Since I am not Hamid Karzai presiding over a giant mountain pass in permanent ferment intelligence agencies do not drop off suitcases, backpacks and plastic bags full of millions of dollars in cash in my basement.
Matthew Rosenberg reports in The New York Times today how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Iran have been plying the Karzai government with huge sums of cash to buy influence. The primary purpose of any unaccounted cash is necessarily outside the bounds of a legitimate conduct of diplomacy. There is a long history of the CIA softening up people and groups with large amounts of cash. Cash is the ultimate lubricant that smoothens intercourse between nations and peoples.
I am the proponent of the astoundingly original theory that life is 98 percent cash, one and a half percent sex and everything else, including our definitions of morality, crammed in the remaining half percent. Not that I need any vindication but this story lends it nevertheless.
If an individual displayed the kind of reckless criminal propensities that a country like Afghanistan might do, they would be incarcerated. In contrast, countries such as Afghanistan get rewarded with cash. What is criminal in an individual is expedient in a nation. Its funny how you humans conduct your affairs.
What is disturbing about the infusion of off-the-books cash is this bit in Rosenberg’s damning story, “Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”
It is remarkable that after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Afghanistan, the U.S. is also engaged in greasing an assortment of pliable warlords, politicians and officials.
The Times story says that after trying to buy influence Iran has now stopped sending cash. The CIA, meanwhile, continues.
“American and Afghan officials familiar with the payments said the agency’s main goal in providing the cash has been to maintain access to Mr. Karzai and his inner circle and to guarantee the agency’s influence at the presidential palace, which wields tremendous power in Afghanistan’s highly centralized government. The officials spoke about the money only on the condition of anonymity,” the story says.
I come back to the point I made earlier but slightly differently. It is remarkable that after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Afghanistan, the U.S. needs to ply the Karzai government with unaccounted cash to “maintain access.” Individuals would have been skewered for much smaller failures than what governments can get away with.
Iran may have stopped dumping cash on the Karzai government but do we know anything about China or India, both of which seek influence there for reasons of minerals and strategic security? There is so far nothing to suggest that Beijing and Delhi have also adopted this business model.
If I were Karzai, I would wake up every morning at 4 a.m., go to my palatial bathroom, look into my giant mirror and just laugh holding my stomach for about six minutes at my absurdly successful life.