Sunday, November 26, 2006
AK-47, A Cheap and Efficient Killing Machine
Drug runners like them; terrorists like them; Shias like them, so do the Sunnis; the CIA supplied them to pro-American groups in various trouble spots in the world. Mind boggling. ".......responsible for about a quarter-million deaths every year" is what Larry Kahaner wrote in the Post about the light weight automatic weapon created by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Truly a "Weapon of Mass Destruction".
- The AK-47 has become the world's most prolific and effective combat weapon, a device so cheap and simple that it can be bought in many countries for less than the cost of a live chicken. Depicted on the flag and currency of several countries, waved by guerrillas and rebels everywhere, the AK is responsible for about a quarter-million deaths every year.
- In Latin America, AKs ended up in the hands of drug cartels and anti-government rebels. Just as the CIA shipped AKs to Afghanistan, it did the same in Nicaragua in the early 1980s, sending arms to the contras in their fight against the Soviet-backed Sandinistas.
- In their battles against U.S. forces, many al-Qaeda fighters and tribal groups still carry the same AKs that the CIA had purchased more than a decade earlier. The first U.S. soldier to die by hostile fire in Afghanistan -- Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman of San Antonio -- was killed by a teenager shooting an AK.
- Although coalition bombing in 1991 destroyed much of Iraq's air force, Scud missiles and tanks, Saddam Hussein's regime retained its small weapons, including AKs. By March 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Iraqi arsenals included seven to eight million small arms. These weapons -- which U.S. planners did not consider a major threat when the invasion began -- would prove deadly for American troops once major hostilities ended.
- The AK has pierced through popular culture, too. In 2004, Playboy magazine dubbed it one of the "50 Products That Changed the World," ranking it behind the Apple Macintosh desktop, the birth-control pill and the Sony Betamax video machine. Rappers Ice Cube and Eminem mention AKs in their lyrics. And in the movie "Jackie Brown," actor Samuel L. Jackson captures the weapon's global cachet: "AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every [expletive] in the room."
- Now 85, tiny, feeble, nearly deaf, his right hand losing control because of tremors, Kalashnikov is often haunted by the killing machine he has bestowed upon the world. "I wish I had invented a lawnmower," he told the Guardian in 2002.