The scene was touching, almost tear-jerking. As Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney looked on with Cheshire smiles, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as the new President of Afghanistan. The coronation hall was probably the nicest building in the country. Certainly it was the cleanest. Karzai looked resplendent, as most rulers do on their big day.

Democracy has come to Afghanistan, or so we are told.

Certainly, many Afghans registered to vote, participated in the election and even voted for Karzai. What was their choice? The occupation forces had made it clear that the Taliban and its sympathizers were banned from participation. So, in this newly established 'democracy,' the people of Afghanistan were already being told who they could not elect.

Once again, the policies of the Taliban were undoubtedly abhorrent to many in Afghanistan, just as the policies of the Bush Administration are abhorrent to at least 48 percent of the Americans who voted on November 2nd. However, our democracy allows us to vote for anyone we choose. If he or she is not on a ballot, we can even write them in. There is no exclusion of anyone based upon their political beliefs or past practices.

Imagine another nation, invading and occupying us, then establishing elections in which it is illegal to vote for the Republican Party. (Hmmmm!) Democracy? I don't think so. The same infirmity plagues Iraq 's coming elections. The occupation forces have already banned Iraqis from voting for the Baath Party and certain religious parties. Ah, the sweet smell of democracy!

Occupation authorities would argue that no Afghan would vote for the Taliban. This raises two issues. If nobody would vote for them, why not allow them on the ballot? Many probably would not vote for them simply out of an acute awareness of what state their nation is in. It was invaded, destroyed and occupied because the Taliban ruled. While the nation remains occupied, and perhaps for some time thereafter, it is unlikely that Afghanistan will forget that the Taliban equates with invasion and occupation. This is the lesson we intended to send, and one that does not take great study to master. Likewise, the people of Afghanistan are not likely to anger their heavily armed "guests" by snubbing Bush's personal choice for President.

The presence of high officials from the occupation forces merely reinforces the obvious--that Karzai is a puppet, hand-picked to serve the best interests of those who displaced the Taliban and placed him on the throne. He continues to be protected by occupation forces and does not wander far from the comfortable confines of Kabul.

Is Karzai the people's choice?

Was Najibullah the people's choice in Afghanistan or Russia's? Dubcek was the choice of the people of Czechoslovakia until Russian tanks entered in 1968 to 'liberate' the Czech people from his rule. Mosadeq was the choice of the Iranians, but America knew better and placed the Shah in his stead.

It is a long and established tradition--democracy according to the conquerors, not the conquered. So it goes in Afghanistan where, despite the pomp and pageantry, nobody besides FOX is taking this "election" seriously.

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John Peters's picture
Columns on STR: 15

John Peters is an attorney in Michigan, a Libertarian, and a freelance author.