Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Chayes’

Review of Book on Corruption in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in Lobster

January 3, 2016

The parapolitics/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has a fascinating review of Sarah Chayes’ Thieves of State (London: W.W. Norton 2015) in the issue, no. 70, for winter 2015. Chayes was an official, who arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, and later joined the International Security and Assistance Force. Working in Afghanistan, she witnessed the massive growth in corruption under the post-war regime installed by the West, including the government of Hamid Karzai. She describes the Afghan government as

best understood not as a government at all but as a vertically integrated criminal organization – or a few such loosely structured organizations, allies but rivals, coexisting uneasily – whose core activity was not in fact exercising the functions of a state but rather extracting resources for personal gain.

Under the regime, political posts are on sale, with the successful purchaser expected to make back his losses through bribery, drug deals and embezzlement. The head of the counter-narcotics ministry, Daoud Daoud, was a notorious drug baron. Karzai’s election campaign was marred by blatant fraud, and his declared intention to clean up his country’s politics was hollow. When he made it, he had standing next to him his two vice-presidents, men, who were notorious war criminals. It was a tacit statement that in fact he had no such intention of doing anything about the corruption whatsoever.

Chayes was convinced that the corruption needed to be tackled as it was a ‘force multiplier’ for the terrorists. She found many of those who joined the Taliban and the insurgents did so as they believed that the Taliban were only force capable of rooting out the corruption. She approached two of the American commanders, Dan McChrystal and David Petraeus, in the hope that they would concur and act accordingly. McChrystal didn’t wish to alienate the ruling Northern Alliance, and Petraeus, although he did agree with her, didn’t act either.

Chayes blames much of the corruption on the influence of the CIA. Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was so horrendously corrupt that he was hated by three provinces. Nevertheless, the US supported him because he was a CIA asset. Karzai himself is also on the Agency’s payroll, while Petraeus went on to become its head.

Chayes’ book also discusses other kleptocratic regimes facing Islamist rebellions – in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Iraq. The decline of America as a geo-political force means the country can oust regimes, but not successfully install their successors. And globalisation means that the kleptocrats can invest their money in Dubai, Switzerland and Britain, or, more properly, the City of London, and can move anywhere in the world to escape Islamist attacks if this becomes too dangerous. Chayes is also pessimistic about the West, as she feels that this too is moving towards becoming a series of kleptocracies.

I thought I’d blog about the book and its review because, like the research showing that recruits to ISIS are motivated primarily by politics rather than by religion, this also shows the secular issues that are moving many Afghans into the arms of the Taliban. The invasion of Afghanistan has made the situation in some ways worse for the ordinary people, though the Taliban was a bloody and intolerant regime that fully deserved its overthrow.

As for the West becoming increasingly kleptocratic, we’ve seen the massive influence of money pouring into politics from big business and the multinationals to influence official policy. The revolving door between the arms industry, government and civil service is also notorious, not just in America but also over here in Britain where it has been repeatedly attacked by Private Eye. And public services are now more expensive and less efficient after being privatised than they were when they were publicly owned. And the massive greed and apparent immunity from punishment or prosecution of the banking and financial sector is a continuing scandal.

The review is at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster70/lob70-thieves-of-state.pdf Go and read it for more information.