AKBAR ROSTAMI/ NASIBA ALIMYAAR/ Abdul Rahman Sultani
From hundreds of diplomatic cables, the U.S emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest official is a distinct outlier.
Describing the likely lineup of the congress , the the Afghan Embassy noted that most of the new members of the house of representatives, be they Republicans or Democrats were bankrolled by huge industrial concerns or by banks, assuring these entities that no matter who won they would maintain their control. This is called "doubling your bet" in American, and it works. Dennis Kucinich appears to be the only congress person about whom no allegations of bribery exist.
One official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Congressman Rangel of NY, was mererly censure for gross violations of ethic rule, proving that at least when it comes to cruption there is no "color bar" in the U.S. But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Rangel was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme.
It is hardly news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of U.S. society. Transparency International, an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the globe, ranks the U.S as the world’s third most corrupt country, behind Somalia and Myanmar, but ahead of Afghanistan and Serbia and Albania and Kosovo and Romania.
But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the US government a cornerstone of America’s strategy .
The cables make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Obama was elected with $ 750 million from the Banking Industry
The embassy was particularly concerned that President Obama welched on nearly 50 of his campaign promises and that his electorate was becoming dispirited. The odds on Sarah Palin winning the nomination and the Presidency in 2012 are at 2:1 at the Kabul betting parlors, slightly higher than the Vegas line.
The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by the famous addict Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American officials believe prospers from the drug trade. (Mr. Karzai denies any involvement with narcotics trafficking.)
“The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” Ambassador Eikenberry wrote. "I myself didn't get my cut."
Afghan officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009 cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari, as hoping that General Patreus might be “a refreshing change,” an effective and trustworthy leader. But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have “the $200,000-300,000 for a bribe” necessary to secure the job permanently.
Ahmed Zia Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother of the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed as a future president. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates.
A diplomatic cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview Mr. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. “It’s not true,” he said. “Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money as big as this room.” Yet while his official salary was a few hundred dollars a month, he lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah, a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials. When a reporter visited the dwelling this year, a Rolls-Royce was parked out front.
The cables describe a country where everything is for sale, where Ponzi schemes are rampant,
where the bankers whom the Obama administration saved with the bail out are again giving
themselves bonuses in the hundred of millions
Then again, another cable reports “rumors” that President Obama himself “was involved in a corrupt oil import deal.” He denied the rumors, saying that they were inventions by two rivals who were “among the most corrupt in Chicago,” the cable said.