"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, September 17, 2009


"You have to learn the lessons from history. On the other hand, each historical moment is different. You never step into the same river twice. And so Afghanistan is not Vietnam."
-President Barack Obama, September 15, 2009

These are the words of our President, a man who once called the Iraq war a "bad" war and the war in Afghanistan a "good" war. Mr. President, Afghanistan is not Vietnam. But the bombs you sanction and the troops you send bring the same results: death, destruction, and hell for those in the fray, the Afghan civilians - including women and children - and US troops, many below the age of 30. The reality of war in Afghanistan is not the sanitized version portrayed on TV (or covered by Pentagon-approved reporters), spoken about by our politicians, or pornographically presented to our youth in the form of video games and war simulations.
Take it from someone who knows. Take it from Dr. Zaher Wahab, one of my former professors working in his home country to rebuild the education system blow apart by years of war. The following appeared in the Oregonian:

Letter from Kabul: after the election

by Zaher Wahab, Guest opinion
Saturday September 12, 2009, 8:40 AM

Zaher Wahab (right) visited his brother and mother in Afghanistan during an earlier trip. Guns are widely available in the country, says the Portland professor, who has been unable to visit his mother this year because the 100-mile trip on the main highway from Kabul is too dangerous.

Editor's note: Lewis & Clark College professor Zaher Wahab is a native of Afghanistan who has been returning every year since 2002 to help rebuild the country's higher education system. Below, in a handwritten letter composed Thursday and edited for clarity, he describes life in Afghanistan following the Aug. 20 election. Read more of his experiences at his blog, called "Dispatches From Afghanistan."

Even though Kabul looks like a city under siege -- with thousands of heavily armed Afghan-NATO-ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces everywhere -- there is little to no security.

Two days ago, insurgents rocketed the city, killing a family of four, and a suicide bomber drove to the inner gate of the heavily protected Kabul military-civilian airport, killing and injuring several. There is fighting in the south, east, north and west of the country. Two-thirds of the country is considered unsafe by the U.N. and the Afghan Ministry of Interior. I have irregular Internet access and electricity at Kabul Education University. And we are told to keep a low profile and avoid crowds. I am not allowed, and would not consider, traveling to where I was born to see my mother -- about 100 miles on the main highway. I won't get out alive and would endanger the people I visit.

You heard about the bombing of the two tankers in Kunduz, in the north at 2:30 a.m. last Friday, killing at least 125 people, mostly civilians. And you probably read about the killing of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi, and Stephen Farrell's abduction; Farrell, a correspondent for The New York Times, was rescued alive.

Afghans of all kinds are mad as hell, both at the insurgents and all the foreign troops, which they call the occupiers, who behave worse than the Red Army in the 1980s.

My students, even those who live 20 miles from Kabul, risk their lives visiting their families. They must grow a beard, wear traditional clothes, remove all ID documents and cell phones, and pretend that they have no connection with the government or the foreigners. I, myself, travel in an armored car with armed bodyguards. I am not allowed to go to the corner bakery alone. And I cannot post my name or office hours on my door inside the university campus.

The election
and democracy
In a country where 90 percent of the women and 70 percent of the men are illiterate, there are no political parties. The vast majority of the women are not allowed to leave their house, be seen or heard by strange men, or have their picture taken.

Eighty percent of the people live in rural areas, isolated hamlets, mountains, deserts, in transition as internally displaced people.

Most people have no ID cards.

About 3.5 [million] to 4 million Afghans live as refugees in Iran and Pakistan and could not/did not vote.

Most people do not know how old exactly they are.

The country is in fact under occupation and not free. Most of the country/people are controlled by warlords, strongmen, drug lords and/or insurgents.

The official government barely controls the cities and their compounds.

Many people are geographically so isolated that you simply cannot reach them.

Up to and including the election day, official Washington -- H. Clinton, Obama, Holbrooke -- the European Union, NATO, [Army generals] McChrystal and Eikenberry, and the mainstream American press could not contain themselves regarding "democraticizing Afghanistan." The West spent $500 million on the election itself, and much more on security.

Now, the whole world knows that there was "massive, organized and systemic" fraud. Very true, and all those cheerleaders must eat their words.

We know that voting cards were sold and bought all over the country.

Underage voting took place.

Fake booths were set up and ballot boxes stuffed.

People were forced at gunpoint to vote a certain way.

At best 30 percent of the 16 million registered voted.

Strongmen, government officials took the ballot boxes home and filled them.

There were more ballots cast than registered voters.

Candidates made deals with known criminals, drug lords and assassins.

In many places, the [polling] stations didn't open so no voting occurred.

In some places like Kandahar, 100 percent of the votes went to one candidate and none to another.

Candidates bribed, fed and promised positions to people to vote for them.

The open secret is that Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and America supported (with money also) their favorite candidates.

26 people were killed, one had his fingers -- and another his nose and ears -- cut off by insurgents for voting. There were at least 600 attacks on voting day.

The permanent ink to prevent repeat voting was not permanent.

The independent election commission was appointed by President Karzai, and it declared him the winner before the 2,600 complaints can be investigated by the five-member U.N.-sponsored commission.

Now the farce and charade is exposed and we have a recount.

The aftermath
The country is thrown into deeper and more serious political, constitutional and ethnic crisis because of the election. People are anxious, fearful and uncertain about the outcome; some are organizing and threatening "Iranian-style street action with Kalashnikovs." The price of light weapons is going up, and weapons are being moved north and south. People fear resurgent civil war between Abdullah Abdullah's followers in the north and Karzai's followers in the Pashtun south.

The American-installed Karzai regime has zero credibility. It is corrupt, ineffective, indifferent, autocratic and American-made. No matter what is done with the election, no government will have any legitimacy or credibility. And Americans and Europeans who support this bankrupt system have little place here, either. It is too simple and ignorant to blame everything on extremist Taliban or al-Qaida. This is a multifaceted insurgency ranging from the drug mafia to nationalists to fundamentalists. There are no al-Qaida or terrorists here. And the insurgency are not a threat to the west.

This is part civil war between Pashtuns (60 percent of the population) and others in the north. It is also a multidimensional anti-imperialist struggle by people who don't like being invaded, searched, arrested, tortured, killed and bombed. Knowing the Afghans, there is no way they can be subdued. It is best to:

Withdraw U.S.-NATO [troops] soon and replace them with peacekeeping forces from neutral Muslim countries.

Commit to developing the country's education, agriculture, health care, energy resources, transportation, mining.

Build state apparatus.

Reconcile ethnic, religious conflicts, restore proportional power structure. Have Loya Girga [the grand council of tribes] develop a new constitution.

Let the Afghans develop their own polity, economy, culture, etc., in their own way.

Ensure the country's independence and neutrality.

Stop spending $5 billion per month on death and destruction.


Zaher Wahab

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    no offense to Mr. President, but I just can not agree that any war could be possibly good.