Recently, high-ranking officials at FIFA, the world’s governing soccer (aka “football”) body, were charged with corruption and fraud. The US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deeply involved in the case. Doug Casey weighs in on the real scandal… the one you’re not reading in mass media.
The truth be known, I really don’t give a damn about soccer. Nor do most Americans.
Indeed, until recently, all that most Americans knew about “football” was that Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey, to display a great physique, after she scored the winning goal for the US in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup playoff against China.
However, “football”, as it’s known to the 6.7 billion non-Americans on the planet, is revered by the rest of the world as a secular religion.
But now football, and FIFA, the sport’s governing body, is in the news because of an alleged corruption scandal. Let’s not discuss the details of who was bribing whom, and where all the money went, for two reasons.
First, that’s all over the Internet, and you don’t need me to repeat it here.
Second, and much more important, it’s really none of our business. Despite the fact that the FBI has taken it upon itself to prosecute at least 14 FIFA officials for corruption.
Why is it none of our business? Because FIFA is a Swiss association that’s been around over 100 years. All of its officers and directors are non-US persons. And about 99% of its players, officials, and spectators are non-American.
But that doesn’t matter. The FBI has decided to prosecute FIFA’s officials for corruption, and is successfully moving to have them all extradited to the US for trial.
Were FIFA officials treating themselves to huge salaries and expense accounts, and paying and receiving millions to decide where the World Cup should be played? Of course. Is that corrupt? We have to first define “corruption.” I devote a lot of thought to the subject here, and suspect you’ll find it of interest. But, essentially, corruption is about a betrayal of a fiduciary trust. In simple terms, it’s sticking your hand in a till that you’re supposed to guard for the interest of someone else.
Based on that, are FIFA officials corrupt? Their behavior is certainly unsavory and unseemly. Nobody likes people who take advantage of their positions to line their pockets. But they are actually less morally culpable than the directors and officers of many US public corporations who pay themselves scores of millions of shareholder dollars, often while running the companies into the ground.
And less morally culpable than politicians who dispense favors and contracts with public funds. Corporate directors and politicians have fiduciary responsibilities. FIFA, however, doesn’t have shareholders. FIFA is really only responsible to the 200-something countries that vote to elect its officials; it’s essentially a political body.
Its “stakeholders” (a morally loaded and highly problematical term that’s gained currency in recent years) are the fans who watch football. They’re happy as long as someone, anyone really, makes sure the games are played.
In other words, FIFA and the people who run it are at liberty to do as they wish with funds and favors. It may seem sleazy, that they allocate venues for the World Cup according to who pays the most (even under the table). But since the association doesn’t have a fiduciary responsibility, it’s not corrupt.
If corruption charges are warranted, it’s against the presidents of the countries that are members of FIFA. Any self-respecting president today leaves office as at least a billionaire. If anything, FIFA is a more of a co-conspirator, or even a victim, rather than a perpetrator. If even Mother Teresa was in charge of FIFA, I would expect her to do the same as the indicted officials, actually. She’d just spend the proceeds on bandages instead of parties.
The real problem is that the whole system is politicized, much like the Olympic Games. FIFA, and the Olympic Committee too, have turned sports into showcases for nationalism. Corruption is a necessary and inseparable part of politics.
The solution to the problem is to start a new sanctioning group, organized with new teams, players, and officials. Let them organize their own World Cup games wherever they wish, on whatever terms they wish. The fans can support whomever. It’s actually a non-problem. Maybe the new organization will change the rules so that they more closely resemble those of Rollerball. Maybe they’ll cultivate attendance by semi-pro football hooligans among the fan base. Who cares?
But wait. That’s where the US government, the world’s arbiter of morality, comes in.
What’s really scandalous about the FIFA affair isn’t the alleged corruption, but the US government’s reaction to it. Nobody, anywhere, seems to be asking how the US can not only unilaterally bring charges, but then extradite foreign citizens to stand trial in the US. And for things that aren’t even real crimes. Without a peep from anyone.
It’s part of an accelerating pattern that Pastor Martin Niemöller might have recognized in a different context. You’re likely familiar with his poem about the passive reaction to the Nazis and their aggressions:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
How might that poem read today?
First they sent a SWAT team to New Zealand to capture Kim Dotcom, a German national, for something that’s legal in both New Zealand and Germany, and I did not speak out -- because I was not in the computer business. Then, they conducted drone strikes and assassinations and renditions around the world, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a swarthy foreigner. Then, they invaded countries, from Granada and Panama, to Afghanistan and Iraq, and I did not speak out -- because I believed we were always on the side of truth and justice. Then, they prosecuted the FIFA guys, and I did not speak out -- because I couldn’t care less about rich guys making money from soccer. Etc. Etc.
Specific charges (brought under the RICO Act, an abusive monstrosity) are wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. Passive and thoughtless Americans accept these charges as if they were part of the cosmic landscape. But none of them are common law crimes.
“Wire fraud” is simply the use of electronic media to assist in the commission of an alleged crime. But why does that constitute an extra crime?
“Racketeering” is generally just a pattern of extortion. But you can’t have extortion without a threat of violence. How was FIFA threatening violence?
“Money laundering” is a very recently manufactured crime, generally the disguising of the source of funds. Why is that even a crime?
All of these charges exist only to make the prosecutor’s life easier. The fact that these things are being alleged is the real crime.
You might ask why is the US government involved at all in international soccer. FBI Director James Comey gave an Orwellian answer shortly after the indictments. Get a load of this:
If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or through using our world-class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption.
In other words, the Department of Justice’s indictment alleges that since a part of the alleged corruption may have been planned in the US -- even if it was then carried out elsewhere -- they are in charge. And the use of US banks to transfer US dollars gives them additional jurisdiction.
It’s a sign of how degraded the world’s moral climate has become that nobody even comments on the absurdity of all this, much less is outraged.
That the US government can get away with all this is analogous to the Haitian government arresting an American baseball player for violating one of their laws because the game is played with balls manufactured in Haiti. It’s likely the charges were brought because Russia was awarded the venue for 2018, and Washington wants to punish its designated enemy.
Well, fear not. This is all just, in relative terms, a tempest in a toilet bowl. Much more serious things are brewing. Not just ISIS in what used to be Iraq and Syria. Or China in the Spratly Islands. Or the separatist provinces in the eastern Ukraine.
The next sideshow is the developing financial disaster in Europe, which you’ll hear more about in future issues of The Casey Report.
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