Monday, October 11, 2004

It's a start


With the Afghanistan presidential election having taking place without a burst of violence on Election Day, fortune has smiled upon the Bush administration--not to mention the Afghan people.


Your blogstress has little doubt that fraud occurred through both nefarious intent and simple confusion, but it's important for critics to understand that A VOTE TOOK PLACE in a nation long controlled by demi-Napoleons claiming crowns for themselves.


Western commentators would be wise, thinks your cybertrix, to drop that line about the Afghans having no tradition of voting to which to refer: the Loya Jirga, a sort of tribal council, has been the traditional instrument of rule in villages and provinces for hundreds of years. Reminiscent of native American Indian councils, the Loya Jirga is a body of elders who determine courses of action by votes among themselves. Hardly a perfect form of government in a nation where women are locked out of governance structures, but nonetheless it does constitute a somewhat representative structure governed by votes.


In 2000, your cyberscribe had the privilege of interviewing two courageous young women activists from Afghanistan who were advocates for democracy. When your blogstress began to wax poetic on the glories of the United States Constitution, she was gently interrupted. Our democracy won't look like yours, she was instructed. Our democracy will reflect our culture, not yours.


Oh. Guess that's a point. The trick for Westerners, in our inevitable paternal posturing, is to appreciate cultural expression in the shape of government without resorting to the destructively patronizing position of blessing, or turning a blind eye to, violations of human rights with the rationale known as, "That's how they are."


If that's how they are, we need to acknowledge our complicity in creating that reality. It was the U.S., after all, that poured weapons into Afghanistan for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union in that theatre (not an unworthy goal), and then once the Afghans turned the Soviets out, declared that Ronald Reagan had won the Cold War, splitting without so much as a "by your leave." One wonders, did Uncle Sam mutter under his breath as he looked over his shoulder, "have fun pointing those Stingers at each other."


And so, as political opponents of Afghan interim president (and presidential candidate) Hamid Karzai boycott the election, or demand an investigation into fraud (as two or three candidates who've backed away from the boycott have done), it is ours to applaud their right to do so, and the courage of the millions of Afghans who voted despite threats of violence from the Taliban and others.


It's said that U.S. Ambassador Zalmad Khalizad made deals with two who backed out of the boycott. Hey, Zal--cough up the details, huh?



For readers who wish to aid the cause of the women of Afghanistan, or to simply stay on top of developments there, your blogstress recommends a visit to the Web site of Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA), a resource rich in information run single-handedly by Zieba Shorish Shamley, Ph.D., an Afghan refugee from Herat.

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