Thursday, June 09, 2005

Pundita is nothing if not persistent.

Not only has she been blogging about the implications of Transnational Organized Crime for some time now ( look here , here, here and here, here and 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.
Wow. Yeah it's easy to be complacent and think that this kind of thing can't happen here. It can and it's always under the surface. And it just makes me appreciate our Founders even more: not because they were perfect, but because they were imperfect human beings who understood that no one can be trusted with power. And they built our basic political foundations on that understanding. A committment to this political and legal tradition and the institutions arising from it are what separate the US from so many other countries dominated by the rule of corruption rather than the rule of law. Which is why the post-modernist, leftist/liberal ideology is so dangerous. Whereas a society based on leftist ideology is inherently corruptable, basing a society on the principles of individual liberty, rule of law, private property rights, free enterprise, limited government, and civil society entrepreneurship rather than government interventionism as the prefereed method of solving problems has proven itself to be the best way to fight the corruption that has plagued civilization for thousands of years.
Corruption was an issue for the Founders as they viewed the Old World as inherently corrupt in its practices and politics. Alexander Hamilton preferred to admit to adultery, publishing a pamphlet about his relationship with his would-be blackmailers, rather than be thought that he capitalized on his public trust as Secretary of the Treasury
Just a quick note that organized crime does not have to be a negative for society. In Japan, the yakuza have often acted as a rapid-reaction system administration force, from the "free markets" of the early Occupation, to the explusion of Korean gangs in the early 1950s, to earthquake relief.

This is not to minimize the harm they do -- but many industries do real harm. A standing informal vertical network ("patriotic" organized crime) can complement a standing formal vertical network (the Central Government).

Men are naturally corrupt and self-aggrandizing. A stable system recognizes this and minimizes harm. In different ways both the United States and Japan have recognized this. Systems that seek to perfect man (including much of Europe) have a much harder time.

-Dan tdaxp
Dan wrote:

"This is not to minimize the harm they do -- but many industries do real harm. A standing informal vertical network ("patriotic" organized crime) can complement a standing formal vertical network (the Central Government)."

Hey Dan

That has been exactly the postwar role of the Yakuza.

In return for the authorities not waging an all-out war on the Yakuza,the Oyabun (bosses)
act as a social control network to prevent " disorganized" street crime. The Yakuza police their own members activities as well as those of the gamblers, extortionists, young street toughs and Korean gangs.

Frequently, when gangland hits are carried out, a perpetrator will show up at headquarters and confess to preserve the " face" of the police and in return they do not get an extreme sentence.

The Yakuza have also, particularly from 1940's to 1970's been used to attack leftist unions. From the 1890's through WWII the Yakuza intersected with ultranationalist societies, the Naimusho ( Home Ministry) and the secret police to run Korea, Manchukuo and captured Chinese territory.
The Yakuza have also, particularly from 1940's to 1970's been used to attack leftist unions. From the 1890's through WWII the Yakuza intersected with ultranationalist societies, the Naimusho ( Home Ministry) and the secret police to run Korea, Manchukuo and captured Chinese territory.

"Manchuko and captured Chinese terrority?"

Is Mark a Japanese Imperialist? :)

More seriously: Embracing Defeat did a great job exploring the activities of both union and yakuza networks during the Occupation. Along with Japan Unbound, it bookends the period of "Leftist Policies, Rightist Government" that lasted from the Return of Sovereignty to the administration of Junichiro Koizumi.

No mention of the Yakuza-Union clashes in either, which goes to show that the bookosphere is incomplete without the blogosphere. :)

-Dan tdaxp
An addendum, in celebration of Stuart Berman's magazine publishing. It nicely complements and earlier Barnett piece.
The nexus point for many of these prewar figures was an ultranationalist named Toyama who founded various influential and conspiratorial organizations - The Dark Ocean Society, The Amur River Society, The Black Dragon Society and so on. All favored aggressive territorial expansion.

Toyama's followers - who included Kodama BTW - assassinated the Queen of Korea, a number of Japanese politicians, became philo-Nazi "Reform bureaucrats" in the Naimusho, founded study groups that precipitated the North Strike and South Strike factions in the military, worked in exploitative enterprises in occupied territory and generally had their fingers in many pies in the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa years.
"Is Mark a Japanese Imperialist? :)"

Generally American historians habitually differentiate Manchuria-Manchukuo from "Chinese" territory to separate the two periods of expansion into China in 1931 and 1937 because the latter violated a number of pledges made by the Japanese after/during the Lytton Report period. The U.S. was prepared to live with Manchukuo but not a Japanese dominated China.

(Obviously, from the perspective of the Chinese, it was all Chinese territory -LOL!)
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