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AFGHAN ELECTIONS August 23, 2009

Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA.
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Many commentators in the propaganda media are telling us that the elections in Afghanistan have been a conditional success.

Everybody on the planet is enormously surprised by the conclusion. Of course it is double talk, and the people of Afghanistan are not fooled in the least, although we, who are far removed, might be.

A useful measure to keep in mind is that approximately 80% of the people are rural. The ethnic composition of Afghanistan is: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%. Wikipedia describes a area of great ethnic and linguistic diversity, combined with the history of foreign intervention and overlapping border influence, the struggle for modernization set against entrenched traditional patriarchal tribal societies, over thirty years of civil war and imperialism. Formal democratic structures that are authentic are a challenge, but not only in Afghanistan. How is it possible to have a legitimate democratic process and foreign occupation?

AFP via ABC News Online reports:

The EU Election Observation Mission to Afghanistan said in a statement based on its preliminary findings that participation was “considerably higher in the north of the country and particularly low in the south”.

“Election day was marred by a number of violent incidents, including rocket attacks and explosions targeting polling centres and government facilities throughout the country,” the statement said.

Such a surprise! Tajiks, the victors through the Northern Alliance, with the support of the imperialists, were more likely to vote in the elections than the Pashtuns, who might be characterized as the losers in that aspect of the civil war.

As far as American politics is concerned the on the ground reality does not matter as much as its “perception”, which the corporate media believe they can manage. Distortion of perception and behavior usually go hand in hand to the cliff edge.

Juan Cole has an accurate summary of the situation:

I don’t think the US public cares so much about these elections. I think support for the Afghanistan war depends on the administration effectively tying it to concerns about Americans’ safety and security. And since that argument is so hard to make convincingly, I can’t see how public support for the war is going to come back. With dozens of US troops killed in July, moreover, people are hearing more bad news than good.

What I think is true is that a poorly executed Afghanistan policy could turn Obama into a one-term president. It is too early to judge exactly what Obama’s policy will be in Afghanistan, but it should become clear within a few months. So far, Obama has not made the case and hasn’t explained what the end game is.

If G W Bush were the president responsible for this impasse, I would be attributing the situation to “group think”. Obama is continuing the Pentagon’s policy of violence to supposedly deal with terrorism.

I may be underestimating the polarity of the division in the United States, caused by social inequality, the product of a vicious, violent, economic ideology and the expression of that inequality to mask the social reality by recourse to the unreconciled history of vicious racism, but I are inclined to believe a one term Obama Administration cannot end soon enough. Obama is the hand maiden of the corporate establishment.

The problem in the United States is that the political system does not give expression to democratic plurality. As might be true in most political system, the US political system represent domination of certain groups at the expense of others. They may lack a democratic myth, despite or because of the Constitution. For some reason, for example, in Australia, the egalitarian myth works not just an expression of mateship and baby talk, but it is shared by elites. How we think about and treat other people around us seems to matter. The problem, so defined is not Afghanistan democracy, but American (meaning US) democracy.

I guess that what can be lost in the dim of adversarial politics the outcomes either serve and reinforce the democratic process, in part a civil discourse with disagreement to frame better policy options and decisions for all, or they do not. ( I will maintain for the moment, subject to effective refutation, that the purpose of  larger political structures is to allow the  democracy of smaller and more communal structures to operate cognizant of a wider commons, which as the limit is bounded by the planet.)The question then is what is to be done when the answer is in the negative.

Thomas H Johnson and Chris Mason argue in Foreign Policy that:

Meanwhile the political failure in Kabul is Saigon déjà vu. A government that is seen as legitimate by 85 or 90 percent of the population is considered the sine qua non of success by counterinsurgency experts. After the Diem coup, this was never possible in Vietnam, as one incompetent and utterly corrupt government succeeded another. None was legitimate in the eyes of the people. Contemporary descriptions of the various Saigon governments read almost exactly like descriptions of the Karzai government today. Notwithstanding all the fanfare over this week’s presidential voting in Afghanistan, the Kabul government will never be legitimate either, because democracy is not a source of legitimacy of governance in Afghanistan and it never has been. Legitimacy in Afghanistan over the last thousand years has come exclusively from dynastic and religious sources. The fatal blunder of the United States in eliminating a ceremonial Afghan monarchy was Afghanistan’s Diem Coup: afterwards, there was little possibility of establishing a legitimate, secular national government.

It doesn’t matter who wins the August elections for president in Afghanistan: he will be illegitimate because he is elected. We have apparently learned nothing from Vietnam.

Democratic legitimacy has to transcend cultural diversity everywhere, and cannot exist in parallel universes simplified, for example, as jihad versus counterinsurgency. When the music stops, when the murder and maiming cease, there will be more effective ways of organizing the Afghan polity, or the fictional polity will not longer serve as a vehicle to represent the interests of the people. The preferred option of imperialism has always being brutal dictatorship. In these case synthesis leads inevitably at least to contradiction.

ELSEWHERE:

David Kaiser brings a historian’s analysis to the politics of the American domestic area, which includes the institutional role the Senate. My generalizations are somewhat broad brush requiring more detailed analysis. Democracies through their histories have to make institutional innovations to be successful and to survive. Institutions are the social mechanisms for people to express opinions and needs. Professor Kaiser does not mention the presence of guns, or implicit contradiction(?) between the first and second amendment.

I suspect the Empire is not interested in democracy, but democracy would be well advised to be interested in the Empire. We should not disconnect domestic policy from foreign interests and interventions, as in Afghanistan.

I take the Rudd Government’s subservience to the Empire as unwillingness to get into a shouting match with the propaganda noise machine, which could only be counter productive. Such are the politics of calculation so as not to be wedged by shifty political opponents.

Glenn Greenwald comments on Paul Krugman’s conclusion in The New York Times:

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

. . . So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.

Glenn Greenwald says specifically:

The central pledges of the Obama campaign were less about specific policy positions and much more about changing the way Washington works — to liberate political outcomes from the dictates of corporate interests; to ensure vast new levels of transparency in government; to separate our national security and terrorism approaches from the politics of fear.

As Frank Rich observed, and Paul Krugman noted, these voters have be “punked”. That is only supposed to happen to the lesser folks, such as, among others, the poor in distant countries of the Empire, like Afghanistan, where “the punking” is more violent yet equally contemptuous. “Too clever by half”, comes to mind. Where does the politics by halves eventually end – a sum to infinity?

Political and historical analysis requires structural analysis, including structural violence, which is the premise for the extension of violence beyond the borders of the society. Surely Martin Luther King is again confirmed:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

For structural injustice illustrated listen to Chris Hedges at Truthdig.

Patrick Cockburn, has the journalist credibility to be taken seriously writes to give us “the truth about the Afghan Elections”. He argues that the lessons to be learnt are those from Iraq. He argues:

In Iraq and Afghanistan American and British forces became participants in civil wars which their own presence has exacerbated and prolonged. The US and UK governments persistently ignore the extent to which foreign military occupation has destabilized both countries.

The reason for this should be obvious: foreign occupations have seldom been popular throughout history. The occupiers consult their own political, military and economic interests before that of the allied governments which they are supposedly supporting. This de-legitimized the Baghdad and Kabul governments and enabled their opponents to pose as the patriotic opposition. In addition, foreign military armies, whatever their declared intentions, enforce their authority by violence, invariably producing friction with the local population.

Of course, tendentiously I contend that imperialism is incapable in acting other than to “enforce their authority by violence”. We should not be surprised by the results. The trick is to conceal the violence, and as always the lesser folks do not require such sophistication, which merely gets in the way of intimidation and domination. Nor is it surprising that imperialism often has domestic support, which can be the master’s undoing as much as the patriotic opposition.

Scott Horton interview Gareth Porter at AntiWar.com.

I am still puzzled as to why there is the provision for a run off election?

Postscript:

Democracy is a common good. Surely, the only way to go is to build it from the ground up, developing and growing local institutions. The failure to follow common sense is sufficient evidence for ulterior motives that do not in the long run serve the people of Afghanistan, Iraq or any other national state identity created by imperialism, including Somalia. Violence is always and everywhere the means of domination and control, even when presented in a democratic guise.

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