On Point: Corruption: The Global Disease


by Austin Bay
January 20, 2010

Thegame hit the Internet on July 25, 2007. With a title reminiscent of a Bruce Leeepic or -- a much more dangerous allusion for Beijing bureaucrats schooled intumultuous history -- an echo of "Outlaws of the Marsh" (tales of12th century Chinese Robin Hoods), "Incorruptible Fighter" rivetedChinese cyber-audiences who had an angry yen (or a yuan) for tarring,feathering and then executing corrupt government officials.

Yes,winning the game entailed eliminating government crooks. China Daily describedthe game as "the story of a man who fights corrupt officials and purifieshimself by improving morality and ethics. After weathering various hardshipsand weeding out the bad guys, he finally gets to embrace a corruption-free worldin which people live peacefully."

ChinaDaily credited government workers in the city of Ningbo(Zhejiang Province,eastern China)with creating the game. A commenter at StrategyPage.com (writing on Aug. 20,2007) said this was true and provided additional details: Besides nailingcrooked leaders, players could get even with the leaders' kids "and theirbikini-clad mistresses."

Recipefor a blockbuster. The game had sex, mayhem and graphic revenge extracted fromarrogant, thieving officials protected by a Kafka-esque system they controlled.

Alas,the game itself had no happily ever after. "Incorruptible Fighter"disappeared from the Internet on Aug. 5, 2007. Who shut it down? That was neverquite clear, but Internet commenters argued it scorched "exposed nerves."

Indeedit did. Real world corruption threatens China'sgovernment and economy, and its stability. Chinese President Hu Jintao said inOctober 2007, "Resolutely punishing and effectively preventing corruptionbears on the popular support for the party and on its very survival."While the demise of the Communist Party (which has corrupt and reformistfactions) would ultimately benefit China,a Chinese civil war featuring nuclear-armed regional warlords is ageo-strategic nightmare.

Corruption-- from petty graft by the county commissioner to the mega-theft of billions bytyrants -- is a global affliction. Corruption coupled with systemic lack ofaccountability produces more than cynicism and anger. In the developing world,it steals the future, condemning millions to poverty.

Corruption-- which reaches to the highest levels -- stains the mullahs' dictatorship in Iran.The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his cohort came to power in 1979promising to end the Shah's authoritarian rule and family tradition of nepotismand theft. Khomeini died, and his heirs "two upped" the Shah bycreating both a more despotic and more venally corrupt junta. Disgust with themullahs' theft fuels opposition to the "Islamic Revolutionary" regimeand empowers Iran'sGreen Revolution.

Developmentalaid advocates don't like to say it in public because government officials indeveloping countries will withhold visas or harass their local staffers, butcorruption by local, state and tribal elites undermines relief efforts andeconomic development programs.

Governmentofficials and corporate presidents in wealthy nations can also be bribed.Saddam Hussein's corruption of the U.N. Oil For Food program is an example ofan international bribery scam. From the mid-1990s until the 2003 invasion,Saddam bought political support by slipping millions to dozens of organizationsand individuals.

TheU.S.has made counter-corruption programs a key element in the War on Terror.Corruption feeds crime and discontent, and terrorists leverage both to buyweapons, gain safe haven, make money and attract recruits. Egyptian corruptionis one of the Muslim Brotherhood's chief recruiting tools. Afghanistan'sTaliban is in the narcotics business, but so are rogues in the Afghan government.Pakistanacknowledges it has a corruption problem, one that undermines its credibilitywith the economically productive middle classes.

ButPakistanis chided for local corruption glare at U.S. State Departmentdo-gooders. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is accused of selling BarackObama's former Senate seat -- and that's Chicago,Obama's political training ground. Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner and HouseWays and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., both repeatedlyfailed to pay taxes, in big numbers, and those two big shots create and enforcetax law. Pakistani, Zimbabwean, Ugandan, Russian, Iraqi, Guatemalan and Libyanofficials confronting American anti-corruption programs just snicker.

China'sOutlaws of the Marsh opposed the Song Dynasty, but historians describe the taleas "a call to oppose all corrupt governments." The fight continues. 

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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