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Snubbing Democracy

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FOR 50 years, the American left complained that we supported dictators instead of backing human rights and democracy. On Sunday, the lefties got yet another dose of what they used to demand: Free elections in Afghanistan, long the victim of tyranny.


Ralph Peters writes in The New York Post:


The left's reaction? Ignore the success of the balloting and explain away its importance by bending the truth until it's as twisted as an arrow designed by a liberal-arts faculty.

Why? Because Afghan democracy was enabled by the U.S. military — and by that devil incarnate, George W. Bush.

Leftists care nothing for real human beings. They only care about causes in the abstract — and who does a thing is far more important than what actually gets done.

It's disheartening to see our lefties reject every worthy value they once professed, switching their support to psychotic terrorists and dictators (well, they always did like Stalin and Mao . . . ). But the rest of us can take heart from the Afghans' courage, from their determination to assert their political liberty.

Even major U.S. news outlets, disappointed by the lack of Election Day bloodshed, relegated the voting to the inner pages or to a brief mention well along in the broadcast. Heroism in the cause of democracy doesn't merit headlines.

Instead, we heard whining that just over 50 percent of eligible Afghans voted, that there were too many candidates, that warlords were allowed to run, that the Taliban's back in business and, generally, that Afghanistan still isn't a replica of Vermont four years after its liberation.

OK. Let's consider the complaints.

* If "only" 50 to 60 percent of the potential voters cast a ballot, that's better than a political environment in which nobody gets to vote. Turnout is a lot lower in most U.S. congressional and local elections — and we don't have to brave threats of death and trudge over some of the world's harshest mountains to cast a ballot. (Mostly, we won't even drive to the polling place down the street.)

* Too many candidates? During our last presidential election, I, for one, would have liked more choices than our two party monopolies offered. Afghans are learning as they go. At this stage in the country's development, inclusive elections are better than exclusive ones.

* Warlords running for office? Is it better just to have them running guns? Let's see who won after the votes are tallied. Let the people choose.

* Taliban back in business? They never went away completely — and they won't. You can no more eradicate all bigotry and hatred than you can wipe out crime.

Americans reduced the once-powerful Ku Klux Klan to a laughingstock, but a few grown men still parade around in sheets. The Taliban will lurk on the fringes of Afghan society for years, representing a small, virulent constituency. But they'll never come back from the fringes.

And just by the way: In the southern provinces where the Taliban once was strongest, higher-than-average numbers of women registered to vote. Think they want Mullah Omar & Co. back?

* Is Afghanistan imperfect? You bet. But its government doesn't look bad compared to Louisiana's. Afghanistan will never be Vermont. The issue is whether or not it will be a better Afghanistan. It already is.

Afghanistan never had real democracy before the election that chose President Hamid Karzai. This is a largely illiterate country where only 6 percent of the people have electricity. Far from being cause for discouragement, the fact that so many Afghans turned out to vote should make us cheer the magnetism of democracy, the human longing for self-determination.

Despite all the Taliban threats of Election Day violence that tantalized the media, the polling hours passed without a single major attack. Nationwide, nine people died in isolated incidents of violence.

The "resurgent" Taliban couldn't even muster one good suicide bomber. Wasn't that worth a headline?

As a young soldier on a weekend pass a quarter-century back, I woke after an interesting night in Paris to read that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Later, as an intelligence officer, I monitored the Kremlin's occupation. After the Soviets fled, I watched the Taliban. I read Afghan history and visited the region. I never dreamed that so broken a country could make such rapid progress toward democracy.

Sunday's elections were a testament to sheer human resilience.

We all should be exhilarated by the valor and spunk displayed by Afghan voters. Left or right, we should be heartened by the yearning of human beings to control their own destiny, to cast off ancient traditions of oppressive governance. And we should be boundlessly proud of our troops, who gave the Afghan population this opportunity.

Instead, we get shrugged shoulders and cheap criticism. The non-coverage of Sunday's elections said far more about us than it did about Afghans.

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-10-27 04:32 PM

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