Wednesday, October 26

The Halloween Essay

"Dear Pundita:
Do you dress up and go to Georgetown for Halloween? If so, can you tell me what costume you'll be wearing? Maybe we can meet. I'll be dressed as Lucrezia Borgia.
Jenny in Washington, DC"

Dear Jenny:
Pundita has always preferred to scare herself silly on Halloween rather than scaring others. I've done this by calling at random Fortune 500 companies and asking, "Can you give me your thoughts on US foreign policy?" However, I'm bored with screaming and peeing my pants in terror. This year I plan to frighten the drunks in Georgetown by dressing up as Robert B. Zoellick.

If you need to understand why any American who cannot afford a security detail and easy access to a helipad should be scared of Zoellick, read about his career or glance through his latest speech on China. Keep in mind that the man Condoleezza Rice nominated to be Deputy Secretary of State will run the State Department in the event she is incapacitated.

If you really want to scare yourself, consider that if a Republican wins the presidency in the next election, it's a good bet Zoellick will be the next Secretary of State. Come to think of it, even if a Democrat wins Zoellick's probably a shoo-in for the post.

Those who look for Signs from on high should have figured out by now that when your nation's premier symbol of international trade collapses into dust, this is a sign that a country's foreign policy should be not controlled by big business concerns.

George W. Bush got the message on 9/11, then found himself in the same position as Vladimir Putin. Putin got it into his head that a determined band of ex-KGB officers would be enough to take down what he thought of as "gangsters" -- the group of businessmen, politicians and organized crime figures who were bleeding Russia dry.

Not long after a fire broke at his country home. The house and everything in it were reduced to ashes except for a Christian cross. Nothing else survived the flames.

Putin got the message: That's not gangsters you fool; that's the Seventh Ring of Hell you're trying to put in the slammer.

After that Putin, being a sensible sort, figured out that he was not saint material and so he needed to make compromises. That was if he wanted to live long enough to take a few whacks at Mordor's shins.

George W. Bush arrived at pretty much the same conclusion after his own father and other power brokers in the Republican Party stabbed him in the back over his decision to invade Iraq.

Actually, Pundita does not celebrate Halloween. Why bother, when it's Halloween 365 days of the year in Washington, DC? It could have been worse; there were rumors that Condoleezza Rice was angling to be Secretary of Defense.

In any case, nothing has fundamentally changed in Washington since the Clinton era; things can't change because in the mid-1990s it became official policy that trade issues would dominate US foreign policy. If that were all it would be scary enough, but that's not all.

If Eliot Spitzer or another American with experience at prosecuting gangsters becomes president, we might have a chance to learn what happened to the billions of dollars stolen from US taxpayers during the course of the US giving financial aid to Russia.

Starting in the early 90s State got deeply involved with Russian and other FSU oligarchs, who have close connections with big transnational Russian mobs and other mobs connected with FSU regions.

And by the mid-90s State had set up an American business 'desk' that put the affairs of state directly under the influence of transnational companies -- several of which doing business in FSU countries via contacts with the oligarchs.

I interject that State did not set up the desk in underhanded fashion; it's just that to this day, the American public is unaware of what State did and the implications, unless maybe they happen to have read Pundita's essays on the America Desk, better known as the Office for Commercial and Business Affairs.*

However, it's more likely it will be a freezing day in hell before there is an independent investigation of the US Department of State -- and USAID, I might add. And The World Bank.

Yet until independent forensic accountants start poring over records across all three organizations and cross-matching them, there is no way to start to investigate whether crooks are still dug in at those institutions.

Pundita wishes Paul Wolfowitz luck in his anti-corruption drive at the World Bank, but I think he will soon arrive at the same conclusion that caused Presidents Bush and Putin to back away from being martyrs and for nothing more than trying to empty the ocean with a sieve.

These musings recall me to Zbignew Brzezinski's words in 2000 about US aid to Russia during the 1990s. He said that "much of the money we have given to Russia has been misappropriated -- and we don't like to talk about this. The U.S. officials who worked closely on this are embarrassed about it."

Try to conceive of the kind of minds that would term that magnitude of theft an "embarrassment." The kind that would have been perfectly at home in Lucrezia Borgia's world.

* More on the America Desk and waiting for the cows to come home.

No comments: