Mature and Immature Democracies in Afghanistan
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How primitive the Afghans are! A New York Times account of faltering negotiations over a possible "strategic partnership" agreement to leave U.S. troops on bases in that country for years to come highlights just how far the Afghans have to go to become, like their U.S. mentor, a mature democracy. Take the dispute over prisons. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been insisting that the U.S. turn over its prison facility at Bagram Air Base to his government. (The recently burned Korans came from that prison's library.) The Obama administration initially refused and now has suggested a six-month timetable for such a turnover, an option Karzai has, in turn, rejected. No one, by the way, seems yet to be negotiating about a second $36-million prison at Bagram that, TomDispatch recently reported, the U.S. is now in the process of building.
The Times' Alissa Rubin suggests, however, that a major stumbling block remains to any such turnover. She writes: "The challenges to a transfer are enormous, presenting serious security risks both for the Afghan government and American troops. Many of the estimated 3,200 people being detained [in Bagram's prison] cannot be tried under Afghan law because the evidence does not meet the legal standards required to be admitted in Afghan courts. Therefore, those people, including some suspected insurgents believed likely to return to the fight if released, would probably have to be released because Afghanistan has no law that allows for indefinite detention for national security reasons."
Honestly, what kind of a backward country doesn't have a provision for the indefinite detention, on suspicion alone, of prisoners without charges or hope of trial? As a mature democracy, we now stand proudly for global indefinite detention, not to speak of the democratic right to send robot assassins to take out those suspected of evil deeds anywhere on Earth. As in any mature democracy, the White House has now taken on many of the traits of a legal system -- filling, that is, the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.
Six months to learn all that (and how to burn Korans, too)? I don't think so. Or how about a really mature plan that, according to an Associated Press report, top Pentagon officials are now mulling over: to put whatever U.S. elite special operations forces remain in Afghanistan after 2014 under CIA control. The reason? Once they are so lodged, even though their missions wouldn't change, they would officially become "spies" and whoever's running Washington then will be able to swear, with complete candor, that no U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Even better, the CIA is conveniently run by former Afghan War commander David Petraeus and the U.S. public would no longer have to be informed about "funding or operations" for those non-troops. Now, that's how a mature democracy makes the trains run on time!
Had enough? Then try finding your inner khan by checking out " Green on Blue" by the indefatigable Ann Jones, author of War Is Not Over When It's Over, who knows more about Afghanistan than any of us.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November.