'I Told You So'? Yes You Did Indeed.
That pretty well sums up the hubris of the troops-out and peace-talks lobby: Claim credit for what only the most casual or reactionary observers would think wise, but when the grisly consequences of such counsel become horribly apparent, try not to get noticed, or find someone else to blame. Do you expect all those sanctimonious know-it-alls to step up to admit their folly now that the knives are coming out?
'I told you so' is indeed an unbecoming posture, but Fawzia Koofi, Abdullah Abdullah, Berhanuddin Rabbani, Amrullah Saleh and a constellation of Afgan reformists, human rights activists, parliamentarians and women's rights leaders would be perfectly justified in saying exactly that to all the appeasement-fetishists who have so successfully insinuated their idiocy into establishment thinking in the NATO capitals.
It's not like we weren't warned. Here's Rabbani, 16 months ago: "Bringing back the Taliban by some kind of reconciliation is not to bring about security. This is to play a card against others. . . It is not playing a national card. It is bringing an ethnic card into play in Afghanistan. The result of that would be to threaten to deprive other ethnic communities of their political rights, their social rights and the other rights they have in the country.”
Even before that, representatives from more than 200 Afghan women's rights and civil society organizations gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and hammered out an eight-point consensus statement. It begins: "Based on the persistent violation of the rights of women and men by the Taliban, whether when in power or after, objections were clearly and strongly expressed by all parties participating in this meeting regarding any negotiation with the Taliban."
Today, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul was still on fire from last night's Taliban suicide-bomb attack. That is the "peace" that will result from all this. Today, Maria Abi-Habib reports on a pan-ethnic alliance of democrats, reformers and hard boys that has been re-arming and re-assembling, although almost entirely unnoticed by the West's "war-weary" mainstream press: "We want to inform the international community and Karzai that we don't agree with the direction the country is moving in," said Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq. "Political leaders from all ethnicities are being left out of government. Look at how he is trying to end parliament because it's not allied to him."
Our own Grant Kippen, former chair of Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission, points out what all the smart set in the appeasement camp would rather you not notice: The Karzai administration is trampling on the Afghan constitution and lynching Afghan democracy, while the NATO countries simply sit back and watch. To bring this to the attention of Canadians, the indispensible Maclean's blogger Andrew Potter had to put it up as a blog post after it appeared originally in the Afghan newspaper Hast-e Sobh, in Dari. The main thing: "Building credible, legitimate and inclusive democratic institutions and processes is the only way forward for Afghanistan as a young, emerging and vibrant democracy."
Did you get that? It's the only way forward.
Last week, more than 100 Afghan legislators announced the formation of “The Coalition for Support of the Rule of Law” and vowed to prevent “powerful individuals from usurping the rights of others.” The Afghan Parliament has appealed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene. Karzai has warned the international community to stay away. As of this writing, it would appear that the "international community" is doing just that, and falling all over itself to offer the Taliban a surrender, negotiated or otherwise, in the bargain.
Last year, I asked Abdullah Abdullah, who leads what is still the broadest democratic alliance in Afghanistan, about the implications of the peace-talks sellout and the abandonment of Afghan democracy. Here's what he said about Afghan democracy: "We cannot survive without it. If we don’t have the least political assurances, the safeguards, then what is the choice for me, for example, as a person? Forget about elections candidates and so on. How can I fight for my rights? Which way? The Taliban way? Violence is the only option left if you don’t have other options.”
Where is this headed? Amrullah Saleh, the brilliant and fervently anti-Taliban intelligence chief who Karzai ousted from his post as director of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security last year - and who has yet to be proved wrong in any of his prognoses about what ails Afghanistan - put it this way: "First, a massacre campaign will start. The human cost in this country will easily be up to two million people killed, at least. It will not be big news for Afghanistan. We are used to tragedies, throughout our history. But the cost for you will be bigger."
Should that happen - and if the unfolding of Afghan history is allowed to proceed on its current course, it most assuredly will - can we expect the peace-talks lobbyists to step up and accept the blame for the very approach for which they have been telling us we owe them credit? Somehow I doubt it, and telling them all 'I told you so' would be a bitter vindication indeed.