Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is Corruption In Afghanistan Somehow Worse Than Corruption in Washington, DC?


Last week Bush signed a heinous piece of legislation that gives the Executive Branch unimaginable powers to spy on American citizens. It's straight out of Orwell's 1984, Nazi Germany or Stalin's Russia, except it happened in the United States and enough Democrats joined the Republican Party to pass something that would make every patriotic American puke. One giant step towards fascism.

Friday night Air America's Peter B. Collins asked me to explain why so many members of Congress voted for this travesty. The simple, one-word explanation I told his audience: Bribery. Rampant, uncontrollable, unregulated corruption has so inundated our political system that the public takes for granted that most of our political class-- every single Republican without exception plus the whole Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- is unafraid to utterly sell out the Constitution and our liberties for a handful of cash.

The management of the big telecoms were frantic to make sure Congress acceded to Bush's vow to grant them-- the management of the big telecoms-- retroactive immunity for the laws they clearly broke in massive spying on the American public. So far this year they have laid out at least $6,249,940 in "donations" to political campaigns to make sure that happened. The two most guilty telecoms, AT&T and Verizon, handed out $3,017,654 and $1,443,344 (respectively) alone. And who was the biggest recipient? John McCain, of course, the most corrupt politician in America. They gave him $365,955. Obama symbolically voted against retroactive immunity in a doomed amendment by Chris Dodd but once that lost, he went on to vote for the bill (and feel dandy about the $220,789 in donations his "clean" campaign took in. So how, exactly, does his campaign differ from the criminal lobbyist filth that makes up John McCain For President?

But forget the presidential candidates for a moment. Who were the biggest recipients of bribes from the telecoms-- and no sane person could define these pay-offs as anything but bribes-- this year? First and foremost, the man who guided the bill through the Senate and made sure there were enough Democrats joining the GOP to guarantee passage and guarantee that Dodd's amendment would fail: Jay Rockefeller (D-WV-$51,500) and the man who guided the bill through the House and made sure there were enough Democrats joining the GOP to guarantee passage: Rahm Emanuel (D-IL-$49,950). After that came the regular suspects, a veritable hall of shame of corrupt political hacks from both parties who are always willing to sell their votes to corporate interests regardless of the detrimental effects it has on the constituents who theoretically employ them (but don't pay close attention). The worst of the worst (and keep in mind this is just this year's haul):

Ted Stevens (R-AK-$41,400)
Rick Boucher (D-VA-$36,700)
Terry Lee (R-NE-$36,650)
Susan Collins (R-ME-$35,850)
Greg Walden (R-OR-$34,000)
Mark Pryor (D-AR-$32,350)
Cliff Stearns (R-FL-$31,000)
Eric Cantor (R-VA-$30,200)
Baron Hill (D-IN-$28,900)
Max Baucus (D-MT-$28,000)
Gordon Smith (R-OR-$27,750)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC-$26,700)
Roger Wicker (R-MS-$26,600)
Chris Cannon (R-UT-$26,250)
Nathan Deal (R-GA-$25,000)
John Sununu (R-NH-$24,600)
Zach Space (D-OH-$22,000)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY-$21,500)
Bart Stupak (D-MI-$20,800)
Leonard Boswell (D-IA-$20,750)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY-$20,250)

All of these corrupt politicians accepted large donations from the telecoms and then voted, in an obviously unconstitutional manner to grant retroactive immunity to the very people who authorized the pay-offs. Why am I mentioning this today. Well, the L.A. times has a story about Admiral Mike Mullen bitching about corruption in Afghanistan. I spent a couple years when I was younger living in Asia, quite a bit of it in Afghanistan. It is easy to define their social system as corrupt. I drove from Turkey to India and one word never changed: baksheesh. It could be as benign as a tip or as insidious as the police bribe I had to pay to get out of prison when the police found 50 kilos of the finest Mazar-i-Sharif hashish in my van. It's not nearly as insidious as Senator Susan Collins accepting $35,850 from the big telecoms in return for voting to let their chief executives off the hook for spying on the American people without lawful warrants. Many telecom companies were asked and told the Bush Regime their request was illegal and refused to go along. They didn't participate in the gigantic pay-offs to politicians like Susan Collins this year.
Afghan police, Mullen said, "have a history of corruption, and they've had challenges with this in every local area and district. Up until now, they haven't been trained very well, and so we start with a significant deficit, and it's going to take some time to catch up."

Mullen is known for straight talk.

I'll believe that when he has some straight talk with John McCain (R-AZ-$365,955), Barack Obama (D-IL-$220,789), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV-$51,500), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL-$49,950), and Ted Stevens (R-AK-$41,400).

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At 3:37 PM, Blogger Rhode Island Rules said...

Here's where the rules need to change. It needs to be that whatever is left over in your campaign chest goes back to either the donor or the party you represented when you either lose the election or retire.
To allow these buffoons to amass these large amounts that they can take with them when they go is ridiculous.

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have picked up a very interesting topic but also a more complex issue scond to terrorism and opium business in Afghanistan.

In addition, to what you mentioned, there are other forgotten elements who are directly or indirectly feeding corruption culture in Afghanistan.

The warlords, factional leaders including General Fahim, General Dostum, Qanooni, and plenty of them who have surmounted government appartus and private enterprises to launder their illigitmate money. Bessmillah Khan(Deputy Minister of Defence) has similarly committed a case of embezzlment (One Hundred Thousand US Dollars) while constructing millitary baracks in Khost, Gardes and Helmand.


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