Monday, October 5, 2009

When I Go Forwards You Go Backwards...And Somewhere We Will Meet.

Title lyrics from Radiohead's "Electioneering."

Last week, I lamented the inattention to the Afghan election held on August 20th. It's not just the widespread fraud that infuriates, but the blatant disregard for it in the country that is supposed to be pushing democracy there. The silence of benefactors goes a lot further in illustrating to Afghanis where they stand than all the propaganda leaflets in the world. (Indeed, one Afghan girl was recently killed by such a drop from a British plane.)

But the issue here is more than simply inattention, it's a dedicated effort on the part of those charged with ensuring a fair vote to protect the exact opposite outcome. In an op-ed in the Washington Post and in an interview with Amy Goodman, the fired UN official Peter Galbraith indicated that the dispute that led to his recall was "not over how to handle electoral fraud, but over whether the UN should handle it." In other words, though it is clear to all that fraud occurred (Karzai has admitted as much), the UN and the Electoral Complaints Commission has tried to take a stance of non-interference. Such a stance would seem to call into question their very existence, but they don't seem troubled by such logic.


First, in advance of the election, he [Kai Eide, head of the Afghan mission]—when I was trying to reduce the number of the ghost polling stations, he ordered me to stop doing that, after the Afghan ministers complained about it, although, of course, they were working for President Karzai, who would turn out to be the beneficiary of the fraud.

At another stage in the process, we had collected very substantial data on fraud and turnout. This was done by the UN staff at considerable personal risk. Afghanistan is a dangerous place to operate. And then, we wanted to do what our mandate is, which is to support the Afghan institutions, turn this evidence over to the Election Complaints Commission. He ordered the mission not to turn over the evidence, to sit on it. And then, when the Independent Election Commission, which was really a pro-Karzai body, decided to abandon its safeguards, he objected when I intervened with them to try to get them to keep the safeguards.

So, the situation is not only a plan of non-interference after the fact, but a concerted effort on the part of international observers to ensure that fraud was allowed to take place in the run-up to the election. Of course, electoral fraud happens all over the world. I make no claims to the contrary, but there are two things to note here. First, the US has a serious vested interest in propagating a fair democratic system. To fail in that endeavor would be to fail in the claims of our leaders. (Not that I'm suggesting you take them at their word.)

But, in American foreign policy, results are never really near the top of the discussion board. What matters is what our enlightened leaders claim (and the media parrot), nothing else. Only under this facade could one miserable failure lead to another, and then another, without any question as to motives or success. In the last 8 years, all the US and its allies have accomplished in the Middle East is to replace two corrupt regimes with equally-corrupt substitutes. Death and violence have not gone down, infrastructure has not been re-built, nowhere is there quantifiable evidence of progress. Yet, here we stand suggesting again that a couple thousand more soldiers and Afghanistan will be a vast Utopia, freeing our forces up for the inevitable three-peat in Iran.

But it's not just ineptitude here. There is an active conflict between those that are working for fair elections, like Galbraith, and those who are instead dedicated to preventing them. One need look no further than the rules for the fraud investigation released today by the ECC:

Afghanistan's U.N.-backed election watchdog will treat presidential candidates as equally likely to be guilty of vote fraud in suspicious cases, new rules issued on Monday show, a move that may ensure a win for Hamid Karzai.


The ECC published its recount rules on Monday, saying candidates would have ballots nullified in proportion to the total number of ballots they have in boxes considered suspicious, regardless of which candidate perpetrated the fraud.

The arithmetic appears to favor Karzai.

Under the recount rules, ballot boxes considered suspicious are grouped into six categories according to the grounds for the suspicion, but are not separated according to which candidate benefitted from the suspected fraud.

What this means, essentially, is that any fraudulent votes for Karzai will be given the same weight as legitimate votes for Abdullah Abdullah. There will be no attempt to only eliminate fraudulent votes, but rather to take votes away from both parties, even those not suspected of fraud.

In other words, the ECC has constructed rules to ensure a win for Karzai.

Again, this has more to do with the future of the country than one disputed election. What is happening is the propping-up of a corrupt regime which many Afghans will view as illegitimate. There is only one possible outcome of such a policy, and that is continued violence and destruction.

What US foreign policy never accepts, though, is that success is not produced simply by quantity of forces. This being the case, the root causes of violence and war are never addressed. Propagating corruption can never be viewed as a root cause, as such a view would lead some to believe that the US is not inerrant, which is wholly unacceptable. There is no reason to believe an alternate worldview will make an appearance any time soon, so expect the fighting in Afghanistan to continue for an indefinite future, no matter how many "surge" forces are sent into the killing fields.

Related posts:

On Priorities September 29, 2009
There's Always a Siren...Singing You to Shipwreck September 22, 2009
Afghanistan: Right War or No, It's Still War July 21, 2008

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