Friday, October 01, 2004

Warlords and rosy scenarios - Bush's Afghan fantasyland 

And that's what people are seeing now is happening in Afghanistan. Ten million citizens have registered to vote. It's a phenomenal statistic. They're given a chance to be free, and they will show up at the polls. Forty-one percent of those 10 million are women. - George W. Bush, Presidential Debate, Coral Gables FL, Sept 30, 2004 ~ debate transcript

As a result of the American military," President Bush declared last week, "the Taliban is no longer in existence."

It's unclear whether Mr. Bush misspoke, or whether he really is that clueless. But his claim was in keeping with his re-election strategy, demonstrated once again in last night's debate: a president who has done immense damage to America's position in the world hopes to brazen it out by claiming that failure is success.


Let's talk for a minute about Afghanistan, which administration officials tout as a success story. They rely on the public's ignorance: voters, they believe, don't know that even though the United States promised to provide Afghanistan with both security and aid during its transition to democracy, it broke those promises. It has allowed the country to slide back into warlordism - and allowed the Taliban to make a comeback.

These days, Mr. Bush and other administration officials often talk about the 10.5 million Afghans who have registered to vote in this month's election, citing the figure as proof that democracy is making strides after all. They count on the public not to know, and on reporters not to mention, that the number of people registered considerably exceeds all estimates of the eligible population. What they call evidence of democracy on the march is actually evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.

See: America's Lost Respect, Paul Krugman, October 1, 2004.

Warlords and Washington

Jim Lobe:
WASHINGTON - Insufficient security forces and a lack of election observers, combined with regional warlords backed by the United States, continue to threaten the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan, says a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).


"Amazingly, because of the inadequate forces, current security plans for the presidential election include the use of deputised warlords of factional forces to guard polling stations -- the very people Afghans say they're most afraid of," the report noted, adding that U.S. officials closely involved with election preparations "appear to be complacent," believing "democracy is now on the horizon."

It adds that continuing human rights abuses are fuelling a pervasive atmosphere of repression and fear in many parts of the country, and that voters in many regions do not appear to understand the ballot or have faith in its secrecy, particularly in the face of pressure from militia factions.

"The warlords are still calling the shots," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director. "Many voters in rural areas say the militias have already told them how to vote, and that they're afraid of disobeying them. Activists and political organisers who oppose the warlords fear for their lives," he added in the report.


In addition to these efforts, Washington, which has more than 10,000 U.S. troops in the country, is also trying to prevent Taliban forces and its allies from disrupting the election, especially in the Pashtun regions of the south and southeast, where they have carried out deadly attacks aimed at election workers and officials.

See: US-Backed Warlords Big Threat to Afghan Elections, by Jim Lobe, Sept. 30, 2004.

"The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished and the exit strategy needs to be well defined." - George W. Bush, criticizing Clinton administration's deployment of military forces, 2000 Bush/Gore debates.


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