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Buildings Down, Heroin Up: Afghanistan Five Years Later
Five years after toppling the fanatical Taliban, Hamid Karzai is expected to sign an agreement for economic assistance from more than 60 donor countries. The Afghanistan Compact is just the latest of many plans to restore security to the war-torn nation and revive the fragile economy. It is a poignant reminder that the Bush administration's promises to rebuild the country and establish democracy have never been realized.
Afghanistan has been a policy disaster from the get-go. The country is ravaged by war and unemployment, security beyond the capital of Kabul is virtually nonexistent, and malnutrition rates among children are higher than they are anywhere other than sub-Saharan Africa. Now, Karzai, who has seen his funding from the US slashed year after year, is forced to take his begging bowl to the world community; asking for the crumbs they can spare to bandage his failed-state together.
Afghanistan excels in one thing alone; the production and export of opium, a booming business which now provides 90% of the world's heroin.
Is this what Bush had in mind when he promised Americans to rebuild and democratize the battle-scarred country; a modern-day drug-colony, occupied by legions of indifferent volunteers who rarely venture beyond their US controlled compounds?
His promise of a Marshall Plan was similar to all of Bush's promises; just more hot air hissssssing from a punctured tire.
After overthrowing the Taliban Bush made this commitment to the people of Afghanistan:
"We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirationsWe're working hard in Afghanistan. We're clearing minefields. We're rebuilding roads. We're improving medical care. And we will work to help Afghanistan to develop an economy that can feed its people without feeding the world's demand for drugsBy helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall. Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings."
"Marshall Plan?" "Building roads?" "Improving medical care?" "Developing the economy?"
Bush's penchant for hyperbole has not been lost on the Afghani people.
"The new Afghan government promised us new schools, clinics, water pumps, but it has done nothing at all. People are so disappointed. At least the Taliban would grade the roads, build madras's, while this government has done nothing," said Nyamatullah, Zabul tribal leader.
"This government has done nothing" is a fitting summary of the Afghanistan failure. The Bush administration had no intention of rebuilding or democratizing the country, rather the full thrust of the American effort has been to paper-over the obvious deficiencies of the policy with glowing media reports. The western media has done an impressive job in convincing the American people that progress is being made in Afghanistan when, in fact, the country continues to languish in destitution and chaos.
On a recent trip, Secretary Rumsfeld said that Afghanistan was "a model" of a growing democracy.
The majority of the new Afghan Parliament is comprised of warlords and ex-Taliban fighters reintegrated into the system by a reconciliation program endorsed by the United States. This has weakened the central government and ensured that the countryside has remained under the control of the regional warlords. American puppet, Karzai has no power beyond the capital and must be protected by 40 to 50 U.S. paid bodyguards wherever he goes.
Is this Rumsfeld's model of democracy?
Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is equally disingenuous in her praise of Afghanistan's strides towards democracy:
"The transformation of Afghanistan is remarkable but incomplete, and it is essential that we all increase our support for the Afghan people."
There's been no "transformation" of Afghanistan. As the New York Times reports, "Afghanistan does not have a viable economy. Its government is largely reliant on foreign aid (while) it struggles with an insurgency" "The country of 25 million people has some of the worst economic and health indicators in the world. 6 million people rely on food aid, 80% of the people are illiterate, and there is virtually no industry."
In the last year the resurgent Taliban have increased their attacks, further destabilizing areas in the south and prompting President Karzai to publicly announce that he would provide amnesty for Taliban chieftain Mullah Omar.
Have him "get in touch" if he wants to talk peace, Karzai said.
Karzai's remarks show us how far we have come from the swagger and bravado of George Bush who promised to capture Omar "dead or alive"? Now even Bin Laden's closest allies are being offered amnesty in an effort to quell the violence.
What does that say about the administration's claim that "We will never bargain with terrorists"?
Afghanistan is Bush's dystopia, a failed narco-state run by American puppets, Islamic fundamentalists and human rights abusers. The corporate media has done the American people a grave disservice by characterizing this drug-dependent settlement as a burgeoning democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Karzai regime has no popular mandate and will vanish in the first hours after the American occupation ends.
And, it should end immediately.
Like Iraq, American troops have become the catalyst for hostilities; the focus of blame for the country's grim predicament. The recent incident of American servicemen burning the corpses of dead Taliban soldiers has only exacerbated the tensions that exist between the native Muslims and the Christian occupiers. The cultural divisions, and the violence they incite, are the inevitable upshot of the imperial project.
The invasion of Afghanistan was sold to the American people by a silver-tongued executive and a battery of public relations fraudsters. 5 years later we can see that all the hype about "democratic revolution" and "liberation" was just baseless twaddle. The country is a basket-case and "ranks among the half-dozen poorest countries in the world". "with the highest level of malnutrition in the world at 70%." (Jim Lobe)
This is Bush's definition of success; endless bloodshed surrounded by grinding poverty.
The Bush administration will never rebuild Afghanistan. In fact, they are ideologically opposed to "nation building" as a waste of revenue that can be siphoned off to multinational corporations. So, too, they are against any form of governance that does not conform to the economic diktats of the central banks and their satellites at the IMF, World Bank, and the Federal Reserve.
Afghanistan illustrates the shortcomings of a foreign policy that depends entirely on war to achieve its objectives. Neither peace nor security can be achieved under occupation. America needs to withdraw its troops so that sovereignty can be restored, order can be reestablished, and the long march towards economic recovery can begin.
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