Socialist Worker

Justification for Afghan war is collapsing

by Alex Callinicos
Issue No. 2169

A large chunk of the already ramshackle case for the Western military occupation of Afghanistan has now collapsed.

As British army casualties in southern Afghanistan escalated over the summer, official spokespeople hammered out the message that these were necessary sacrifices to allow the Afghan people to have their democratic say in the presidential elections on 20 August.

But now allegations of widespread electoral fraud on behalf of Hamid Karzai, the West’s creature currently occupying the Afghan presidency, are reaching crescendo point. The BBC reported on Friday of last week:

“Three of the four centres in Babaji, Helmand province, are being examined.

“Afghanistan’s election complaints commission is excluding votes from more than 70 polling stations where it has found evidence of fraud.

“Thousand of votes were recorded from the Babaji stations under suspicion. But one election observer has told the BBC that no more than 15 people voted throughout the day at the centre where he was based.”

Almost all the votes under investigation were cast in favour of Karzai. The revelations produced an astonishing response from New Labour foreign secretary David Miliband. “This is a war-torn country and I am not going to over-claim for it, I don’t talk about free and fair elections,” he told the BBC.

“For us in Britain, the absolute key is that the new government is, first, credible, and also has a clear programme in the three areas that will decide the future of Afghanistan: its security forces, its ability to achieve political reconciliation and its ability to build the economy.”

In other words, what matters is not that the Afghan people get the government they voted for, but the government that they should want – that is, whose policies have the approval of its Western sponsors.

Fraud

How this differs from the kind of defences of ballot-rigging offered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Robert Mugabe is beyond me – except, of course, that they also ritually denounce the West.

The message from the US and Britain is that electoral fraud is OK when committed by their clients.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that it is well known that the Obama administration is impatient with Karzai’s corruption and incompetence.

Yet US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who had a highly publicised row with Karzai a couple of months ago, responded to the evidence of fraud by ruling out a re-run of the election.

This is an example of a familiar process where the imperial power becomes a prisoner of its clients.

During the latter phases of the Vietnam War, one of the main obstacles the US faced in reaching a peace deal with North Vietnam was the obstructionism of the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu.

Thieu was entirely dependent on US military power and financial support for his survival. But if the US had simply ditched him, it would have undermined its ideological justification for the war – defending South Vietnamese independence – and caused political chaos.

The administration of John F Kennedy discovered this in 1963 when it connived at the overthrow and assassination of an earlier South Vietnamese president, Ngo Dinh Diem.

It looks as if the US and its allies are now, in a similar way, married to the wretched Karzai. This isn’t the only echo of Vietnam.

The Times and Daily Mail newspapers report that, in the wake of the massacre of Afghan civilians near Kunduz in an airstrike ordered by German occupation forces, the Nato commander, General Cal McCrystal, ordered a ban on alcohol at his headquarters.

According to the Mail, “staff at the Kabul headquarters were ‘either drunk or too hung-over’ to answer his questions” about what had happened.

It sounds as if the Nato forces are really happy in their mission. Shades of Apocalypse Now...


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Alex Callinicos
Tue 15 Sep 2009, 19:34 BST
Issue No. 2169
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