If an American resident/citizen bribes a foreign governmental official to allow a favor or make a favorable decision to the bribing party or even to abstain from some discretionary act, that resident/citizen has committed a felony under U.S. federal law; they have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which could result in multi-million dollar fines and serious time in a federal prison. It’s done all the time, and the government only occasionally elects to prosecute – after all, rationalize the offending parties, that’s the way business in done in most of the world.
But you know, it’s okay for governments to bribe foreign governments to effect U.S. policy – we sometimes call it “foreign aid” (it carries lots of strings) – and without it, where would Pakistan have all those cool fighters and weapons to taunt and threaten their lovely neighbor, India? Hey! We all know that all those weapons we are giving them to fight Taliban are being used to fight Taliban, right? Oh, not really, but they are beginning to think about it as Taliban serially attack Pakistani police stations and military targets?
The theory goes that if the Taliban go unchecked, they easily take over Afghanistan and can then focus on toppling the Pakistanis to access a rather significant arsenal of nuclear weapons (an estimated 60-70 warheads). With bombs in tow, the Islamists would have nuke to deploy against Israel and their enemies in the West (like the U.S. ). Unfortunately, they would also have a country that we could actually bomb back. So Afghanistan is mission critical to Western policy-makers, and they’ve done so well with their efforts to date.
I mean after all, when you promise to build schools, hospitals, create jobs, etc. (which we seem to have forgotten to do in Afghanistan ), it can’t really be looked at like a bribe to the locals… not like paying your enemy cash not to shoot you so much. Now maybe that’s a plan? On October 15th, the UK-based TimesOnline.co.uk (The Times of London) reported: “When ten French soldiers were killed last year in an ambush by Afghan insurgents in what had seemed a relatively peaceful area, the French public were horrified.
“Their revulsion increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated — and with the publication of photographs showing the militants triumphantly sporting their victims’ flak jackets and weapons. The French had been in charge of the Sarobi area, east of Kabul , for only a month, taking over from the Italians; it was one of the biggest single losses of life by Nato forces in Afghanistan .
“What the grieving nation did not know was that in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials.
“US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.” Ooooh, bad Italians, bad! The allegations also suggested that the Italians had bribed the Taliban (the American spelling, you will note) in the Sarobi area as well. Of course, the corruption free (hmmm, that doesn’t sound right, does it?) Berlusconi government labeled the reports “completely groundless” and Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa called the story both “offensive” and “rubbish.”
Why all the fuss? The theory goes that if the Taliban go unchecked, they easily take over Afghanistan and can then focus on toppling the Pakistanis to access a rather significant arsenal of nuclear weapons (an estimated 60-70 warheads). With bombs in tow, the Islamists would have nukes to deploy against Israel and their enemies in the West (like the U.S. ). Unfortunately, they would also have a country or two that we could actually bomb back into the Stone Age, as we like to say. So Afghanistan is mission critical to Western policy-makers; gosh, they’ve done so well with their efforts to date.
But that Italian bribe thang did get me to thinking. Estimates are that we have spent at least $223 billion on the war in Afghanistan to date (according to the August 9th Washington Post). Pessimists see a total expenditure of $2.4 billion if we are stuck there for a decade... and the government itself projects $65 billion a year in direct military spending. If we calculate that there are 30 million people in the entire country, we could eliminate the middleman (the corrupt Karzai government) and simply bribe the relevant people directly. What, about 1/3 are Taliban “sympathizers” or actual Taliban? Less, you say, but half the country is under their control.
Forget about negotiating with the Taliban and recognizing the legitimacy of their constituency in the Afghan countryside, let’s just pay them a salary to “be nice to use so we can go home and have them not attack us.” Okay, say we have 5 million hard core, and in a country where the annual per capital income is about $800, if you paid each one of them $250 a year, that would be only $1.25 billion. Ok, if you are paying folks who are “hard core,” likely everyone will become “hard core” pretty quickly, so let’s just say you paid all the adults (about half of the 30 million total population) $250, that would be $3.75 billion a year… alright, alright, don’t push me, so go all the way and pay everybody $250; that would be $7.5 billion a year.
Instead, we will have 68 thousand troops in the country by the end of the year, and we will be spending that nasty $65 billion a year without counting doing the nice stuff for the people we promised back in 2001 and never delivered. We’d only be paying $24 billion a year if we bribed… er… paid every man, woman and child $800/year (the average annual per capita income) to “be nice.” Think of the savings! That’s less than half of what we’re spending now, and then they can build their own schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Maybe they’ll promise not to nuke us too and even throw in some free opium to make feel good; after all, they account for well over 90% of the global illegal opium trade. Is this really an unwinnable war or do the Italians actually have a better idea? Think Ferrari or Maserati. Yeah….
I’m Peter Dekom, and I wonder who’s doing the math in Washington ?