Thursday :: Nov 4, 2004

Unrest In The Other Rich White Oilman's Burden

by pessimist

One of George 'War Is My Birthright' Bu$h'$ campaign brags was about the successful (s)election of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan, presented as proof that Dumbya was really winning the 'War on Terra'. But that may not be quite true.

According to this article, there are some deep rumblings of growing unrest in Afghanistan, as those who opposed the Taliban and the warlords equally now have to contend with the United States' interference in the affairs of Afghanistan.

October 31, 2004

Hamid Karzai has won the election. That was hardly any surprise. However, the high turn out (69%) was a surprise indeed. And a pleasant one. With 97 percent of the votes counted, Karzai with 55 percent of the votes was an outright winner. However, the big turn out and landslide victory for Karzai is, paradoxically, in no way a support for Karzai's politics of U.S. bootlicking.
Karzai was initially recruited by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence for the Afghan National Liberation Front (ANLF) in 1982. The ANLF was a CIA-ISI project to co-ordinate 'jihad' activities. Son of a Kandahar-based Karzai tribe, Karzai since has been in the service of the CIA. Karzai lent help even to the Taliban, by supplying it with arms when it seized control of Kabul. The USA imposed him as an interim president in violation of the Loya Jirga (the Grand Assembly of the Afghan tribal structure). Being a U.S. choice and an old CIA agent, he was quite unpopular, because the USA is hated in Afghanistan, as in the rest of the Muslim world. The Afghan people want to see U.S. troops leave as soon as possible. But by voting for Karzai, Afghans have voted against the warlords of all hues. Karzai was seen as a lesser evil. At least he had not been running a militia and committing atrocities, looting, and plundering like other candidates.

The enthusiastic turn out and landslide for Karzai not only shows Afghans' frustration with warlordism, it was also a question of lacking any alternative. The 25-year-long civil war has impoverished and disempowered the Afghan masses and civil society.

Kind of like what has happened to the American people since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 - 24 years ago.

The tribal structure, political parties, trade unions, student unions -- in short every component of civil society -- has been torn apart in the last quarter century. Majma-e-Milli Afghanistan (National Assembly of Afghanistan), a coalition of over a hundred nationalist, secular political groups, for instance, also lent support to Karzai, despite all their criticism of him, in order to block a Northern Alliance victory.

The Afghan left, on the other hand, was too weak to present a candidate. Left groups were unable to form any sort of united front to present a joint candidate. The remnants of the old Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), the Maoist Sazman-e-Reyahi Afghanistan (Afghan Liberation Organization - ALO), and SAMA (Sazman-e-Azadibaksh Mardam-e-Afghanistan), all are in the process of re-organization. The lack of guns and money also hinders left activity in today's militarized Afghan politics. Different left groups lent support to different candidates. Most of the left, however, gave critical support to Karzai.

Says ALO spokesman Tahir Khan: "None of the candidates were desirable for us, but since in the present situation the people's struggle is centered against fundamentalism and most people were afraid that once again a fundamentalist person might come to power and therefore preferred Karzai among all other candidates. Considering the lack of an independent and democratic candidate and preferring the worse than the worst, the Afghanistan Liberation Organization also favored Karzai."

He adds: "But this favor certainly doesn't mean that we have forgotten that Karzai is also dependent on the U.S. and therefore long struggle against him and exposing him will remain as an important issue. Also we will never let this preference cost us our independence as an organization with specific ideology and goals. This can only be considered as a tactic in this particular situation in our country."

"It is a historic tragedy that the left has to lend support to Karzai," says Arif Afghani. Arif is a leader of Hizb-e-Hambastagi Afghanistan (Afghan Solidarity Party), a component of the National Assembly of Afghanistan.

When asked whether democracy will be able to flourish through a process imposed by the USA, ALO spokesman Tahir Khan said: "Never. We believe that American Imperialism raises specific slogans in definite times in order to achieve its own aims. The page of America's democracy has been torn with the killing of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan during the war against its yesterday's puppets, the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's band, fought by the Northern Alliance, and its actions in Iraq. But a considerably strong pro-democracy movement among the people is emerging day by day and the anti-Imperialism, anti-fundamentalism and anti-Feudalism aspects in this movement need to be supported while hoping that its leadership doesn't fall into the hands of the USA or non-religious reactionary forces. It is up to the revolutionary forces to empower the people's democratic movement against the American 'democracy' under Karzai's leadership."

How 'Democracy' Works in Afghanistan

Behind the scenes, the U.S. Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, may have been the busiest person in Afghanistan during the election campaign. A former consultant to the U.S. oil firm UNOCAL, Khalilzad's first tried to persuade Karzai's electoral rivals to withdraw from the race. In his bid to remove any obstacles to Karzai's election, Khalilzad met with so many candidates and potential candidates to "persuade" them to withdraw that warlords from the Northern Alliance met in late September to discuss how to respond to Khalilzad's "arm-twisting," according to the Los Angeles Times. Khalilzad would begin with friendly offers of road-building or ministerial posts, but if that didn't work, he'd turn to more "muscular" measures. "He told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to put pressure," said presidential contender Mohammed Mohaqiq. "It was like a request." But when Mohaqiq -- whose demands for governorships and cabinet positions weren't met--insisted on running, Khalilzad "left, and then called my most loyal men, and the most educated people in my party or campaign and told them to make me -- or request me -- to resign the nomination," Mohaqiq said. "It's not only me. They have been doing the same thing with all candidates. That is why all people think that not only Khalilzad is like this, but also the whole U.S. government is the same. They all want Karzai--and this election is just a show." Despite Khalilzad's, efforts, however, only two candidates withdrew.

The next problem for Khalilzad and Karzai was that all fourteen of Karzai's rivals declared a boycott of the election, which would have cast a shadow over these first-ever Afghan presidential elections. However, Khalilzad managed to woo all fourteen back into the electoral arena. The basis of the boycott was charges of rigging. The charges were not baseless, but the very candidates denouncing the rigging were themselves doing the same thing. All the powerful warlords either bought votes or coerced people in their fiefdoms to vote for them. And there were plenty of votes on sale.

United Nations election officials, prior to the elections, scrambled to explain why more than 9.9 million voter cards had been issued, given that they had originally estimated 9.8 million voters. One example of gross disparity occurred in the province of Panjshir, where more than 124,000 voting cards were issued, compared to an original voter estimate of 49,573. The explanation was simple: the voters' lists were fake. "We know that multiple registration has happened," UN spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva confessed.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged that perhaps 1,000 to 100,000 people had more than one voting card. But Karzai is a political intellectual par excellence. Instead of being apologetic for this grave mishandling, he justified it: "As a matter of fact it doesn't bother me if Afghans have two registration cards and if they like to vote twice, well welcome," Karzai said at a Kabul press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld sitting beside him. "This is an exercise in democracy and let them exercise it twice." And many voters indeed "exercised" themselves in democracy, in some cases, half a dozen times on the day of polling.

Many Afghans, particularly men, registered many times. The rumor that one could sell a voting card for a hundred U.S. dollars drove poor Afghans to make some quick bucks. And, as a result, 5.63 million male voters registered, while the number of eligible male voters was only 5.12 million, which means there were at least half a million fake male voters.

But despite all such rigging practices, one is justified to a large extent in terming the elections "fair and free" – at least in the sense that the results weren't affected. Since all the candidates, including Karzai, "increased" their votes either through money or coercion, the percentage distribution of votes would have been same even if there had been no rigging. Rigging was expected.

Maybe that's how things 'worked' in Florida and Ohio?

Buying Off The Taliban

But what was not expected was that the election was peaceful. The Taliban's threat to disrupt the election process did not materialize. "The attacks would have claimed innocent lives, therefore we refrained from attacks," a Taliban spokesperson told BBC. The reason that the Taliban refrained from launching attacks perhaps lies somewhere else. On the one hand, the Taliban's major patron, Pakistan, had been passed a clear message by Washington to rein in the Taliban during the election. But also, it seems a deal had been struck between Washington and Taliban.

The managers planning Bush's election campaign needed to have Hamid Karzai elected as Afghanistan president as poster boy for Bush's foreign policy. Twice postponed owing to the law and order situation and an abysmally low level of voter registration, elections seemed impossible in Afghanistan earlier this year. And in particular the Taliban were proving a major obstacle. To get through elections, Washington was ready to make any deal with anybody. This willingness was reflected during a visit to Washington in June this year by Hamid Karzai when he said: "I will talk to anybody that comes to talk to me about stability and peace and about movement to democracy."

In the search for a solution before November's U.S. presidential elections, focus once again shifted to a Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads the Party of Islamic Scholars (JUI). The JUI is the driving force in the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six religious parties that holds 60 seats in Pakistan's parliament.

About The Middleman

Rehman is often referred to as Maulana Diesel, a sobriquet conferred upon him by witty Pakistanis when, in return for his support to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he was "rewarded" with a diesel franchise.

Rehman was in many ways the perfect choice to act as a mediator with the Taliban. The Taliban leadership was mostly educated in the madrassas (seminaries) run by JUI. As a result, when the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) sent Rehman to Kabul after the Taliban seized power in 1996, the Taliban welcomed him with open arms and he was instrumental in establishing strong contacts between Kabul and Islamabad. In a controversial move, the Speaker chose Rehman as official opposition leader in late May. Although a largely ceremonial post with limited authority, his appointment became a bone of contention. He was selected soon after returning from a little-publicized and unscheduled visit to England. Earlier, in March, in Pakistan, Rehman had met with visiting British Foreign Minister Jack Straw.

The significance of these events emerged in comments Rehman made to a local journalist. "The British authorities are working on behalf of the United States. This indirect process has been chosen to avoid any ill-effects ahead of the forthcoming presidential elections in America ... Britain is holding indirect talks with the Taliban militia to seek an honorable American exit from Afghanistan." By implication, Rehman would mediate in this process.

The Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shehzad, however, sticks by his story: "Rehman's interview on that subject first appeared in Daily Dawn Pakistan. The contents of the interview were quite clear and more explicit than my Asia Times story. There was no contradiction on my story or Dawn's story exclusively by UK or USA, but in the light of our stories when UK foreign office officials were asked questions about their contacts with Taliban through Rehman, they denied. Obviously, they cannot accept these kind of secret negotiations. Even the USA has been in touch with Taliban in search of 'good Taliban' without Mullah Omar. But publicly they do not afford to admit these manipulations."

Rehman had told Saleem: "I had the chance to interact with Mr. Mike O'Brien, British minister for trade and investment. At the same time, I was invited to different institutions which work under the British Foreign Office. I clearly told them all to remove their mental hang-ups concerning the Taliban." Asked if there was any positive response? Rehman said: "Yes. The situation is not like yesteryear, when Western powers were not ready to listen to the name 'Taliban.' Certainly now they are preparing their minds for many compromises."

The ends justify the means. This is the sort of 'moral values' that the majority of the American electorate believes they are supporting. This is the sort of 'moral values' that has sold America down the river for a pittance.

But this exercise of American will in Afghanistan is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off when Afghani patience is expended. There is little likelihood that US foreign policy will change either its imperialistic direction or its incompetent disregard for local opinions and ambitions, but will rely instead upon the application of military force to support a delusion. The longer suppression of the true democratic feelings of the Afghan people goes on, the bigger the resulting explosion. We will have another bloody war on our hands.

It will be hard for the US to continue to justify the presense of US troops in Afghanistan if there isn't any oil to protect, and even the long-rumored Caspian pipeline - assuming it's ever built - will have about as much protection as those in Iraq currently do. Without that pipeline, will the American people tolerate the sorts of casualties that distress us in Iraq?

I wish I could declare no, but as so many analysts have stated lately when discussing the election of Bu$h, facts didn't matter - and they won't here either. Without a recognition of fact, there can be no outrage should the facts not match the claims. As long as Karl Rove knows that he can manipulate the American people away from seeing what's going on, the GOP is free to do as it pleases in its dauntless pursuit of increased power and profit - no matter how many Americans die.

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pessimist :: 1:41 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!