Groups like Amnesty International are now endeavoring
to do what even the United States military knew better
than attempt. Afghanistan, a feudal country that even
under the Taliban was hardly unified, is falling more
and more into the hands of warlords who already control
70 percent of the countryside.
Even our greatest allies are performing beheadings,
massacring civilians and making sure the world never
wants for heroin. But, what the hell? An election
will fix it… Right?
Anybody who has followed my contributions to this
site has probably deduced by now that I am a fervent
advocate of peace, justice, and democracy. So, prepare
yourself to be surprised at my thoughts on the upcoming
election… Don’t have it. Just wait until
this whole “Iraq thing” blows over, and
re-invade Afghanistan. That’s right. I want
Actually, before we go on, let me clarify one point.
I am still in favor of elections in the United States.
I’m talking about Afghanistan. Just don’t
want to give anybody any excuses…
We can give up and wait 1,500 years for Afghanistan
to pull itself out of the dark ages, or we can go
back in and do the job right this time.
The warlords that currently control Afghanistan (let’s
face it, we don’t) aren’t about to give
up power to a democratic process. Many of these men
have retained control in one form or another through
Soviet occupation, Taliban rule, and the 2001 U.S.
invasion. Does anyone honestly believe that they’re
going to give up power, join hands and learn to live
together under one government without a fight?
These men haven’t clutched the power they’ve
retained purely through strength of charm and good
breeding. They want to rule, and they have military
muscle to back them up. Different warlords are backed
by the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, India
and the UK. I hate to break the hearts of all the
foreign policy Pollyannas out there, but I don’t
believe that they helped topple the Taliban purely
out of love of country.
Warlords in the Northern Alliance (our allies in
toppling the Taliban,) have been exposed by Human
Rights Group, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty
International, and the United Nations as particularly
nasty atrocities both before and since the establishment
of the interim government. They’ve also —
to the delight of patriotic smack enthusiasts throughout
the U.S. — made Opium Afghanistan’s top
export. (Apparently, pot was funding terror by keeping
kids off of heroin. Who knew?) A little bit about
them (and remember, these are the good guys):
Abdul Rashid Dostum, the deputy
defense minister of Afghanistan, has gone against
the Afghan President’s wishes and set up his
own separate military zone in Northern Afghanistan.
Apparently as a form of damage control, Dostum allegedly
tortured witnesses to other atrocities in order to
prevent them from testifying in war crimes trials.
He is also currently under investigation for the Dasht-i-Leili
massacre, in which American and Dostum forces are
blamed for the suffocation deaths of 250 prisoners
of war, and shooting deaths of up to 2,750 more. All
agree that 250 were suffocated, but little details
like whose fault it was and how many were shot to
cover it up are disputed.
Dostum’s armies are often known to clash with
Tajik forces. The Tajik is lead by Burhanuddin Rabbani,
head of the Northern Alliance and President deposed
by the Taliban. Rabbini was the first leader installed
after the U.S. invasion. That’s right; even
our allies are warring against each other.
Ismail Khan commands an army of 25,000. He’s
a low-profile member of the Northern Alliance with
some powerful enemies (only weeks ago, he survived
the latest in a series of assassination attempts).
Under his rule a happy fiefdom seems to be a priority
and public massacre is at most infrequent. The only
mass grave linked to him contained military personnel
from the Soviet invasion.
Although he has the least bloodied reputation among
the Northern Alliance warlords, he isn’t exactly
Prince Charming, either. In 2002, he was the subject
of a 51-page report from Human Rights Watch called,
“All Our Hopes Are Crushed: Violence and Repression
in Western Afghanistan.” I wish I made that
up, but I didn’t. He even sided with the Afghan
Supreme Court when it ruled that women shouldn’t
be allowed to sing on TV. He no longer holds any official
government post. In context, that seems like a bad
Mohammad Qasim Fahim is the Defense Minister of Afghanistan’s
Department of Transportation. The United Nations suggested
that he be removed from office for illegally occupying
sections of the country. He has also been accused
of numerous human rights abuses, particularly in regard
to property and housing. Still, he is generous for
a warlord; he donated some of his military resources
to help build the transitional government.
With friends like these, who needs terrorists? Here’s
my suggestion: Stop thinking of warlords as “Allies
in establishing an effective democracy,” and
start thinking of them as “People to kill when
we take that second crack at it.” We call that
Is it cynical to say that nobody could seriously
believe a country with no centralized military can
have an effective central government? Can anyone tell
me how electing a person who will command no real
military which “controls” about 30 percent
of a country has any meaning whatsoever? We’re
dealing with a feudal system that seems just a tad
hesitant to unite. Really, we have to know that this
is election is just a little pre-election show for
the folks watchin’ at home.
All the horrific reports by human rights watchdog
groups in the world can’t bring down these warlords,
but I bet “Operation Take Two” could.
It’s great to be forward-thinking, but maybe
we should actually conquer the whole country before
we try installing a new government. You know, apologize
to the Afghani people, politely slaughter the warlords
if it is possible without significant civilian casualties,
and install a powerful government that means business.
Unfortunately for everybody, re-invasion must be
followed by re-occupation, the area we really need
to concentrate on. The U.S. and ally-controlled portions
of Afghanistan may be excited about democracy, but
that doesn’t mean they’re ready for it.
They’re a little like that 11-year-old boy we
all knew who carried the crusty old condom in his
wallet. It was expired and he wouldn’t know
what to do with it if he got the chance, but he really
liked to make sure everyone knew he had it. The Afghanis
have a ballot in their wallet, and they’re flashing
it around, but that doesn’t mean they have any
idea what to do with it.
Some time ago, I was accused of encouraging a “whitewash”
of Afghanistan when I wrote that if democracy is to
work there, we would have to force a lot more of our
ideologies onto the Afghan people. I quoted the Afghan
President as saying, “Please, my dear brothers,
let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration
process. Later, you can control who she votes for,
but please, let her go.” I just didn’t
think that they got the whole democracy thing; frankly,
I still don’t.
In reality, in some ways, the Afghani Constitution
tops our own. Citizens are guaranteed a right to privacy
(that is only implied in our constitution) and free
health care. However, I wouldn’t expect advancements
for women to stick around too long; it also establishes
Islamic law as the state religion and says that no
law may contradict Islam. How’s that for elastic?
Furthermore, opposition warlords regularly use rape
as a means of warfare—at least the Taliban spared
them that. I know how to solve both problems at once:
“Operation Oops, Let’s Try This Again.”
Amnesty International reported recently that one
human rights worker in Afghanistan had been the victim
of a drive-by acid attack. No, it wasn’t the
fun hallucinogenic experience it sounds like; three
men, from a car, splashed acid onto her neck. She
had been working to inform women (who have countless
times been convicted of crimes that the Judges were
unable to point out in the penal code,) of their rights
under the new laws. She plans to continue her work.
Her efforts are sorely needed. Even when the legal
system is on a woman’s side, this does not mean
that she has a realistic hope of escaping a life of
servitude. While many are still being imprisoned for
fleeing their husbands (judges in Afghanistan seem
to be using the kangaroo model of justice), others
are forced to stay simply due to lack of other options.
Dowries encourage families to marry girls off early
and to the highest bidder, while social conventions
discourage them from offering safe haven in the event
of a return. One Amnesty press release relates the
story of a nineteen-year-old woman who finally left
her abusive husband after he threw their three-month-old
infant across the room. She got lucky; her family
took her back. But they are now pressuring her to
return to him.
These are not social problems that can be cured by
a democratic election. Sometimes (often in fact,)
the majority is just plain wrong. Majority rule doesn’t
work if the minorities aren’t well-protected.
Laws don’t work if Judges are corrupt, incompetent,
or just plain nasty. If we don’t stick around,
I wouldn’t expect equal protection to, either.
When asked at the debate to explain just how elections
could work for Afghanistan, Vice President Cheney
likened this moment in history to a “Similar
situation in El Salvador… The terrorists would
come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they
left, the voters would come back and get in line.”
Comforting? Leave it to Dick Cheney to spin a tale
of human drive for self-rule into a nightmarish bloodbath.
For once, however, Cheney seems in touch with reality:
NPR recently reported that opposition warlords are
already using intimidation and terrorism to affect
the election outcomes.
Do elections, warlords and Islamic Law mix? I won’t
have to find out if we follow my plan: Once Iraq is
fully “liberated” and safely under the
“democratic rule” of a Prime Minister
with no “undue criticism,” re-invade Afghanistan.
And let’s get it right this time, people.