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Thursday, November 18, 2010

U.S. taxpayers owe the Afghan people – not the other way around

By:Michael Hughes

There’s been this constant absurd clamoring about protecting the American taxpayer when making strategic decisions related to Afghanistan – a ridiculous assertion considering American taxpayers are the ones guilty of electing pro-military leaders that played a major role in the ruination of the Afghan nation over the last 30 years. As Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre quipped in 1811:

“The people get the government they deserve”.

These same aforementioned taxpayers act as if they didn’t know their tax dollars were feeding a military-commercial nexus that espoused interventionist policies primarily aimed at prosecuting war against Islamic countries.

I’ve said in these pages repeatedly that it’s time for the Afghans to decide their own fate. When Afghans were allowed to run their own country - and not Soviet, NATO and/or American taxpayer-backed power centers – there was a 30 year period of peace, stability and progressive reform under King Zahir Shah.

Some decry this notion based on the false argument that implementing a form of government other than a Western-style democracy will be unacceptable to U.S. taxpayers, after all the dollars invested to date in Afghanistan. The fact that U.S. taxpayers have put leaders in power that have misspent their tax dollars in a way that has been detrimental to most Afghans is not the fault of the Afghan people. This type of ethno-centric arrogance is why we are in this situation in the first place. We think we know what is best for the Afghans.

We’ve seen the results of U.S. taxpayer logic and their inability to make decisions that best serve their own interests, let alone other countries - namely by electing a string of officials who have directly and indirectly been complicit in transforming Afghan society from a stable regime that had been undergoing democratic reform in the 1970s to one of the most violent places on earth, wracked by Islamist extremism. And, by the way, this perverse fundamentalist religious movement that grew in Afghanistan since the 1950s has been fostered in no small part by the U.S. government (and the voters that created it).

To be fair to “Joe the Taxpayer”, the average American was in the dark in 1979 when Jimmy Carter and his hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski persuaded the Russians to invade Afghanistan – which led to the deaths of over 1 million Afghans and the decimation of the very fabric of their society, as a result of 10 years of Soviet occupation during the 80s.

It was during this period that the White House was occupied by an unabashed right-wing hawk put there by Reagan Democrats who were enamored with the Hollywood actor’s borderline messianic vision to destroy communism at all costs. The Reagan administration, stock full of neoconservative Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, ran the biggest covert operation in U.S. history to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, while supporting the most dangerous and violent Islamist extremists in the world.

The reign of these mujahideen warlords most of whom became depraved, corrupt and pernicious warlords responsible for furthur destroying Afghanistan during the post-Soviet civil wars - and subsequent Taliban rule helped Afghan society regress culturally and politically at a pace and nature unrivaled in world history. These warlord mujahideen committed the same heinous religious brutality against the Afghan population – but of course back then they were our compadres. Throwing acid in the faces of women wasn’t a big deal when the mujahideen were our allies and, as Reagan called them, "freedom fighters".

One could argue that the U.S. public did not realize countless millions were funding the CIA mission in Afghanistan, but eventually it did become known and American taxpayers weren’t bothered in the least because the commies were beaten. In the meantime they reelected Reagan and then voted George H.W. Bush into the White House, issuing each a mandate for continued military buildup.

However, once communism was defeated, U.S. taxpayer dollars were allocated elsewhere and Afghan society was completely neglected – negligence that set the stage for the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s – a movement completely ignored and even implicitly supported by the Clinton administration and other Western powers.

George W. Bush’s administration was responsible for inserting a corrupt puppet to rule Afghanistan and then took taxpayer dollars and funded warlords to “keep the peace” as other resources were diverted to Iraq. It was clear then that Afghanistan suffered tremendously because of the Iraqi diversion. Yet, even this didn’t seem to bother American taxpayers enough – because they reelected Bush in 2004.

Then Obama came in and insulted his liberal base by foolishly inserting a mid-2011 deadline for withdrawal after sending 30,000 more troops into a war with ambiguous goals against an enemy with snug safe havens located in a neighboring country.

The only ones who think this was a good idea are either partisan to the extreme or on Obama’s staff. But didn’t Obama run on a platform of continued military involvement in the Afghanistan / Pakistan region? Again, voters should have known what they were getting. If they did not read up on this – shame on them – it’s their responsibility to be informed.

And shame on the American taxpayers for hardly weighing the Afghanistan war when casting their votes in the recent mid-term elections. They primarily voted for pro-war Republicans who will now try and expand the footprint in Afghanistan and are committed to defeating both Al Qaeda and the Taliban by killing and capturing every last one of them, and they make no secret about their wish for indefinite or infinite occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to keep the terrorists on the run. Which is supposed to keep America safer somehow.

The fact of the matter is Afghans need to be given the opportunity to create their own government and choose their own leader via Afghan custom. One alternative to accomplish this is through a series of jirgas perhaps held in neutral countries. Meanwhile, the Afghans want U.S. forces out of their country. However, they want U.S. taxpayer money to fund a localized counterinsurgency effort, but one that is led by Afghans. And they require furthur investment to rebuild their nation that was destroyed by several administrations that U.S. taxpayers put in power.

Americans have spent a ton of money and spilt a ton of blood purportedly on behalf of the Afghans. The biggest tragedy certainly is that U.S. soldiers have fought and died for a corrupt regime in Afghanistan, but the fact of the matter is, said government was installed by the U.S. It’s time to stop the bleeding and to cease funding President Hamid Karzai’s reprobate cabal and somehow allocate dollars in a way that actually benefits the Afghan people. It’s the least the U.S. – and its taxpayers – could and should do.

(Michael Hughes is a journalist and foreign policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a think tank founded by Afghan natives focused on developing political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Mr. Hughes writes regularly for The Huffington Post and his work has appeared in and Ruse the magazine. Michael graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in History.)

NOTE:This is a cross post.

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