Who is Worse: the Corrupter or the Corruptee?

Posted on 05/12/2010

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The ultra-capitalist magazine Forbes has published a list of what it calls “The most corrupt countries.”1

The Yahoo page leading to the article read:

Topping the list is a nation so unethical that piracy is actually considered a legitimate trade. No. 1 worst country

Can a nation be unethical? Of course not. And calling a country “No. 1 worst” is just demonization.

The people that govern a country can lead it in an unethical direction, but that does not make the country unethical. Is piracy legitimate or not? It depends. Is resistance against oppression unethical?2 Resistance is a right. It is not unethical; in fact, it may be the most ethical response to oppression and injustice.

In Somalia’s case, I submit that the “piracy” is a form of resistance to the piracy of western and other nations: that is nations trespassing, illegally exploiting Somalia’s fishing grounds, and dumping waste in Somalia’s waters.3

The Forbes article begins with quintessential Schadenfreude: “Upset with the failings of the U.S. government these days? Take a breath. At least we’re not Somalia.”1

Forbes does not identify the source of the corruption. I do not grant that the nation of Somalia is corrupt. However, I will address the premise that Somalia is corrupt. This provokes many questions. For example, has Somalia always been corrupt? Why is it corrupt now? Who overthrew the former government?4 What caused the corruption? Was it internal or external? That is, did Somalia become corrupt from intrinsic factors or did outside forces cause, or contribute to, Somalia’s corruption?

Forbes reports that Somalia “long racked by civil war, has become a capital for piracy and terrorism with little capacity for any government at all, let alone an honest one.”

Capital for terrorism? This is assertion and hyperbole. Is Somalia responsible for the destruction of other states, like the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan? Has Somalia invaded Ethiopia or was it invaded by Ethiopia – at the behest of the US? Is Uganda an innocent neighbor of Somalia?

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report said the US is making the situation in Somalia worse: “The United States, treating Somalia primarily as a battlefield in the global war on terror, has pursued a policy of uncritical support for transitional government and Ethiopian actions, and the resulting lack of accountability has fueled the worst abuses.”5

Demonizing the Victims of US Aggression

Heaping further abuse, Forbes continues by naming Myanmar and Afghanistan to its list of notorious countries, “each tremendously corrupt in its own way.” I am not going to defend Myanmar.

Turning to Afghanistan, however, Forbes writes:

Afghanistan, meanwhile, is a nominal U.S. ally burdened with the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai, who’s admitted to taking “bags of money” from U.S. enemy Iran in addition to the huge sums of U.S. aid and persuasion money floating around the war-ravaged nation. It doesn’t help that Karzai’s brother is widely reputed to be involved in the opium trade.

What is wrong with this reporting? Why is Hamid Karzai in power? Who put him there? Which country oversaw the elections in occupied Afghanistan that led to the installment of Karzai as leader? How credible were the elections, and which country prevented scrutinizing of the fairness of the elections? As for Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali is on the payroll of the CIA.6 Why would Ahmed Wali Karzai be paid by the CIA? Who gains from the opium trade?7

Further questions are begged. Why was Afghanistan devastated? Why did warlords gain so much power? Which country backed the warlords? Which country continually bombards Afghanistan and has lethally wiped out many wedding celebrations?

Turning to the number four “worst country” on the Forbes list:

Another war-torn nation, Iraq, came in fourth on the corruption index. Squabbling between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority, still unused to being out of power, has delayed the formation of a government but corruption among the country’s administrators and judiciary is rampant.

Which country invaded Iraq illegally, killed over a million people (not including the over one million that UN-US-maintained sanctions killed prior to the US-led aggression)? Which country killed and arrested members of the Iraqi government and then dismantled it? Which country fostered internecine violence between Sunni and Shia? Which country set up the elections to produce the present, allegedly corrupt, government?

Since when is an election under occupation at all synonymous with anything remotely resembling democracy? If a government formed under occupation is corrupt, who is to blame: the party which set up the conditions or the party in power as a result of the manipulated conditions?

Failed State Somalia

Earlier in the year, Foreign Policy listed Somalia first on The Failed States Index 2010.

Somalia saw yet another year plagued by lawlessness and chaos, with pirates plying the coast while radical Islamist militias tightened their grip on the streets of Mogadishu. Across the Gulf of Aden, long-ignored Yemen leapt into the news when a would-be suicide bomber who had trained there tried to blow up a commercial flight bound for Detroit. Afghanistan and Iraq traded places on the index as both states contemplated the exit of U.S. combat troops, while already isolated Sudan saw its dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, defy an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo once again proved itself a country in little more than name.8

Each of the cited failed states (Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo) is a state targeted by the US for violence and exploitation.

This violence often provokes violent resistance. Violence against a state, killing of its people, denial of self-determination creates enemies and spurs resistance. It is called blowback.

On 11 July, Uganda was rocked by explosions killing 76 people. Al-Shabab, the Somali resistance movement stated that the operation was in response to the killing of civilians by the African Union Mission (AMISON) peacekeeping forces, largely composed of troops from Uganda and Burundi, in Somalia.

Bronwyn Bruton of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) called for “constructive disengagement”: “The idea is to watch the situation carefully for signs of real global terrorism — which so far are limited. Al-Shabab’s ‘links’ with al-Qaeda seem to be mostly rhetoric on both sides.” Bruton said, “We [the US] have a limited capacity to influence events in Somalia, to influence them positively. But we have an almost unlimited capacity to make a mess of things.”9,10

Acting through the US-aligned Ugandan government, it has been claimed that “the entire [African] continent’s attention [has been turned] toward implementing Washington’s foreign policy objectives in Somalia.”

US imperialism in Somalia has not just driven Somalia to be called a failed state, it has shifted much of the burden on a subaltern African continent.11

So who is really the “worst state”? The failed states or the state destroying and creating failed states?

by: Kim Petersen / November 8th, 2010

  1. Daniel Fisher, “The Most Corrupt Countries,” Forbes, 1 November 2010. [] []
  2. See my Dissident Voice articles: “Progressivist Principles and Resistance,” 27 September 2010; “Ending Violent Resistance,” 23 October 2010. []
  3. Agustín Velloso, “Somalia: When Is a Pirate Not a Pirate?,” Dissident Voice, 3 November 2009. []
  4. James Petras, “The Imperial System: Hierarchy, Networks and Clients — The Case of Somalia,” Dissident Voice, 18 February 2007. []
  5. So Much to Fear,” Human Rights Watch, 8 December 2008. []
  6. Dexter Filkins, Maerk Mazzetti, and James Risen, “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.,” New York Times, 27 October 2009. []
  7. Michel Chossudovsky, “Who benefits from the Afghan Opium Trade?,” Global Research, 21 September 2006. []
  8. The Failed States Index 2010,” FP, 21 June 2010. []
  9. Quoted in Fareed Zakaria, “The failed-state conundrum,” Washington Post, 19 July 2010. []
  10. US media, with memories of the botched US so-called humanitarian intervention launched by George Bush Sr have the CFR caution on deeper involvement in Somalia. See Jeremy Sapienza, “Uganda bombings: Obama mustn’t meddle in Somalia,” CSMonitor.com, 13 July 2010. []
  11. Abayomi Azikiwe, “African Union summit burdened with U.S. imperialism’s role in Somalia,” Pan-African News Wire, 1 August 2010. []
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Posted in: African papers