In the Tradition of US Puppets: When They Finally Get Kicked Out, They Steal as Much of the Country’s Treasure as They Can

By Jeremy Kuzmarov – Aug 17, 2021

True to form, last Sunday the US puppet President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled Kabul with four luxury vehicles and a helicopter stuffed so full of cash that a huge pile of it could not fit and had to be left on the tarmac. 46 years earlier, US client Nguyen Van Thieu tried to smuggle $73 million worth of gold bullion out of South Vietnam after its liberation by the communists. These two men symbolize the corruption and greed that lies at the core of the US empire.

The Russian embassy in Kabul reported on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan with four vehicles and a helicopter full of cash as the Taliban took control of Kabul.

The former World Bank academic—who holds a doctorate from New York City’s Columbia University—didn’t say where he was going, but Al Jazeera reported that he had flown to Uzbekistan and it was later confirmed that he went to the United Arab Emirates.

Nikita Ishchenko, a Russian embassy spokesman in Kabul stated that as far as the “collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan.”

A military helicopter carrying Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prepares to land near the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer.
A military helicopter carrying Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prepares to land near the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2, 2021. Photo: Reuters

Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,” Ishchenko was quoted as saying.

Pictured: Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, August 15, 2021
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, August 15, 2021. Photo: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov earlier expressed hope that Ghani and other fleeing officials would not take all the money from the state budget—which would be difficult to recoup.

Saad Mohseni, who owns one of Afghanistan’s popular television stations said that Ghani would forever “be known as the Benedict Arnold of Afghanistan. People will be spitting on his grave for another 100 years.”[1]

Benedict Arnold. Source: Wikipedia
Poster with Ghani’s face outside deserted airport terminal in Kabul. Photo: AP

Nguyen Van Thieu and Smuggled Gold
Ghani’s ignominious departure resembles that of another deposed US client, Nguyen Van Thieu, who according to the New York Times, had tried to smuggle $73 million worth of gold bullions out of South Vietnam in April 1975 after Vietnam had been liberated by the communist forces.

Thieu ended up living out his days in a wealthy suburb of Boston and skiing in the pristine mountains of Vermont.

In 1963, he was one of the Young Turks responsible for the assassination of South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem. Subsequently, he emerged as the head of a ruling military tribunal and then after a few rigged elections, president of South Vietnam.

nguyen van thieu
General Nguyen Van Thieu [Source: alphahistory.com]
According to his obituary in the New York Times, Thieu ruled the Republic during its bloodiest years and proved himself a brilliant strategist, not on the battlefield, but in surviving palace intrigues and feuds.

His power-broker, General Dang Van Quang, controlled the South Vietnamese Navy, which harbored an elaborate drug smuggling organization.

General Dang Van Quang
General Dang Van Quang [Source: nguyentin.tripod.com]
On the July 15, 1971 edition of NBC Nightly News, the network’s Saigon correspondent Phil Brady quoted extremely reliable sources as saying that General Quang, Thieu’s chief intelligence adviser, was “the biggest [drug] pusher” in South Vietnam.[2]

Ashraf Ghani and the Beirut Club
As Covert Action Magazine previously reported, in the 1970s, Ghani had been part of a group of mostly Pashtuns known as the Beirut club, which had been sent to study at the American University of Beirut after, on a visit to Kabul, Henry Kissinger noticed that Afghan leader Mohammed Daoud Khan was surrounded by Soviet advisers.

From that point on, members of the Beirut club—which included neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2004-2005—were groomed for power, and brought into the American orbit.

Beirut Club: From left, Ashraf Ghani, deposed president of Afghanistan; Sher Mohammed Abas Stanekzai, chief Taliban negotiator at recent peace talks; and Zalmay Khalilzad, neoconservative war booster and the Americans’ peace envoy during their student days at the American University, Beirut. [Source: New York Times]
From 2002-2004, Ghani served as Foreign Minister of the Hamid Karzai government where he oversaw the flow of billions of dollars of foreign assistance.

A huge amount of the money was stolen or used to pay bribes to corrupt government officials.

A person sitting in a chairDescription automatically generated with low confidence
Khalilullah Frozi [Source: The Frontier Post]
Later as President from 2014-2021, Ghani allied with Khalilullah Frozi, who was supposed to be serving a 15-year prison sentence for his role in defrauding Kabul Bank of nearly $1 billion of depositors’ money.[3]
Afghanistan in this period ranked among the 20 countries “having the highest perceived level of corruption” as laid down by the Corruption Perception Index.

Cartoon depicting the state of corruption in the Afghan government. [Source: outlookafghanistan.net]
Symbols of Greed
US government leaders claim over and over again that they are intervening in foreign countries to spread good governance and democracy, though they end up empowering leaders of the caliber of Ghani and Thieu who steal and cheat their fellow countrymen and grow wealthy off their misery.

The reason for this outcome is not that hard to discern if we consider the underlying interests driving US foreign policy.

Both Afghanistan and South Vietnam were viewed by the real drivers of US foreign policy—the Kissingers, Rumsfields, Kagans and Brzezinskis—as chess pieces, that the US strove to control for its own purposes.

In Vietnam, the goal was to project US power in the Asia Pacific and prevent the emergence of a strong socialist nation; and in Afghanistan, it was to project power in the Middle East and Central Asia and tap into the country’s unexploited mineral wealth.

Given these agendas, the only local-based leaders who would ally with the US were unscrupulous opportunists willing to sell-out their own countrymen and women.

The US furthermore created opportunities for corruption through the massive interjection of foreign aid on an otherwise hollow economic base.

Ashraf Ghani and Nguyen Van Thieu were thus both made in America.

They serve as symbols of an empire underlain by violence and greed whose global legitimacy has suffered another major blow.

 

Notes

1- Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Nossiter, “’He’s a Coward’: Ghani’s Exit Infuriates His Countrymen,” The New York Times, August 17, 2021, A8. 

2- Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, 2nd ed. (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991), 229. 

3- Ghani referred to his Vice-President Rashid Dostum as a “known killer.”

 

 

Featured image: Ashraf Ghani and Nguyen Van Thieu, two US puppets who cheated their own countrymen and grew rich off the misery of their own people.

(CovertAction Magazine)

Jeremy Kuzmarov
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Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine. He is the author of four books on US foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

Jeremy Kuzmarov

Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine. He is the author of four books on US foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).