George Graham

How Much is “Democracy” in Afghanistan Really Worth?

Do you think Jamaica could use some of those tens of millions of U.S. dollars the U.N. has lost track of in Afghanistan? How about those countries in Africa? And the struggling slum dwellers in India? The Pacific rim? Latin America?

I’m sure you can think of many better ways to spend the U.N.’s money instead of funding an “election” in Afghanistan.

kharzielectionThe “election” was such a farce that the U.N. ordered a do-over. And now one of the two candidates, some guy with the unlikely name of Abdullah Abdullah (photo at right), has dropped out because he doesn’t think he’ll get a fair shake from incumbent president Hamid Karzai (photo far right).You would think the U.N. would throw in the towel and recognize that there’s no chance of establishing a democracy in Afghanistan. But no.

Apparently the “election”  do-over is to proceed with just one candidate contesting the race. Where are comic opera geniuses Gilbert and Sullivan when we need them? This would make a dandy plot for one of their musicals.

Here’s an excerpt from a news story on the wires today:

The United Nations cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to the troubled Afghan election commission, according to two confidential U.N. audits and interviews with current and former senior diplomats.

As Afghanistan prepares for a second round of national voting, the documents and interviews paint the fullest picture to date of the finances of the election commission, which has been accused of facilitating election fraud and operating ghost polling places. The new disclosures also deepen the questions about the U.N.’s oversight of money provided by the United States and other nations to ensure a fair election in Afghanistan.

“Everybody kept sending money” to the elections commission, said Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. “Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.” Galbraith, a deputy to the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan, was fired last month after protesting fraud in the elections.

afghanIt would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.  This kind of wanton wastefulness is all too common in a world driven by hypocrisy and “spin.” The U.S. is spending $65 billion on the Afghanistan occupation this year and can’t find the money to provide its own people with health care. But that’s not the worst of it. In addition to the wasted billions, the lives of young men and women from several Western nations are being sacrificed to convey the impression that Americans are dedicated to the cause of worldwide “freedom” and “democracy.”

Meanwhile, back in the USA, elected representatives are selling their votes to corporations for campaign contributions. And the majority of voters are watching “American Idol,” apparently unaware of what’s going on.  Many of them don’t even bother to go to the polls.

And a neo-con chorus is urging President Obama to send 40,000 more troops into the Afghan “war.” Critics are baiting him with suggestions that his cojones are suspect. If he were any kind of a man, they say, he wouldn’t be “dithering” about the war, he would be sending more young Americans to give their lives and limbs for the cause – whatever that might be.

Surely, the President must be aware of the real situation in Afghanistan? With all his information sources, he must know about the drug-based culture and pervasive corruption? And, above all, he must know there is no “war” to be won over there?

Afghanistan is a country in name only. The society is fragmented; it is a collection of tribes and gangs, with no glue holding them together. Drawing a line around a space on a map and calling it Afghanistan does not make it a country.  It’s as if someone had come to Columbus’s America and decided to lump all the Indian tribes together and call them a nation.

The culture and religion – make that cultures and religions – are so alien to western thought that Americans cannot begin to make any sense of them. Attempting to establish a “democratic” central government based on a western model is absurd on its face. Talk of an “Afghan government” and an “Afghan military” is ludicrous. Even the word Taliban is a misleading label. In reality, the Taliban is a religious and political movement made up mostly of members of the Pashtun race. It no longer has anything to do with al Quaida, which moved across the border into Pakistan years ago and is apparently being sheltered by Pakistani insurgents.

You might argue that the “war on Terror” would be better fought in Pakistan. And America is pouring billions of tax dollars into that country in the hopes of putting down the Taliban insurgency. But that strategy, too, seems doomed to failure.

Consider this description from

The Pashtun Taliban insurgency that began in 2001 is neither terrorism nor Islamic Jihad, though it features elements of both. It is simply the latest episode in a contest that has gone on for centuries between the Pashtun mountain tribes and the Punjabis of the Indus plain. With possibly one-fifth of the Pakistan Army Pashtoon, a crackdown … would require the army to hurt their kinsmen in an area where kinship is everything.

In view of the realities that exist in the area known as Afghanistan, do you think it makes any sense to talk about establishing a democracy there? Do you see any point in risking the lives of American, Canadian, British and other western soldiers in a crusade to give the area “freedom”? Do you see any possible end to this “war” or any attainable objective for it?

I don’t.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for