Friday, March 12, 2010

What our troops are dying to defend

The second most corrupt nation in the world:

[A]fter eight years and many billions of dollars spent trying to build a nation, there is still no Afghan government worthy of the name or deserving of domestic or international trust.

Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt nation on earth, just after Somalia, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based advocacy group.


In recent months Karzai has particularly infuriated Western allies by removing most foreign observers from the UN-backed election watchdog group; and by dropping several cabinet ministers, respected for their competence, in favour of dubious ones chosen from among supporters of his key warlords, regional leaders such as Ismail Khan, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Hahi Mohammad Muhaqquq, and Gul Agha Serzai.

For good measure, Karzai has also brought forward curbs on media freedom and reneged on promises to Washington to bring in urgent new anti-corruption laws.

For the coalition, the temptation to play deus ex machina grows ever-stronger, reminding us of the dreary succession of puppets desperately installed and de-installed by the US in South Vietnam:

One scenario quietly making the diplomatic rounds suggests that the coalition might "encourage" new power arrangements to force Karzai out and to replace him with a government of national unity headed by the five or six ministers of proven competence.

But these are murky waters. As the U.S. discovered in Iraq, it's not easy to discard leaders that you've helped into power once they establish a base of their own. Such a "coup" in Kabul might alienate Afghans, including some important warlords, even further. [emphasis added]

Ya think? Santayana will be of no use, but what about living memory? Not even political marionettes like having their strings pulled all the time. And not every citizen of a nation we are supposed to be assisting through childbirth into democratic governance necessarily enjoys watching a puppet-show.

On the human rights front:

Afghan prison conditions are horrific, torture is common and police frequently rape female detainees, the U.S. State Department finds in its annual survey of human rights.

The damning report paints a grim picture of scant respect for human rights by the embattled regime headed by President Hamid Karzai. While Taliban treatment of civilians is even worse, the report's assessment of vile prison conditions and routine abuse and torture by Afghan police and security raises new questions about whether Canada and other nations are still transferring prisoners to known torturers. Doing so is a war crime under international law.

From the US report:

Afghan police and security "tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse methods included, but were not limited to, beating by stick, scorching bar, or iron bar; flogging by cable; battering by rod; electric shock; deprivation of sleep, water, and food; abusive language; sexual humiliation; and rape."

And all this is after eight years of building democracy and fighting the Taliban. Frying-pan. Fire.

In Canada--try not to be shocked--the Harper government makes this kind of information rather more difficult to obtain:

Canadian diplomats compile a similar annual report on selected countries - including Afghanistan - but it isn't made public. Government censors blacked out all references to torture, abuse and extrajudicial killings by Afghan police and prison guards in the last available report obtained under Access to Information.

Meanwhile the Usual Suspects are digging in--over here, of course. And the milbloggers at The Torch, whose flinty realism has impressed me in the past, are reduced to parsing the word "rendition." Good grief.

Meanwhile, what do readers think of this report, and its proposals for post-2011 engagement? It's not crafted by any friends of mine, but some of the proposals strike me as constructive, just so long as the Afghans, and not Canadians with the best of intentions, are calling the shots.

[H/t CC]


Dr.Dawg said...

Much depends upon what these Canadian initiatives are matched with. I like all the proposed infrastructure work, but I can't help feeling pessimistic. Constructive suggestions become reality only under the right circumstances. That means Aghans taking charge of these projects. But under what circumstances?

cmkl said...

I'm amazed that there's a nation more corrupt than Afghanistan. Somalia? Montreacuteal city council?