Both Panama and Noriega are so intimately interconnected that separating one from the other appears to be an imponderable task. The history of succession of Panama from Columbia was more a farce than actual freedom.The initial attempt to dig a canal was stained by a scandal, which found more than a hundred French legislators wallowed in the mire of corruption. It is small wonder that the state fell straight into the hands of the Noriega types having a different hue but hideous objectives.Whether Noriega fell in the same category as Somoza — who Roosevelt considered an American puppet — is unclear, but his loyalty to the US was unwavering. A ruthless dictator, a cocaine trader and a CIA informer/collaborator, who proved instrumental in curbing leading Marxist movements in Latin America, made him an ideal Trojan horse for the imperialist force.Yet in the political battlefield, it is utility and not loyalty which matters. Once he outlived his purpose, the very source of his strength became his nemesis. He was charged by the US for what he was, a cocaine trafficker, and taken to the US to meet his destiny. While positioning oneself to the left of the US is dangerous, standing to its right does not guarantee a safe conduct or passage either to even its coteries.The ‘post-modern’ world is self-sufficient in its Noriegas. From the rapacity of Bonapartism to the avariciousness of Caesarism, Pakistan has had its share of Noriegas on a regularly irregular basis. The charges of corruption are so immense and the indoctrinated masses are so fixated that the entire focus has shifted from the real causes and conditions wreaking the nation to a scandal involving a mere individual.Did the elimination of Noriega sweep the state of Panama clean of drugs and crimes? It did not. ‘In principle’, Adorno states, ‘everyone, however powerful, is an object’ in the hands of a system, hence manipulated according to its requirements. Despite having a consensus about the inherent flaw of this system, which is massively rigged against the people, everyone from the corridors of power to the poodle media are yearning to preserve its sanctity”.The emphasis yet again is on the ‘bad guys’ theory of Yankees, where a handful of greedy, ugly and corrupt individuals are in cahoots to plunder the society. The suggested panacea is to cast away the culprits. The achievement of this goal presupposes an abrupt solution to all the ills inflicting the society. However, lacking in rationality a wishful thinking such as this has not even a scarce possibility of realisation. Lord Acton naïvely identified corruption with absolute power. It is not absolute power but the power structure, which corrupts the rulers. The rulers are mere ‘character masks’, the products “of specific relations of immediate political, organizational and military forces that they do not create themselves and they failed to correct” (Gramsci). During the Paris Commune, the power was wrested by the workers.Lord Acton naïvely identified corruption with absolute power. It is not absolute power but the power structure which corrupts the rulersInstead of becoming a source of corruption, history witnessed that the moment of wresting the absolute power became the moment of liberation for humanity.Conversely, in a capitalist system, the civil society is a bulwark of political society for the maintenance of hegemonic designs. The judiciary too does not lag far behind. When the status quo is threatened, the army intervenes. When hegemony is at stake, the judiciary spurs into action, even if it is forced to take bitter decisions against a section of the ruling class.In a state of crisis, any breach of justice dents the credibility of the hegemonic apparatus. Failure to act in this domain invites the anger if not the wrath of the masses no matter how oppressed and helpless they might be. Hence, democratic regimes while dictating their terms through consent remain very sensitive to maintaining some semblance of justice.In countries such as Pakistan/India where the dominant parties are a mere “swarm of coachman-flies”, a Gramscian term for capitalist parties, organic intellectuals have miserably failed to advance the hegemony of their respective classes. As a result, they have borrowed the religious thesis of traditional intellectuals. It has inspired the juridical system as well which runs in two parallel yet opposite directions. One follows the ‘western secular’ course, while the other subjects the masses to religious justice of a medieval era.One is used to defend the powerful, the other to punish the extremely vulnerable, already victimised strata of society. They have one common denominator: laws relating to the crimes committed against property (based on one’s class-position) can be stringent but those against physical violence are rarely impeachable.The democratic abolition of critical thought has reached its acme. In cases related to corruption, a thought, which has withstood the process of mutilation and is aware of conditions of attaining wealth and success, suddenly becomes one-dimensional. It begins to question the integrity of a capitalist politician who has violated the rules without raising any query about the rules themselves.In this fog, the question eclipses: What is the biggest crime, property collection through backdoor theft or imposition of property relations, a mass expropriation perpetrated through a brazen act of systematic robbery. The writer has authored books on socialism and history. He blogs at saulatnagi.wordpress.com and can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, July 27th 2017.