Wednesday, October 26, 2005


written by dave e and originally published in rs5
Afghanistan, Democracy and Iraq (and others)

The New American Century is clearly underway. Afghanistan approved its new constitution in January 2004, and elected Hamid Karzai as president in the country’s first direct vote for the presidency. And now, Iraq, the next country on the USA's freedom and democracy list, has conducted its elections. And there's more to come, George promised it at his recent second crowning ceremony.
We all know that the situation is really far from rosy in Iraq. TV and newspaper headlines remind us daily of the death and mayhem, but mainstream press coverage has been very sparse on Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch's World Report 2005 paints a gloomy picture. It is a poor advert for Americanisation.
Afghanistan continues to suffer from serious instability. Armed groups, including remaining Taliban forces, control most of the country and routinely abuse human rights, particularly those of women and girls. Basic human rights conditions are poor throughout the country particularly outside of Kabul. There is widespread poverty, each Afghan spends only $165 per year on food and essential non-food items. Literacy rates are extremely low, especially for women, and there are extremely high levels of preventable morbidity and health problems.
Afghans, including women, participated in the election process, but its legitimacy suffered due to the absence of sufficient security and monitoring.
The drug economy is blossoming. Poppy production has reached record highs and Afghanistan was the largest producer of opium and heroin in 2004. Drug revenues amount to $2.5 billion, half of the Afghanistan Gross Domestic Product. The inflated profits provide warlords with an independent source of income which makes it extremely difficult to establish rule of law and increase reconstruction and development efforts.
U.S. forces continue to generate numerous human rights abuses against the civilian population, including arbitrary arrests, use of excessive force, and mistreatment of detainees, many of whom are held outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Ordinary civilians caught up in military operations and arrested are unable to challenge the legal basis for their detention or obtain hearings before an adjudicative body. They have no access to legal counsel. Release of detainees is wholly dependent on the whims of the U.S. military command. Generally, the United States does not comply with legal standards applicable to their operations in Afghanistan, including the Geneva Conventions and other applicable standards of international human rights law.
Political repression, human rights abuses, and criminal activity by warlords are amongst the chief concerns of most Afghans. Local military and police forces have been involved in arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects. Outside Kabul, commanders and their troops have been implicated in widespread rape of women, girls, and boys, murder, illegal detention, forced displacement, human trafficking and forced marriage. In some remote areas, there are no real governmental structures or activity, only abuse and criminal enterprises by factions.
Many districts remain insecure because of violence. Ongoing factional rivalries impede aid delivery and development throughout the country. Nearly fifty aid workers and election officials were killed in 2004. Some districts are essentially war zones, where U.S. and Afghan government forces engage in military operations against Taliban and other insurgent groups. Hundreds of Afghan civilians were killed in 2004 during these operations, in some cases because of violations of the laws of war by insurgents or by coalition or Afghan forces.
Women and girls continue to suffer the worst effects of Afghanistan's insecurity. They suffer severe governmental and social discrimination, and are struggling to take part in the political life of their country. Those who organise politically or criticise local rulers face threats and violence. Soldiers and police routinely harass women and girls, even in Kabul city. Many women and girls continue to be afraid to leave their homes without the burqa. The majority of school-age girls in Afghanistan are still not enrolled in school.
The current elections in Iraq have been blighted by violence. But who should the Iraqis fear? The latest figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health reveal that during the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence. Of those deaths, 60%, 2,041 civilians, were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them. Insurgent attacks claimed 1,233 lives, and wounded 4,115 people, during the same period.
And so to the future. It is a daunting prospect for all the other 'outposts of tyranny' on George and Condi's list. Iran, Cuba, North Korea, to be saved from themselves and impaled on the blessings of American Imperial freedom.

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