Filling in today is JBdotC Senior Foreign Policy Correspondent Dacia Nichol. The original piece can be read here.
The last best hope for America apparently only lies within corrupt government officials and legal systems that fly in the face of Western values. Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be happy to acknowledge something that we are hesitant to admit to ourselves: we are locked into a permanent relationship with Afghanistan, and as long as they play the victim in distress, the lifeline to our resources and purse strings will always be open. Touché Mr. Karzai – but do you have to be so fresh about it?
In Sunday’s interview with CNN personality Amanpour, Karzai’s sentiments were as such: I’m doing the best I can (read: the best I feel like doing) and really, it’s your job to fix this mess since the West started this problem to begin with. Then yesterday he told Richard Holbrooke that he’ll need 15 years before Afghanistan can foot its own bill for the U.S. targeted Afghan security force build up of 400,000 officers. Is that a carrot being dangled in front of my nose? No, it’s the back of my hand because I’m about to slap a man.
Let’s pull the plug on this revisionist history, shall we? First of all, who is this guy?
Executive Summary on the Life of Hamid Karzai
Pre-2001, he was a Taliban hustler. Pre-Taliban, he was an anti-Soviet “freedom fighter”. Pre-Soviet invasion, he was an exchange student in India. Feeling the connection yet? If you do let me in on it, okay?
Backgrounder on Afghanistan
Here’s a question: which is worse, communism or Sharia law? Looking back at the history of Afghanistan, it seems that oppressive religious government has been held in higher regard than semi-oppressive non-religious government. In fact, it was the modernization of social values, i.e., more rights for women, under a communist-style ruler that angered some in the Afghan population (the mujahedeen) to revolt against the government, prompting the Soviet invasion (the Afghan government asked for their help in putting down the revolt…), and the rest is history. Yes, that’s right. Communism wasn’t hard core enough for the Islamic religious leaders in Afghanistan, so they overthrew the government in favor of something a little less “16 Candles” and a little more “Touch Me”, or rather a little more blood spilled for irrational reasons.
So, being that our policy of the day was “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, we (the U.S.) helped these guys (mujahedeen) rid themselves of the Soviet pests. Lucky for them that included some sweet weapons that every Boy Scout in America would love to get his hands on. Unlucky for us, these guys just can’t agree on anything and started a civil war after the Soviets tucked tail and scrammed (that’s southern talk for ‘got the heck outta there’). Some of the mujahedeen decided to embrace a new enlightenment that said thou shalt live in the desert with VHS tape technology and plot to destroy the world…because that’s entirely plausible…oh, and if you die for it – kudos and virgins for you. Lovely. No, not all of them bought it, but remember – they both want to kill people for passing out Bibles at tea time. Seriously – under Sharia law, being a Christian missionary is punishable by death. Add a bin Laden as your bankroller and you’re in business baby.
Just to note – the screwing up the endgame line from “Charlie Wilson’s War” comes from the gap of time between the Soviet departure and the start of the Afghan civil war. If the U.S. had stayed and helped establish the government that only now seems to be an effort seriously worth pursuing…well…at best 9/11 wouldn’t mean anything except to those celebrating a birthday…and at worst…the attacks would have come from say…Somalia instead. For the record, I hereby predict that after we’re done in Afghanistan, all of us who learned Arabic to take on Iraq will get double their money’s worth in the near future (FYI they speak Arabic in Somalia…).
Back to Karzai
So where does Karzai come in? Well, in all fairness he started with the best of intentions, joining the fight against the Soviet occupation upon returning from grad school in India, quickly rubbing political elbows and taking various positions in the mujahedeen efforts in the post-Soviet days. Then it gets a little shady – our boy starts working for the Taliban, but parts ways over his distrust of their relationship with Pakistan. He starts working to restore the shah that ruled prior to the Soviet occupation, which apparently doesn’t sit well with the Taliban (remember – communism was too modern for the Islamic reformists, and this particular shah was part of modern reform efforts in Afghanistan post-WWII). Karzai’s father is assassinated in response (or so is speculated), and now Karzai has a vendetta to destroy the Taliban…or at least he did.
This guy is really hard to read. On one hand, he sided with the Taliban whose rule was centered around repressive Sharia law…a movement that was largely fueled by civil rights modernization, and then after splitting with the Taliban over something unrelated to their ideology, he supported restoring power to the guy that was tossed out after his modernization efforts were shunned. It’s like working for Lenin, then leaving because you don’t like how he was handling China, and then supporting restoration of the royal family he deposed to come into power (if he hadn’t killed them all that is), after which Lenin executes your father and in response you align yourself with the U.S. to do everything in your might to destroy Lenin. All along you still prefer Lenin’s style of government, you just personally think he’s a douche bag.
Karzai is just a symptom of our problem in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, not a liberal democracy, and its constitution is based on Sharia law – not liberty, freedom, human rights, consent of the governed – you know…things that legitimate governments protect. There’s only a hair line of ideological difference between the Taliban and Karzai’s government – don’t let the election/democracy thing fool you. We need to finish this war, but I personally think we’re compromising ourselves where it’s not necessary, turning this into a humanitarian freedom-outreach, all while Karzai is taking us for a ride.
Our goal in Afghanistan is to ensure our security. That’s it. How can it be about anything else? With characters like Karzai as our bedfellows this is certainly no freedom quest. If we’re paying the bills, then we make the rules right? That’s not what it looks like to me. I see this nation shedding our blood, sweat, tears, and money – definitely money – for a sinkhole of depravity. You know that saying about bringing a horse to water but not being able to make him drink? Yeah – we can confront Karzai with his brother but can’t force him to fire the guy for corruption. Why would we do that? I’m not calling for perfection. I’m calling for decency and a direction based on morality that’s consistent with what we as Americans can stand behind with pride. It’s one thing to ally with an existing government that doesn’t require much more than some paperwork and a handshake to do business with. It’s quite another to walk in, blow up the joint, point to the picture on the box, and only use half the pieces to put it together. If you’re going to help a country build itself, you have to use the right tools or it will never survive. This is a facade – we’re essentially giving our “Good Housekeeping” seal to a product that uses child labor. We’re like ACORN advising that kid about how to set up a prostitution house while appearing to be a perfectly legal business enterprise to the IRS. Ten points for entrepreneurism. Let me be frank (as opposed to Nancy…ha ha…er…okay I’ll stop):
If we’re not trying to create the only kind of democracy that has proven to work in the written history of this Earth, based upon the only kind of principles that ensure the prosperity for all, then let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not perfect, but dammit we’re the best there is. We can do better. We’re America – we SHOULD do better. This city on a hill is supposed to be emulated, not bastardized to give legitimacy to abuse. It’s supposed to be inspiring and prove that there’s hope for everyone. It’s not just what we have – it’s what we make of it.
Until next time…