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Donald Rumsfeld’s trip to Afghanistan barely produced a yawn from a disinterested American media. America’s front pages are too busy sorting through every excruciating detail of John Kerry’s charge up the Mekong Delta some 30 years ago. (Did you know that John Kerry served in Viet Nam?)
Rumsfeld’s visit was buried on page 14A next to the swimsuit adds; sadly reflective of the general apathy towards America’s "other war".
The Defense Secretary’s mission in Kabul was to insure that the upcoming elections proceed without a hitch. The recent up tick in violence and attacks on election workers have cast doubt on whether the elections will go forward as planned.
Rumsfeld’s appearance underscores the importance of these elections to the administration. While most critics have dismissed the elections as a public relations scam intended to boost Bush’s popularity among American voters, others contend that they are the first green shoots of a budding democracy.
Regardless of how one comes down on the issue, the results are not expected to produce any surprises.
At the end of the day, America’s puppet Karzai will still be the "head of state" and Afghanistan’s problems will still be concealed behind the media’s indifference.
Afghanistan is unraveling, that much is clear.
While America continues to focus on the widespread rebellion sweeping across Iraq; (a plan that now involves the annexing of sacred shrines by pounding the townspeople into submission) Afghanistan is left to languish in a state of virtual anarchy.
After 25 years of civil unrest, initiated by US intervention, the war weary nation deserves better.
The "Marshall Plan" that Bush promised when he was trying to sell the war to the American people has never been realized.
Similarly, the commitment of troops (17,700) is entirely inadequate for providing security or unifying the country.
Certainly, the bigwigs in the Pentagon understand this. Unless their long range goals involve the continued use of the regional warlords, it is hard to imagine how they plan to built pipelines through this unstable, fractured land.
In the meantime, the country has devolved into a loose confederation of independent principalities, each run by a presiding warlord who dutifully feigns allegiance to the Karzai government.
It is a travesty that fools no one except the American public and, perhaps, a few dim bulbs at the UN.
Beyond this ruse, the predictable activities of a "failed state" go on uninterrupted. Gun running and drug trafficking lead the list and are the mainstay of economic activity in the countryside.
Afghanistan’s burgeoning drug trade now produces 75% of the world’s heroin; a stunning statistic that will undoubtedly translate into a sizeable urban problem in both the US and Europe. Under the Taliban, opium production had been almost entirely eliminated.
Still, no one at the Bush Administration is ruffled by the details of Afghanistan’s downward spiral. In fact, Rumsfeld used his visit to convey his unbridled optimism:
"Every time I come I notice the amazing progress that’s being made…the energy on the streets the new stores, kiosk’s, cars."
Rumsfeld’s musings border on the delusional.
Afghanistan’s reconstruction has been woefully under funded with most of the resources devoted to the security apparatus that operates inside of Kabul. Other than that, improvements have depended mainly on the efforts of the citizens themselves.
Karzai has done little to insure greater security for his splintered nation. No one has any misgivings about his role as America’s stooge, but it does have a toxic affect on his ability to lead.
Afghanistan needs leadership that can claim a broad popular mandate; otherwise the state will continue to be held together by American baling wire.
Originally, (at the first Loya Jirga) it looked as though Afghans might get the strong leader they needed by nominating Zahir Shah; the former king of Afghanistan. (who conducted a benign "constitutional monarchy") This would have been an astute move and may have even bound the nation together.
Unfortunately, back room "arm twisting" by the Bush Administration made sure that that didn’t happen. They wanted their guy from Conoco oil and they got him.
Now, Karzai is derisively referred to as "The Mayor of Kabul" a moniker that embraces both the ineffectiveness of his rule and the limited range of his influence.
Never the less, he does put the appropriate "corporate" face on a venture that is (ultimately) designed to facilitate pipelines and resources.
When Karzai was questioned on the widely reported claims of voter registration fraud, the jocular Prime Minister opined, "This is an exercise in democracy. Let them exercise it twice;" a comment that not only undermines confidence in the system, but also confirms that his commitment to democracy is every bit as shaky as the rest of the Bush Clan.
If the Bush Administration was serious about Afghanistan’s future they would abandon the Karzai fiasco and take positive steps towards representative government. That would mean a reconvening of the traditional Loya Jirga; not popular elections.
The elections are just the latest Bush chimera; another cynical entry in the Karl Rove log of public relations scams.
They merely put off the heavy lifting that needs to be done to reunify the Balkanized nation.
In the three years since the formal ending of hostilities, Afghanistan is no closer to establishing a strong central government than it was when the Taliban were routed.
This should illustrate the magnitude of the failure in Afghanistan.
At present, fighting has broken out around the "main western Afghan city of Herat after forces opposed to tribal leader Ismail Khan battled for control of surrounding districts." (Al Jazeera) More than 100 people were killed in the skirmishes.
These "turf wars" are steadily on the rise as warlords are trying to expand the parameters of their influence.
With only 18,000 men on the ground the US can do little more than provided air support whenever conflict emerges.
Also, the incidents of violence from the resurgent Taliban are keeping Afghanistan’s southern flank in a constant state of turmoil.
These incidents prove that Afghanistan’s struggle is ongoing and is only exacerbated by America’s presence. The Bush plan for liberation has shown its real face; it is the callous disdain of the occupier.
Things will not improve while America stays in Afghanistan.
The Bush Administration has plunged the beleaguered nation into anarchy.
No public relations gambit (like the elections) or "Pollyanna" observations from the Secretary of Defense is likely to alter that fact.
The American people who supported the aggression in Afghanistan decide for themselves whether their interests have been served by the present state of affairs?
What goal has been achieved in Afghanistan?
Have Bin Laden or Mullah Omar been captured or killed?
Have peace and security been restored to the region?
Has anti American sentiment been diminished?
Has the fragmented (and warlord dominated) countryside been democratically transformed?
Has the opium trade been quashed?
Has the US intervention produced a strong and effective central government? Or a puppet who marches to Washington’s drum?
Reasonable people will answer these questions and agree that the war was a disaster.
Regrettably, the conflict drags on and the media continues to omit either the details or analysis of our current involvement. Even a cursory presentation of the facts would convince the average person that the adventure was a "dead loss."
Instead, Afghanistan has been buried on America’s back pages; another forgotten chapter in the warmonger’s chronicle.
A revisiting of Afghanistan shows that we were swindled by promises of "Marshall Plans" and "liberation"; neither of which has materialized. Perhaps, we should rethink our dependence on force for improving the world, and then… withdraw from Afghanistan so the long process of self determination can begin to appear.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: email@example.com