The Afghanistan election quickly deteriorated into an artless display of voter fraud. It was probably the finest example of imperial hubris to date. No serious critic of the process should be the least bit surprised. It was clear from the very onset that Bush and co. would rig the elections to reappoint Afghanistan’s “caped crusader” Hamid Karzai, and that is exactly what happened. What’s surprising, however, is the sloppy, conspicuous manner in which the hoax was carried out.
Even the Associated Press which normally serves as the “bullhorn” for Pentagon misinformation had to admit to the eye-catching shenanigans devised by Team Bush. Their report from Kabul stated, “An apparent mix-up with ink used to mark voters’ thumbs was not severe enough to halt the historic vote.”
Mix up? Not severe enough? Who’s kidding who? The process was fixed from the beginning and the Bush people did next to nothing to even conceal it. As Reuters admits, “the ink could just be washed off and the voter could vote again.” And that, of course, is precisely what happened over and over again.
Okay, so voters were given the opportunity to cheat; that doesn’t mean they did cheat, does it?
To the contrary (as many in the media noted in the days leading up to the election) the Afghan government corrupted the process early on by threatening to withhold “medical supplies, food aid and security” if Afghans did not cast their vote for America’s puppet, Karzai. In a poor country, that is more than enough incentive to insure the desired results.
But, just in case that wasn’t enough to motivate reluctant citizens to vote for “the Mayor of Kabul” (Karzai’s nickname) there were other, less subtle, means employed. As Al Jazeera reported, “Afghans in the southeastern province of Khost were given a stark warning this week in preparation for the October 9, election: Vote for Karzai or get your house burnt down.Any man who does not vote for the US-appointed interim president will not be buried by his family. And he can forget about marrying off his female relatives, too.”
No subtlety there; just a brazen attempt to steal the election. This gives us some idea of the intimidating atmosphere in which the balloting was conducted. The “disappearing” ink only adds a final comic twist to another dismal, Bush farce.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour summarized the day’s events succinctly in an interview with presidential candidate, Ahmed Shah Ahmadzai who said: “This is a completely, completely prearranged fraud. I have cast my vote but the ink was removable. This is ridiculous.”
Other Afghans registered similar complaints; “The ink that is being used can be rubbed off in a minute. Voters can vote 10 times!” one woman said.
Another candidate, ethnic Tajik newspaper editor Hafiz Mansoor, also complained; “Very easily they can erase the ink. This is a trick that is designed to clear the way for cheating.”
Clearly, the ruse escaped no one’s attention; certainly not the candidates. 15 of 16 of the candidates immediately withdrew their names in protest and have called for new elections. True to form, however, Karzai responded to their objections by issuing a terse statement: “It’s not important who wins, but it is important that Afghanistan makes its own future. This is a very great day. God is very kind to us.”
Ah, yes; “it’s not who wins or loses”, its just who is able to ride roughshod over the process with the full blessing of their US paymasters. Karzai’s remarks are absurd. They simply proves that he is a worthy understudy of the venal claque in Washington.
No one really expected that the elections would go forward without a hitch. “In a report published on Monday, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the vote was unlikely to be representative of anything since the country is still run by private armies involved in extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder.” HRW chief John Sifton concluded: “The warlords are calling the shots. Politically active people are not taking part and few voters understand the secret ballot, so people are being told how to vote.” (Al Jazeera)
The likelihood of warlord intimidation was factored in as a major cause of voter fraud. It was assumed that the warlords would threaten the locals with dire consequences if they failed to do as they were told.
Also, election officials openly acknowledged that the number of voting cards far exceeded the estimated number of eligible voters. The New York Times reported that, “While 1.8 million Afghans registered over the winter months, the number ballooned over the summer to more than 10 million.” This means that the registration numbers were “up to 140 per cent of the estimated number of eligible voters.” This suggests that many people had multiple registrations (which are illegal) and would use them to vote more than just once.
Still, even with all of these noticeable problems (vote-rigging and coercion) plaguing the proceedings, no one anticipated such a shabby, amateurish ploy as using “erasable” ink on the ballots. This type of flagrant chicanery smacks of the Bush administration and their transparent contempt for democracy.
The events in Afghanistan should convince the world community that the US has no intention of allowing “free and fair” elections to go forward. The one positive development we could hope for is that the UN will take a realistic assessment of their present involvement and start to withdraw troops. If the UN cannot pose a credible deterrent to US colonialism, at least it should resist participation. Let Bush and his ragged entourage of crooks and sadists hash it out for themselves. Eventually, their reckless conduct will expose their squalid core and leave them without any tangible means of support.
This weekend’s electoral farce nudges us closer to that day.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: [email protected]