By Jim Hightower
Americaâ€™s long, long war in Afghanistan has drained more than 1,500 precious lives and a trillion dollars from our country. But, finally, this enormous outlay paid off this year with the capture and killing of that al-Qaida demon, Osama bin Laden, who attacked America and was the reason our military went into Afghanistan.
Oh, wait — Osama wasnâ€™t in Afghanistan, was he? He was comfortably ensconced in an urban compound in Pakistan, whose leaders are supposedly our allies in the bloody Afghan War. And it wasnâ€™t the war effort that got bin Laden, it was old-time spy work, culminating in a raid involving a small team of Navy Seals, a dog and two helicopters.
So why have two presidents and a decade of Congress dumped so many lives and so much money into a country that poses no threat to us? Afghanistan is an impoverished, anarchic, largely illiterate land thatâ€™s split into ancient tribal factions and innumerable fiefdoms controlled by rival warlords. They have no desire or ability to attack us, some 8,000 miles away.
The only reason weâ€™re given for being in Afghanistan is that we must keep the al-Qaida terrorists network from establishing bases there. But — like bin Laden — al-Qaida left this country years ago and now operates transnationally in Pakistan, Yemen, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, including England and Germany.
Yet, weâ€™re told we must continue to pour American lives, dollars and reputation into Afghanistan. But … why? To create a central, democratically elected government with a 300,000-member army and police force, weâ€™re told. But why? To stabilize the country, they say. But, why? To keep al-Qaida out, they repeat, closing the endless loop on a Kafkaesque rational.
Yes, President Obama has finally started a slow withdrawal of U.S. troops, but thatâ€™ll take at least three years, more than $300 billion and untold numbers of shattered lives. The questions remains: Why?
At least one person was giddy with excitement upon hearing President Obamaâ€™s announcement on June 22 that all of Americaâ€™s combat troops would depart from Afghanistan by 2014: Hamid Karzai.
â€œA moment of happiness for Afghanistan,â€ exulted the incurably corrupt, inept, weak and pompous Afghan president. Our leaders put this ingrate in power, and both the lives of our soldiers and billions of our tax dollars have been spent to prop up his sorry excuse for a government — yet heâ€™s the one saying â€œgood riddance.â€ It puts the dumb in dumbfounding.
The dumbest and most shameful aspect of Americaâ€™s 10-year Afghan War is the pretension that Karzai represents an exercise in democracy-building. Installed in the presidency by dictate of the Bush-Cheney regime in 2002, he is widely despised and ridiculed by the people and has clung to power only through flagrant electoral fraud, not only in his two presidential â€œelections,â€ but also in last yearâ€™s parliamentary contest.
Karzai was POâ€™d that 62 candidates he favored lost or were disqualified by the countryâ€™s independent election commission because of fraud. So, Hamid haughtily set up his own special court to review those results, while also bringing criminal charges against several of the independent election commissioners.
Last week, only one day after Obamaâ€™s withdrawal announcement, Karzaiâ€™s kangaroo court disqualified the 62 parliamentary winners, replacing them with his chosen ones. Of course, the 62 winners are refusing to budge from their seats. This has created a governmental stalemate, but that suits Karzai perfectly, for it allows him the defacto power to rule without parliament. As a top opposition leader puts it: â€œKarzai does not believe in the rule of law; he thinks democracy doesnâ€™t work in his favor.â€
Itâ€™s both insane and immoral for our leaders to cause even one more American to die for Karzai. Tell Obama to bring all of our troops home, pronto. The White House comment line is (202) 456-1111, or www.whitehouse.gov/contact.