The rest of the exercise will be merely elaboratepolitical theater designed to show increasingly uneasy Western voters that progress is being made in the war-torn nation after seven years of US-led occupation.
Voting will mostly be held in urban areas, under the guns of US and NATO troops. The countryside ruled by the Taleban, who are primarily local farmers moonlighting as fighters, is too dangerous for this electoral charade. Over half of Afghanistan is under Taleban influence by day, 75 per cent at night.
The entire election and vote-counting commission are financed and run by the US.So are leading candidates. Ten thousand Afghan mercenaries hired by the US will police the polls and intimidate voters. US-financed Afghan media will promote Washington’s candidates.
The Pashtun Taleban, a fiercely anti-Communist, religious movement, is banned from the election. Pashtun tribesmen form over half of Afghanistan’s population, but have been largely excluded from power by the Western occupation. Taleban vow to fight the sham election, which they call a tool of foreign occupation, though some heavily rewarded local commanders are allowing the vote to proceed.Other nationalist and tribal groups battling Western occupation, notably Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami and forces of Jalaluddin Haqqani, are also excluded from the election.
In fact, all parties are banned; only individuals are allowed to run – a favorite tactic of non-democratic regimes.
Real power is held by the US-installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and his two vice presidents,former Communist secret police chief Mohammed Fahim, a Tajik, and Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostam. These two pillars of the old Afghan Communist regime were arch henchmen of the former Soviet occupiers and notorious war criminals.
President Hamid Karzai’s main ‘rivals,’ Abdullah Abdullah, a technocrat, fronts for the Tajik Northern Alliance. Technocrat Ashraf Ghani is another leading candidate.Both are competent men untainted by war crimes or collaboration with the Soviets, but firmly in Washington’s pocket.Both may get high positions in any new government.
The northern Tajiks and Uzbeks, traditional foes of the majority Pashtun,arein cahoots with Russia, Iran and India, all of whom have designs on Afghanistan.
When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan from 1979-1989, they held fairer elections than the US-run votes. Of course, theSoviet’s man, Najibullah, won, but at least dissention was voiced.In Washington’s stage-managed Afghan votes,real opposition is excluded. The US used the same trick in Iraq’s rigged elections.Ironically, the US and its NATO allies have been blasting Iran for lapses in its recent presidential election while stage-managing far more questionable elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. The UN, which, in the words of a senior American diplomat, has become ‘a leading tool of US foreign policy,’ is being used to validate the US-run election. The feeble current UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, was put into his job by Washington.
Meanwhile, the party line North American media keeps lauding the vote.It has long-term memory loss. In 1967, the ‘New York Times,’ a vocal supporter of the war in Afghanistan, wrote of US-supervised elections in war-torn Vietnam, ’83 per cent of voters cast ballots…in a remarkably successful election…the keystone of President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of the constitutional process in Vietnam.’
The vote may be close, since so many Afghans dislike Karzai, forcing a runoff.Washington may impose a CIA-World Bank approved ‘CEO’ on poor Karzai, making him a double figurehead.Whoever wins, President Barack Obama will end up as the real leader of Afghanistan. Ravaged Afghanistan needs genuine, honest elections, and patient national reconciliation free of foreign manipulation.That’s the only true road to peace.
But President Obama is desperate for some sort of victory, though he cannot even properly define the term. Senior US generals warn of defeat in Afghanistan if the US garrison is not doubled. Americans are being prepared for a widening of the war ‘to defend Afghan democracy.’
The US and NATO watch in horror as their casualties sharply mount and they have nothing to show voters for the latest Afghan imperial misadventure, but body bags and tantalising mirages of Central Asia’s fabled oil and gas.
Eric S Margolis is a veteran US journalist who has reported from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan for several years
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