The backers of the current counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan have reminded us again and again over the past year-and-a-half that their strategy can't work without a legitimate government in Kabul. If that's the case, even they should admit that their plan is sunk. As Brave New Foundation's latest Rethink Afghanistan video shows, Afghanistan's elections were just stolen. Again.
And, while we continue to extol the virtues of democracy to the Afghans, we're furiously funding and training a massive military force that will answer to a government full of election-stealing thugs. If the Kabul government can't be trusted to run a legitimate election, they certainly can't be trusted with U.S.-bought weapons and a massive U.S. taxpayer-funded military force.
Recall that last year, President Hamid Karzai "won" reelection in a vote that saw about 1.5 million ballots discarded on suspicion of fraud. Now, in the parliamentary elections that happened in late September, "571 polling centers have been tossed and another 1,177 polling stations are under scrutiny," and those are just the ones the corrupt election monitoring body will throw out. Video we obtained from our network in Afghanistan shows a clear and pervasive pattern of vote fraud all across the country, especially in areas cited for "progress" by General Petraeus and his colleagues.
In one clip, we can see an Afghan Border Police Officer dutifully standing watch as votes are stuffed for a particular candidate.
In another, we see people with clearly marked fingers (the indicator that one has already voted) casting new ballots.
In still other clips, we find clearly underaged voters casting ballots and people haggling over the price of a bought vote.
Our video shows that the fraud in the parliamentary vote was clearly pervasive across the country. Elections and democracy in Afghanistan have come to mean merely a new way of justifying the stranglehold on power held by local power brokers and warlords. This isn't "Afghan good enough," as Petraeus and his friends are fond of saying. It's not even progress. This is the theft of the government and the silencing of the voice of Afghans as the U.S. sings the praises of the "new Afghanistan." Only the most cynical could call this democracy.
Meanwhile, our soldiers are fighting and dying to prop up this gang of election-stealing frauds, and the U.S. taxpayer has been saddled by policymakers with a $28.5 billion bill for training a massive military in Afghanistan that will answer to these thugs. That's outrageous.
Afghans understand that this election is a fraud. We're not doing ourselves any favors by continuing to cheer on such a corrupt process and by building this illegitimate government a new military machine. We're not fooling anyone, we're damaging our own credibility, and we're sinking the democracy "brand" in the eyes of the world.
It's past time we ended this charade. Rethink Afghanistan is circulating a petition to U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y., Chair of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee) to cut off funds for the training and equipping of the Afghan military until Kabul takes real steps to address election fraud. Funding a military force that answers to a corrupt, illegitimate government doesn't make Americans safer. It just makes us hypocrites.