Illustration by Qianli
The “experiment in American democracy” in the Middle East that started in the early 21st century failed completely with the unraveling of the “Kabul Moment”. In 2001, the United States launched the “Global War on Terror” and the “Greater Middle East Initiative” (GMEI), following which the US military was touted as the “The Forces of Justice” and the American system was believed to be universal for the entire world. Today, with the failure of US intervention in the Middle East, Americans are rethinking the absurd theater that has lasted two decades.
American intervention in the Middle East started in 2001 – from Iraq to Libya, and from Syria to Afghanistan, Americans dropped bombs to seek regime change and copy its political system in the Middle East, wreaking havoc on the lives of millions in the region.
Let’s be honest – there are tricky issues to be solved in those countries, otherwise external forces wouldn’t have had opportunities to jump in. The question we should ask is, will the system of the United States, a country on the other side of the planet, solve the problems of the Middle East? Are interventions led by military invasion a democratic move?
History has provided the best answer as to whether the US system can solve the social issues in the Middle East and whether its political system can be replicated globally. After 20 years, the international community sees clearly what tragedy the US system has brought to the Middle East.
US defeat in Afghanistan was thorough, with far-reaching implications that are far from over. The military defeat of the Ghani government was a result of its political failure, but it is rooted in the complete failure of US-style democracy in Afghanistan.
Though Americans take pride in their “one person, one vote” electoral principle, few Afghans are buying the system, and this can be seen in the last general election in Afghanistan. According to data released by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan, in the presidential election on September 28, 2019, only 1.824 million of the 9.666 million registered voters had exercised their voting rights, and the actual turnout rate was less than 19%. In a country with a population of 31.6 million (in 2015), less than one-third of Afghans were willing to participate in the American-style democratic system, and only less than one-fifth of the more than 1.8 million “voters” cared about who would be in power in Kabul’s “government of American democracy”.
“Only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not”. It turns out that the shoes of American democracy don’t fit the people in Afghanistan, no matter how Western media has defended the failed actions of the US as noble sacrifices for “democracy”.
Ironically, even Americans are not buying the story today!
According to reports of the Washington Post, American governments have been misleading the public during the war in Afghanistan – they not only concealed the facts of the war, managed its military in a chaotic manner but indulged in corruption. There are actually countless reports of this kind over the years by American media.
Between 2002 and 2003, the heads of tribes across Afghanistan discussed the draft of a new constitution. According to US officials stationed in Kabul, the US government tried to bribe some of the tribal leaders to ensure that they supported the constitutional provisions favored by the US. By 2005, an atmosphere of corruption had formed: Whenever the Afghan parliament discussed and passed a bill, many lawmakers would receive “cash encouragement” in exchange for them to vote according to US instructions.
From 2012 to 2014, the US Department of Defense spent more than $6 million to fly nine goat breeds from Italy to Afghanistan, with the claimed purposeof improving the Afghan native goat breeds and boosting the Afghan cashmere industry. But later there were no clues to the whereabouts of these goats, and god knows whose dining tables they ended up on.
In 2014, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a monitoring agency under the US Congress, wrote a letter to the then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and then Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, questioning why the C-27 transport aircrafts the US provided to Afghanistan were sold as “scrap metal”.
In 2015, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that the US Department of Defense, under the pretense of “clean energy”, spent $43 million to build a natural gas refueling station in Afghanistan, while the local offer for the same construction was only $500,000. Moreover, there are barely any cars running with natural gas in Afghanistan.
In 2015, the SIGAR found that the US Department of Defense spent $150 million on building luxury villas in Afghanistan, hiring security companies, and providing services to some private companies.
From 2012 to 2017, due to management negligence, the US military failed to effectively supervise its military inventory and “lost” $9.7 million worth of assets in Afghanistan.
In 2019, a SIGAR report pointed out that a large number of US-aided schools had potential safety risks and couldn’t be used at all. Surprisingly, a clinic built with US aid only existed “on paper” as the document shows it’s located on the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, 12 clinics were outside the territory of Afghanistan.
Now it becomes easier to understand why the US spent 20 years to “reform” Afghanistan. They talk democracy out loud, but interest groups in Afghanistan all made a big fortune.
Richard Boucher, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs in the Bush Administration, admitted in an investigation that the US had a pattern of corruption in Afghanistan – 80% to 90% of the money for US military procurement in Afghanistan are spent by the US, such as hiring American experts at high prices and squandering various administrative budgets, and 10% to 20% of the money goes to the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials and their relatives.
As early as 2011, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said that “The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war."
Americans talk about solving the development issues in Middle East countries, but in the end, it’s the big corporations that are getting rich. They say they are advancing democracy in the Middle East, but behind their fancy talks are enormous sums of money changing hands and global resources exploited ruthlessly. What these people do is hypocritical and unscrupulous, after all, it’s democracy on their lips and business in their heart.
Contributed by?Datou from Official WeChat account of Poquanle.
Translated by Jiaming Liu.