“Oh. Well after they had Diem assassinated Americans thought it would be good to arm the villagers against a North Vietnamese incursion and thought it would buy some much needed loyalty after Diem’s reign of terror. So rumor has it that they distributed on the order of 250,000 rifles: M-14s, M-4 carbines, and some of the first load of AR-15s.”
That was Thao’s doing. He was assigned by Nhu to implement the Strategic Hamlet Program and when that went sideways the villagers still had weapons and he convinced the agency that they needed more. Now the agency’s trying to collect them.”
“You’d think Thao was a double agent or something.”
“Some people think he was.”
“So that’s where the used ARs I’ve been buying come from,” mused DB.
“Probably,” said Halftrack. “Can you buy more?”
“Probably. How many did you have in mind?”
“Depends on what you’re paying. You make your money when you buy at the right price.”
“Sounds like you already have a buyer lined up,” said DB.
“I may. It seems the agency has other operations that need arms; plus they want to get these things off the black market.”
“Why just the ARs? what about the other American weapons?”
“The M-14s and carbines have disappeared. At least they’re not on the market and the troops aren’t finding them in the villages they raid.”
“I can see where they would want them off the market. Anybody could start up an army with all the weapons around. How’s Sihanouk’s health these days?”
“Don’t know. I haven’t seen him lately but it’s not Cambodia if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“So if the agency wants these off the market why don’t the just buy them?”
“Not on their congressionally approved budget.”
“Well, they had the budget to buy them from the air force in the first place. What’s different now?”
“The Air Force has, um, shall we say, discretionary funds. So the ARs were diverted to the agency off the books.”
“So now they’re proposing to buy back the weapons they gave the rural villagers?”
“That’s about the size of it.”
“I won’t ask where they’ll get the money to do that. I’m sure I don’t want to know.”
“Yeah, it’s better that way. You can speculate among yourselves but you won”t hear it from me.”
“Huh! Doesn’t take too much speculation. That one.”
“Don’t be too sure. There are many sources of off-budget income. Some of them legal.”
“Unhhh. Regarding the price. I’m buying just a few at a time. If it involved quantity, I might get a discount but I also might have to find another supplier.”
“DB, hot AK-47s can be had for a C-note if that offers you a starting point.”
Virgil shifted in his seat. “I know a guy…….”
“I’ll bet you do,” broke in Halftrack. But lets do a little more foot work before we start naming names and prices. I gotta see a man about a dog,” he said rising from the table, his bottle empty.
This caught the barmaid’s eye and she hurried over to collect the tab. I wondered why she let him run a tab at all.