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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Russia's sale of arms should enlighten United States

Seeing its own mirror image in Russia's sale of armaments to Iran, one would think the U.S. government would find little reason to complain. Better yet, our government, in seeing the bald image of profit over life, would reform its own policies.

Russia announced last week that it would sell 29 Tor M1 air defense systems to vocal U.S.-enemy Iran. Russia's prize for enabling Iran in an increasingly likely conflict with the United States?

Surprise, it's money: $700 million worth.

Why would any government authorize the sale of high-tech armaments to an unstable and usually malicious country? We don't know, but apparently the U.S. government does. It's been doing it for decades.

We poured weapons into Afghanistan when Enemy No. 1 was the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. No matter that it was a wildly unstable country with no love for the West.

Those same weapons, of course, now are killing U.S. soldiers.

We poured weapons into Iraq when Enemy No. 1 was Iran. Was Iraq our ally? Nothing of the sort. It was an unstable dictatorship competing with other ethnic groups for power. None of those groups had any use for American "crusaders."

The problem is that the shelf life of weapons vastly exceeds the shelf life of the political leaders who buy them from us. Almost two decades after we sold rocket-propelled grenades and Stinger missiles to Afghanistan, those same weapons are taking out Blackhawk helicopters and the Americans who fly them.

Russia's explanation:

"I do not think the conflict (in Iran) will turn into a war," said Russia's Army General Yury Baluyevski. "Russia will not propose the use of its armed forces in a potential conflict on either side."

Similarly, the United States did not propose that Saddam Hussein use American weapons to kill hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Shiites and Iranian soldiers, and hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

And now America is selling high-tech killing machines to Pakistan, a country whose populace hates America with more fervor than any of our previous customers; a country whose American-friendly dictator is far less secure than was Saddam Hussein.

We won't stop Russia's sale of anti-helicopter systems to Iran. We could, however, see our own glaring reflection in the mirror. Russia's sale to Iran is the same as our sales to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first two customers have already killed Americans with American weapons.

The third, Pakistan, will likely do the same.

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