Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Make a Buck, Take a Buck....or Two

By now, nearly everyone is aware of the endemic corruption of Afghanistan, which extends not only to all branches and levels of government but also to commercial and business activities, quasi-governmental organizations and aid/development organizations. Even ISAF is not immune to the taint of theft, bribery and corruption that exists here.*

*For instance, head down to the Bush Bazaar** and see the vast array of pilfered, purchased and purloined items for sale that only recently were the legal property of a NATO military force. Uniforms, tactical gear, body armor, MREs, boots, all of it available at a considerable discount, and all of it to use the Goodfellas terminology "fell off the back of a truck." I least one hopes it's stolen. Stories, perhaps apocryphal, exist of U.S. Army uniforms for sale in the bazaar with the bullet holes stiched up and some suspicious looking dark stains.
**Yes, it really is named after former-President Bush, although it's worth pointing out that back in the 80's there was a similar market selling stolen Russian gear and the locals called it the Brezhnev Bazaar. Re-selling of stolen goods has a long and glorious tradition in Afghanistan.

Basically, everyone here, from the lowliest shopkeeper to the highest government official* is in a mad scramble to grab every Afghani, rupee, ruble and dollar that they can get their hands on before ISAF finally bails out and this place returns to the Dark Ages from whence it came.

*Yeah, I'm looking at you Karzai. And your scumbag brother too.

Now I don't generally fault the average Afghani for trying to make a buck (even off of stolen goods). Most locals live on $100-$120 USD a month, and have to care for an extended family. As long as they do what they say they will do, and don't try to cheat me or my people, I can live with it.*

*Unfortunately, the list of Afghans I know personally after fourteen months here who haven't 1) broken a promise to me, or 2) tried to screw my company, my guys, or me personally, is short enough that I can count it on my fingers. With fingers to spare.

However, the "official" corruption, especially of the police, is something that I cannot forgive. The common argument is that the police aren't paid very well (true) and therefore one should expect a certain level of corruption (false). The fallacy of that argument is contained within itself.

If the police aren't paid well (and they aren't), they could get jobs that pay nearly as well without all of the occupational hazards that come with an ANP uniform, like being reviled by the local population and targeted by the bad guys. I know there are jobs out there that pay just as well as the ANP without the attendant risks. I know this because my company (among many others) provides many of those jobs.

But Afghans join the ANP for reasons other than the official pay. Mostly, they join because a police uniform is license to do anything they want (including get away with murder- more on this later) without fear of repecussion. It's not the pay they receive, it's not even the bribes they demand (and get), it's the near-total impunity that comes with the uniform and the Kalashnikov.*

*Think Georgia State Trooper with an automatic weapon and without those pesky Miranda rights or the ACLU looking over his shoulder.

To follow, a couple of posts that demonstrate in deplorable fashion the truly depraved and degraded state of the Afghan National Police. When this country descends back into the cesspit from which it never should have crawled, lots of fingers will be pointed at those supposedly at fault for "losing Afghanistan." Make no mistake about it. When Afghanistan is "lost" it will be because of the Afghans themselves.


dmouse said...

Yup well said.I had some hope for Afghanistan,but thanks to karzi and corruption my hope has wained.The ANP will join the taliban.(they have before)The ANA will hold for a bite,Karzi will flee with his bags of money. the rich an educated will run like hell. the sick,poor,and the old will be left to the taliban.and the finger pointing will be at us.

mud poisoned said...

Corrupt politicians and cops. Sounds like your in Chicago..

James G - Death Valley Magazine said...

Hell, corruption is business as usual in 80% of the world – you pretty much have to embrace it or just live in the 1st world. Personally I like that I can just pay to make something happen

PaladinSix said...

Three responses in one comment:

dmouse- in many cases, the ANP and the Taliban are the same thing. Google General Metiullah Khan for a example of one of the dual-loyalty scumbags who we have to do business with.

mud poisoned- I see your point, but unfortunately this place isn't much like Chicago, even the bad bits out on the West Side

James- I'm OK with the idea of paying to get stuff done. "Success guarantee fee" is a wonderful euphemism, as far as I'm concerned. However, the problem is that half the time they demand a bribe, the other half they try and arrest you for offering one. I don't mind the bribes, I just want a little consistency.