As one song in “Cabaret” told us, money makes the world go around. Wherever money goes, corruption is only a step behind.
Allegations of corruption surface almost daily such as the report that National Institutes of Health leaders and scientists, possibly including Dr. Anthony Fauci, profited from $1.4 billion in hidden “royalties” after NIH paid out some $32 billion in grants. Sometimes the smell of corruption — like the one surrounding President Biden — is positively overwhelming.
That stench emanates from the investigation into the classified documents found at Mr. Biden’s Delaware home and Washington “think tank,” which seems more like a cover-up than a serious look into possible criminal conduct. It pervades son Hunter’s and brother Jim’s influence-peddling businesses in China and elsewhere. House Republican investigators say there are about 150 “suspicious activity reports” banks have filed with the Treasury Department about those businesses. Treasury is slow-rolling Republican demands for those reports.
To find the biggest corruption, you have to look into the world of diplomacy. We have reached the point where corruption is so complete and unashamed that it has become statesmanship.
The 1995 United Nations “Oil for Food” program was intended to help the people of Iraq survive the sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime. It allowed the purchase of otherwise-embargoed Iraqi oil in the amount of $1 billion every 90 days to create a fund that would provide food and medical supplies to the Iraqis.
The U.N. is so corrupt that if its management were taken over by the mafia, that would result in significant improvements. The mafia, at the least, holds its employees accountable for job performance.
As you would expect, the “Oil for Food” program was taken over by Iraqi intelligence officers. Billions were raked off the program by Saddam and his cronies. William Safire wrote, “Never has there been a financial rip-off of the magnitude of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.” It’s a record that remains unbroken, at least so far.
Flash forward almost 30 years to the ongoing scandal of the alleged purchase of the World Cup soccer games by Qatar.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) runs international soccer and the World Cup. The Times of London reported that it had access to millions of documents that showed how Qatar bribed its way into hosting the latest World Cup. A FIFA senior executive named Mohammed bin Hammam allegedly flew around the world bribing FIFA officials and government members, including members of the European Parliament (MEPs), to get the votes needed for Qatar to get the World Cup.
Eva Kaili, the vice president of the EU parliament, was stripped of her duties and arrested for taking Qatari bribes after 1.5 million euros in cash was allegedly seized from her father’s home. At least four MEPs, including Pier Antonio Panzeri, who is suspected of being the Qataris’ intermediary with Europe’s parliament, were arrested.
Credit the Qataris for effectiveness, but not subtlety. Diplomats call bribes “inducements,” and sometimes presidents get involved.
Turkey, our least reliable NATO ally, has been cozying up to Russia and China. Turkey was thrown out of the F-35 fighter program after it purchased sophisticated Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems. Russia could have benefited considerably by obtaining the results of tests of the stealthy F-35’s effectiveness against the S-400.
Finland and Sweden have applied for membership in response to Russia’s war to conquer Ukraine. But NATO cannot admit more members without the unanimous consent of its existing members, and predictably, Turkey has been blocking both applications. (So has Hungary, but its president, Viktor Orban, has said it would ratify those applications quickly this year.)
Mr. Biden is proposing to sell Turkey 40 F-16s as an “inducement” to President Recep Erdogan to lift his opposition to Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications. Congress can disapprove of such arms sales, and some prominent Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, has already voiced strong opposition to it. Congress hasn’t yet been notified of the proposed sale.
Perhaps it would be improper to label Mr. Biden’s proposed F-16 sale to Turkey as corrupt. Nevertheless, it won’t be enough to get Mr. Erdogan’s agreement.
Mr. Erdogan is now saying Sweden and Finland must surrender “their terrorists” to Turkey. The so-called terrorists in Sweden — about 130 in number — are Kurdish refugees who often protest publicly against Mr. Erdogan.
Mr. Biden should not negotiate Mr. Erdogan’s price. Better for the U.S. to petition NATO to throw Turkey out of the alliance.
Since 2015, Turkey has been a recipient of Chinese aid and loans through China‘s Belt and Road Initiative. In the BRI, China has effectively bribed about one hundred nations to accept low-cost loans in return for a measure of Chinese power over their governments. Pakistan, for example, accepted Chinese loans to build infrastructure in return for which Chinese labor — most or all of whom are members of China’s army — is building not just roads and bridges but also a large naval base in Pakistan. Through its “statesmanship,” China is turning BRI nations into satraps.
Statesmanship is a grandiose word that encompasses everything from diplomacy to corruption and treachery. It would be shocking if it were otherwise.
• Jed Babbin is a national security and foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Times and contributing editor for The American Spectator.