Last week the New York Times wrote about the CIA’s revered decade-old bribery policy with Afghani President Karzai’s Administration. It chronicles the dropping off of tens of millions in cash to Karzai in various exciting receptacles, including: suitcases, backpacks, and even shopping bags. Though somewhat over-dramatically written, and almost 3 years late to the scandal (thanks Washington Post), somehow the NYT article forced a response from Karzai. Known for being immune to corruption, Karzai dispelled all concerns 3 days ago, taking to the public a conversation he had with the CIA Chief in Kabul:
“I told him because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money, because we really need it… We want to continue this sort of assistance, and he promised that they are not going to cut this money.” (NYTs)
We can all sleep easy knowing that the CIA has decided to stick to its guns and continue funding Karzai’s hobbled regime. Does the CIA really think that this money will really buy the compliance of a man who yielded this description from former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry?
“Indeed his inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building and his deep seated insecurity as a leader combine to make any admission of fault unlikely, in turn confounding our best efforts to find in Karzai a responsible partner.” (Guardian)
How much loyalty has that money really bought the States, and hasn’t the CIA tried to do this before with similar results (or lack thereof)? The history of the CIA’s involvement in nation-building has followed a trajectory much like a pact that would be made with Ursula; what you wish for can indeed come true, but what will be the twist? Ariel got away with a lost voice for a little while, followed up by a Disney ending. In the past, the CIA helped groom and fund Sadam Hussein’s leadership, successfully stopping the Communists from pushing into Iraq and spreading influence through the region. They also carried out bidding wars and coups over influence in South America and Africa, once again being successful in stubbing the spread of Communism and Socialism, all while securing US companies’ claims of native resources. They secured these short-term “victories”, but ended up causing wars, bloodshed, and mistrust. Most of the CIA’s influence beyond intelligence gathering has seemed to only breed instability and problems for the United States down the road.
What have been the ramifications of the Karzai funds? WikiLeaks has exposed countless cables cataloging Karzai’s meddling with warlords and appointing corrupt governors, all while fostering a shrinking sphere of influence. Is this what our money has paid for? Yes, sometimes the bedding of less than likeable figures can be deemed necessary, but the past has shown us it’s hard to transition these relationships into positive long-term change.
Will the future ramifications of this incident be similar to our other blunders in the Middle East? I felt a great sense of unrest when learning about this story, knowing that we’ve funded other recently toppled Middle Eastern rulers before the ‘Arab Spring’. It’s only a matter of time before we once again have to support an overthrow of a regime in the name of Democracy that we had once supported in the name of Democracy. It’s a rather frustrating cycle…
Since there’s no way for us to know everything that the CIA has done and is doing, good or bad, there needs to be a serious conversation about foreign policy within The States. The roles of our various international-focused agencies need to be restructured, and an increased focus on diplomacy must be at the forefront of a newer and more rational foreign policy. Though it’s a pipe dream to think that the CIA will ever defer to the State Department, more oversight and accountability in our various intelligence agencies would be a great start. The underlying internal question for reformation should be: which of our actions abroad fuel more terrorism instead of hurt it?
If the CIA can prevent the Obama Administration from pursuing criminals like Mohammad Zia Salehi, then how can The U.S. ever effectively foster democratic governments? The CIA has often over-stepped its boundaries in our nation’s history for the pursuit of intelligence… it’s time that we redefined those boundaries, for our own sake.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times…and I’m a fool”