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Afghanistan today: blood in, blood out

The international Elections Complaints Commission has found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud in a number of polling stations" in Afghanistan's presidential election.

The international Elections Complaints Commission has found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud in a number of polling stations” in Afghanistan’s presidential election. In several villages, the IEC has found, incumbent Hamid Karzai received 100 per cent of the votes, which added up to suspiciously round figures - exactly 400 or 500 ballots in some cases. In others, polling stations simply failed to open, but still managed to deliver vote tallies in Karzai’s favour.

Candidate Abdullah Abdullah, who is currently running second in the world’s phoniest horse race, describes the official count as a “tragic joke.” He goes on to say that “it will be very difficult to justify the support of the outcome of an election for which hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent and NATO soldiers have died, if fraud decides the outcome.” Even if every vote had been counted correctly, millions of women were unable to vote simply because there weren’t enough female staff at the polling stations.

Now with Karzai’s count running well over the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off election, Abdullah will be under pressure to join a coalition of some sort, in order to legitimize the outcome. So what will it look like, this clearly fraudulent government of Afghanistan for which so many young Canadians have died, and will die? Let’s take a look at some of the key players.

Karzai’s running mate in the election is one Qasim Fahim, a well-known Tajik warlord. He and his friend Muhammed Karim Kallili have held senior positions in the Karzai government since it was first installed by the US after the 2001 invasion. According to Human Rights Watch, both are guilty of terrible atrocities during the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when they “regularly and intentionally targeted civilians and civilian areas for attack, and recklessly and indiscriminately fired weapons into civilian areas”.

Their forces acted as death squads, kidnapping and “disappearing” hundreds of civilians, torturing captives to the point of insanity and often to death. There are reports that they committed “widespread rape of women, girls, and boys.” Both Fahim and Kallili were granted unlimited pardons for past actions by the parliament in which they sat, and for the protection of which Canada has committed its armed forces until 2011. Sadly, they aren’t alone. HRW estimates that at least 60 per cent of Afghan’s sitting politicians are warlords, or beholden to warlords.

Karzai ally Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq was a leader of Hezb-e Wahdat, a Taliban-like armed faction which, according to HRW, was “implicated in systematic and widespread abuse ... directed at Pashtun villagers. In scores of villages, homes were destroyed, possessions were taken, and men and boys were beaten and in some cases killed ... there were several reports of rapes of girls and women.” It is reported that Mohaqiq’s militiamen like to snatch young girls on their way to school, rape them and then claim them as ‘brides,’ whereupon they attempt to ransom them back to their parents.

Perhaps most sinister of all is the man Karzai chose to bring out of exile to work for his re-election. General Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to Afghanistan from Turkey to deliver votes to the Karzai campaign. In 2001, during the US-led battle against the Taliban, Dostum’s forces stuffed thousands of prisoners into transport containers, and then shot up the containers from outside. Some were Taliban, others are said to have been Dostum’s rivals in the opium trade, while others were no doubt innocents caught in a very indiscriminate web. Those who didn’t die immediately were left in the locked containers to suffocate, or to die of their wounds.

Believe what you will about its true purpose, it is not possible to claim that the war in Afghanistan is about freedom or democracy or human rights or the welfare of the Afghan people. If it was, why would we be siding with some of the world’s most notorious war criminals? When the government of Canada trots its slaughtered youth down the “highway of heroes,” exploiting them once last time for their propaganda value, it’s well to bear in mind that those young lives were spent on maintaining a corrupt regime without democratic legitimacy, 60 per cent or more of whom are drug peddlers, murderers, torturers, and rapists.

How much more blood is this worth?

Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.