Thursday, April 21, 2011

Calling All Canucks: Are We For Democracy Or Not?

A simple yes or no would do. Everybody's been waiting for this for five long years now, all the parties say they support it, and the shameless inter-partisan mewling and foot-shuffling about it has gone well past the point of international embarassment.

It was in 2005, in the dying days of Paul Martin's Liberal government, that all the main federal parties at least nominally united behind the proposition that Canada should show some foreign-policy spine in the global advance of democracy. Strongly backed by Conservatives, the idea of a well-resourced Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency even won grudging support from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc. Ever since, the Liberals and the Conservatives have competed with one another for the mantle of the agency's champion.

The cause was taken up by Stephen Harper in his first days as leader of Canada's reconstituted Conservative Party. It was raised in two Conservative throne speeches. The Agency proposal was even specifically endorsed in the Conservative Party's 2008 election manifesto. Earlier this month, it emerged again as a specific and distinctly sturdy plank in the Liberal Party's 2011 campaign platform.

And here we all are, in the middle of the fourth federal election in seven years. If this election will mean anything at all to "the issues," as all the parties are hectoring us to believe that it must, could we not tell the lot of them to rise above the partisan spitballing for once and actually get on with something useful?

In November, 2009, the Senate Advisory Panel Report on the Creation of a Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency called on the government to just bloody well do it and set it it up with an annual budget of up to $70 million. That is hardly asking for much for the cause of democracy, considering the vast and bloated expenses involved in aid-agency interventions when despotisms collapse. Late last year, the Agency proposal was considered by the Prime Minister’s office. Nothing happened. Even so, earlier this year Steven Fletcher, minister of state for democratic reform, insisted that the Harper government was still behind it.

To get a sense of how embarassing this is and just how marginal Canada has allowed itself to become on this thing that is described in the parochial Canadian vernacular as "the world stage," all you really need to do is read this headline: "Dream of Canadian democracy centre melts as Arab world boils." But you should read more than just the headine. Jennifer Ditchburn's excellent article provides rare insight into the extent that Canada has been rendered useless to the cause of democracy's global advance at precisely the historical moment of its astonishing flowering across the Middle East.

Given the absence of leadership on global democracy that has afflicted all the federal parties (see if you can set aside for the moment your partisan pick of which one is worse), it should come as no surprise that none of them has made a big deal about this. It's a disgrace, and not one of the party leaders comes off looking good in it.

The Opposition parties and the Ottawa press corps appear perfectly content to drag any debate about these things back down into that boring soap-opera agony narrative about how Ziocon Hegemonists have besmirched the stainless reputation of a certain Montreal GONGO known as "Rights and Democracy." The Conservatives have been pleased to let that little drama unfold as its scriptwriters wish. After all, it's only $11 million a year, and more than a third of that money is spent in Montreal rather being dished out as dubious R&D disbursements to such dictators' clubs as the Arab League and the UN Human Rights Council.

It would all make for a good laugh we could have at the expense of Canada's political class, but the idiocy involved has real-world implications for Canada's national interests, to say nothing about how it makes a mockery of "Canadian values" and leaves the goodwill of ordinary Canadians, no matter their party preferences, swinging in the wind.

"As we witness the promise of change in the Middle East, and as the pro-democracy movement spreads outward from that region, it reaches throughout the Muslim world, where the thirst for democracy and freedom is palpable. Polls in many countries of the Middle East and Central Asia show that the majority of the people in these regions support democracy and see it as the only alternative to the dictatorial, corrupt and oppressive governments under which they live for now," writes Babur Mawladin of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

(I confess: that's me who shows up as author of the Solidarity Committee's March 2010 Keeping Our Promises report, a key recommendation of which was that Ottawa get to work and kick a Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency into high gear).

"Afghanistan’s newborn democracy gives hope to the region, but the challenges ahead are still significant and Afghan democracy still very fragile. Yet, should democracy in Afghanistan succeed, the implications for the region as a whole could be profoundly positive, giving momentum to the pro-democracy movement in the surrounding region, and entrenching stability in a country that has too often served as the pawn for interfering neighbours and, under the Taliban, for the multinational terrorist network of Al-Qaeda. The stakes are very high and the international community cannot afford to forfeit the opportunity to ensure that Afghanistan’s nascent democracy only progresses forward, rather than collapses on itself. . ."

And that's just the kind of stakes involved in Afghanistan.

Related and encouraging news: The new CF mission will be centred on Kabul, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif. Worth noticing: Unsurprisingly, pretty well every reference to Mazar these days immediately associates the city with the April 1 UN compound massacre. Too quickly forgotten is that only a week earlier, without a single security incident, hundreds of thousands of Afghans descended on the city for the ancient and happy Nowruz celebrations, which the Taliban had outlawed as a heresy.

The Afghan National Security Forces handled the security for the massive event, and required only backup assistance from American and German ISAF forces. But there's still a desparate need for military training and equipment and support in Afghanistan's north, just as there is now more than ever a desparate need to nurture and shore up Afghanistan's fledgling democracy. Failing to finish the job will risk the whole thing crumbling back into jihadist savagery again.

It's just the way the world works, and it would be really nice if just for once our politicians were honest about it. If advanced democracies like Canada invest in democracy abroad, now, we won't be saddled with the crushing costs of trying to build democracies from scratch when tyrannies collapse, later, as they always do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Three Words The Exit Strategy Fetishists Never Mention: Iran, Jihadism, Victory.

Alan Johnson in World Affairs Journal:

"All this demoralising 'endgame' talk is already changing the calculations of the democratic leadership inside Afghanistan. They believe that if Karzai proceeds on this course of exit at any price,and if he continues to be encouraged by exit-strategy obsessions in the West, then everyone will be headed back up to the mountains again. The critics—Fawzia Koofi, Abdullah Abdullah, Amrullah Saleh, Atta Noor, and othersare being ignored in the rush to the exits. Some fear a politically correct face is being put on what is at its core a surrender to some negotiated despotism triangulated between Islamabad and Tehran. . ."

A splendid analysis. Not just because he calls me "astute" either.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Afghanistan, Graveyard Of Lies: A Tribute To Jon Krakauer's 'Three Cups of Deceit.'

"The first eight chapters of Three Cups of Tea are an intricately wrought work of fiction presented as fact. And by no means was this an isolated act of deceit. It turns out that Greg Mortenson’s books and public statements are permeated with falsehoods. The image of Mortenson that has been created for public consumption is an artifact born of fantasy, audacity, and an apparently insatiable hunger for esteem. Mortenson has lied about the noble deeds he has done, the risks he has taken, the people he has met, the number of schools he has built. Three Cups of Tea has much in common with A Million Little Pieces, the infamous autobiography by James Frey that was exposed as a sham. But Frey, unlike Mortenson, didn’t use his phony memoir to solicit tens of millions of dollars in donations from unsuspecting readers, myself among them. Moreover, Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, has issued fraudulent financial statements, and he has misused millions of dollars donated by schoolchildren and other trusting devotees. 'Greg,” says a former treasurer of the organization’s board of directors, “regards CAI as his personal ATM. . .' "

That's from Jon Krakauer's just-released extended-play investigative essay into the construction of celebrity-philanthropist Greg Mortenson's elaborate, profitable and spectacularly vile charade. It can now be downloaded at Byliner Originals, here. Krakauer's work substantially informed last weekend's CBS 60 Minutes inquiry into the sordid mess.

Krakauer is a writer well known for abiding by the most rigorous standards of literary journalism, a genre sometimes called long-form narrative non-fiction and also, unhelpfully, "creative non-fiction." It's a genre that expects a particular duty of care from its practitioners. First: tell no lie. By all means, borrow from the devices of the novel or from any literary genre you might like; you're just not allowed to make stuff up. Produce something approaching a work of art if you can. You can even be forgiven for making honest little mistakes. You're just not allowed to invent something and say it's real. Do as you will, but never, in any way, violate a reader's trust.

What you're obliged to work with are the found materials of the known world. Think of it as a trade, like wooden boatbuilding. The boat actually has to be made of wood. You can affix imaginative little brass embellishments in the brightwork so long as they're not fobbed off as facts. It can be whatever design you like, but please, a fibreglass hull scored with bow-to-stern lines to made it look like it's built of cedar planks is not a wooden boat. And whatever name you want to give a fantasy novel loosely based on a memoirish autohagiography written in the third person, it is not non-fiction. It may turn out to be a long-running New York Times bestseller, but it will still be bullshit.

Even Krakauer got taken in by it all. As far back as 2004, Krakauer noticed that there was something definitely amiss. By then, Krakauer had donated $75,000 to Mortenson's Central Asia Institute. But how could everyone have been so gullible? The Mortenson affair is even more lurid than the James Frey case. It's worse than the invention of Nasdiij. It's a scandal much more disturbing that the conjurings of JT LeRoy.

Anthropologist Ted Callahan, who worked for Mortenson's CAI, calls Mortenson "a symptom of Afghanistan." Mortenson's fictional account of himself “functioned as a palliative.” says Callahan. "Things are so bad that everybody’s desperate for even one good-news story. And Greg is it." But here's the really twisted part. Things are nowhere near as bad in Afghanistan as most North Americans seem to think. If it's uplifting stories you want, you certainly don't need to make stuff up.

And don't for a moment think, well, hey, Mortenson is well-meaning, look at all the good work he's done building all those schools, after all it's not like he robbed a bank or anything. Well, no. For one, it's not at all clear what good work he has done, with schools that actually don't exist, schools that turn out to have been built by other people, empty schools, and schools that are cabbage sheds. For another, the damage he has done is incalculable.

He's brought shame and disgrace to every Afghan and Pakistani associated with the Central Asia Institute. He betrayed tens of thousands of American schoolkids who contributed to the institute's so-called Pennies for Peace program. He's told outrageous and slanderous lies about the people of Baltistan - which is not a savage Taliban hotbed at all, but one of the most peaceful and welcoming corners of Pakistan - and about Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, which is not a "front line in the war on terror" but a place that bears more resemblance to Shangri-la than to Kandahar. On and on and on.

Back in January, a tax attorney wrote to Mortenson's Central Asia Institute (which appears to consist solely of a revolving door for starry-eyed people who go in all uplifted and come out downright disgusted). The lawyer warned that there was huge trouble in store, with the Internal Revenue Service on the horizon: "Mr. Mortenson could owe CAI up to $7,263,458.13 for excessive benefits received during fiscal years 2007, 2008, and 2009…. [I]f Mr. Mortenson fails to timely pay the correction amount, he could face a total liability ranging from $7,868,746.31 to $23,606,238.62. . ."

As Krakauer's investigation reveals, it's far worse that the mere glimpse CBS provided on Sunday. Read Krakauer and you will blush with embarassment at headlines like this one: "Mortenson concedes he conflated parts of his memoir." Conflated?

I am now going to head down to the beach to singlehandedly "conflate" a vast life-sized sandcastle exactly replicating the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I'll be back before lunch. Then I will send you a bill.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"You might as well be asking about the carbon footprint of unicorns."

Alexandra Gutierrez on Michael Bérubé's The Left at War, a book I'm pleased to recommend, in a review I recommend as happily, which I came upon only just now:

"Bérubé identifies the Manichean Left with linguist-cum-political dissident Noam Chomsky -- it defends figures like Serbian nationalist Slobodan Milosevic and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while dismissing any atrocities they have committed as minor compared to the crime of American imperialism. Because the United States is by definition bad, anything opposed to it is good. Conservatives and liberal hawks alike had no trouble characterizing this brand of reactionary leftism as representative of the left at large."

I don't quite like the ambiguity of that last sentence. If reactionary leftism really has become representative of "the left" at large - a fair evaluation, by my lights - it would be true no matter whether conservatives or "liberal hawks" characterized it that way.

It would also help to know that Bérubé would be considered a "hawk" on Afghanistan, but Iraq, not so much. Still, a fine review. And here's the Bérubé essay with the hilarious carbon footprint of unicorns bit.

It's always nice to find signs of intelligent life on the left. Here's some, in the matter of Libya. Oh look: here's some more.

Another thing I liked about the Gutierrez review is that it appears in American Prospect, which is based in Washington, D.C., and it takes its lead from a British case - the shuttering of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies - and the review was brought to my attention by our pal Zack Baddorf who is now at CENTCOM after a long stint in Sudan, and Zack is up for an award for his radio documentary about Vancouver's downtown eastside. Plus Gutierrez lives in the Aleutian Islands.

I like this sort of thing. Dunno why. Probably because I'm a shill for globalization or something.

"Where is America, where is France, we need Sarkozy.”

"Where are the NATO forces?" asked Absalam Hamid.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reintegrate Or Die.

Last week I was pointing out the deadly implications of the rising Khomeinist influence in Afghanistan: "Why would Karzai behave this way? Start asking that kind of question and nowhere will the discomfort be felt more acutely than in and around the White House. Well, too bad. It's time to start asking these awkward questions, before it's too late. Follow the money." Today, the money gets followed, and here's what is found: Iran's Cash For Karzai Buys Years Of Loyalty.

Apply Occam's razor to the broader conundrum and you will find yourself asking a larger and more worrying question: Why Is The U.S. Helping Iran Sell Natural Gas? This is a question worth asking in the context of another: What's all the rage in the foreign policy establishment these days? Answer: Let's give the boys from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Quetta a fancy embassy of their own . . . in Istanbul!

It would be really nice if just once, the utterly discredited foreign-policy establishment that produces nothing but failed diplo-gibberish of this kind would get around to noticing that its quack remedies have gone well past the point of obscure academic interest. Exit-strategy fetishism isn't even funny anymore. It's doing far more harm than good. Here's just a snapshot of how the toxin spreads:

1. It pushes Karzai and his Popolzai cronies further into the arms of the Khomeinists: if even the Yanks are happy to jettison Afghan democracy, why shouldn't we, and why shouldn't we butter our bread while we're at it? 2. It dissuades Afghanistan's democratic opposition from taking any risks for the cause: why stick your neck out today if the Taliban are going to be invited back to Kabul tomorrow? 3. It encourages corruption: if this isn't going to last, why not get it and cash out while the getting's good? 4. It's fatally corrosive to public trust in western democracies: why should our kids keep dying over there when their killers are being flattered and wooed to come back to their comfy cushions in Kabul? I could go on.

As always, it will take the blood of innocents to prove that all the absurd formulae involved in peace-talks alchemy will not make peace. Its delusions will produce only the same old envoy-shuttling jobbery that inevitably leads to war. In the meantime, it's putting a shiv between the ribs of the vast majority of the Afghan people who actually want peace and security and democracy.

Here's Abdullah Abdullah, who leads the main pro-democracy coalition in Afghanistan: "I have no difficulty with the logic of the proposition that in every war you need to leave the door open for talks. But at the same time, jumping to that conclusion without looking at realities on the ground, it creates circumstances that can lead to sacrificing and compromising the gains of the past few years." That's Abdullah trying as hard as he can to speak diplomatically. But it should give you an idea what he actually thinks about this obscene folly.

It's easy to see where Burhanuddin Rabbani of the (U.S.-funded, if you please) High Peace Council is coming from. He told me as much last year, and it makes a kind of sense, as a grisly calculation in the cynicism of it all. The Obama White House is proving itself content to allow its clients in Pakistan's military-industrial complex to serve as landlord, welfare case officer and daycare supervisor to Talib jihadists. Pakistan's frivolous political class is content to use Afghanistan as the garbage heap where it dumps those same Talib jihadists. Thus, it should be a good thing to see if we can relocate the corporate headquarters of Mullah Omar Ltd. to Turkey. That's the nasty logic in play.

But that tells you less about what Afghanistan's pro-democracy leadership really wants and more about how badly the U.S "strategy" has diminished Afghan expectations generally and betrayed the trust of Afghanistan's brave democrats, specifically. It's exactly the result you would expect to get from treating Afghanistan's democratic non-Pashtun majority like dirt, and treating the democratic anti-Taliban majority among the Pashtuns the same way.

This is not to dismiss frontline efforts to buy and "reintegrate" Taliban fighters. Most are illiterate and lumpen ruffians from the backcountry of the Pashtun belt who don't know who they're fighting against or what they're fighting for, so fair play. The Canadian Forces command is to be congratulated for making the best of the bad situation our soldiers have been saddled with.

In Panjwaii, Canada's Task Force Kandahar has been doing a tremendous job in turning Taliban fighters around. The Australian running the operation, Lt.-Col. Liam Hale, has a sign on his door: “Reintegrate or Die.” One lives in hope that NATO's political leadership will somehow muster a capacity for that kind of moral clarity and certainty of purpose, but unless and until that happens, it will remain an open question whether all the suffering that has gone into the cause of of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic has been in vain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keep On Rockin In The Free World.

The latest from Kabul Dreams:

"How did things descend to this nightmare level?"

"During the years of the revolution, I met Mugabe several times and am still ashamed of how generally favorably I wrote him up. But he was impressive then, both as soldier and politician and survivor of long-term political imprisonment, and when I noticed the cold and ruthless side of his personality I suppose I tended to write it down as a function of his arduous formation. Also, in those days the reactionary white settlers would console themselves with a culture of ugly rumors (such as Mugabe's supposed syphilis and mental degeneration), which I was determined not to gratify. . .Writing on all this some years ago, Peter Godwin opted for the view that Mugabe wasn't explicable by any change in circumstances or personality. He had had the heart and soul of a tyrant all along, and simply waited until he could give the tendency an unfettered expression."

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Crush The Unions? Go Ahead: Make My Day.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fawzia Koofi In 2014.

"My plan is to run for the presidency in 2014. One has to make a choice: I could flee to the UK or America with my daughters and watch the situation, watch my country go where the traditional leaders want, or stay here and make a small contribution. I've decided to go for the second choice."

This is no stunt. Fawzai Koofi could actually pull it off. She would need to mobilize a winning coalition of parties and politicians behind her, and that won't be easy. But there are several compelling reasons to believe she could do it.

The young MP from Badakhshan is already one of Afghanistan's most trusted politicians. She's already the deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga. She's a tireless worker, she's probably the most widely respected woman in Afghanistan, she's an increasingly familiar face on Afghan news and public affairs television programs, and she's enormously popular.

This will come as a surprise to people who imagine Afghanistan to be an incorrigibly misogynistic backwater, but Afghans trust women in politics. Even though women are guaranteed a 25 per cent quota of the seats in the Wolesi Jirga, many women don't need it. Female politicians tend to be poll-toppers in Afghanistan. In the recent parliamentary elections, Fawzia got more votes than any other woman in the country.

Afghans have quickly come to understand that if you want something done in Kabul, you go to a woman. It is not as though all the men in parliament are warlords and decrepit old backstairs-men who run the place like Tammany Hall, but old habits die hard. Cronyism and the bakshish traditions of the kulan naffar have persisted into Afghanistan's embryonic democracy. Women are not new to Afghan politics - women were cabinet ministers before the mujahideen wars and the Taliban time - but women represent the new way of doing politics in the country. Women are simply far less inclined to do politics the old way. Women are not warlords. Afghans aren't idiots.

4. Fawzia Koofi is properly associated with everything that is new, hopeful, honest and brave in Afghanistan. She's not a howling auld crawthumper like certain people I could mention. She stuck it out, she hung in there, and she stands up to her political adversaries in parliament without pulling her hair out and calling them ugly names. She's not for running away. She's for working, and working hard.

The absurd dysfunction at the heart of Afghan democracy is an electoral system that requires Afghan voters to navigate the maze of a "single non-transferable voting" arrangement that it shares only with Vanuatu, Jordan and the Pitcairn Islands (and upper-house votes in Thailand and Indonesia). It's a crippling disincentive to political-party organization, which exacerbates Afghanistan's other big constitutional failing: almost all power is concentrated in the presidential palace.

What all this means is there's no way you can get anything serious done in Afghanistan unless you run for president yourself, but this could actually work in Fawzia's favour. There are several alternatives to Hamid Karzai. Among them are the popular pro-democracy Massoudist Abdullah Abdullah (Karzai's closest contender in 2009) and Ashraf Ghani (famous anthro-technocrat, diplo-charmer and former World Bank mandarin). Lately, Amrullah Saleh, the formidable, articulate and principled (and thus fired) former intelligence chief, has been touted as a contender who could be Karzai's worst nightmare. But if they all run against each other, they all lose.

The great tragedy of Hamid Karzai is that he's a political genius who has absolutely no aptitude for government. All he knows is the politics of the kulan naffar. He'd be fine on the comfy chair of a Popolzai khanate, but what the world expects and what Afghans want and need is a democratic republic. Karzai was exactly what Afghanistan needed in 2004, but pretty well ever since, he's been exactly what Afghanistan has not needed. He's a wizard at deal-making and intrigue, but he can't even govern his own wardrobe. I mean, just look at his hat.

What a Koofi candidacy could do is give all the good lads in the running for 2014 a cause to crank back their testoterone just a bit and combine their many talents behind her. Abdullah, Ghani, Saleh and the others respect one another well enough, but they don't particularly trust one another. But they could trust Koofi. They know it. If they were smart, they'd also know that she could be the one way out, the big break everyone's been looking for.

It remains to be seen whether Koofi will stick with it or will choose to throw her immense moral and political weight behind another candidate. However things shake out, Fawzia Koofi should be expected to be intimately involved in whoever the leading contender for the Afghan presidency will be in 2014.

I highly recommend Fawzia's book, Letters to My Daughters, which will be in the bookstores in the coming weeks. I would recommend it even if she were not "the new face of Afghanistan," and even if she were not a political leader. It is an astonishing story, a pesonal memoir from the front lines of the greatest freedom struggle in human history. If you don't regard the emancipation of women in that way, and you don't know why Afghanistan is critical to that struggle, then you simply haven't been paying attention.

Whatever happens, you'll want to be paying attention to Fawzia Koofi.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In Dissent Magazine: The Massacre in Mazar, How It Started & Who Was Behind It

The Koran protests in Afghanistan began with an Iranian propaganda initiative that was set in motion on March 24, a full week before the Massacre in Mazar. Afghan president Hamid Karzai played a central role in the affair. The bloody skirmishing that has left at least two dozen people dead across Afghanistan has gone so far as to cast a shadow over the future of the UN’s operations in the country. In other words, it’s working.

Of all places in Afghanistan for a UN compound to be turned into a human abattoir, we’re supposed to be shocked that it would be in the contented little metropolis of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of the peaceful northern province of Balkh. We’re supposed to be astonished that the murderers of those seven UN workers arose from a frenzied mob at the head of a procession that started out at the city’s famous Blue Mosque.

We should not be surprised at all.

On March 24, the Iranian foreign ministry, Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, and Karzai’s office issued simultaneous alarms about Jones’ Koran-burning. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said the incident was part of American “hegemonic plots.” Karzai called for Jones’ arrest and prosecution.

Karzai’s statement was widely reported in Iran’s government-controlled press but got limited play even in the Afghan news media. Then the Netherlands-based BNO News got involved. After making its mark in 2007 when it sold Reuters a videotaped speech by Osama Bin Laden, BNO went on to become a popular Twitter feed and is now a low budget social-media hybrid, part press-release clearinghouse and part amateur-journalism vector. When BNO began circulating a report headlined “Afghanistan, Iran condemn Koran burning in US,” the story went viral.

The first Afghan protests about the Koran-burning were staged by the Shura-e Olama-e Shiia, the Kabul-based Shiite religious council dominated by Asif Mohseni, the leading Khomeinist ayatollah in Afghanistan. Mohseni is best known for having persuaded Karzai to sign off on the incendiary Afghan “rape law” in 2009 (which effectively legalized marital rape), an event that prompted protests by Afghan women and howls of international indignation.

The Khomeinist-led Koran demonstrations in Kabul were the first that most Afghans had even heard about Jones’ vulgar escapade. (You always know it’s a Khomeinist event by the tell-tale slogan, Marg Bar Yahood—Death to the Jews). This brings us back to Mazar, to the Tomb of the Exalted where most Afghans prefer to believe that the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed is buried, and to the famous Blue Mosque.

From accounts of last Friday’s massacre that I’ve received from several Afghan human rights activists and journalists, what emerges is a picture of an opportunity that was just waiting for a pretext. What happened did not simply result from a protest march that began at the Blue Mosque and got terribly out of hand. . .

That's from my piece today in Dissent.

The Washington Post today provides some useful and rare insight into the distance Karzai has moved from his American benefactors, although nothing about the Khomeinist orbit within which Karzai has allowed himself to be drawn. For insight into that, all you need to do is follow the money.

There is a lot of money to follow. The Iranian payments, which officials say total millions of dollars, form what amounts to an off-the-books "presidential slush fund” that Iran fills up regularly so that Karzai can buy Afghan legislators, tribal elders and Taliban commanders. It's quite the racket, and it has been happening under the Americans' noses for quite some while.

Briefcases full of it. Bakshish by the barge load. And that just scratches the surface.

For an Afghan view from the front lines of the Koran-burn frenzies, here's today's report from our dear friend Ehsanullah Ehsan in Kandahar. And I see that Christopher Hitchens, running on instinct alone, gets it dead to rights anyway, as usual. Karzai went out of his way to intensify mob feeling. "This caps a long period where his behavior has come to seem like a conscious collusion with warlordism, organized crime, and even with elements of the Taliban."

Why would Karzai behave this way? Start asking that kind of question and nowhere will the discomfort be felt more acutely than in and around the White House. Well, too bad. It's time to start asking these awkward questions, before it's too late.

Follow the money.

Ehsanullah Ehsan: "Please pray for us."

"We condemn the brutal killings. We deeply believe that justice will be done, that people who love peace will prevail, but now the grief is deeply shared by all of us. With every such tragic loss, we bleed in our hearts. . . The opportunists who committed the murders in Mazar-i-Sharif do not represent the wider public of Afghanistan." -Ehsanullah Ehsan, Afghan-Canadian Community Centre, Kandahar.

“This is a war between fundamentalists. And we are all the victims." - Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s national security adviser.

"I disapprove of what happened in Mazar. People did not expect the demonstration to lead to bloodshed and spoil the beauty of Balkh province," Mullah Qasem Khateeb, Mazar-i-Sharif.

As an aside, let me just say to all those numpties who drone on and on in their yesbuttery about how, after all, Jones didn't kill anyone, there is no comparison between burning a book and killing a human being, ad nauseum: please keep your silly moot point to yourself. Its flipside is the dismissal-worthy utterance from the UN's kalan naffar in Afghanistan, Staffan di Mistura: "We should be blaming the person who produced the news - the one who burned the Koran."

Thus Moran Jones meets his match in di Mistura, and meanwhile, Lauryn Oates points out the other back-breaking burden the Afghan people and all the rest of us are obliged to bear in the populist demagoguery of President Hamid Karzai: "Once again, the feckless Karzai seized upon an opportunity to flirt with his conservative supporters, with utter disregard for the very deadly consequences."

If there are any Christians who read this who are so possessed of self-righteousness that they would want to turn this into yet another "see I told you so, this proves that muzzies are madmen" exercise, my advice is that you get down on your knees and beg your God's forgiveness for your dirty bigotry. To those Muslims who are so stupid and small-minded that they would demand laws banning religious offence of the Jones' kind: Grow up. That is not how free people behave.

For all sincere people of any faith who read this, my brother Ehsanullah Ehsan, a devout Muslim, has something he wants to ask of you: "Please pray for us."

Ehsan is a better man than me.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

An Afghan Kristallnacht.

In Afghanistan, you can always tell the Khomeinists' hand in "spontaneous" demonstrations by the tell-tale slogan Marg Bar Yahood (Death to the Jews). You can hear it for yourself in this raw video footage, about 55 seconds in.

That was what they were shouting in the first mini-riot in Kabul last week, which, so far as I can determine, the foreign press reported without exception as merely a spontaneous demonstration of Afghan anger in response to the Quran-burning escapade undertaken by that hillbilly crackpot imam Terry Jones. You'd think that Asif Mohseni, Iran's chosen ayatollah in Afghanistan, has had nothing to do with it. You'd never know that immediately prior to that first protest, Hamid Karzai allowed himself to be engaged by Iran's propagandists in Afghanistan to utter the ridiculous demand for Jones' arrest - causing the uproar that was the first that Afghans had even heard about the Quran-burning.

Think whatever you like. For all of you who would prefer to think of the horror in Mazar and now Kandahar as just another instance of Them Devilish Muzzies Gone Mad, you are welcome to your stupid and self-congratulating bigotry. You should be pleased with yourselves that you share precisely the same idiocy that animates illiterate Kandahari hillbillies who fault kaffirs and Yanks at large for the vulgar provocation that was an act of criminal negligence committed solely by Jones and his pathetic little flock of cretins in Florida.

It has been an excruciating and utterly heartbreaking 48 hours for us at the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee. But from the reports we are getting from our friends back in Afghanistan, especially from Mazar, what is emerging is a fairly clear picture of a well-organized campaign of incitement to violence and murder carried out by a determined Khomeinist-Deobandist criminal conspiracy. There will be much more about that later.

For now, from Kabul, here's Thomas Ruttig:

"Who would have thought that something like this could be possible following the Nazis’ autodafé in the Berlin of 1933 were they set the works of Jewish, Marxist and pacifist – in short ‘un-German’ – writers like Heinrich Mann, Remarque, Tucholsky, Kaestner, Freud and Marx alight. (I always admired the Bavarian writer, Oskar Maria Graf, who wrote a letter of protest to the ‘Fuehrer’ when he discovered that his books had been spared). What makes people in Afghanistan so angry that they attack random foreigners, UN personnel who have nothing at all to do with that fringe pastor’s act?"

What, indeed.