Skip to main content

Crony Capitalism: the sole heritage of the disastrous Western invasion in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has revealed to us the emptiness and hypocrisy of many of our beliefs, and that we may be returning from there also haunted by Mujahideen ghosts, knowing that, underneath, we believe in nothing.


America and the coalition forces invaded Afghanistan not just to find those behind the attacks on America, but also to transform Afghanistan into a modern democracy. It was a grand plan but the logic behind it was simple: if the innocent people of Afghanistan could be liberated from the evil forces that had terrorised them, then they would become free individuals. And out of that, a democracy, like those in the West, would grow naturally.

Tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans would pass through the country over the next ten years - soldiers, diplomats, experts, political advisers and journalists. All of them trying to build this new society. But few of them stopped to think whether what had happened to the Russians 20 years before might also happen to them. That, in a strange way, Afghanistan has revealed to us the emptiness and hypocrisy of many of our beliefs, and that we may be returning from there also haunted by Mujahideen ghosts, knowing that, underneath, we believe in nothing.

After the shock of the attacks in September 2001, the greatest fear was that the American economy might collapse as well. In response, the politicians, advised by their economic experts, cut interest rates to almost zero. This allowed cheap money to flood through the system and avoid disaster. The banks lent money to anyone and everyone. It was the politicians looking to the financial system to stabilise the country.

At the same time, thousands of experts and advisers flooded into Afghanistan. Their aim was to transform the country into a modern Democracy. This optimistic vision of a future Afghanistan was celebrated in the Kabul Stadium. It was the same stadium where the Russians had celebrated their new model for Afghanistan 20 years before.

All kinds of groups came to Kabul to help the project. It was like a snapshot of what those in power in America and Britain believed made democracy work. Underlying it all, was a belief that the battle was to create a good society, one that would be strong enough to stand against the bad, anti-democratic forces that had overwhelmed Afghanistan.

But then, it began to get confusing. The Americans discovered that was it was very difficult to know exactly who was good and who was bad. When they had invaded, they had been helped by Afghans who were already fighting the Taliban. The Americans had assumed they would help to create the new democracy, and appointed many of them to run the country. But now it turned out that many of them were actually the very same corrupt and violent warlords who the Taliban had overthrown, and they were using their new power to terrorise the country all over again.

Gul Agha Sherzai had been made Governor of Kandahar. But he was also alleged to be making a million dollars a week from running the opium trade, while at the same time siphoning off millions from the Americans in inflated contracts. When President Karzai was persuaded to remove Sherzai, he simply made him governor of another province. But he was not alone.

Throughout much of Afghanistan, the warlords had returned to power. But this time it was worse. The massive influx of American money allowed them to extend their networks of bribery and corruption to every corner of Afghan society. But the money was not just corrupting individuals. It was undermining the whole structure of society, above all the police. Rather than enforcing the law, the police had become transformed into violent militias who worked for the warlords. They organised a massive expansion of the drug trade and they also terrorised the local people. Ordinary Afghans came to hate the police and they saw them as the enemy.

And the Americans also weren't as good as they appeared. Jack Idema had been portrayed as a hero, working with the US Special Forces to hunt down bin Laden. He had arrived in Kabul three years before and become a legendary figure. CBS television had made an hour-long special about the secret world of terror that Idema had discovered in the mountains. It showed a tape that he said he had found of the Al-Qaeda group training. But then Idema was arrested. The Americans said that he was a fake. He had nothing to do with them, and had conned CBS. They alleged that Idema had a dungeon, hidden underneath his house in Kabul, where he tortured innocent Afghans. Idema was put on trial in Kabul. He insisted, though, that he had been working with the highest levels of the US military and government. Jack Idema was found guilty and sent to jail. But then it got even more confusing because reports emerged that the real American military had been doing exactly the same as Jack Idema. They had set up a special torture centre in an old Soviet hangar at Bagram Air Base. Ordinary Afghans were shackled to the ceiling and subjected to all kinds of violent abuse. But they went further than Jack Idema. The reports said that two of the victims had been tortured to death.

By 2006, the British and the Americans realised that their project to bring Democracy to Afghanistan was failing, and large parts of the country were descending into anarchy. In Helmand, in Southern Afghanistan, armed groups had risen up and there was constant fighting. The coalition were convinced that this was the return of the Taliban, and British troops were sent there to restore order and to help protect the regional government. But when the British commanders asked the Ministry of Defence for information about what was happening in Helmand, there was none. There weren't even any satellites looking at it. They had all been moved to look at Iraq. The one thing they did know was that they were going to the very heartland of the tribe that had decisively defeated the British 125 years before, at the Battle of Maiwand.

The British commander called a meeting with the local elders. He reassured them that the British were there to defeat the Taliban and support the regional government. But the elders thought that the British had completely misunderstood the problem. The real enemy was not the Taliban, but the corrupt and vicious government that President Karzai had installed in Helmand and was doing nothing to stop. Before they came to Helmand, the British had forced President Karzai to get rid of its governor. But they didn't realise that he had left behind him a completely corrupted society and nothing was what it seemed. When the British went into towns like Sangin, they tried to support the police, but the police were really the armed militia for the sacked governor. To the locals, this meant that the Western troops were supporting their oppressors. So they started to attack the British. The British thought that this must mean they were Taliban, so, in response, they dropped giant bombs on them.

But this then devastated the town centres, which made even more local people join in the attacks. Seeing their chance, the real ideological Taliban, who were now based in Pakistan, flooded back in and they started attacking the British, too. At the same time, the corrupt militias who worked for the local government also turned against the British. Faced by the chaos, the British still clung to their simple narrative of good and evil. They - the Western forces - were good and all the different groups who were attacking them were Taliban, and were bad.

But this extraordinary simplification had terrible consequences, because if you were an Afghan and wanted to kill a rival, all you had to do was go to the British and tell them that he was a Taliban and the British would obediently wipe him out. The British were being used. The terrible truth was that the British presence did not contain the war, it did the very opposite: it escalated it so much that it ran out of control. And the bodies - Afghan and British - piled up.

But then, the British and the Americans had to face up to the fact that they might not be as good and innocent as they thought they were. In 2009, the Presidential elections were held. Hamid Karzai stood and allied himself with some of the most powerful warlords. But there were allegations that the warlords rigged the vote on a massive scale. This was backed up with videos that seemed to show the warlords' followers stuffing the ballot boxes with hundreds of fake voting papers.

The coalition tried to rerun the election, but Karzai's main opponent refused because he said it would be even more corrupt. So, the British and Americans had no choice but to abandon their great dream of a real democracy in Afghanistan. They gave in and allowed Karzai to become president again.

And at the very same time, as their simple plan was falling apart in Afghanistan, the politicians had to face a crisis at home. They had given power to the banks because the bankers and the financial technocrats had promised that they could hold the economy stable. But in 2008, the whole intricate system of credit and loans that the banks had created, collapsed, and there was growing panic as giant financial institutions faced bankruptcy. The politicians in America and Britain stepped in and rescued the banks. As they did so, they began to discover that most of the major financial institutions were also riddled with corruption. But unlike President Roosevelt in the 1930s, they didn't then try and reform the system. Instead, they simply propped it up by literally pouring billions more pounds and dollars into the banks, hoping that this would somehow spread through the economies. They had no other idea.

And, faced by disaster in Afghanistan, the politicians did exactly the same there, too. The Americans knew that the idea of Democracy was failing. In desperation, they poured even more money into the Afghan economy. The idea was that this would somehow create a simpler, economic form of Democracy and that the free market would liberate people. They would become model consumers following their own rational self-interest, just like in the economies of the West. And in an odd way, it worked. Many of those in charge of the money did behave in their own rational self-interest. They simply stole the money, smuggled it out through Kabul Airport, and used it to buy luxury properties in Dubai. During this period, it was estimated that 10 million dollars a day was being taken out of Afghanistan this way.

The scandal seemed to confirm for many Afghans that the United States had not brought Democracy or free markets to their country, but instead, a corrupt Crony Capitalism that had taken over Afghanistan and its government, which was the very same allegation that was being made against politicians at home, in America and in Britain.


Taken from the documentary Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis.

Related:


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

In another bizarre moment, CNN suffers from a real-journalism crisis and exposes the US war crimes in Yemen ... again!

It’s almost like watching The Twilight Zone!
globinfo freexchange
When the corporate media finally decided to dedicate some of their 'precious' time to focus on the war crimes in Yemen, we thought that it was just a smokescreen. The 'unexplained phenomenon' happened after the unimaginable war-crime in which a school bus was bombed by the Saudi coalition, fully supported by the US.
The global condemnation was so loud that the corporate media couldn't avoid it. They had to speak about it. However, we were right. It was just a small parenthesis away from the common agenda. The US-Saudi coalition war crimes in Yemen continue at the same rate, but the corporate media continue to act like if the war doesn't even exist.
Yet, surprisingly enough, we had an unexpected exception to this corporate media norm. CNN decided to return to the issue and condemn the US involvement in Yemen!
In the following video, Kyle Kulinski was also surprised by the fact that CNN covered again th…

WikiLeaks paper reveals Congressional think tank specific techniques for 'persuading' audiences

This document was obtained by WikiLeaks from the United States Congressional Research Service. The CRS is a Congressional "think tank" with a staff of around 700. Reports are commissioned by members of Congress on topics relevant to current political events. Despite CRS costs to the tax payer of over $100M a year, its electronic archives are, as a matter of policy, not made available to the public. Individual members of Congress will release specific CRS reports if they believe it to assist them politically, but CRS archives as a whole are firewalled from public access. This report was obtained by WikiLeaks staff from CRS computers accessible only from Congressional offices.
globinfo freexchange
A report from April 12, 2007, was "Prepared primarily for congressional staff members called upon to help prepare speeches for Members,” and “provides basic guidance on obtaining speech material, using it to prepare a speech draft, and presentation.”, as we read in the abstract. …

Jeremy Corbyn: 'We are in touch with Bernie Sanders and his campaign'

globinfo freexchange
Jeremy Corbyn and Yanis Varoufakis had an interesting conversation in August 20, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Varoufakis challenged Corbyn to lead an international progressive movement that will end the brutal policies of the dominant neoliberalism.
Interesting parts of the dialogue:
JC: We saw the way in which the European Central Bank treated yourselves and also the austerity that was imposed on Ireland on Portugal and Spain.
YV: It's not just a state. They committed a crime against the Irish people. The head of the Central Bank of Europe put a gun on the Irish Prime Minister's head and demanded that overnight the losses of private investors, mostly from Germany, should be transferred on to the books of the Irish state and the Irish Prime Minister's account. Now, that's, you know, robbery, just daylight robbery. That's what they did.
JC: I actually challenged the whole Maastricht idea, which established the European Central Bank, because it wa…

Τελευταία ευκαιρία για Grexit ... πριν αναλάβει ο Κούλης

globinfo freexchange
Η τελευταία κερδοσκοπική επίθεση κατά του τραπεζικού συστήματος δείχνει ότι ακόμα και όταν υποκύπτεις σε ότι ζητάει η διεθνής χρηματοπιστωτική μαφία, δεν είναι αρκετό.
Το ότι θα δικαιωνόμασταν για άλλη μια φορά και μάλιστα τόσο γρήγορα, πραγματικά δεν το περιμέναμε.
Μετά την υποτιθέμενη έξοδο από τα μνημόνια και το περίφημο διάγγελμα Τσίπρα είχαμε γράψει πως οι μετριοπαθείς 'Αριστεροί' προσπαθούν να μας πείσουν ότι τώρα η χώρα θα έχει περισσότερη ελευθερία να χαράξει τις δικές της πολιτικές. Δηλαδή, η χρεοκοπημένη Ελλάδα (που βρίσκεται σε χειρότερη κατάσταση απ'ότι όταν μπήκε στο πρόγραμμα διάσωσης), θα κολυμπήσει ξεβράκωτη στα ίδια νερά με τους καρχαρίες των αγορών και θα επιβιώσει. Αυτό πάνω-κάτω μας λένε.
Πράγματι λοιπόν, μετά από περίπου ενάμισι μήνα, ένα από τα βασικά εργαλεία του μηχανισμού της διεθνούς χρηματοπιστωτικής μαφίας (το Bloomberg), αποφάσισε να εξαπολύσει επίθεση κατά του τραπεζικού συστήματος και ο πανικός δεν άργησε να εξαπλωθεί. Όπω…

How Bezos tricked Bernie and workers

globinfo freexchange
The truth is that Bernie Sanders fought, and still fights for the workers more than any elected US president combined for decades. And his crusade against Amazon and Jeff Bezos' enormous greed resulted in the unprecedented decision of the company to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But it was too good to be true.
As Bloomberg reported:
           Amazon.com Inc. is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees after the company pledged this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour. Warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant in the U.S. were eligible in the past for monthly bonuses that could total hundreds of dollars per month as well as stock awards, said two people familiar with Amazon’s pay policies. The company informed those employees Wednesday that it’s eliminating both of those compensation categories to help pay for the raises, the people said.


As a pure product of the neoliberal culture, Bezos found the op…

The Podesta emails - top US plutocracy group attempted to approach Hillary Clinton under newly elected chairman Jeff Bezos

WikiLeaks series on deals involving Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. Mr Podesta is a long-term associate of the Clintons and was President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff from 1998 until 2001. Mr Podesta also owns the Podesta Group with his brother Tony, a major lobbying firm and is the Chair of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington DC-based think tank.
globinfo freexchange
An email by a Business Council* representative to John Podesta was expressing the desire of the group to 'approach' Hillary Clinton.
The email was sent nearly two years before the 2016 presidential election at the time where Jeff Bezos was the newly elected president of the group. Also, according to the email, the group consisted of more than 120 "of the biggest CEO's in the US.", meaning, the elite of the American plutocracy.
According to the email, the group was interested for a speech by Hillary Clinton in their meeting, but also, for some informal contacts of he…

This is the real EU ...

failed evolution
When the European Parliament voted recently to sanction Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption, we wrote:
This is the Union that exhibited some "humanitarian sensitivity" by packing thousands of refugees in Greek islands under inhuman conditions and paid Turkey to keep them in its soil. And now, these hypocrites want to punish Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption!
We were right.
According to a recent article by the NY Times:
There is growing acrimony — and now an investigation — over why the camp [Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos] is so bad when so much money has been provided by the European Union to help improve the Greek asylum system since migration levels started to rise in 2014.
[...]
Aid groups have been warning of a need for expanded facilities for several years, however. For some, the failure to improve the camp and hasten the asylum process suggests neglect on the…

Rapid drop of the recruitment rates may accelerate hyper-automation and privatization of the US army

globinfo freexchange
Younger generations have been 'trained' by the dominant culture to act in more 'pragmatic' terms in the arena of a brutal economic cynicism. As the fight for a place in this system becomes harder and harder, more and more people are being left out of the game. More and more of the them struggle to survive.
Despite these perfect conditions for the US empire components to exploit the growing numbers of the 'brigades of the poor’, not everything went well for the empire.
After 9/11 disaster, the Internet, the WikiLeaks, the alternative sources of information, the whistleblowers and the powerful combination of all these, brought some unprecedented changes. They managed to destroy the deceptive facade of the US deep state narratives, propagated through the corporate media.
With all the big lies, war crimes, war propaganda exposed to great extent, millennials and new generations are not easy targets for "war on terror"-type narratives.
As a con…

In Brazil too we see what has become now neoliberalism's common practice: recruit the far-right to do the dirty job

globinfo freexchange
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, professor of sociology at Coimbra University in Portugal, and a distinguished legal scholar at the University of Wisconsin Madison, spoke with Greg Wilpert of the Real News, about the shocking rise of neofascism in Brazil through presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro.
Santos explained:
It’s very well documented that the United States is - through several organizations - really advising, financing Bolsonaro’s campaign. Bannon has said that he had talks with the Bolsonaro’s son and they have particularly advised him in terms of digital strategies. That’s what they are doing. But we know that the Koch brothers have also been helping fund him.
We are in a society in which the class inequalities go together with the racial prejudice. In this society, which in fact for a long time it was very conservative and run by the oligarchies, in the last 15 years, there was a revolution in terms of the social policies - particularly the identity policies.…

Financial crises: a tool for the banking cartels to become more powerful

globinfo freexchange
Ten years after the last financial meltdown, very few spotted and mentioned (even until today) an astonishing admission by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC).
In the conclusions on chapter 20 of the report, the Commission implies that trillions (with a T) of taxpayer dollars were mobilized to stabilize the system.
Yet, perhaps the most astonishing conclusion that drawn very little attention, lies in the last sentence in which the Commission actually confirms that the financial sector is even more concentrated in the hands of very few powerful institutions:
A series of actions, inactions, and misjudgments left the country with stark and painful alternatives—either risk the total collapse of our financial system or spend trillions of taxpayer dollars to stabilize the system and prevent catastrophic damage to the economy. In the process, the government rescued a number of fi- nancial institutions deemed “too big to fail”—so large and interconnected with oth…