Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Chayes’

Lobster Book Review on Corporate and Governmental Corruption in America

June 11, 2021

One of the fascinating book reviews Lobster has published recently is John Newsinger’s review of Sarah Chayes’ Everybody Knows: Corruption in America (London: Hurst 2020). Chayes worked for the western army of occupation in Afghanistan, during which time she came to realise that the American forces weren’t their to free the Afghans, secure democracy and defend women from a vicious and repressive theocracy. No, they were there to prop up Hamid Karzai’s massively corrupt government, whose members and clients were doing everything they could to screw whatever they could get out of Agha and Khanum Ordinary Afghan. This formed the subject of his first book, Thieves of State. In Everybody Knows, she turns to the subject of the massive corruption in America, most especially in Donald Trump’s administration.

The companies participating in this corporate looting of America and the rest of the world include the Koch companies, Goldman Sachs, one of whose former inmates is our own Rishi Sunak, the connections between Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, and the connections between the mercenary outfit Frontier Services Group and Cambridge Analytica. The politicos involved include Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin. McConnell was active trying to hold up increased funding for health-care and pension funds for retired miners, many of whom were his own constituents. He also managed to redirect $4 million of a grant intended to pay for the clean-up of a heavily polluted industrial so that instead it helped to pay for a new, $200 million steel plant ready for its Russian owners, whom McConnell also helped get sanctions lifted on the Russian company, Rusal.

These networks don’t just infect the Republicans, as you’d expect. They’re also heavily interlinked with Democrat politicos and Clinton’s and Obama’s governments. One passage of the review which I found particularly interesting described Madeleine Albright’s corporate looting of Africa. She owns a company that specialises in buying up Third World debt and then forcing those nations to pay it. Of course it comes out their hard-pressed budgets for healthcare, clean drinking water and education. Her hedge fund, Albright Capital Management, bought out a company specialising in pop-up electricity plants in developing African nations. These benefit the countries’ kleptocratic leaders at the expense of local people, who remain ‘mired in pollution and conflict’. It was Madeleine Albright, if I remember correctly, who told American women that there was a special place in hell for them if they didn’t vote for Killary. I’d say there was a special place in hell reserved for someone who enriches herself and her already overprivileged friends and partners stealing badly needed money from the world’s very poorest.

How to tackle this corporate corruption and exploitation? Chayes and Newsinger make it clear that the corporate elites have been able to get away with this because of the massive transfer of wealth and power away from the working class. The book describes how the corruption of the American Gilded Age of the 19th century was successfully fought and broken by a militant and powerful working class. Newsinger’s review concludes

Chayes celebrates struggle through to the great class battles of the 1930s. She clearly recognises that the kleptocracy that is swallowing the world will only be beaten back if there is a shift in the balance of class forces; and will require, needs to be based on, struggle in the
workplace. What is needed, therefore, is the revival of a militant labour movement. And this is absolutely urgent because ‘the Midas disease’ threatens environmental catastrophe on an unprecedented scale. (pp. 283-284) She has come a long way since Afghanistan.

How this can be done with corporatist like Biden in charge of the Democrat party and the country, and the nullity Keir Starmer as head of the Labour party, remains a very good question. But this book review, and the light it sheds on the military-industrial complex in America and its looting of the Third World, is particularly relevant now that we have Biden and the other G7 leaders meeting in Cornwall.

If you want to read it, the reviews at: Everybody Knows (Book Review) (Summer 2021) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

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.