Corrupt occupation in Afghanistan, new film

This video from the USA is called The Corrupt Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

By Mathew Benn:

An exposure of corruption: Afghanistan, on the Dollar Trail

31 October 2009

The documentary, Afghanistan, on the Dollar Trail, which was aired this month on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) program “Four Corners”, is a well-produced exposure of the corruption and criminality that has accompanied the “reconstruction” of Afghanistan since the 2001 US invasion.

The timing of its screening was not accidental. Particularly in the wake of the widespread vote-rigging in the August 20 presidential poll, the media has been highlighting government corruption in Afghanistan as a major reason for the growth of the Taliban insurgency amid speculation that President Hamid Karzai might be removed.

Blaming the Karzai administration conveniently ignores the fact that pay-offs and bribes have been integral to the US invasion and occupation from the outset. Washington brought down the Taliban regime by buying off a series of warlords who were notorious for their thuggery and criminal activities, including involvement in the drug trade. Karzai was simply installed as the frontman for the puppet regime constructed on this basis.

While the documentary is uncritical of the US occupation, it is, without intending to be, a damning indictment of US propaganda that its invasion of Afghanistan was to improve the lives of the long-suffering Afghan people.

The documentary follows director Paul Moreira as he seeks to track down how some of the estimated $US18 billion in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan has been used. Last year, a host of countries and organisations attended the “International Afghanistan Support Conference” in Paris. The assembled delegates voted to finance the building of 680 new schools in the country. Moreira makes it his initial task to inspect some of these schools in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

Moreira stumbles across one by chance. It is a girls´school in which “a few minor details are missing for the situation to be perfect”, comments the narrator, “details like walls and a roof”. The students are forced to have lessons outside, with only a damaged portable blackboard to suggest a classroom setting. There is no protection from the cold. Snow begins to fall. A teacher comments that the students cannot be expected to learn when they are more concerned about staying warm.

Moreira contacts USAID, which can suggest only one other newly-built school to visit in Kabul. Upon arriving, a billboard depicts a modern facility in a pristine surrounding. The next shot is of the school itself. It consists almost entirely of tents. Although the government promised 18 months ago that construction would be finished within two years, all that has been built are a brick wall and some bathrooms.

A presidential run-off election planned for Nov. 7 seemed headed for collapse Saturday, with the main challenger to President Hamid Karzai, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, widely expected to pull out of the race: here.

More than 1,000 American troops have been wounded in battle over the past three months in Afghanistan, accounting for one-fourth of those injured in combat since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001: here.

Kipling Haunts Obama’s Afghan War: here.

NATO strategy in Afghanistan is increasing the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Britain, a Tory MP Adam Holloway has warned: here; and here.

11 thoughts on “Corrupt occupation in Afghanistan, new film

  1. Fraud surrounds women voters in Afghan election

    31 October 2009, 6:45 AM

    KABUL — One man cast 35 votes for female relatives. Others lugged in sacks full of voting cards they said were from women. And in a village of just 250 people, 200 women supposedly voted in three hours.

    In Afghanistan’s recent presidential election in August, one of the ripest areas for fraud was women’s voting. And the same is likely to be true again in the Nov. 7 runoff between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

    The stakes are high. The Obama administration, which pushed Karzai to accept the runoff vote, is hoping it will restore legitimacy to a government that has been undermined by blatant ballot-box stuffing and Karzai’s long delay in accepting fraud rulings that forced the runoff.

    Yet the problems of fraud related to women’s voting cannot be changed in a few weeks. There’s widespread acceptance of proxy voting by male relatives. Many women are reluctant to vote given threats of violence and polling centers swarming with men. And those who do cast ballots are usually uneducated and therefore more easily manipulated.

    It’s unclear how large an impact fraud involving women voters had on the results because Afghan election officials have not released the list of women’s polling stations. But many observers have said that women’s polling stations were more problematic than men’s.

    In August, men showed up with fistfuls of female voter cards and poll workers allowed them to cast multiple ballots without argument, according to a U.N. report. In some cases, men dragged in sacks full of cards supposedly for female relatives, Afghan monitors said.

    Empty women’s polling stations also provided reams of blank ballots to unscrupulous local officials.

    “It allowed for women’s votes to be manipulated. Block voting, proxy voting, or there were just no women at the polling stations and those ballots were used for fraudulent votes,” said Theresa Delangis, part of a team working on election issues with the U.N. women’s fund.

    Afghanistan is no safer now than two months ago and there still aren’t enough female poll workers. Election officials say they have plans to recruit more women, but the strategy does not appear any different from the one that failed this summer.

    Afghanistan is still a deeply conservative Muslim society where a man might never see the face of his best friend’s wife. Yet more than 3,500 of the country’s female polling stations were staffed by men because they couldn’t find enough women to fill the jobs, according to the Afghan Independent Election Commission.

    Faced with male staff, many women just didn’t show up to vote. Momina Yari, an election commissioner who has campaigned for better access for women at polling stations, said even if a woman wanted to vote, her family often wouldn’t let her.

    In cases where women staffers were available, the women’s polling centers were often in the back of a building, meaning female voters had to walk past large groups of men to cast their ballots, Yari said.

    Election officials say Taliban threats made it hard to attract female poll workers, and there also weren’t enough women with the needed skills. The typical Afghan woman is illiterate, a handicap that makes it difficult for them to dependably staff a polling center, said Sharif Nasry, part of a team of gender specialists working with the election commission. On top of that, women’s activists said Afghan officials didn’t try hard enough to recruit women.

    Because of the lack of staffing and insecurity in the south and east, at least 650 women’s polling stations failed to open countrywide, according to Afghanistan’s main independent monitoring group, the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan. In central Uruzgan province alone, only six out of 36 women’s polling stations opened.

    It created a situation in which women were actually slightly less represented in 2009 than in the last presidential vote in 2004, when Afghans had only recently emerged from the Taliban regime that banned women from most jobs and forced them to wear an all-covering burqa whenever leaving the house. Women accounted for 39 percent of the votes in August, down from 40 percent five years ago, and most observers say this year’s tally was probably inflated by fraudulent ballots.

    No major changes have been implemented for the runoff because the election commission’s gender unit is still working on a report with proposals, Nasry said.

    Afghan monitors have a host of issues they want addressed.

    Besides the problems with workers and polling stations, the head of the Afghan monitoring group said they want some way to deal with the problems inherent in burqa voting. Women were often able to vote twice because their ink-stained fingers were hidden under burqas and workers were reluctant to check under the covering, said Nader Nadery, the group’s head.

    Since women can choose not to have a photo on their voting card, it was also easy for underage or unregistered women to vote with another’s card, he said.

    Nasry, of the election commission, said poll workers now will ask a woman’s name when she comes to vote to make sure that she is using her own voting card, but he offered no other concrete proposals.

    One plan involves cutting female staff down to three from five and eliminating female body searchers, said Zia Amarkhil, director of field operations for the election commission. Men will still be searched, he said, but the plan raises questions about whether security will be compromised or if it will enable more multiple voting by people who are not closely inspected.

    The number of voting locations is actually set to increase in the runoff from the first-round vote. The election commission announced Thursday that it will open 6,322 voting sites, well above the 6,167 sites that opened in the first round. The decision flouts a U.N. recommendation that only 5,817 open in order to lessen the chance that closed or near-empty stations will be used for ballot-box stuffing — a major problem in the first round.

    The election commission has said that security forces can assure the safety of the larger number of sites, but has not said how it plans to find the extra staff.


  2. Fallen commander’s email ‘final nail in Brown’s coffin’

    Published Date: 31 October 2009

    The father of an Exeter soldier killed when a blast hit his vehicle in southern Afghanistan has said Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe’s email was the “final nail in Gordon Brown’s coffin”.
    Ian Sadler accused the Government and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of failing to support the troops and called for an inquiry into the deficiencies.

    His son, Trooper Jack Sadler, 21, of the Honourable Artillery Company, died after the Land Rover he was travelling in hit a mine north of Sangin in Helmand Province on December 4, 2007.

    Referring to the email from Lt Col Thorneloe before his death, Mr Sadler said: “This is the final nail in Gordon Brown’s coffin.

    “I’m livid about this and have been aware of the MoD’s lack of support for our soldiers for some time.”

    Mr Sadler, of Exmouth, told the Press Association his son would still be alive if a Chinook helicopter had been used to move the light guns and their ammunition into position.

    “Instead, 74 young men risk life and limb to do a two-day job, travelling at 7km/h across hostile territory,” he said.

    “The Chinook could have completed this task in four 15-minute sorties, and my son would still be alive.”

    Following the inquest into Trooper Sadler’s death this summer, the coroner wrote to the MoD and called for the Government to review the use of light armoured vehicles and helicopters in Afghanistan.

    But Mr Sadler said he was disappointed with the MoD response.


  3. Mistranslation at heart of tragic moment in Kandahar

    November 1, 2009 – 14:26

    Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS

    OTTAWA – An Afghan teenager was walking his bike along one of the rutted dirt paths criss-crossing the parched landscape west of Kandahar City on a hot August day in 2007.

    The youth was carrying a can with fuel for his family, tenant farmers in the dirt-poor fields of Panjwaii where Canadian troops had fought pitched battles with the Taliban.

    The gasoline was to power the generator that worked the irrigation pump that kept their fields from withering.

    The teenager had almost reached the pump when he stepped on a landmine, likely set to disrupt the many Canadian patrols in the area.

    The explosion blew him across the path. The bike landed on top of him and his face was badly burned. A nearby Canadian patrol rescued him.

    He awoke in the multinational military hospital at Kandahar Airfield, where nurses gave him a piece of paper.

    What happened next set off a panic, said Malgarai, a former Canadian military interpreter and cultural adviser.

    The boy wrote: “Please bring my father. Where is my father?” But Malgarai said it was mistakenly translated to read: “Where is my gun?”

    On a second piece of paper, the boy was more insistent, and asked for his father to take him to Kabul for medical care.

    That ended up mistranslated as: “I am among the infidels and please take me out of here because they will kill me.” Suspicion was only heightened by the fact he was carrying a gas can.

    Malgarai happened upon the scene, he says, and cleared up the confusion, preventing the boy from being transferred to the custody of Afghanistan’s notorious intelligence service.

    The former cultural adviser to the military, who does not want his last name used to protect his family, says some innocent Afghans may have been inadvertently been labelled as Taliban and sent to jail because some Canadian interpreters spoke only one of Afghanistan’s two official languages.

    “There (are) … many examples of where we had a problem with translation,” Malgarai said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

    In January 2008, for example, he says he was called upon to review the translation of a prisoner-transfer document filled out by a colleague.

    The colleague spoke only Dari and had borrowed his Pashto dictionary to complete his translation. The report was laced with errors, Malgarai said.

    “When I looked at the report, it was a word-by-word translation from the dictionary, which made absolutely no sense,” said Malgarai.

    He claimed the transfer to the Afghan intelligence service was halted. The suspect was interviewed again by Afghan authorities and eventually cleared.

    The Defence Department, responsible for recruiting and deploying cultural advisers, defends its interpreters.

    Jorgen Kruger, the department’s director of policy and programs, said he has full confidence in the work the advisers carry out.

    But Alex Neve, the executive director of Amnesty International Canada, said the reports warrant further investigation by the Defence Department.

    “I think this just highlights one more time why it’s important we stop transferring prisoners until we can do so in ways that properly safeguard the full range of relevant human rights,” said Neve.

    “Where there is material to conduct a review to identify whether there are any substantial flaws in translation, which may have led to someone’s wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

    “That needs to be a top priority.”


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