Friday, August 21, 2009

Afghanistan's big election day

For a cheerful look at the Afghan election, here's the BBC :

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies have pronounced the country's election a success, after voting passed off largely peacefully
... including a helpful vid explaining how the indelible ink used to mark the index finger of people who have already voted won't wash off for four to five days. The UN rep said so.

Or you could try the rather more dour Guardian :

Presidential poll day sees low turnout amid bombings, fraud claims and 'indelible' finger markings that wash off
... wherein a voter turns up half an hour after casting his ballot with his finger washed clean.

A week ago a BBC reporter bought several ballots cheaply at a local market and reported that most Afghan women would not be voting as the country was short over a thousand female scrutineers to search those women who had not already been forbidden to vote by their families and husbands. Rural elders were also advised that things would go badly for them if people in their villages did not vote as instructed and ballot boxes were delivered to polling stations pre-stuffed.

Two days ago Democracy Now carried the news that a warlord reputedly responsible for the "death by container" of 2000 supposed Taliban who had foolishly surrendered to Afghan and ISAF forces in 2001 had returned to Afghanistan to rally support for Karzai :

Eight Years After Orchestrating Massacre at Dasht-e-Leili, Afghan Warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum Returns to Afghanistan to Campaign for Karzai

Reuters :
"My coming back will help peace and stability," he [Dostrum] said. "I want to sit with my American friends and make a plan so that within two or three years, we will secure all of Afghanistan."

Asked what type of job he would like if Karzai was to be re-elected, he said he was not interested in working as a cabinet minister, but would be interested in a security-related role. He said he had repeatedly turned down offers to be one of Karzai's two
vice presidents.

"I have a lot of experience dealing with terrorism and if Karzai wants it, or our international friends who are battling terrorism want, I am prepared to work. Other than this, I'm not interested in becoming this or that minister," he said.

Questioned about the massacre at Dasht-e-Leili, the investigation of which has been repeatedly derailed by the Bush administration as witnesses continue to be killed off, Dostrum said :
"The United States of America, international friends, they should put together a group, a strong commission, to ask the truth," he said. "It wasn't just General Dostum."

Don't be fooled by this facade of democracy : Malalai Joya

"We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by and for the West, to legitimize its future puppet in Afghanistan. It seems we are doomed to see the continuation of this failed, mafia-like corrupt government for another term.

Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women's rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. Your governments in the West that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war. President Obama in particular needs to understand that the change Afghans believe in does not include more troops and a ramped up war. "

Joya notes Karzai has passed the now infamous law allowing Shia women to be starved for disobedience to their husbands and quotes Human Rights Watch :
"Karzai has made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election."

It's almost enough to make you long to be back in the days of Josee Verner's platitudes about the little girls in their little schoolhouses and Steve's bloviating about his important place on the world stage :

"I can tell you it's certainly engaged our military," the Prime Minister told CBC. "It's, I think, made them a better military notwithstanding — and maybe in some way because of — the casualties."

Harper added that Canada's current role in Afghanistan is "certainly raising Canada's leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community.".


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