In Iraq, where the Iraqi parliament only agreed to any continuation of the US occupation if a referendum of the Iraqi people to be held by July 30 gave their approval, we see no such referendum. The US lobbied hard to block one – and now we hear talk that maybe a referendum will be held but not until 2010. Since the US would have one year to completely withdraw if the Iraqis voted us out (the mostly likely result), delaying the referendum until 2010 removes any teeth from such a vote since Obama is already discussing a 2011 withdrawal. So much for democratic action.
Of course, even under the terms of the SOFA which require US forces to only operate with Iraqi approval, in reality these terms are meaningless. When a US convoy killed 3 Iraqis this past Thursday and wounded four including 2 children, the local Iraqi commader insisted they turn over the US troops responsible for prosecution – but Maliki, visiting DC, quickly quashed any such demand and insisted that the commander just didn’t understand the US right to self defense. So much for sovereignty.
And in Afghanistan, where we are supposedly increasing security in advance of a democratic presidential election, people already know that the outcome will not be democratic – and will merely reinstate the warlord parties we have supported from the beginning.
As a teacher at the American University of Afghanistan explains while noting that his students do not plan to vote:
For all the suspicion that fabrication of votes, bribing of election officials, intimidation, and worse will likely mar the August 20th election, Afghanistan’s internal problems are not what undermine my students’ zeal for civic participation. Why vote, my students ask me, when the United States will choose Afghanistan’s next president?
Or as Malalai Joya makes ever so clear:
In the constitution it forbids those guilty of war crimes from running for high office. Yet Karzai has named two notorious warlords, Fahim and Khalili, as his running mates for the upcoming presidential election. Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House. As we say in Afghanistan, "the same donkey with a new saddle".
"No nation can donate liberation to another nation," Ms Joya said, to loud applause from the audience.
"Only nations which liberate themselves can be free."
Two other pieces this week are on my everyone-should-read list:
Chris Hedges makes it clear that There Is No Reason for Us to Be in Afghanistan — Everyone Knows It, and It Spells Defeat.
And Tom Englehardt sums it all up in An American Hell.