Afghanistan’s Highway to Nowhere
Every major newspaper in the country reported this week in glowing terms on the completion of the road between Kabul to Kandahar. It is being lauded by the media as Afghanistan’s "Highway to the Future". It should be called the Highway to Re-election, since that is Mr. Bush’s solitary purpose in pursuing the project.
It is astonishing, however, to see how uniformly the "free press" lends itself to the self-serving interests of the executive. Most of the articles are so absurdly biased, they read as though they were written by an understudy of Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon.
Are we really expected to believe that progress is being made in Afghanistan because a road is finished?
Afghanistan is a mess. The Bush Administration has minimized its involvement from the very beginning, keeping its promise to party loyalists who disparage the wastefulness of "nation building". Now, we are left with the affects of that neglect. The countryside is controlled by the regional warlords and narco-trafficers, and factional fighting is steadily increasing. The security vacuum the war has precipitated has left the prospect of any democratic form of government extremely remote if not impossible.
Never the less, as long as the Bush camp can control the narrative in the American media, it seems unlikely that these failures will reflect poorly on the President or hurt his chances for re-election. It’s critical that the President demonstrates that we are making headway in Afghanistan and not simply generating the type of anger and anti-Americanism that our limited involvement has in fact caused. The Bush "Marshal Plan" for reconstruction has been a major letdown and a prescription for anarchy. Well placed cadres in the media are expected to dress up this conspicuous disaster by elevating highway construction to a level of genuine progress. It is not.
One of the many ironies of the Kabul-Kandahar Highway is that UN aid workers are only allowed to access 40 miles of the entire 300 mile route. In other words, security is so abysmal that safe passage on the newly minted Bush Autobahn cannot be guaranteed. Is there a more poignant indication of flawed logic then an administration that provides roads when people have no dependable sanctuary?
At three hundred miles in length we are also reminded of the estimated 3000 innocent Afghanis who died in the war. According to the Bush Calculus, that translates into ten lives per mile, a bargain by current standards. Perhaps, we can use this as a benchmark for other paving projects in Muslim countries? It may well be that the White House is looking for just such a reliable yardstick to measure the human suffering it is causing. This cost-benefits analysis is entirely consistent with the business-like manner in which the administration likes to conduct its depredations.
We should expect to see a great deal more of our "amazing progress" in Afghanistan now that the election cycle is upon us. The Bush Administration has allocated an additional $700 million to this end. We’ll undoubtedly see the pet projects that are dreamed up by Karl Rove and his mentors on Madison Ave (Home of the Public relations industry) put on full display for a compliant and adoring media. This should suffice in illustrating the profound commitment of the President to reconstruction, while noting his many accomplishments so far.
As for the "Highway to the Future", it will probably be employed by the growing numbers of the Taliban, who are promising to restore order to a fractured country.
MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org