Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Corruption vs. Law'n'order

Hal Pepinsky,
September 9, 2009
A major excuse for Anglo-American military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan has emerged: corruption among the occupied people. In 1992 the journal Crime, Law, and Social Change published my reflections on what I had learned about “Corruption, Bribery, and Patriarchy in Tanzania.” There I argued that violence in the United States was just more veiled and genteel than violence in and around the Dar es Salaam neighborhood where I had been a guest for 5 months. In Dar I learned that “corruption” boiled down to taking care of those who had taken care of one’s own, whether through campaign contributions or getting a judge to rule your client’s way. I came back from East Africa in 1990 to find that every bit of vice and violence l confronted in Tanzania was right back in my home “heartland” of the US, just more glossed and covered over. I have come to believe that the more energetically “we” focus on “their” problems, the more energetically we are talking about ourselves.
Today as I write, the US supreme court is rehearing the issue of whether all restraints on corporate funding of political ads should be lifted. Afghan votes for president are being subjected to recount on charges of corruption of the voting process. I recall “our” furor that in 2000—under a voting system Jimmy Carter has said would never even qualify for international election monitoring, let alone qualify to be evaluated as in Afghanistan--the US supreme court chose “our” president.
Any political group’s leadership habitually blames others for its own social problems. That may draw “us” together, but I doubt that our hypocrisy is lost on peoples “we” now occupy. I keep being reminded of comic strip Walt Kelley’s Pogo the possum’s 1950s Cold War refrain: “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”
A major hazard for all of our self-deceiving US global democracy/anti-corruption/anti-drug efforts is that militarily occupied people know their occupiers’ hypocrisy with crystal, personal and historical clarity. Who are we in the US to kid ourselves that we are qualified to tell “those people” how to govern themselves?
I think the only way for US to gain global security is to withdraw and eat humble pie. The US is a young nation where for several centuries greed and global conquest have run rampant. A little repentance wouldn’t hurt anyone’s global security.
I have hung out around legal and political machinations at home too long to believe that “my” people have anything to teach anyone else about being honest and democratic. I think a lot of folks outside the US would sigh in relief and let go of hurting US folks if “we” let go of telling “those people” what to do for their own good. The time has come for Euro-Americans to give up the colonial habit of embarrassing claims that “their” governments are inferior to “ours,” especially when they are our collaborators…a little ungrateful to say the least. Love and peace--hal

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