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U.S. delays elections again
Rule of the warlords in Afghanistan

By Eric Ruder | July 9, 2004 | Page 2

WITH THE meltdown of the U.S. occupation of Iraq grabbing the headlines, the Bush administration has been reduced to trumpeting Afghanistan as a model for Iraq. But if Afghanistan represents a victory to the Bush administration, that only illustrates how miserably the U.S. "war on terror" is going.

In mid-June, with Afghanistan's puppet President Hamid Karzai by his side at the White House, George W. Bush cited the U.S.-led war on the Central Asian nation as "the first victory in the war on terror." Two weeks later, officials in both the U.S. and Afghanistan conceded that elections scheduled for mid-September would be delayed again.

Of Afghanistan's eligible voters, only a third are registered, and the registration process for political parties and nomination of candidates are even further behind schedule. Rival warlords are intimidating and killing election workers in an effort to insure the outcome they want.

And Karzai, who's expected to win the elections when and if they finally take place, has been cutting deals with these same warlords, who represent the only authority in many areas of the country. Welcome to the "new Afghanistan."

During the photo op with Karzai at the White House, Bush claimed that "progress" in child health care and women's rights were signs that Afghanistan had risen "from the ashes of two decades of war and oppression." These claims are ridiculous.

Afghanistan still has the world's fourth-worst mortality rate for children under five, and 8,000 children serve in the official army. There are reports that scores of children have been kidnapped and killed, so their organs can be harvested and sold to wealthy buyers looking for kidneys and corneas in Pakistan and other countries.

Pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death for women, far fewer girls than boys attend school, and the warlords who replaced the Taliban have the same disdain for women as their predecessors.

Bush brags about a program to promote women-owned businesses--funded at $5 million. So 0.01 percent of what the Pentagon spent to destroy Afghanistan is now being spent by the Bush administration so it can claim to be advancing women's equality! Since the U.S. occupation began, average life expectancy in Afghanistan dropped from an already low 46 years to 43.

With the breakdown of Afghan society into different realms controlled by competing warlords, what little money earmarked for humanitarian purposes often can't be distributed. And when the U.S. does deliver aid, it often comes with blackmail demands.

When Lt. Reid Finn delivered blankets and food to refugees in the southern region of the country, he bragged to reporters, "It's simple. The more they help us find the bad guys, the more good stuff they get."

Afghanistan's crisis has driven rural farmers to turn to poppy cultivation--the source of opium and heroin--in record numbers to eke out a living. According to White House figures, the area of cultivation grew from 1,685 hectares in 2001 to 61,000 hectares in 2003--and poppy farming now equals more than 50 percent of the legitimate economy.

With a "success" like this promoted as a model for them, the Iraqi people must wonder what George Bush would consider a "failure."

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