THE OCTOPUS IN THE SHADOWSPundita
is nothing if not persistent.
Not only has she been blogging about the implications of Transnational Organized Crime for some time now ( look here
) but with increasing frequency in her emails, she has gently nudged me to look at that problem, in particular the International Crime Threat Assesssment
that was released by the Clinton administration in December of 2000.
Admittedly, I initially viewed Pundita's alarm over transnational crime with a degree of jaded cynicism. After all, I come from a State where the former Republican governor is under Federal indictment, the current Democratic governor and his powerful father-in-law are in hot water over a corruption scandal and the formerly omnipotent Mayor of Chicago is in the sights of the same Federal prosecutor who put Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman
in the slammer. Looking no further than today's Chicago Tribune
, we see that a Colombian Heroin ring
was running dope out of the City of Chicago's Water Department - whose de facto boss must have been too busy defending himself from charges in the Mob-related Hired Truck scandal
to notice the Cali cartel setting up shop. The same Federal prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
, is also pursuing that matter as well as having rounded up most of the key members of the Chicago Outfit - minus Joey " The Clown " Lombardo
who is now on the lam.
(For those out of the loop on on Chicago's more colorful figures, if you have seen the movie Casino
, Lombardo is wanted by the Feds for the death of Anthony " The Ant" Spilotro
who was murdered in 1986. Spilotro was the character played by Joe Pesci
in the movie who gets mauled with baseball bats and buried alive in a cornfield)
With that in mind, to please Miss Pundita, I finally began reading the International Crime Threat Assessment
, expecting nothing much to impress me. Well...it did. If you read nothing else, go to the assessment called " Consequences for US Strategic Interests
". It's an eye-opener and it got me to thinking that we Americans often laugh at the comical level of corruption that prevails in some South America countries or in Africa or various small nations where names seem incomprehensible and funny hats are worn. Then we assure ourselves that it can't be like that here or in other advanced nations of the Core because we have the rule of law, a regulatory state of impressive size and power, transparency and democratic governance. Right ?
Well, in orderly Japan, the number two economic power in the world, the Yakuza have a respected place and a societal function going back to the days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. To keep the underworld and the legitimate world in complete harmony required powerful political fixers like the ex-fascist and war criminal Kodama Yoshio and the billionaire ultranationalist Sasakawa Ryoichi
. These two men were the bridge between the gangsters, rightist thugs and LDP bosses in postwar Japan - they weren't just bagmen either but advisers, organizers and string-pullers in both worlds.
Well..that's the Japanese you say. They have a very different culture and legal rule-set for these matters. No one could get away with that in the United States. Right ?
I seem to dimly recall that there once was a scandal involving a corrupt bank with a global reach named BCCI whose depositors included dictators, terrorists, narcotics traffickers, arms merchants, Middle-Eastern radicals, mafia bosses and other unsavory types. BCCI's shadowy owners liked to buy up local banks the world over and to smooth the path toward that end in America they bought themselves some of the best " fixers" imaginable - Clark Clifford and Robert Altman
Robert Altman is the fellow who had the good sense to marry Lynda Carter
, whom Bob Dole
and a number of senior Republicans found to be quite charming ( one might even say a wonder woman) and Altman's role was to work the GOP angle but Clark Clifford was a person of an entirely different magnitude.
Mr. Clifford was a genuine " wise man" who advised Democratic presidents - all of them - from Truman forward. President Truman held George Marshall in something akin to awe but a young Clark Clifford persuaded Truman to overrule his revered Secretary of State and recognize the State of Israel over Marshall's vehement protests. As White House Counsel Clifford drafted the National Security Act of 1947
that created the Defense Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. He was " present at the creation" and agreed to become Johnson's Secretary of Defense when American fortunes in Vietnam were reaching their nadir and stabilized a deteriorating situation. Unfortunately, Clifford also became entangled, when not in government service, with shady characters like Bert Lance
and the secretive and paranoid billionaire Howard Hughes
In all seriousness, Clark Clifford had rendered signal services to this country of the highest order over a very long career - a career that was tarnished when he sold out to dangerous criminals for approximately $ 6 million and change. His age, ill-health, past contributions and powerful connections spared Clifford a prison term but not public embarrassment. Senator John Kerry
tried to treat Clifford with kid gloves during the Senate investigation of BCCI but by that point it was merely damage control. Clark Clifford and Robert Altman paid a $ 5 million dollar fine and walked and what private financial information about prominent DC insiders and organizations fell into the wrong hands ( BCCI's DC subsidiary was Washington's largest bank) hands during Clifford's chairmanship is unkown.
BCCI is as dead as Julius Caesar but the foreign actors who put that octopus in the shadows together are still out there, scuttling about the deeps of the world financial markets. When you read of $ 220 billion being looted in Russia and sent abroad or the fantastic profits reaped in the Andes nations or the Golden Triangle by narco-terrorists you have to realize that the money has to go someplace and it isn't just to Switzerland or tiny Gap countries with iron-clad bank secrecy laws. Really, would you stash your cool billion in some crappy little fly-by-night bank in the Caymans ?
Or would you try to put it somewhere safe and take measures to make sure it stayed that way ? That's the crux of the problem that TOC poses to American national security and the health of the Core.ADDENDUM
: From the Winds of Change Archive - War and Crime