5 Hilariously Illegal Ways Governments Solved Huge Problems
Our memories from high school are a bit murky, but if there are two things we remember from government class, it's that Suzy Moorman had an awesome butt and we were really good at carving the anarchy symbol into particleboard. If there are two more things we remember, it's that crime is bad and generally governments at least pretend to fight it. But every once in a while it becomes necessary for a government to bend its own rules a bit ...
The U.S. Enlisted the Father of Organized Crime to Help Win WWII
During World War II, the best route to invade Italy was by first taking Sicily, and the American brass was eager to obtain any sort of intel that might lube their efforts to give the island a steaming hot freedom injection. Luckily, they had an ace in the hole: the father of organized crime himself, Lucky Luciano, a Sicily-born American citizen who was, at the time, an inmate of the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York.
He was the dirtiest bastard in there (until Ol' Dirty Bastard showed up).
Luciano was surprisingly patriotic, or perhaps just surprisingly eager to escape: His initial offer was to personally parachute behind enemy lines and act as a liaison for Allied troops, and totally for-realsies he promised to come back to prison when it was all over. Once Naval Intelligence officers finished sharing a healthy belly laugh, they realized that Luciano's involvement -- while perhaps not to the extreme that he'd suggested -- wasn't such a crazy idea after all. His extensive network of Mafia contacts, plus the weight his name carried, could very well help the American military establish covert operations on the island.
The intel provided by Luciano's contacts proved invaluable, as did the doors that opened up with the mere mention of his name (some agents referred to it as a "magic word"). In one daring heist on an Italian naval base, Mafiosos rolled up, peppered the German guards outside with their Tommy guns, blew open a safe containing a veritable paint-by-numbers schematic of the island's defenses, and handed that treasure straight over to the Americans. Gangsters vs. Nazis sounds like a far-fetched Call of Duty mod, but at one point, it was a wartime reality.
Jazz hands beat Sieg Heil! Fix your rock-paper-scissors style accordingly.
Just over a month after troops landed, Operation Husky -- the Allied liberation of Sicily -- was complete. Luciano didn't get to parachute to freedom like he wanted. The poor guy had to settle for walking to freedom instead, like a chump: After the war, in exchange for his assistance, the U.S. canceled his 50-year prison sentence -- the only catch being that he had to head to Italy, never to return to the U.S. Lucky presumably cried himself to sleep every night in a Mediterranean villa, surrounded by gorgeous women who liked wine almost as much as they liked bad boys and war heroes.
The Union Encouraged Counterfeiters to Collapse the Confederate Economy
Samuel Upham was a small-time Philadelphia shopkeep during the Civil War. One day in 1862, customers swarmed his store looking for copies of The Philadelphia Inquirer -- he simply couldn't keep the paper on his shelves. When he asked one customer what all the hullabaloo was about, the customer pointed to the front page, where the paper's editors had printed a $5 Confederate note. People in the North had never seen themselves an honest-to-goodness Confederate note before -- yes, as unfathomable as it seems, there was once a time before Google Image Search.
"If you're curious about what anatomy looks like, please visit the produce aisle."
Cartoon dollar signs popped into Upham's eyes. He purchased the printing plate for the bill from the Inquirer and made thousands of copies. Now, it's important to note that these weren't counterfeits: Upham was careful to print "Facsimile Confederate Note," along with his name and address, at the bottom of each one. You know, right where it could easily be trimmed off, making the bill virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Before long, Upham was offering them countrywide via mail order -- he even expanded his product line to offer pretty much any denomination a collector might fancy. His reproductions were so good that some unscrupulous fellows could have waltzed right into the South and used them to purchase whatever the hell they wanted ... which, of course, is precisely the type of thing that unscrupulous fellows did. It's estimated that Upham singlehandedly produced $15 million in fake Confederate cash -- about 3 percent of the entire Southern economy.
And 60 percent of the economy not made of human flesh.
Of course, you can't run a counterfeiting operation of that size without attracting the attention of the Feds, and Upham soon found himself under the scrutiny of the U.S. government. Presumably after nervously sweating in the foyer for a few hours, trying to figure out if he could kill himself with a fountain pen before the Union could prosecute him, Upham finally came face to face with the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton ... who allegedly simply tossed him a supply of authentic Confederate banknote paper.
China Uses Their Prisons as Organ Farms
China is second only to the United States in annual organ transplants -- and yet very few Chinese citizens are voluntary organ donors. That is some very simple math that results in a very awful sum. In 2005, China readily admitted that their organs come from executed prisoners. In fact, there are so many organs flopping about that China has become the go-to destination for "transplant tourists," which is the only kind of tourist worse than a normal tourist.
Convicted murderer hearts make tourists 2 percent worse.
Think that sounds like the plot from some fucked-up sci-fi dystopian film? Here's the plot of the inevitable grittier sequel: The number of transplants outweighs the number of executions. Chinese doctors testified at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that some of those organs are coming from still-living labor camp detainees.
And now here comes the third film, which stretches the premise too thin and grows ridiculous: Chinese cosmetics companies have also been caught red-handed developing beauty products from skin taken from the corpses of executed convicts. See, all that collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments has to come from somewhere, and it turns out that for some vain Europeans, said somewhere is the ass cheek of a Chinese guy who ran the wrong type of blog.
Every time you lick your lips, you're technically rimjobbing a political prisoner.
Qatar Uses Slave Labor to Prepare for the World Cup
The nation of Qatar occupies a tiny area about the size of Connecticut, but it sits on an oil reserve so massive that it could only have resulted from God waking up one morning and saying, "Fuck every single dinosaur within this tiny area about the size of Connecticut."
When the announcement came that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, the news presented a problem: No existing city would be good enough for such a grand event.
But Qatar won anyway, due entirely to an impressive bid tour and popular demand.
No, in order to adequately prepare, Qatar would need to build an entirely new city. A city is normally the type of thing that organically develops over decades or, hell, even centuries. Building one from scratch in a single decade would take a monumental workforce, something that Qatar -- with its less than 2 million citizens, many of them too rich to get their hands dirty -- simply didn't have. So they started pumping in expatriates at a rate that would put Lady Liberty to shame. The Qatari government even turned to North Korea for help with inflating its workforce.
Crap. North Korea never helps "nice."
"Hey, didn't Kim Jong-il play nice when he invented football in 1953?"
Pyongyang was more than happy to provide a veritable army of workers to help construct Qatar's new Lusail City -- an army that's been referred to as "state-sponsored slaves," due to the fact that 90 to 100 percent of their pay gets dumped directly into the pockets of Kim Jong-un's ill-fitting maternity pants.
And it doesn't end with the North Koreans: An Amnesty International investigation found that workers from India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka had also been forced into what amounted to indentured servitude. Their employers confiscated their passports until they agreed to sign away their wages and work tirelessly in hellish conditions. By some estimates, the true cost of Shiny Happy World Cup City will be the lives of about 4,000 migrant workers. But hey, those soccer games sure are going to be fun.
Related: Oops, Hamilton Did Own Slaves
The U.S. Government Used a Nazi Child-Murderer to Track Down Che Guevara
Klaus Barbie was known as the "Butcher of Lyon," a nickname one generally does not earn by just offering sweet deals on turkey breast. Barbie was an SS captain and Gestapo member, and he became infamous for personally and diabolically torturing prisoners while stationed in France, as well as sending orphaned Jewish children to Auschwitz. Truly, he was the worst Barbie of all -- way worse than even Street Rapper Barbie.
After the war, Barbie was one of those "useful" Nazis that the U.S. decided to keep around for the occasional moon trip or commie hunt. Klaus served as an adviser to the Counter Intelligence Corps, assisting in their efforts to rid the world of communism -- a mission that eventually earned him safe passage to Bolivia.
After his performance of "the liberation of Cuba," communist icon and freshman T-shirt favorite Che Guevara headed down to South America for the requisite encore. The CIA wanted to catch Che at any cost, and wouldn't you know it? The Communist Liberation Tour's next stop was Bolivia. Didn't they know a dude in Bolivia?
Time for Gangsters vs. Nazis 2: Guevara Bolivaloo
The full measure of Barbie's involvement is surrounded by speculation, but according to the Butcher himself (and several other sources close to him), the man who orchestrated the torture of untold French prisoners and herded droves of children into Nazi gas chambers was also personally responsible for the strategy that led to the capture and subsequent execution of Guevara. Barbie didn't get to ride off into the sunset, though: He ultimately died of cancer in a French prison cell after being convicted for war crimes.
Plus, as a final kick, we've heard that Klaus Barbie shirts don't sell nearly as well.
For more bizarre government actions, check out 5 Insane Supervillain Schemes by Real Governments and 6 Things You Won't Believe Got Banned By Modern Governments.
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