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.