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A funny thing happened on the way to democracy in Afghanistan.
Washington’s well-laid plan was that American troops and development experts could keep this unruly tribal-nation from again becoming a haven for al Qaeda terrorists. How? By establishing a central, non-corrupt, democratically-elected government credible enough to win the respect of the Afghan people, provide security, and deliver essential services.
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Unfortunately, the plan has gone awry, for they guy expected by Washington to win Afghanistan’s August 20th presidential election – is a loser. He’s Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president, and he defiantly did not set a sterling example of clean government in his campaign. He chose an accused drug smuggler as his running mate, used government employees as his campaign agents, and bribed tribal chieftains to support him.
Then came a breathtaking level of electoral thievery by Karzai. Some polling places never opened – yet, magically, each reported near-unanimous votes for Karzai. Dozens of phantom polling places – places that don’t exist – also voted overwhelmingly for him. Tribal villages reported twice as many votes for Karzai as there were people. Finally, after weeks of vote counting, Karzai’s hand-picked election commission officially declared him the victor.
This is our democratic hope?
European election monitors say that a third of Karzai’s ballots are suspect, and even Washington had to blanch at the fraud. A UN-backed commission is now examining the disputed ballots, and a runoff election may be called. Karzai, ever clueless and arrogant, is demanding that Western government’s “respect the peoples’ vote.”
So, if America’s plan for Afghanistan can’t get past step one, it’s time to scrap the whole thing and find a plan B.
“Afghan Ballot Uncertainty Creates Dilemma for U.S.” The New York Times, September 18, 2009.
“Italy Ponders Afghan Pullout After Deadly Blast,” The New York Times, September 18, 2009.