[Translated from the weekly radio analysis of GegenStandpunkt Publishers, October 6, 2009]
The junky old play entitled “Elections in Afghanistan” simply had to be cancelled now, because even though the main character is indisputably the “best-dressed politician” in the country, the swindle in his favor in round one of the balloting turned out to be so brazen that the UN and NATO referees couldn’t risk him staging an encore. Actually, no one in the land of the Pashtuns occupied by Western forces really wanted the first round of voting: the collaborationist government of democratized warlord Karzai knew that its victory wouldn’t come off without cheating, and the occupying powers have emancipated themselves from the “nation building” project of the Bush Administration, wanting nothing other than to prevent a return of the Taliban to power. For this purpose, what’s important is pursuing the military operation in Afghanistan to such an extent that the terror arising from it not only significantly weakens armed resistance, but also forces the people to want to collaborate with the government in Kabul, wherefore the “collateral damage” from air strikes always becomes “unavoidable.”
Whether or not the appointed rulers in this case pass the democratic graduating exam of free elections is by comparison besides the point, especially as the godparents at NATO headquarters could not be sure that a convincing majority of the locals would even voluntarily choose the corrupt clique around Karzai or the more or less disreputable “opposition.” The resistance forces led by the Taliban regard the staging of the contest for power in the collaborationist regime as a provocation by which their expulsion from Kabul through six weeks of saturation bombing and the status of their country as a de facto colony of the United States are supposed to be legitimized. Accordingly, they take action against the voting and treat the voters served up for the election as traitors in the service of foreign powers.
The timing of the ballot was not freely chosen: it is due to a procedure of a constitution that the West had palmed off on Afghanistan and cannot, for that reason perhaps, so easily ignore itself. In fact, the timing is rather bad: the Taliban are on the offensive and people speculate about whether their transition from “ guerrilla to partisan warfare” is imminent. Given the lack of control of the Kabul regime and its protection force over territory and people, it turns out once again that the presumption of Operation Enduring Freedom, namely, that the war in Afghanistan was won and is now about military assistance to build a democratic, i.e., pro-Western state, is ideological wishful thinking: the Taliban were indeed removed from Kabul but were not defeated, neither militarily nor politically! This has now led to NATO increasingly waging in Afghanistan a war against Afghanistan, and for that, “free elections” and “reconstruction assistance” go well with the daily massacre of civilians for the “self-defense” of the West’s band of soldiers!
The only relevant decision that matters to the tribes that have to live in Afghanistan, i.e., to be for or against continuation of occupation and armed resistance to it, is just not decided by voting, and is not placed on the ballot by its organizers. The main thing about democratic elections is that among all relevant participants, voters and elected officials alike, the raison d’état, whose personnel management is checked off with a cross, is uncontroversial; but the balloting at the Hindu Kush is really a joke. The Karzais, Abdullahs and other leading figures of Afghan society are in a very fundamental sense in disagreement about what will become of Afghanistan, for there is no Afghan national interest separate from their personal control over the resources connected to the office. And on this issue, the various ethnic and clan chiefs are bitter rivals, in fact rivals over the funds and means of power and the powerful support of Western foreign countries that fall to the person who wins the presidency. For this, they supplement their competition with a cooperation in which they peddle the votes of their dependent clientele in exchange for government posts in the future government.
In the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) of July 22, 2009, analyst Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi calls it not inaccurately, “Democracy as theater”:
“If people really want to distinguish the candidates, they need to look at their facial features — which give information on tribal affiliation, religion, and geographical origin of the candidates … no political parties … forces that … (try to attain) electoral votes by violence and instilling fear … People see the election as the only legal way to bring them under the control of warlords and the drug mafia … a show for legitimizing a pre-appointed figure … screenplay written by the U.S., and the winner has already been appointed. In the short run, these elections won’t mean anything for democracy in Afghanistan. But they can make people familiar with a democratic system — in the long run perhaps they will use it at last in the right way.”
Here in “our” country, citizens assess the political master of the economy by electing the personnel department of state power by means of ballots, and are of the false but very democratic view that through the delegation of their interests to the character masks standing for election, they will get an increase in the wealth of the nation and at least a living for themselves. But in Afghanistan, something like a national economy is out of the question. The only export hit produced in the country is illegal over the border, and actually it was the expelled Taliban government, of all people, that pushed opium cultivation down to zero. Now one reads in every newspaper that every candidate for a position in Kabul makes money on the substance. As a consequence, “democratic life” takes place, according to all reports, as reciprocal haggling about the sinecures that are largely filled in Afghanistan with help from outside. For that reason, critical observers can detect no trace of “civil society” there, but rather a unique swamp of embezzlement of the money, of all things, that “we” — in other words, the involved NATO governments — pour in there to defend our great freedom, even in the Hindu Kush.
From the detailed accounts of the election preparations, it is not difficult to see that the holding of elections is a matter of force and does not come off without a massive contingent of additional security forces. What is clear — and we can learn that from the newspaper, too — is that under such conditions, elections don’t go off normally.
Nevertheless, the Afghans are supposed, in the middle of war, to go and vote. Why and for what actually? For the fiction that there is such a thing as an elected and legitimate government of Afghanistan, which after four years will once again get the democratic mandate to govern that is confirmed in the elections. In all insolence, the people are expected, under threat to life and limb, to visit polling stations en masse, in order that the West’s war against the followers of a Taliban regime toppled in 2001 can advertise itself as “support for the fight against terrorists” requested by an elected government, as if the government and foreign occupiers jointly had the situation basically under control. This is also a way of saying that elections are evidence of the power of the one that schedules it. “Dare democracy!” applied to Afghanistan means forcing elections in the middle of an asymmetric war against the will of the local resistance movement, in order to demonstrate that one largely has control over the country. It offers the fiction that a complete victory and the establishment of orderly conditions are only a matter of time. It’s clear the Taliban will see things more or less the same way, and do everything to ensure that the election does not become a success for the comprador regime. The nation’s compatriots — drafted for voting, bribed, carted off to the polls by force in trucks of the Kabul Army and occupying forces — function as news of success of the violent enforcement of the will of the occupying powers and the government they support against the Taliban. The fact that in these chaotic conditions, elections could be carried out at all, is taken as a vote for the order that the war waged by the Western powers has first to enforce.
For the success of this production, the election result and how it came about is admittedly not unimportant: the election is not just supposed to be a one-time success against the Taliban, but is supposed to contribute to permanently securing Afghanistan as a NATO protectorate in which “terrorists” cannot immediately seize power if the occupation forces leave. To that end, a local leadership is to be established that can credibly invoke the approval of the majority of Afghan people. The contradiction of this ideal of a popular puppet regime that serves the aims of foreign powers that are in the process of bombing the country back into the Stone Age has dire consequences for the desperate figures who are jockeying for this job and getting increasingly bad press in the Western media.
© GegenStandpunkt 2009