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Horror and Puppetry

The Whims of an Empire Gone Mad

by LINH DINH

Meat, water, sock or political, it’s not easy being a puppet. Even before the first word tumbles from your mouth, people crack up, and your face alone can bring down the house. Take this passage from Hamid Karzai, from a 2004 address to a joint session of the American Congress:

Our national army is being trained by American forces, American troops, and wherever we have deployed them the Afghan people have welcomed them. We have initiated the fight against narcotics to save our children, to save your children and children across the world from the evil of addiction to drugs.

It’s amazing the Capitol was still standing after these one liners. Need I remind you that Karzai spent much of his adult life on the payroll of the CIA, the world’s biggest drug gang? And that his brother, since assassinated, was a notorious drug dealer? As for the Afghan people’s love for Karzai’s army, it now depends on four times the number of American troops to keep it from disintegrating or being overrun. The night’s biggest howler, however, came when Karzai related this tale about two American soldiers in Kandahar:

Somebody, a terrorist, threw a grenade at them. The grenade landed in their vehicle. They took the grenade. Instead of throwing it into the street where there were people around them, civilians, these heroic men stuck the grenade under their seat. The grenade exploded. Fortunately, they survived. But they were badly injured. To us, this was also an example of heroism and care for humanity, and we are proud of these two American soldiers. These stories tell a tale of partnership, tell a tale of joint struggle, tell a tale of care and courage and care for humanity.

I’m sorry for being skeptical, but in the long an(n)als of propaganda or warfare, I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that a soldier placed a live grenade under his butts (and jewels). It just doesn’t happen, OK? Even if his mother was standing in that crowded street, I doubt he would shove it right there.

As an American puppet, Karzai had to mouth such absurdities, but these jokes wouldn’t go over too well at home, especially as American atrocities avalanched. When even the New York Times had to report that Afghan children were being blown up just for fun by American chopper crews, Karzai had to protest. He couldn’t follow his supposed outrage to its conclusion, however, by demanding that America quit Afghanistan, because if there were no more American troops in Afghanistan, there would also be no more Karzai… in Afghanistan.

Even Karzai’s own vice-president accused him of being a puppet, so as an American stooge, he had to appear as an uber-Afghan. Thus, the lambskin hat, the bright robe, the tunic. No ordinary suit and tie, Allah forbid, as found on the Syrian President, enemy of the West, or just a discount, JC Penney jacket, as draped on the Iranian leader.

Now, a political puppet can certainly outgrow his role. No longer useful, he can be shoved aside or even killed. Conversely, if he feels that he no longer needs his patron, that he has used this support long enough to consolidate his own power, he can also ditch the patron to stand on his own two feet. This, Karzai hasn’t come close to achieve. Quite the reverse. As recent events have proven, Karzai has become even more superfluous.

Karzai’s only justification for being was that he was an alternative to the Taliban, so when the US started to negotiate with these same Taliban, he went berserk, especially as neither sides bothered to bring him into their discussions. Karzai’s indignation changed nothing, however, so now he’s endorsing this rapprochement between his Yankee masters and his political enemy.

To prove that he’s his own puppet, after all, and a nationalist and humanist, to boot, Karzai’s now demanding that the US returns Bagram Prison to Afghanistan. Citing its atrocious human rights abuses, Karzai considers this complex a violation of Afghan sovereignty. Of course he’s right, but then everything America does in Afghanistan is a violation of Afghan sovereignty, because America shouldn’t be there at all. America’s installation of Hamid Karzai is a violation of Afghan sovereignty.

Since the American invasion, thousands of Afghans have had to suffer indefinite detention without access to a lawyer, often after having been yanked from their home in the middle of the night. Many have been tortured, with some killed in custody. At present, there are over 1,700 prisoners in Bagram. With the National Defense Authorization Act, Americans can now look forward to the same sadistic, inhuman treatment, but who, and how many?

Since there will be no legal presentation or due process, with everything done in secret, you will never know, will you, unless it’s you yourself who are suddenly stripped naked, hung from the ceiling and beaten, forced to endure unbearable cold and to curl up naked on the floor in an empty cell day after day, without any evidence presented whatsoever, with no basis at all for your open-ended suffering but the whims of an empire gone mad.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.