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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 12:18 am

Bleeding in Afghanistan

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A woman casts her ballot at a Kabul voting center in Afghanistan's second parliamentary elections since the 2001 U.S. invasion. The day was marked by reports of insurgent attacks, attempted fraud and low voter turnout.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN LANDAY/MCT

Are you aware that America has now been at war for nearly a decade? We’ve been fighting, bleeding and dying in two hellacious, multitrillion-dollar conflagrations since 2001 – and our blood continues to flow, with no end in sight.

Well, not our blood. Not yours and mine. We continue to go about our daily routines – go to work, go to the mall, go out to eat, go golfing, go to church, go on vacation, go dancing and drinking. War? Americans will pay far more attention to the World Series than they will to the ongoing carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a little-noticed speech, Pentagon chief Robert Gates recently pointed out, “For most Americans, the wars remain an abstraction – a distant and unpleasant series of news items that do not affect them personally.”

“Service in the military,” he bluntly said, “has become something for other people to do.”

He’s right. You see, “we” are not at war. We handed off that awful duty a decade ago to the 2.4 million active and reserve soldiers in the armed services, less than 1 percent of our nation’s people. They and their families are the ones “at war,” cycled and recycled into debilitating and deadly deployments.

“We the People” are not even making the minimal sacrifice of paying for the burden we’ve so carelessly stacked on their shoulders. Both the Bush regime and the Obamacans, fully backed by both Republican and Democratic Congresses of the past decade, cravenly put Afghanistan and Iraq on the national credit card, piling up trillions of dollars in debt for future generations to cover.

The widening disconnect between Americans and America’s wars is not only dangerous for our democracy, but it’s immoral, allowing politicians and corporate profiteers to sink our national soul in the diabolical depths of perpetual war.

Speaking of perpetual war, what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan, anyway? Ten years at war there, and what progress have we made?

According to Washington’s war hawks, we’re there to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Key to this strategy, we’re told, is to establish the legitimacy of the central government, led by the famously incompetent, vain, arrogant, aloof and corrupt President Hamid Karzai. And how’s that going?

Well, at least they pulled off a national parliamentary election on Sept. 18. It was meant to show democratic progress, thus bolstering the stability and credibility of the government. Unfortunately, there were some unpleasant incidents during the balloting. Beaucoup unpleasantness. More than 4,000 cases of electioneering fraud have poured into the Election Complaints Commission – with nearly 60 percent of them considered gross enough to have affected the outcome.

“How gross?” you ask? In Kandahar Province, where the president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, rules as an autocratic strongman, some 50 parliamentary seats were being contested. Amazingly, the list of winners were all from the Karzai political faction, and – get this – Ahmed Wali had the list of winners in his hands before the election!

In a third of the provinces, the fraud was blatant and widespread. A cell phone video, for example, caught officials in one district polling place haggling with a candidate over the price of buying votes. In another district, local police handcuffed and removed three groups of election workers from their polling places, then presented the “results” for them to sign at the end of the day. In a northern province, gunmen slapped, dragged and otherwise coerced people to go to polling places and vote for the gunmen’s candidate.

This so-called election shows that there’s nothing legitimate about Karzai’s government – and nothing legitimate about America’s involvement in Afghanistan. It’s time to get out of there!  

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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