Afghanistan: "Democracy - Lite"

Afghanistan is learning about the magic of democracy as understood and seen through the eyes of our Administration. As the Afghans are finding out, democracy can not only be "messy", it can be "illusory" and, at times, it is best just to pay "freedom" lip service rather than to practice it.


"We're helping Afghanistan's elected government solidify these democratic gains and deliver real change," Bush said. "A nation that once knew only the terror of the Taliban is now seeing a rebirth of freedom, and we will help them succeed."

That was said immediately after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was shocked by a U.S. Army report on abuse of detainees in Afghanistan, saying his government wanted custody of all Afghan prisoners and control over U.S. military operations.

President Hamid Karzai also insisted the Kabul government will veto US military operations after a week of hugely destructive anti-American rioting left Afghan cities and towns in flames and hospitals overflowing with casualties.

Furthermore, Karzai was upset over the fact that the punishment meted out for the death of one of his citizens by a U.S. military policeman who pled guilty to assault and two counts of making a false statement in the 2002 beating death of a prisoner in Afghanistan was a sentence of three months in prison.

On top of that, he was attacked by U.S. officials who warned this month in an internal memo "that an American-financed poppy eradication program aimed at curtailing Afghanistan's huge heroin trade had been ineffective, in part because President Hamid Karzai 'has been unwilling to assert strong leadership.'"

Still reeling over riots and the killings of his citizens, Karzai fired off a response that his government has worked hard to eradicate poppy fields. He blamed Western countries for a lack of support. Karzai said the criticism was part of an effort to shift blame from the United States, Britain and others that have failed to deliver economic aid.

Karzai tried a different approach to relations with his great new democratic friend. He tried the path of reconstruction of his country- something woefully missing in our new best buddy. He must have been speaking in his native language because his request fell on deaf ears.

He then tried again to get a handle on U.S. (foreign troops) in his country but was rebuffed. The Washington Post reported that all he could get was an endorsement of an agreement allowing the United States to continue its policy of simply informing Afghan officials before launching raids in Afghanistan.

Karzai did get to see "lip-service" paid to freedom.

In his weekly radio address, Bush said Afghanistan’s new constitution, elected president and upcoming elections all since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban represent remarkable progress. "A nation that once knew only the terror of the Taliban is now seeing a rebirth of freedom, and we will help them succeed", Bush added.

No control over foreign troops, minimal punishment for those who admit to killing Afghans in their own country, accusations of not cooperating in the U.S. war on drugs, and scant attention paid to reconstruction of a badly scarred country we'd used as a base for fighting the Soviets and have recently bombed even further back into oblivion than it already was. That's what Karzai got to take back home with him.

One can only wonder what particular odors this type of democracy and freedom have for Karzai and the Afghans.


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