Monday, August 31, 2009

Afghanistan: Best Corrupt Election C$18 Billion Can Buy

Perhaps not many people remember the estimate from earlier this year that Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan will eventually cost a whopping $18 billion. That’s about $1,500 per household.
To put it in perspective, depending on estimates – whether it’s fully funded, full-time or part-time, etc. – a national daycare plan would cost between $5 billion and $17 billion. However, unlike military spending, much of which happens outside of the country, a daycare program would reap a multiplier effect – by providing domestic employment to childcare providers, by allowing more women to enter the labour force, etc. According to Childcare Canada: “The benefits from such a program would have provided about $2 in new benefits for every $1 in new government expenditure (costs would be shared in some way between the federal and provincial governments).”
But, it’s not about childcare vs warfare, say the Tories – it’s about keeping us and our children safe, stopping the growth of terrorism, etc. However, this begs the question: what is more likely to create recruits for terrorism: strategies which make people feel enraged, abused and oppressed – or actions that make them feel empowered, respected and free? Assuming that we’re not the only rational people on the planet, I’d say it is clearly the latter that will reduce the potential for terrorism.
Does Afghanistan meet that criteria?
By their own estimates, Afghanistan is a very corrupt place. The election that was supposed to confer legitimacy not only on the ostensible government of Afghanistan (ostensible because it doesn’t really have any power outside of Kabul). It was also supposed to confer credibility on the whole operation. It was a total flop, with growing reports of widespread and systematic ballot stuffing, intimidation, bribery – just the kind of thing you would expect in a Florida election under Jeb Bush.
Of course, it’s no surprise that incumbent presidential candidate Hamid Karzai’s methods tend towards the criminally dubious end of the spectrum. Look at who he’s surrounded himself with:
“In his bid for re-election, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has surrounded himself with checkered figures who could bring him votes: warlords suspected of war crimes, corruption and trafficking in the country’s lucrative poppy crop. But none is as influential as Marshal Fahim, his running mate, whose trajectory in and out of power, and American favor, says much about the struggle the United States has had in dealing with corruption in Afghanistan.”
But Karzai’s advisors and supporters, propped up through a system of bribery and racketeering, extend beyond warlords from the Northern Alliance. It includes his half-brother, who has been a lightning rod of criticism in recent years because of his alleged involvement in the heroin trade and also in fixing the present election.
And it hasn’t only been the Americans who have come to realize that the edifice that they have created, and which they are defending with blood and treasure is a corrupt, murderous one. Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan, it was revealed last year, pushed Hamid Karzai to dump the governor of Kandahar, where Canadian troops are stationed, because he was so corrupt.
Canadians need to ask themselves, as the corrupt regime of our making exposes itself and the occupation unravels – as even US and UK generals admit – is this fiasco really worth the cost of a national day care plan? Is it really worth the loss of lives in Afghanistan – to both Canadian troops and Afghan civilians? As the present recession ravages our jobs and economy, could we really not find a better way to spend $18 billion – more than half of what the Tories have pledged for stimulus measures? Surely, if we wanted to buy an election, we could have bought one for much cheaper. Apparently Jeb Bush only paid $4 million. That’s a much better price to end up with a corrupt president!
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