One of the fundamental difficulties in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East, we’re now being told, is that our partner governments there–Iraq and Afghanistan–lack credibility among their own populations. This is a critical problem at this juncture because the country is considering an investment of tens of thousands of new troops into the country.
Rahm Emanuel recently commented on this problem in discussing the administration’s upcoming decision to surge, or not to surge:
"What’s most important about that process is that there’s a credibility and legitimacy to the government at the end of that process," Emanuel said. "So which road will they choose? That’s up to them. It must be legitimate and credible in the eyes of the Afghan people."
A noble sentiment, to be sure. The administration paints us a picture of Americans trying our very best, but alas–these local governments are just so very corrupt. It seems no matter what we do, we are betrayed by the very countries we are striving, and dying, to help.
Our head of the Joint Chiefs was right on the same page with Emanuel and the administration. In order to root out corruption and gain legitimacy, Mullen urged, Afgan President Hamid Karzai must:
"…take concrete steps to eliminate corruption. That means that you have to rid yourself of those who are corrupt, you have to actually arrest and prosecute them. You have to show those visible signs".
Admiral Mullen said the U.S. government is "extremely concerned" about corruption in Afghanistan, and that if the issue is not addressed, any U.S. and international military effort will not succeed. "If we don’t get a level of legitimacy and governance, then all the troops in the world aren’t going to make any difference," he said.
I note that nobody asked Mullen how we might best proceed if arresting and prosecuting were off the table. It’s a problem our own country has suffered from, and it is something that the US government absolutely insisted upon when our mercenaries opened fire on defenseless Iraqi citizens in Bagdad, killing 17 of them. Those mercenaries, we insisted, could not be tried in Iraqi courts under Iraqi law.
Mullen then went on to say the kinds of things that will sound familiar to many Americans: that if the Afghans can somehow manage to clean up their corrupt act, a surge of thousands more American troops would help develop an effective Afghan standing army, effective police forces, and unleash the economic potential of the country.
But what about the corruption that America brings with it, when it occupies foreign countries? Do the Iraqis and Afghans have to clean both themselves and us of corruption?
Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
As Jeremy Scahill will tell you, Blackwater is still going great guns in Iraq (a 200 million aviation contract), and is all over Afghanistan with lucrative contracts with the CIA, State Department, and Defense Department.
How, we might ask our leaders, can our hopelessly corrupt partners clean up their acts when it is WE who are bribing and corrupting them?
And so goes the continued insanity of American Empire. Our troops and mercenaries and prisons and drones and hellfire rockets terrorize and radicalize the people of the countries we forcefully occupy. And because occupied countries tend to resist occupiers, things get rough. And we bring peace and stability to that roughness by sending more troops and rockets and mercenaries.
Similarly (and I think there is a strong parallel here), our propped-up, illegitimate puppet governments, our creatures, our "partners" are hopelessly corrupted by our very presence. And we respond to that problem by–amazingly–blaming the puppets for accepting the bribes that we ourselves offer them. And instead of removing the American companies that promote that corruption, we reward them by awarding huge new and continuing contracts so they have every opportunity and incentive to continue that corruption.
Because of Blackwater’s State Department contract in Afghanistan, when we send our State Department officials to speak with President Karzai about all this terrible Afghan corruption, those officials will be surrounded by Blackwater security.
Now that’s what I call "audacity".
It is as if we were a fire-fighting company trying to put out a prarie fire with huge tanks of aviation fuel. We are, at very least, a significant part of the problem we seek to solve.
Our leaders are telling us that if, in typically American fashion, we just shout a little louder, and shoot a little faster, and slip just a few more withering American dollars into the right Afghan and Iraqi palms, we just might be able to come home in a few years. But stories like this latest Blackwater revelation rip that facade apart, and show these "solutions" for what they are.