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Criminal behaviour is a complex phenomenon with there being
no one universal reason as to why people engage in it. It is possible to
identify trends and patterns that can be used to suggest people’s reasoning,
however, there are many dimensions to the discussion on why people choose to
commit crime and so it is impossible to adequately cover everything in just one
essay. Therefore what will be discussed here is state crime and why state criminals
operate with such impunity throughout society as well as how the structure of
modern capitalist society provides these people with the power to do so whilst
also addressing the scale of harm these organisations are able to inflict on
innocent people worldwide.

You needn’t look far to see the atrocities committed by the
state throughout history; Mugabe’s reign of terror in Zimbabwe or the torture
of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison by the US are just two examples of how
the systematic, organised criminality of governments across the globe has
resulted in the immeasurable pain and suffering of so many innocent people
(Green and Ward 2004). What will be explored here is how a shroud of secrecy
and official resistance has created a culture that confines hegemonic
understandings of criminality to the actions of the powerless working class. In
the simplest of terms modern states kill and plunder on a scale that no working
class criminal could ever hope to emulate and it is the massive power disparity
between the state and the working class that allows these criminals to operate
so pervasively throughout society. It must first be recognised that any attempt
to quantify crimes of the state is subject to error because of the lack of
reliable statistics available on the subject, because why would states compile
in depth data on the occurrence of the crimes they commit? Such an idea is absurd
however, it is estimated that between 1900 and 1987 over 169 million people
were murdered by governments, this excludes judicial executions, deaths in wars
and the killing of armed opponents (Green and Ward 2004) So why does state
crime continue to go unpunished as prisons are filled with the working class to
the point where, in a jail in the District of Columbia there is one guard for
every 350 prisoners and two people are forced to share six by eight foot cells
clearly designed to hold only one person (Menninger 1977)? The answer to this
is simple, the state claims the power to determine what is criminal, it decides
who is a robber and who is merely a tax collector.  The state can only be called criminal on the
rare occasions that it denounces itself as such. However, very frequently states
do not work alone in the perpetration of deviant acts and their motives
intersect with the criminal actions of corporations, producing massive human
rights violations. This allows for a definition to be formulated by identifying
the state’s central role in initiating or facilitating corporate crime. Kramer
and Michalowski define state-corporate crime as illegal or socially injurious
actions that result from a mutually reinforcing interaction between policies
and practices in pursuit of goals of one or more institutions of political
government (Green and Ward 2004). Such a definition allows for discussion on
both how and why state-corporate crime comes to be.

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First we will focus on the why, why do states collude with
wealthy corporations to inflict pain on innocents on a massive scale? The
answer again is simple, their focus is on goal attainment and personal profit,
for example arming the Iraqi regime was a highly lucrative venture for British
corporations such as Matrix Churchill, who turned over 2.4 million in profit
arming a regime led by dictator Saddam Hussein who, during his 23 year reign,
plunged his country into a bloodbath of medieval proportions and committed
human rights violation upon violation (Green and Ward 2004) The official justification
for Britain’s blatantly immoral and harmful arms sales is typically the
preservation of jobs reliant on the industry. However, this obviously is not
their primary concern and Phythian provides a more credible motivation for such
behaviour in the British state’s desire to afford and maintain an independent
defence capacity sufficient for the country to continue to play a role in global
politics. This in turn allows for the pursuit of British interests and profit.
Profit considerations have largely replaced foreign policy as the state
motivation driving illicit trade in armaments (Green and Ward 2004) It is a
lack of control mechanisms that allows for illicit state operations to take
place as a result of the erosion of norms that encourage the use of legitimate
means to accomplish organizational goals. The British state is a routine offender,
often neglecting to institute controls on arms exports by corporations in crown
dependencies, for example in 1994 when a British company registered in the Isle
of Man exported over $5.5 million worth of arms to the genocidal Hutu regime in
Rwanda(Green and Ward 2004). Such negligence allows for the exportation of
millions of pounds worth of arms to other states that engage in large scale
human rights violations despite any embargoes that have been put in place. Overall
states provide immunity to corporations that are responsible for facilitating
or inflicting great human rights violations against innocent people because
they benefit from doing so, their main aim is to profit as much as possible
regardless of what consequences that has for anyone else. The one and only
consideration here is and will continue to be personal gain.

Another and arguably more abominable injustice committed by
states across the globe is the torture of detainees. Torture isn’t confined to
the few brutal authoritarian regimes in countries such as Syria, Iraq or China as
one would initially think, Amnesty international documents instances of torture
in almost half of the world’s states. Both the United States of America and the
United Kingdom, who pride themselves on making it known that they are first
world democracies with free elections, a separation of powers and free speech
have been identified as nations that engage in torture (Green and Ward 2004)
The majority of torture victims are typically those from the most marginalised
sectors of society who are incapable of defending themselves from the atrocities
being inflicted on them. What reason do states have to resort to the practice
of torture in the twenty first century, a time characterised by technological
advancement with seemingly limitless means of coercion and social control? It’s
simple, torture is effective, not just in inflicting immense pain but in
inducing silence. It is the imposition of silence and fear through violence, it
is a tool utilised by states to eliminate opposition with well thought out
social and political consequences. The most fundamental of these consequences
is the elimination of leadership while spreading fear and paralysing political opposition
to their regime. One of the most complex torture networks developed by a state
was found in Cambodia in 1978, at Tuol Sleng human rights researchers found in-depth
torture manuals, detailed accounts of interrogations and elaborate diagnostic
flow charts detailing enemy networks derived from the confessions of torture
victims (Green and Ward 2004). Only states have the resources and monopoly on
violence necessary for the development of systematic terror networks of this
kind. When training manuals were released to the public in 1996 the Pentagon in
the US was forced to admit that students of the Army School of the America’s
were taught torture, murder and sabotage for the achievement of state goals as
well as the capture of parents of prisoners to encourage confessions(Green and
Ward 2004). In order to portray their actions as being legitimate, torturing
states often deploy techniques of neutralisation to thwart action being taken
against them. First states reclassify the events that have taken place  for example not torture but ‘the application
of moderate physical pressure’. Then after reframing events in terms more
palatable to the public an admission usually follows but coupled with a
complete justification for their behaviour (Green and Ward 2004). The typical cliché
recycled by states across the globe is they acted in the interest of national
security, any intelligent member of society would know that this is just an
attempt to prevent states from being held to account by making it seem like
they were only concerned with people’s safety. So every year tens of thousands
of innocent people are tortured by governments charged with their care. This is
a widespread epidemic shamefully spread by states reaching across to the
furthest corners of the globe, many of which, as mentioned above, claim to be
committed to its end but continue to engage in the barbaric practice of intentionally
harming innocents for their own political and economic aims. What
state-corporate crime and the torture of innocents by states have in common
here is the motivation for their practice, in both these instances the states
one and only aim is to profit. Whether it be profit in terms of money or profit
in terms of eliminating political opposition, the only thing these governments
are concerned with is benefiting themselves.

Overall what has been established in this discussion is that
state crime is a pervasive issue across the globe that continues to destroy the
lives of millions of innocent people, many of which tend to be from the most vulnerable
and marginalised sectors of society. Despite being charged with the care of their
people nation states continue to act only in their own interests, whether that
be through profiting in monetary terms or quashing legitimate political
resistance to their policies. They have access to networks of vast resources
that allows them to have an impact on both a national and global scale, so if
the state perpetrates or condones criminal behaviour it is virtually impossible
for individuals to escape it. It is for this reason that it can be argued that
state crime is a far greater issue than street crime because it has the
potential to harm on a larger scale. So despite crime being portrayed by
mainstream media as a working class phenomenon, it is clear that in terms of
the scale of harm inflicted on people, working class criminals could never
emulate the damage that states cause in the process of chasing their own aims.
It is merely because these governments tend to have control over media outlets
that they are able to scapegoat the marginalised and the struggling as the main
culprits of criminal activity. This is an issue that should be brought into the
public eye in order to demolish this illusion and make it blatantly clear that
states are one of the biggest and most harmful perpetrators of criminal
activity. By doing so an attempt can at least be made to protect innocent
people from pain and suffering at the hands of the most powerful organisations
in the civilised society. 

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