Corruption – its much more than that

Thanks to public radio I just  heard an almost hour long excellent Kim Hill interview on Radio New Zealand National. She spoke with Sarah Chayes reporter and author of

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Here is someone who actually knows what she is writing and talking about.

After covering the fall of the Taliban and the early weeks of post-Taliban Afghanistan, Chayes decided to leave reporting and stay behind to try to contribute to the rebuilding of the war-torn country. She lived and worked in the former Taliban heartland, Kandahar, for most of the next decade. In 2005, she founded a small manufacturing cooperative, which produces high-quality natural skin-care products from licit local agriculture. She speaks the Pashto language.
In 2010, Sarah Chayes became a special adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. In this capacity, she contributed to strategic US policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring.
She also extensively visited other corruption riddled countries like Nigeria and Egypt.

The review of her book in The Telegraph by Oliver Bullough sums up her findings:

The book opens with an account of an acquaintance from Kandahar who was assaulted by police for refusing to pay a bribe, and who then had his phone smashed when he reported it. She heard the story from the man’s brother, a former police officer himself, who was furious and told her: “If I see someone planting an IED (improvised explosive device) on a road, and then see a police truck coming, I will turn away, I will not warn them.”
Much Western analysis has referred to countries such as Afghanistan as “failed states” but, Chayes argues, this is misguided. Their rulers have no intention of providing the services we think a state should provide, but want only to get very rich. Looked at from this perspective, Afghanistan is successful.
In examinations of insurgencies in Nigeria, North Africa, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, she argues that this problem is not something unique to Afghanistan. Many governments are machines for fleecing their citizens. Citizens become tired of paying off corrupt officials, and try to stop. The officials force the citizens to pay up. The citizens, angered, fight back. Violence erupts: leading to bloodshed, terrorism, human rights abuses, and the rest. If we respond only to the last part of the process, we will be defending the thieves, thus making the problem even worse.

In the interview Chayes describes how as a foreign journalist in Afghanistan she was initially sucked in by the Karzai (subsequently President of Afghanistan) clan before she gradually discovered that is was what can only be described a Mafia – like criminal organisation turning the whole state into a successful criminal enterprise.

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The fact most of us western taxpayers are and should rightly be concerned about is that most of the loot is coming right out of our treasuries in the form military assistance and all kinds of foreign aid money. These criminal governments are actually on our payroll. And hardly anything serious is done about it. For instance literally billions of US dollar bills flown by big cargo planes into Iraq disappeared without trace and nobody in the US administration seems to bid an eyelid about it.

However, this should not be surprising as Chaye’s most remarkable observations reveal.

She observes that this corrupt and criminal behavior became more prevalent with the ideological backing of the Reagan/Thatcher brand of neoliberal “greed is good” form of Anglo-American capitalism with a capital “C”.
She points to the active support given to the thieves not only by western banks and law firms to funnel the loot out of the countries into the safety of tax havens and secret bank accounts but our governments, which seem to condone any crime of these regimes as long as they are seen as ‘loyal’ to us and are the enemy of our enemy, the insurgents.
Then she remarked on the corrupt criminal system in Nigeria where she observed that the country’s elites just took over the exploitative colonial system the British had left them together with the oil companies collaborating with the regime to fleece their own impoverished citizenry.

However, Chayes as an American fails to see the wood for all the trees. How can she seriously expect the US to enhance global security by combating corruption in these countries if it has mostly been created and nurtured by the US ? How can the world be expected to do what the US says and not what it does ? Don’t we have to look at ourselves first before giving lectures to others ?
So let’s for a moment focus on the USA, which is going around the world trying to sell us their brand of freedom and democracy.

To start with the above story of the Afghan man been shaken down by policemen. What is the difference to the practice of Civil Forfeiture in the US made fun of by comedian John Oliver ?

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The difference is that in the US it is institutionalised legalised daylight robbery with more money involved to feather police department’s nests.
If we look at corruption former Vice-president Dick Cheney and Halliburton spring to mind with damage to the treasury at a much grander scale.
And do the USA have any enviable form of democracy to sell to the rest of the world ?

The foremost American thinker of our time Noam Chomsky

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does not think that the US is a democracy but rather a polyarchy where the power resides in the hands of those who manage the wealth of the nation, the responsible class of men, as so designed by the fathers of the constitution (Madison) to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.
In the US the whole constitutional set-up is undemocratic to protect the haves against the have-nots. No wonder that the election results are bought by the party with the most money and nobody cares as it is seen as the American way.
This is of course not new to us in New Zealand where the victorious National Party raised more than four times as much money than Labour prior to the last election.
And what would you call it when raising money for a winning presidential candidate is quite regularly by both sides rewarded with government posts like ambassadorships ? We had a few of those in Wellington recently, which seems to be popular with campaign donors.
And what about the revolving door policy between corporations, government and lobbyists ?

All these are are clear signs of an undemocratic and corrupt political system.

The irony is that the USA and Nigeria have this one thing in common. In both the elites have continued the bad old practices of their British colonial masters.

Hand in hand with this go the human right abuses.

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Unfortunately, Noam Chomsky is only too justified to call the US the ‘world’s leading terrorist statemainly because of it’s policy of extra judicial killings of targets and bystanders alike in foreign countries by drones remote controlled from the US.

Let us not point the finger at countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Ukraine and all the others we care to look at for corruption. It is much more than that.

It is the post colonial Anglo/American system of neoliberal Capitalism with a capital “C”.

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