Monday, September 28, 2009

On Priorities

Updated below @ 1820, 9/29

The American political scene will never be accused of being held captive by perspective. When even something as basic as "which of these numbers is larger?" can't be harnessed by the blathering press and political leaders, one can hardly expect to find the ability for relative comparisons running rampant. Two disparate issues stand out for me as cases-in-point: election fraud vis Iran and Afghanistan, and the Defund ACORN Act.

Everyone knows about the election fraud in Iran. It was on every channel for nearly a month, demonstrating the journalistic acumen of the American media (re: Bringing you the news in 140 characters or less!), and proving once and for all Iranian leaders are the evilest of all evil-doers the world has ever seen. Granted, said leaders are not great ambassadors for democracy (no one would make such a claim), but the elections were in the news for a reason. The same reason the brutal Egyptian and Saudi regimes don't make the news.

Compare that coverage with that of electoral fraud in Afghanistan. It's okay if you haven't heard of it. Not many have. Why would you? The person accused of fraud is our guy. That's enough to keep him under wraps. If electoral shenanigans were mentioned, it was only to point out Taliban violence. CNN did not do wall-to-wall coverage on things like this:

The shaky footage shows two election monitors inspecting a book of 100 ballot papers that are still stitched together, as they were intended to arrive at the polling station in rural Afghanistan. But something is wrong; instead of being pristine, ready for the voter to make his or her mark, each paper bears a large blue tick next to the name of one candidate: Hamid Karzai.

As the monitors flick through the pad, the back of the ballots clearly show the authorisation stamp of election monitors, validating them as votes ready to be put in the ballot box and counted.

"We found it the day after the elections," one of the monitors in the footage told me. "They were trying to put it in one of the [ballot] boxes but didn't have time, so we took it home and filmed it. If we had given it back to the election committee they would have used it again, so we burned it, but filmed it to protect ourselves if they come and threaten us."

Or this:

The Afghan elections, already tainted by widespread accusations of misconduct and fraud, received another body blow Wednesday when the head of the European Union's election-monitoring commission said that as many as 1.1 million votes cast in the vote were "suspect."

The latest dark cloud over the Aug. 20 election came as Afghanistan's election commission released a preliminary vote tally Wednesday showing President Hamid Karzai with 54.6 percent of the votes cast – enough to avoid a runoff if the total stands up to one official recount already launched and to mounting doubts like those from the EU.

The EU's general depiction of fraud was bad enough. But even more damaging to the Western-backed government of President Karzai was the finding by Phillippe Morillon, head of the EU monitor, that more than one-third of the votes Mr. Karzai received in his reelection bid – 1.1 million of about 3 million votes for Karzai – could be fraudulent and must be investigated.

None of this minimizes Taliban violence, but it does clearly indicate that American views on the world are guided more by a commitment to its allies and stock assumptions than democracy, despite public claims. President Obama has parlayed his campaign speeches into an Afghanistan policy still riding the opinion of Afghanistan as the good war. Meanwhile, the world's beacon of democracy has attached itself to the falling star of a loose coalition of corrupt warlords, most of whom are politicians in name alone. Any lingering notion that the Afghan government holds its own people in any due regard would have fallen away if such fraud was reported with the same fervency as it was regarding Iran.

The furor surrounding ACORN is better covered, mainly because it fits the tabloid model of American journalism. ACORN has always been a target of Republicans, but who would have thought the end would come with a topic so dear to their hearts: prostitution. David Vitter is surely proud.

Consider the thought process here. The defunding act would have no chance were it not for two random ACORN staffers doling out some helpful information on how to get in the flesh business. Okay, but consider the implication here. If followed to its logical conclusion, this would mean that any company that had any employee commit a federal offense would soon be off the government roll. Like these companies, for instance.

While we await that action with baited breath, let's consider a few of these offenses which might rise a little higher on the immorality of the scale. Maybe electrocuting US soldiers.

And while the Pentagon has previously reported that 13 Americans have been electrocuted in Iraq, many more have been injured, some seriously, by shocks, according to the documents. A log compiled earlier this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.

One study called electrocution "the most urgent noncombat safety hazard for soldiers in Iraq." And what bastion of liberalism made such a claim? The US Army. Nearly every facility constructed in Iraq by KBR/Halliburton contained dangerous electrical wiring. But, rest assured, putting American soldiers in mortal danger has not hurt the company's bottom line. Nor has the fact that its employees engaged in the gang rape and imprisonment of a female employee.

Then there's Blackwater. In the past months, Blackwater's compound has been raided by the ATF for illegal weapons trafficking, been accused of tax evasion through offshore havens, employed young Iraqi girls for oral sex, and had employees indicted on manslaughter. Yet, 90 percent of its income continues to come from the government.

So let's not kid ourselves as to the magnitude of these crimes here. If the actions of random employees loses a organization government funding, it's only fair to ask when rampant corruption and misdeeds will have their day in the self-aggrandizing Congressional theater. The bill itself states that the organization must be involved in elections, but surely the Republicans leading the charge don't intend for us to consider funneling millions into campaign coffers fitting the bill. But occasionally we may have to accept English at face value, rather than waiting for the political/media filter to deliver it to us.


The US has decided that Karzai will remain president regardless of final results.

The White House has ended weeks of hesitation over how to respond to the Afghan election by accepting President Karzai as the winner despite evidence that up to 20 per cent of ballots cast may have been fraudulent.

Abandoning its previous policy of not prejudging investigations of vote rigging, the Obama Administration has conceded that Mr Karzai will be President for another five years on the basis that even if he were forced into a second round of voting he would almost certainly win it.

The decision will increase pressure on President Obama to justify further US troop deployments to Afghanistan to prop up a regime now regarded as systemically corrupt.


Mrs Clinton told Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan Foreign Minister, that...Mr Karzai would remain President even if investigations now under way cut his share of the first-round vote to below 50 per cent.

Better get something to wash that democracy down with, Afghanistan. It's a bit bitter.


Supporting the Troops Through No-Bid Contracts May 6, 2008
When You Were Here Before...Couldn't Look You in the Eye August 9, 2009

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