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memri
August 14, 2002 No.
411

On the Struggle Against Corruption in the Arab Regimes

An article by Dr. Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Effendi, a Sudanese author and researcher who resides in London, appeared in the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat. The article was titled, "Fighting Corruption [in the Arab World] is Like Fighting Catholicism in the Vatican." The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

Corruption Only Has Meaning in An Open and Transparent Regime
"When you hear - and these days you frequently do - that a senior Arab official is standing trial on charges of corruption - it is reasonable to assume that this wretched official was not corrupt enough. This is because charges of corruption have no meaning unless they take place in an open and transparent regime, with known and fixed rules and regulations, clear foundations for accountability, and independent and neutral apparatuses to deal with it."

"In contrast, in the Arab [world], where there are absolute autocratic regimes, the concept of corruption loses all meaning, as the law is the ruler's will; he decides what is permitted and what is forbidden, and his bonuses and gifts are a legitimate livelihood."

"If the ruler so decides, he will give his sons a monopoly on import or export; will permit them to purchase abroad at a tenth of [the merchandise's] value and be reimbursed for the full price by the state treasury; will allow his friends and cronies to use public property or state revenues, or will give them land. In these cases, we are talking of the embodiment of legitimate gain."

Corruption in the Arab World Means Disobeying the Ruler
"This means that the only 'corruption' is disobeying the ruler… In the pact between the ruler and the men of his court, his entourage, and his protegees, everyone gives up their humanity, abnegates their opinion and conscience, and competes in obeying the ruler. In exchange, the ruler rewards whomever he wishes."

Corruption is the Essence of the Regime
"Therefore, in transparent regimes what is regarded as 'corruption,' is the essence of the regime in just about all Arab lands. In transparent regimes, the borders between [public] and private funds are clear, and the rules for financial dealings are defined. The ruler is no more than an official of the people, and a defined salary is set for him in exchange for his services. The budget is known, and is widely published, and the people determine its clauses through their representatives in the elected parliament."

"The people demand accountability from the ruler, the ministers, and the other officials on their function, through parliament, the courts, and an independent oversight apparatus. The press, the media, and civil society institutions carry out additional oversight of [government] function, and uncover every suspicion of mixing public and private [funds]. While serving his term, the ruler must not perform private work for gain…"

"Yet the Arab regimes that claim to be fighting corruption customarily destroy the oversight apparatuses. New laws are enacted to suppress the press, which is from the outset obedient. Similarly, they falsify parliamentary elections, destroy civil society institutions, and silence any free voice. In this framework, accusations of corruption, treason, and bribe-taking serve to silence 'deviant' voices and those who violate the pact with the ruler and start demanding freedoms and so on, and similar forbidden and abhorrent things."

The Slogan of the Struggle Against Corruption is Meant to Strengthen It
"Thus, we can easily determine that the struggle against corruption (or in effect the slogan of the struggle against corruption) is a slogan whose real goal is to increase the state of corruption… In Syria, for example, it was clear that former prime minister [Z'ubi], at the end of the era of Assad Sr., became the target of accusations of corruption and was, according to the dubious [official Syrian] story, driven to suicide. The aim was to remove those opposed to the idea of transferring power by inheritance. If it was really a struggle against corruption - the state and its security apparatuses would be the first to be investigated."

"The corruption in Syria gnaws to the bone of the state institutions. The visitor to Syria encounters this from the moment he enters the gate of Damascus airport, where the police and security apparatus's extortion is manifestly visible. Anyone familiar with the A-B-C of these matters realizes that such corruption in the lower [ranks] in a repressive state such as Syria would not occur if it weren't allowed and if it weren't backed by greater corruption at the highest levels."

"A parallel to this is the possibility that the Egyptian attorney-general, Raga Al-Arabi, will be investigated on charges of corruption and bribe-taking. This is a clear sign that this man, who became a focus of power because of his lengthy term in a position aimed at defending the regime's corruption, began to pose a threat to the other kingpins of the regime. This doesn't mean that he is innocent of the charge of corruption - something impossible in regimes in which corruption is a guiding principle. This means, as I have said, that he is not corrupt enough. A tactic used by the Mafia gangs and Zionist pressure groups in America and other places is that of keeping dossiers with evidence against allies and friends and using them to blackmail [them] when the time is right. A wise man will understand the message in time, and return to the 'Straight Path.'"

Western Demands to Fight Corruption - Comic Phenomenon
"The slogans of the struggle against corruption have another role - these days, they have become conditions set by the Western financial funds and donor countries for continuing aid. They do this not out of love of virtue, but because businessmen active in those countries have begun complaining about the [corruption] impeding them in their work. Tenders are not awarded to companies submitting the best proposals, but, in most cases, to those offering the largest bribe to those concerned. Paying debts involves additional extortion… This has angered the countries providing loans and grants; they discovered that the tenders they fund go to companies from rival countries because they were much more diligent [in bribery]."

"This is the framework of the comic phenomenon in Palestine and the bizarre collective demand that the Palestinian Authority fight corruption. The humorous aspect of this demand does not end with the demand that President Yasser Arafat fight corruption, institute security, and even support 'free economy and trade' while he is besieged and cannot even buy tomatoes in the marketplace - let alone transform Palestine into a backbone of free trade in the 'free world.'"

"What is even funnier is that the corruption of the PA and other Arab regimes is actually a necessary condition for fulfilling the role imposed upon them - to serve foreign interests and subjugate the peoples."

"Were the PA to give full authority to the Palestinian parliament and the legal apparatuses, and were it to obey popular will and spend its grant funds and income on education, health, services, and reviving the economy, what would be left for bribing the activists and intellectuals with appointments to ministries and the security apparatus… thus silencing them and preventing them from exposing the irregularities necessary to safeguard Israel's security? This goes for the other Arab countries as well…"

Were Arab Regimes to Fight Corruption - The Entire Political Elite Would End Up in Courts and Prison

"In sum, under existing Arab circumstances, 'fighting corruption' is impossible, because corruption is the foundation of these regimes and the main instrument enabling the continuation of their existence… Were the regimes to really fight corruption, as in Italy's 'clean hands' campaign in the 1990s, what happened in Italy would happen here: the entire political elite there ended up in the courts and in prison."

Fighting Corruption in the Arab World is like Fighting Capitalism in America or Fighting Catholicism in the Vatican
"Since it is inconceivable that the courts with which we are familiar in the [Arab] countries will sentence the sons of the president and the top ministers, cleaning hands will have to wait until the changing of the regime… Under the existing regimes, the fight against corruption is like a fighting capitalism in the U.S. or Catholicism in the Vatican - that is, destruction of the foundations of the existing order. If only it would happen!"


[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 6, 2002.