Once a Gun Runner . . . The Real Story is former international arms dealer Efraim Diveroli’s memoir. Unlike War Dogs — the movie based on the twenty-something’s life — there’s nothing funny about Diveroli’s book. Not to put too fine a point on it, the man’s without mirth or merit. Note: I didn’t say morals.
If we are to believe Mr. Diveroli’s account, he never “intentionally” sold guns, ammo or explosives to the “bad guys.” The feds’ case against him — for selling Chinese ammunition — was bogus. Provided, that is, you accept Diveroli’s explanation: his Albanian subcontractor repackaged the “pre-embargo” ammo and stripped out Chinese language packing materials simply out of an abundance of caution.
At the time I believed that acquisitions prior to the embargo were exempt [from the ban] . . . We were doing nothing wrong, so why risk giving the impression we were? Why tempt fate?
If character is fate, Mr. Diveroli was destined for jail from an early age. Once a Gun Runner is an often interminable account of a money-obsessed drug addict on his way to ruin; a punk-ass kid from a dysfunctional Orthodox Jewish family who could no more stop making deals than he could stop snorting lines, smoking dope, sucking Parliament cigarettes, guzzling booze and screwing prostitutes.
To say Mr. Diveroli has no moral core would be like saying Hillary Clinton lacks respect for the Second Amendment. Now I know that the international arms trade is, by its secretive high-profit political nature, a corrupt business. A strong conscience has to be a distinct liability, if not outright disqualification. But reading Mr. Diveroli’s accounts of his shady business dealings is more than a little nauseating.
Keep in mind I was gearing up to fly tons of cargo into an active war zone; al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents were regularly firing small arms and RPGs (Rocket-Propelled Grenades) at cargo planes arriving at Kabul and the U.S. military base in Bagram. Every once in a while the rebels would hit one, causing the commercial aircraft to crash, losing the flight crew and worse the freight. Despite my best efforts to do so, this stuff wasn’t insured!
Worse the freight? He’s not kidding, folks. Like any “good” sociopath, Mr. Diveroli lacks anything remotely resembling empathy for his fellow human beings. Let’s go back to the tarmac.
Wherever possible, I liked to go an extra ton or two over the carrier’s self-imposed limit. More cargo meant the IL-76 burned more fuel and ultimately cost the carrier more, in a flat-fee charter arrangement . . .
“No, no . . . Forty-eight is the maximum load capacity,” slurred the load master, “sorry.”
I pulled a wad of crisp bills out of my pocket, “I’m sure we can work something out,” I said, as I peeled off 300 Euro. “It’s only a few tons.”
I pushed the bills into the Russian’s greasy hand, he ran his fingers through his oily hair and I noticed there was dirt under his fingernails. “Hum . . .” he said, “make it five hundred . . . and I’ll go fifty-one tons.”
I pulled two more notes out and handed them to him. I looked at Alex and said “You need to be doing this every flight . . . got it?”
There’s not even a pretense of humanity here, or elsewhere in the book. The Trade Towers massacre is mentioned only in passing, as the engine powering Mr. Diveroli’s ascendancy into the international arms trading fraternity. The Miami native is only concerned with one person: himself.
Hence the Scarface pose adorning Once a Gun Runner’s cover. Interspersed amongst examples of Mr. Diveroli’s unbridled, self-congratulatory greed: lurid, poorly-written tales of cheating on his girlfriend with “perfect” prostitutes, partying with same, and short, facile, dismissive descriptions of foreign cities.
Malaysia is in Southeast Asia, and the whole coastal country is covered by dense tropical rainforest – I’d never seen a place that green. The capital is a combination of bamboo huts and modern skyscrapers, heavily populated by Malays and Chinese.
Once a Gun Runner fails as an exposé, a cautionary tale and a work of literature. There’s no story arc; Mr. Diveroli’s eventual prison sentence does nothing to alter his inability to take responsibility for destroying himself and those around him. Here’s the jailhouse “confession” that helps bring the book to a close:
I was a high-school dropout-turned-international arms dealer, and became a self-made millionaire by age 18. By 21-years-old I had landed nearly $400 million in weapons and munitions contracts for the U.S. Government. I may have been a rebellious kid, but I overcame my obstacles, worked hard, built my business, and enjoyed my accomplishments: an American success story.
Life was good, until some self-righteous New York Times reporters manipulated the facts to embarrass the U.S. Army and the Bush Administration by stating “the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur” [ED: true story] and that AEY, Inc. was providing “[unreliable] decaying ammunition” procured from “scrap heaps of abandoned Soviet Arms.” Not one fucking round didn’t fire! Not one!
If that’s an American success story — a drugged-up kid with “all-devouring ambition” skirts the law to make millions off the U.S. taxpayer to spend on hookers, blow and gambling, with only perfunctory regard to the devastation inflicted on friends and family — America is in deep trouble. The arms industry is, of course, as healthy as ever.