The West’s Legacy in Afghanistan: a Corrupt Narco State As 2014 and the Afghanistan War ends, the longest overseas military intervention in U.S. history, winds down, we should reflect on what has been accomplished at what cost. Over $1 TRILLION has been spent fighting this war, including more than $100 BILLION spent on so-called Afghani “re-construction” projects— an amount, when adjusted for inflation, that is greater than all the money spent on the Marshall Plan that successfully re-built Western Europe’s economy following WWII—according to Joe Sopko, the U.S. government’s special inspector-general for Afghanistan. The cost in blood through 2014 to the Western military coalition has been 3,485 killed in action. So, after all this expenditure in blood and treasure what are the results? What kind of legacy will the U.S. and its western allies like Canada leave for the future? According to Matthieu Atkins, a Kabul-based Canadian journalist, the Western allies are leaving behind a corrupt, violent Narco state.* Afghanistan now produces almost the entire world’s supply of opium, the raw material drug traffickers refine into the illegal, highly addictive heroin sold on our streets! In essence, an intervention that was designed to thwart the deadly impact of Islamic fundamentalism—which killed some 2,977 people in the USA during the 9/11 attacks of 2001—has left in its wake another tragedy. The U.S. and its allies have merely shifted the threat to another source. How so? Just consider that the annual body count from heroin overdoses in the USA alone is more than 4,000 people! Year in, year out more people are dying from the botched U.S. intervention in Afghanistan than died just once from the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorists. How ironic! Instead of making the world a more peaceful, safe, and better place, our Western leaders have made it worse and even greatly compounded the problem by leaving Afghanistan as a corrupt Narco state, that is now complicit in the enslavement and destruction of the lives of millions through their drug trafficking. As the prophets wrote so long ago: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7 KJV). Childish leaders oppress my people, and creditors or usurers, rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you; they send you down the wrong road. (Isaiah 3:12 NLT). Links: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/12/22/narco-state-matthieu-aikins/ and http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/14be0e0c-8255-11e4-ace7-00144feabdc0.html *CBC Radio One interview and a feature story in Rolling Stone Magazine Links: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/12/22/narco-state-matthieu-aikins/ and http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/14be0e0c-8255-11e4-ace7-00144feabdc0.html
What disqualifies a person from leadership? Can a fallen leader be restored?
It would seem this is the hot topic in Canada these days. The front pages of our two national newspapers, the National Post and the Globe & Mail, were completely taken up by a massive photo of Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford and stories about the mayor’s acknowledgement that he smoked crack cocaine while in a drunken stupor.
Of course, Rob Ford’s confession makes it obvious by his own acknowledgement that he told the public, his own family, and his closest political allies a pack of lies for a long time.
And then there is the case of the three Canadian Senators, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, who were all suspended from the Canadian Senate for submitting falsified expense claims. As a direct consequence they have been tossed into seeming political oblivion. Their security passes, government credit cards, Blackberry phones were all immediately cut off and their personal office staff fired. The dishonesty of the three motivated the Senate to act swiftly in order to salvage something of that institution’s tattered reputation.
What disgrace! They are examples of leadership that failed the test. Sure, they disappointed many Canadians, although it must be said that there are many more people who cynically believe all politicians are corrupt, anywise, so what can you expect! Many today do take it for granted that our political leaders are all crooks and liars. And, consequently, in a perverse sort of way we’re not too offended when we get what we expect. In fact I’ve heard that the popularity approval rating of Mayor Ford in the polls has risen since his dramatic confessions this week.
We all know that our leaders are subject to human frailties. But, really, is it beneficial to the wellbeing of our communities and our nation as a whole to set the bar of what we expect from our leaders so low? Do we really want our leaders “living down” to cynical expectations and so become self-fulfilling prophecies? I don’t think so.
In former times Canadians widely believed and would acknowledge that the Judeo-Christian scriptures set their expectations concerning their own personal behaviour as well as for those in leadership positions. That’s why the city of Toronto was formerly known as “Toronto the good” in years now long past. The bar of the public’s expectations concerning personal conduct was then set much higher.
It is true that according to the teachings of the Bible, God DOES expect A LOT from both the leaders AND the led—from all those who pay Him lip service. Didn’t Rob Ford invoke God’s blessing on the people he’s supposed to be serving during one of his tumultuous press conferences this week?
Nevertheless, despite the blatant hypocrisy common to our secular 21st Century, many still expect our leaders to carry out their service both faithfully and with dignity. Having the leader of Canada’s largest city confess before millions that he smoked crack while in a drunken stupor, while in the company of a bunch of druggies, is just plain embarrassing. We want our leaders whether in politics, sports, or business to at least put on a public veneer of a good example for our children even if we mostly do think they are all corrupt.
So, what’s the bottom line for our leaders with proven feet of clay? After falling so low, could and should Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau still be forgiven and restored to positions of leadership? Could they once again regain our full confidence? It all depends.
King David of ancient Israel, who was himself no stranger to some stupendous moral lapses during the course of his leadership, came to understand this issue thoroughly. He learned what good leadership requires. His dying words are still relevant. David put his epitaph this way:
The Lord’s Spirit spoke through me, and his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke; the Rock of Israel said to me: “Whoever rules ·fairly [justly; righteously] over people, who rules ·with respect for God, is like the morning light at ·dawn, like a morning without clouds. He is like sunshine after a rain that makes the grass ·of the earth sparkle and gleam”….
But all ·evil [worthless; godless] people [both leaders and the led] will be thrown away like thorns that cannot be held in a hand. No one can touch them except with a tool of iron or wood. They will be ·thrown in [consumed by] the fire and burned where they lie (2 Samuel 23:2-4, 6-7 Expanded Version).
Such consequences are indeed far worse than mere public embarrassment and humiliation. Remember, vengeance ONLY belongs to God—something the Toronto city council and the Conservative Party of Canada would do well to remember.
So can such fallen leaders be restored? While public apologies are a good start, more is needed. A real leader like King Dave, for example, is one who learns from his or her mistakes, genuinely repents from the heart of what is morally and ethically wrong and then initiates thorough change in their personal behaviour—and so turns from black to white, death to life, political oblivion to productive leadership, spiritually speaking. That’s how King David responded to one of the most famous moral lapses of all time when he failed to fulfill his leadership duties before God, his family and the whole nation. You can read about his “news conference,” tears and confessions in Psalm 51.
Perhaps it would be encouraging—or maybe just plain shocking—to realize that even if Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau had committed both murder and adultery in the course of their duties, they could be forgiven by no less than God Himself and restored to their positions of leadership—if, and only if they would humbly, totally, and sincerely acknowledge their faults, repent of them all, and then completely change their corrupt behaviour. After all, we all have had feet of clay at one time or another during the course of our years. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life.
Biblical repentance means not just saying you’re sorry, but effecting a complete transformation of one’s attitudes and behaviour in those areas in which one committed a sin: i.e. smoking crack cocaine, abusing alcohol, lying, cheating on one’s expenses, threatening others, etc, etc.
Much has changed in the last 3,000 years since the days of King David. But it would appear that human nature is not one of them! Consequently, godly repentance is still the best medicine for the moral and ethical sicknesses that will periodically afflict our souls and the souls of our leaders.
They couldn’t have lived more disparate lives or set more vastly different examples for their people. Perhaps the only things they shared in common were that they both recently died and they were both well-known heads of state of nations who repeatedly made the news during the last 20 years or so. Outside of that, Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, and KimJong-il, North Korea’s “dear leader” dictator, held values and led lives that were as different as light from darkness, good from evil.
Havel lead his people in a bloodless “velvet revolution” that not only freed his nation from communism but also helped pull the entire Central-Eastern European region back into the civilized world that cherishes human rights, personal freedom, economic opportunity and a chance for individual fulfillment.
Kim Jong-il on the other hand, was a renowned communist tyrant. He oppressed his own people and any other poor unfortunates who fell into his hands. He treated his people like mongrels, despised dogs – inadequately fed and frequently kicked in order to keep them in fear and cringing submission. Hundreds of thousands have died and are dying of hunger in a country that is nothing but one large concentration camp populated by guards and prisoners.
When the righteous triumph, there is great rejoicing, but when the wicked come to power, people hide themselves (Proverbs 28:12 Holmen Christian Standard Bible).
The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7 English Standard Version).
This week Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper and French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Haiti to pledge, together, more than half a billion dollars in aid for the earthquake devastated Caribbean nation. Will this money make much of a difference in the lives of desperately impoverished Haitians? Will Haiti’s future get better due to the outpouring of help from Canada, the U.S., France, and other concerned nations?
NOT LIKELY according to one knowledgeable “free market do-gooder” who visits the various hell-holes on this planet. Doug Casey of the Casey Research financial newsletter believes that it doesn’t matter how much aid you shovel down Haiti’s bottomless pit, the long-term outlook for average Haitians will remain grim. Oh yes, today’s flow of aid will alleviate temporarily some suffering. A band-aid, a bottle of water, or a gangrenous leg cut off today is better than no help at all. But Casey predicts that utterly ruthless Haitian officials will siphon off into their secret bank accounts most of our well-intentioned donations.
For most of its tragic history Haiti has been run as a kleptocracy—where the power of the state has proven the most efficient means of stealing from the people. According to Casey, the very idea of putting the Haitian government in charge of rebuilding the place is “insane.” Casey must find some dark ironic humour in the news that Canada’s government proposes to rebuild a “banana republic without bananas” headquarters complex while France’s government offers to give the kleptocrats $40 million to help support their budget (lifestyle). After all, we’re talking about strengthening the power and position of a circle of bureaucrats who have reduced their fellow countrymen to utter poverty by corruption and oppression in order to selfishly enrich themselves. If you want to read Doug Casey’s full interview about the reasons behind Haiti’s poverty, then go to Conversations with Casey at http://www.caseyresearch.com/displayCwc.php?id=38.
Sadly, the problems in Haiti are nothing new in human experience. The issue of poor and/or corrupt human governance has long brought difficulties on everyday people. The Scriptures have something important to say that applies specifically to Haiti’s situation!
When the country is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it—But it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out. The wicked who oppress the poor are like a hailstorm that beats down the harvest. If you desert God’s law, you’re free to embrace depravity; if you love God’s law, you fight for it tooth and nail (Proverbs 28:2-4 The Message translation).
Of course, considering the current financial situation and political challenges facing the Western democratic governments right now, what are the real qualities of leadership that are needed for public service in not only Haiti, but also Canada, the U.S., and France?
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain’ (2 Samuel 23:3-4 NKJV).
The ideal of good government carried out to benefit the governed as expressed above is entirely possible. Men can govern correctly—but it does take a knowledge of the moral logic of this universe and the personal commitment and discipline to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. In the 21st Century when we think of King David of ancient Israel we tend to think of his personal bravery fighting the giant Goliath (whose name, by the way, was recently found etched on a potsherd discovered in an official archaeological dig) or perhaps his affair with Bathsheba. But for his contemporaries, what really made an impression on them was how David organized and ran his government and its legal system:
David ruled over the whole nation of Israel. He did what was fair and right for all of his people (1 Chronicles 18:14 New International Reader’s Version).
If we all had rulers who really cared for us, who were incorruptible, and who always acted in the public’s interest, who were motivated to ensure justice and fairness for all, then how our world and personal lives would be different today. Only when such fair and right-doing people finally occupy positions of leadership in Haiti will it have a real hope instead of today’s faint-hope that somehow a few of the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid will actually end up being spent to help them.