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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

13 December 2004

Excellent news from Afghanistan. A new president, chosen in its first democratic election, has just been sworn in.

He pledges to extend democracy across Afghanistan, liberate and educate all women, and wipe out `the last remnants of Islamic terrorism' impeding economic and social development. Foreign troops supporting the Kabul government will remain only until security is assured and terrorism eliminated.

But this was not Kabul, December 7, 2004, where the US-installed regime of Hamid Karzai was inaugurated to great fanfare from Washington and the western media. Both hailed — quite mistakenly — `Afghanistan's first elections.'

Correction. It was Kabul, 1986. Afghaninstan's first true national elections were in 1986 and 1987, under Soviet military occupation. First, KGB organized a `loya jirga,' or national assembly in 1985 and, through bribes and intimidation, got its new Afghan `asset,' Najibullah, positioned to replace the ineffectual Afghan communist puppet then in office.

In 2002, CIA got its Afghan `asset,' Hamid Karzai, nominated president through a loya jirga that was as rigged as the one that promoted Najibullah.

National elections in 1986 and 1987 confirmed Najibullah, Moscow's man in Kabul, as president of Afghanistan. These elections were manipulated, yet they were still more open and fairer than the recent US-staged Afghan election.

How can this be? The Afghan communists, aware they were in trouble, allowed some genuine opposition parties to run and even sought a coalition with anti-communist forces. But these groups — mujihadin, or `freedom fighters,' as the west called them (Kabul branded them `Islamic terrorists') — spurned Najibullah as a traitor and quisling.

In the US-run Afghan election, all parties or individuals opposed to the American occupation of Afghanistan were excluded. So only ethnic minorities, like Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbeks; bought candidates; and figures favoring collaboration with the occupation were represented.

Warlords, who control 80% of the nation, were bribed with tens of millions to give at least tacit support to Karzai. Afghanistan's majority Pushtun were represented only by a few minor candidates without any political base. The most important Pushtun leader, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, declared a `terrorist' in 2002 for opposing the US invasion, was, of course, excluded. This exclusionary policy that puts minorities into power ensures ongoing political instability in Afghanistan.

Afghans, it is true, turned out in large numbers to vote. Elections are still a novelty in Afghanistan and a popular amusement, even fake ones. Only in developed democracies are citizens are too lazy or indifferent to vote. But the Afghan election, conducted by the same UN official that helped rig elections against Islamic parties in military-ruled Algeria, had no more democratic credibility than the Soviet elections of the 1980's.

In fact, it's painfully ironic to see the US demanding honest elections in Ukraine — a position applauded by this column — while staging predetermined elections in Afghanistan, and, next year, in Iraq. And what about some honest elections in US-dominated Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt etc?

Afghanistan's new `democratic' president is the world's most expensive mayor.

Karzai rules only downtown Kabul, protected by 200 US bodyguards, 17,000 US troops and a token NATO force. His own people cannot be trusted to guard him from assassins. It costs Washington US $1.6 billion monthly to keep Karzai in power — not including the multi-billion dollar, secret CIA budget for Afghanistan. Without the foreign troop's bayonets, Karzai's little puppet regime would quickly be swept away.

The real power behind figurehead Karzai is the Northern Alliance, the rump of the old Afghan Communist Party, made up of Tajiks and Uzbeks.

Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers almost totally ended poppy/heroine production. Today, America's Northern Alliance communist allies have restored the multi-billion dollar drug trade and now control 95% of the world heroine supply. As in 1970's Indochina, the US again finds itself in bed with major drug dealers while espousing a platitudinous `war on drugs.'

The other mainstay of the Karzai regime is Gen. Rashid Dostam, a mass murderer, torturer and war criminal who makes Saddam Hussein look tender by comparison.

Outside Kabul, Afghanistan is a chaotic mess ruled by warlords, drug kingpins, and Taliban, which is alive and well, waiting with legendary Pushtun patience for the US to withdraw.

The US has put its head into a hornet's nest in Afghanistan, as this column predicted it would in 2001. Staying on and supporting a hated puppet regime is hugely expensive and painful. But a US pullout would be hailed as a triumph by anti-American forces across the Islamic World. So the US is good and stuck in Afghanistan — just, in fact, what Osama bin Laden wanted.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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