The French political scientist Regis Debray once remarked on the similarities between U.S. foreign policy and a Hollywood movie. Those who doubt Debray's argument should watch a few news segments on U.S. television about the extradition of Russian businessman Viktor Bout from Thailand to the United States.
With breathless excitement, the American media reported that Bout was transported from his prison cell to the airport, accompanied by two motorcades, one of which was a decoy intended to throw off potential abductors. The New York Times reported that Russia offered Thailand oil below market price in exchange for their refusal to turn over Bout to the United States, but Washington allegedly outbid Russia with weapons and other military equipment.
It all sounds like a Hollywood movie. In fact, a movie based on Bout's life was released in 2005, minus the latest Thailand scenes. Bout was a free man at that time. He was arrested in March 2008. The film's director, Andrew Niccol, clearly didn't rack his brains for a title, opting for the crowd-pleaser, "Lord of War."
In a nod to Hollywood cliche, the members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, whose work is ostensibly guided by facts and the presumption of innocence, call Bout "the Merchant of Death," even in their official statements.
The stories about the motorcades, discounted oil and American weapons have not been confirmed by Russian or American officials. They are most likely the product of the overactive imaginations of journalists who have seen one too many Hollywood movies. These same journalists have been crafting an image of Bout as the consummate villain for six years already.
Born in Tajikistan in 1967, Bout was only 24 when the Soviet Union collapsed. But the press say he's a former KGB agent who operated in Angola for years, the owner of the world's largest fleet of Soviet-made transport aircraft, and the biggest arms dealer in the world, whose weapons have been fueling conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra-Leone and Sudan.
It is remarkable - I daresay unbelievable - that a man as young as Bout has already managed to achieve this degree of infamy.
It is for the courts to decide whether Bout is guilty, and journalists and senators should withhold judgment until a verdict is reached. They are demonizing Bout, just as the U.S. government demonized Yevgeny Adamov, the former Russian minister of nuclear energy.
In 2005, Adamov was arrested by Swiss authorities on a U.S. warrant. The Americans are determined to try the former Russian minister in their country for some reason, even though he was accused of embezzling money the United States had already given Russia to improve safety at its nuclear power plants.
The Swiss court transferred the case to Russia, which makes sense given that Adamov committed the crime in Russia. Some claimed that Adamov would go free if he was tried in Russia, but they were wrong - Adamov was ultimately tried and convicted by the Zamoskvorechye district court. But even if he had been found innocent, who gave the U.S. the right to correct the 'wrong' verdicts issued by courts in other countries?
The same applies to the Bout case. If he smuggled arms to Africa, why not try him in Africa, or in Russia as a Russian citizen? Since when is Thailand under U.S. jurisdiction?
However, the mainstream media in the West isn't interested in these legal nuances. They relish the details of Bout's criminal dealings, creating an echo chamber in which newspapers and television news shows all cite one another's reports. None has reported any new evidence in the case.
In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in Western media campaigns against particular people on the most wanted list. Milosevic and Karadzic were arrested amid mass hysteria. The European Union still refuses to grant Serbia membership until General Mladic is apprehended.
As a rule, the greater the media frenzy leading up to an arrest, the more groundless the accusation. But viewers and readers usually have a bad memory, and they fall for the persecution show every time.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.