Nine hundred billion American dollars have gone up in smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what have we purchased? Death, despair, misery and corruption. Recently, one of those international organizations that figure these things out declared Iraq the second-most corrupt country in the world (Myanmar, which used to be called Burma, is Number One).
And this week a former National Public Radio reporter who has lived in Afghanistan for the past eight years, wrote an article in the Washington Post arguing that the biggest problem in that country is America’s support of a corrupt and abusive government.
Sarah Chayes, who organized a co-op of Afghan men and women making skin care products from herbs and botanicals as an alternative to the opium poppy trade, wrote, “I hear from Westerners that corruption is intrinsic to Afghan culture, that we should not hold Afghans up to our standards. I hear that Afghanistan is a tribal place, that it has never been, and can’t be, governed. But that’s not what I hear from Afghans.”
Chayes followed up that article with an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS. She told him that in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops, the United States and its NATO allies have had to convince themselves and public opinion back home that there is a democratic government in Afghanistan. But she reported that what Afghans see is a restoration to power under President Hamid Karzai (pictured above with President Bush) of the crooked warlords who were ousted by the Taliban after the Soviet withdrawal two decades ago. Chayes accused officials in the current Afghan government of bribery, extortion and violence. And she said this has resulted in a Taliban resurgence.
Chayes is not the only observer disgusted by conditions in Afghanistan. Here is another view from Marc W. Herold of the Whittemore School of Business & Economics, University of New Hampshire:
The forms taken by pseudo-development in Kabul are many and grotesque: construction of luxury hotels, shopping malls and ostentatious “corrupto-mansions,” grinding poverty amidst opulence, pervasive insecurity, lock-down and deserted streets at night, an opium and foreign monies-financed consumption boom, pervasive corruption, alcohol and prostitutes for the foreign clientele…
Anyone who has studied history will recall examples of U.S. support for death squads and other agents of oppression throughout the Americas. The apparent motive was advancing the interests of those big corporations that used to be American but now are globally owned and run. But are there more sinister undercurrents?
I recently read a diatribe on the Web, written by Michael C. Ruppert, who claims to have been an FBI agent. You can read it yourself here:
Ruppert concedes that the authorities think he’s crazy, so maybe he is. But what if he isn’t? The things he accuses America of doing sent chills down my spine. According to this guy, a Halliburton subsidiary is deeply involved in the international drug trade, providing warehouses and transportation in exchange for a share of the profits. That’s one way in which the American CIA is funded, Ruppert claims.
You know about Halliburton, don’t you? The company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney? I am sure you’ve heard how that outfit grew rich by exploiting the Iraq occupation. Anyway, according to the ex-FBI man, opium production in Afghanistan has expanded enormously since the U.S. became involved in that country.
As I said, this guy could be a nut case. But he is not the only person who claims the American government is secretly involved in the drug trade. Of course, they could all be conspiracy nuts. But, as I lie awake at nights, I wonder: Why are young Americans dying in distant lands, and why is the country committing so much of its resources to killing strangers when so much needs to be done at home? And when you follow the money, where does it lead?