Last Friday, popular protests over unemployment and corruption forced Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to resign after 23 years in power. A Tunisian prosecutor has opened an investigation into the overseas assets of Ben Ali and his family, much of which are widely believed to be the fruit of corruption, and some of which the Tunisian government may try to recover. France, Switzerland, and Germany have all announced the freezing of assets linked to the Ben Ali clan; the European Union is considering doing so.
But the U.S. has made no such announcement, and the issue of U.S. support for Tunisian efforts to track and possibly recover these assets hasn't, to my knowledge - and I've been searching for it, and asking reporters and others about it - even been mentioned in the press. Shouldn't the US also move to freeze any assets in the U.S. linked to the Ben Ali clan, and indicate its full support for Tunisian efforts to recover stolen assets?
On Wednesday, the Tunisian prosecutor's office moved to investigate overseas bank accounts, real estate and other assets held by Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other relatives, while Switzerland froze assets linked to Ben Ali and 40 people in his entourage. On Saturday, France announced that it was blocking "suspicious financial movements concerning Tunisian assets." Germany has also announced moves to freeze the assets of Ben Ali's family.
Is it just me, or is the pontification of Western leaders about corruption in Afghanistan growing rather tiresome?
There is something very Captain Renault about it. We're shocked, shocked that the Afghans have sullied our morally immaculate occupation of their country with their dirty corruption. How ungrateful can they be?
But perhaps we should consider the possibility that our occupation of the country is not so morally immaculate - indeed, that the most corrupt racket going in Afghanistan today is the American occupation.
US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts in Afghanistan consists of protection payments to insurgents, Aram Roston reports in The Nation. In southern Afghanistan - where General McChrystal wants to send more troops - security firms can't physically protect convoys of American military supplies. There's no practical way to move the supplies without paying the Taliban. So, like Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22, we're supplying both sides of the war.