Corruption in Afghanistan
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 12, 2009
Corruption is the growing excuse for US withdrawal (pardon the sexual allusion) from Afghanistan. The US ambassador to Kabul, formerly a general in charge of US troops there, sent a memo to his president advising against sending more troops to that war, which was leaked today, reportedly saying the Afghan government was hopelessly corrupt. The current general in charge who filed an earlier leaked report had recommended a “surge” of 40,000 troops, and according to BBC sources is furious at the ambassador’s leaked memo.
Corruption is a ten-letter word for what?
There are all kinds of ways to calculate personal gain from official behavior. What is in it for example for the economic future of the Afghan president, the general, the ambassador, and all those who have staked their future and the future of their families on loyalty?
I have come to believe that our passion to point fingers at the criminality/corruption of others is a projection of the corruption we tolerate and support among ourselves. Does it make a difference to those who are harmed and deceived whether government actors benefit in prospective private-sector employment and retirement, in one’s duty to take care of the social security of extended family, or in subsisting day to day? I don’t think so. What hurts about corruption is lying about what we are doing in the name of serving one another. This is a problem I concentrated on when I was in Tanzania in 1990 (Corruption, Bribery and Patriarchy in Tanzania, Crime, Law, and Social Change 17: 25-57, 1992).
For starters, I ask this question about US corruption: What prompted a government to tolerate two violations of federal law, namely the leaking of two classified reports to the president by a general and then by an ambassador? Could it possibly be…corruption? In terms of practical consequences, I’d say these secret games for political gain are more hurtful than the president of Afghanistan could ever accomplish. He can’t order up 40,000 more troops without recruiting people dedicated to blowing away him and those who stand with him. The US government’s power of life and death overwhelms his.
Openness about one’s own motives is the best one has to offer to make peace with one’s antagonists. Let’s be honest here in the US. The historical political juggernaut that drove superpower US forces to invade Afghanistan was a blind capitulation to US political expediency; any president who didn’t lash out at someone after 911 was politically suicidal. I think of all the cluster bomblets that bit of political expediency for private gain laid on children in Afghan family plots. Has US political and media dialogue not gotten corrupted into defending and escalating investment in an indefensible massively homicidal political reflex?
If we in my country were not corrupted, I think it obvious that we would apologize to everyone we occupy militarily worldwide for our Anglo history of colonialism, would withdraw and would negotiate reparations. But of course we are too heavily invested in our own good-old-boy corrupt ways to be different from Afghanis. I’d like us to get off the corruption issue and face whether US attempts to colonize other parts of the planet aren’t doomed to failure, and assume responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. Love and peace--hal