Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A different perspective of corruption

How many times have you seen an article in the news media start off with "There is rampant corruption in Afghanistan?"

We of the US Military abhor corruption. Bribes, kickbacks, skimming things off the inventory; these are things that we simply do not do or tolerate. Sadly there are politicians and other leaders in the US who do not share this standard of conduct. I think I am safe in declaring that almost every citizen of the US would put corruption in the BAD category.

Having been in more than a few foreign countries I would like to expand your perspective.

We are treated well by our Government. If I am asked to go to city X and stay Y number of days, the Government is kind enough to provide transportation, a place to sleep, a way to get food or reimbursement for all of the above. If I need equipment or personnel to carry out my duties, the Government provides the needed things or funds so that I can accomplish my tasks. US Government employees or military members are almost never assigned to do things without any tools or funding.

Well that is simply not the way things work here in Afghanistan. Imagine you were told to personally fund a trip to go pick up government supplies, which may take several days. You are not given any money to accomplish this trip. You are responsible for finding and paying for your own food, lodging and transportation. This is the framework for a system which is not taking care of its people. This is a system which is ripe for 'corruption.' Many times corruption is the word we apply when the system ignores or abuses its people. I have found after visiting several countries that while there are those who wish to individually profit from position, there are many people who are just trying to get things done, including taking care of their subordinates. It is no wonder that there are those who request suspicious amounts of supplies. For some loyal and otherwise straightforward officers, this is the only recourse they have to "reimburse" themselves or their troops for personal expenses they must pay while performing their official duties.

Yes, Corruption is Bad. But you need to ask the question Chirra or Why before you pass judgement on the actions of an individual, when it is a system flaw in many instances.

So for those who would condemn the Afghan people, or any other people for blatant corruption I would say that you would need to:

1. Walk a mile in their shoes.
2. Be a citizen of a country free from this sin, before we cast the first stone.


  1. Doc: Thanks for the perspective. For us back home -- watching from a distance - there is nothing more useful than the view from the front. Stay safe.

    PS: Chirra? What's that? Picking up some of the local lingo?

    Paul Hirsch

  2. Paul,
    chirra (spelling is phonetic) is the Dari word for Why. A question that is always good to ask when trying to identify the motives for an individuals behaivor.

  3. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.