Just anything can be in white powder, white arsenic, sodium cyanide… and you wouldn’t know until you wake up in hell. and as before noted, the dealers were users. and Crazy. I was on the fringe of the fringe. Met some good and a whole lot of bad.

            “They” say there was a big link betwixt the Contras and Pablo Escobar. Makes sense. America as in the People got played. Nothing new about that. We got screwed out in the open with the whole world watching and the bastordians simply walked away with it. Congressional hearings? Hell, the only people who have to fear Congressional Hearings were the American Communists and ‘fellow travelers’.

            There are some rules in politics, like “if you screw up bad just wait a week and a half and you’ll be saved by the News Cycle” The next crisis or crises will drive it from the public awareness so fast it will make your head spin. Remember the Haiti earthquake? We had two maybe three weeks of intense coverage. Then nothing. How often does Haiti make it into the news? And that wasn’t damn long ago.

            Maybe it’s a good thing I was never rich.
            I don’t know if I would have been smart enough or honest enough to resist the temptation of gunrunning. Which makes a lot of bread for those who bankroll it. Everybody else just winds up riddled with .308 bullets made in Czechoslovakia. Back when there was a Czechoslovakia.

            I try really hard to understand people. It’s a mitzvah of sorts. But some, I just can’t fathom how they can live with the stench of death on every bit of their money. And they don’t have enough dignity to be ashamed of it. Not that poverty breeds honesty. It just affords fewer temptations.

            There was a reggae song, by Bobby McFarrin. Don’t worry, be happy. Ecclesiastes, Solomons best work, has that theme about 12 times in a short essay.

            But I’m still going to work for peace. It might not exactly win in my lifetime but at least I might be able to die clean(ish). and some people say that’s not ambitious enough ..

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