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Disaster in the "new" Afghanistan

April 19, 2002 | Pages 8 and 9

NICOLE COLSON looks at the "new" Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN'S INTERIM leader Hamid Karzai wanted to make sure reporters understood that the press conference should focus on "positive developments." "Only happy questions, please," he said.

It's understandable why Karzai might have to insist on this. After all, every day brings more evidence that the new "liberated" Afghanistan looks similar to the old Afghanistan. Fighting between rival warlords hasn't disappeared, as U.S. officials hoped when they put together a handpicked coalition government from among the different factions. If anything, these thugs have used the cover of the new government to extend their reigns of terror.

According to Human Rights Watch, the situation is especially dire for ethnic Pashtuns, who are perceived as supporters of the former Taliban government. The group's report, released last week, details dozens of atrocities. Like, for example, when armed supporters of the Islamic Group of Afghanistan--the dominant faction in the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance--descended on the village of Spin Kot in December.

As one man described the beating he suffered: "One was twisting my head, and two others were kicking me in my back. They were beating me with a shovel, questioning me about guns and asking for money. They were threatening me, saying, 'You are Pashtun, so you are a Talib. We want to kill you, but not just yet. We'll do it step by step. We want to hurt you before we kill you.'"

The Human Rights Watch report also documents the rapes of Pashtun women and girls--and the killing of elderly Pashtuns unable to flee villages invaded by the warlords' militias.

But you won't see Karzai's government putting a stop to this horror. That's because the warlords are the government. More than half the positions in the interim government went to the Northern Alliance--despite its record of looting, raping and mass executions.

"Karzai's administration--politically weak, surrounded by potential saboteurs and dependent on international charity and protection--often seems to be swimming against a tide of adversity," the Washington Post reported.

After all of George W. Bush's rhetoric about freeing Afghans from the tyranny of the Taliban, you might think that Washington would be alarmed by this. But Bush's rhetoric never matched reality--something confirmed yet again last month by a report that concluded that the Pentagon's "humanitarian" food drops during the air war were worse than useless.

According to the report, authored by retired U.S. Special Forces officers, many of the 2.5 million pre-packaged meals were dropped from too high an altitude--and exploded on impact, leaving the food inside to spoil. Even those that survived the drop rarely got into the hands of the people who needed them--often, local warlords gathered the rations and sold them on the black market.

And, of course, the meals came in yellow packets--about the same size and shape as U.S. cluster bomblets dropped across Afghanistan.

Bush and friends still claim that their war on Afghanistan was for justice and peace. But the world's only superpower only caused more misery and suffering in one of the world's poorest countries.

They call this accurate?

DONALD RUMSFELD couldn't stop bragging that the U.S. air war on Afghanistan was the most accurate ever waged, and the lapdog mainstream media repeated every boast. Of course, everything is relative.

According to the Pentagon's own estimates, one in four of the 22,000 weapons--ranging from cruise missiles to massive fuel-air bombs--dropped on Afghanistan missed its target.

And the brass are proud of this--because a 75 percent accuracy rate is about double what the U.S. managed in the NATO war over Kosovo and during the 1991 Gulf War.

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