Afghan workers prepare
for elections on Sept 18
and Impending Fall of Two Pashtuns
WA, August 28: Whether it’s in nation-building, nation-ruling,
poppy-growing, culinary enterprises or sartorial affairs, it’s
Pashtuns from Afghanistan that are leading the way these days.
Pride must be running high in and out of Kabul. And much of this
world-wide celebrity status centers on two genteel men: Zalmay
Khalilzad and Hamid Karzai.
Khalilzad has come a long way from the time he arrived in the
US as an exchange high school student to his present position
as Bush’s “enforcer” in Iraq… his diplomatic
rank falling short of the stature he truly commands.
For all his denials of being Bush’s
bagman in Baghdad to force a quick resolution for Iraq, Dr. Khalilzad
is exactly that… even if he portrays himself as a facilitator
or option provider to Kurds, Shia and Sunni alike in their drafting
of a constitution. Unfortunately, no matter what skills, or gift
of persuasion, he brings to the table; his mission was doomed
from the start.
be real for once! The moment Bush decided on Saddam Hussain’s
fate; he was deciding Iraq’s fate as well. Not as a hoped
for democracy, but as a tripartite mess. Not that the dweller
of the White House, or his retinue of advisors, wanted it that
way… but any serious student of the peoples and cultures
of Iraq would have easily predicted the current outcome: the logical
reaction to an illogical action.
or not, Khalilzad, as agent for the Bush administration, has made
America a partner in drafting a constitution that promotes the
rights of groups and religion above those of the people…
as if more interested in affirmative action [to redeem Baath era
crimes of the past] than in creating a forward-looking document
having a united purpose for all Iraqi people. A “switch
in power” from Sunnis to Shiites and Kurds… without
an acceptable central civil code for all. It would seem unreasonable
in the eyes of the free world to end up with a constitution which
takes steps backwards in human rights, women’ rights and
secularism… yet brandish US’ imprimatur!
be said, Khalilzad has been a disappointment… unable to
predict failure a second time around. (The first time he was a
principal proponent in getting the US to invade Iraq… so
that the US “would not lose the moment.”) This Pashtun-American’s
inability to predict failure again, renders him “inexpert”
in the operational theater that now includes Afghanistan and Iraq…
and to which he would like to add Syria and Iran. Bush might wish
to ponder… that acting on further advice from his friend
Zalmay could set the entire area ablaze (from Damascus to Kabul)
and bring about a Trillion Dollar Mess - not to minimize the predictable
loss of life, and eventual withdrawal “a la Vietnam.”
Zalmay Khalilzad has spent too much time - actually most of his
life - in non-Pashtun lands, and his ability to “do
pakhto” has atrophied. And for all his neocon virtuosity,
he lost his virgin Pashtun talent to blend two themes, Islam and
pashtunwali, which could offer an outlook more consistent
with reality. He missed the point when not heeding a Pakhto proverb
on cooperation: “When they take their meals apart, their
aims and objects become separate.” Which is to say that
when men cease to eat (or work) together, they fall out…
as have the Kurds, Shia and Sunni in Iraq.
quite a different story with the other Pashtun, Hamid Karzai,
who has kept intact his ability to “do pakhto” although
the skill may not prove sufficient to consolidate his rule over
people who by their nature do not easily accept union, or concord.
To be known as the “Mayor of Kabul” is less a derisive
nickname and more of a sad reality, for his influence does not
extend beyond the capital, even if democratically elected as president
all of Karzai’s compromises to prevent the alienation of
powerful warlords - including a refusal to allow Americans to
eradicate poppy production via the use of aerial spraying of chemical
herbicides, the gentleman from Kandahar appears as no more than
a well-educated and affable spokesman for his nation; and, of
course, as a great dresser… and super-model for capes and
fezzes. And although he genuinely seems as an advocate for Afghans’
interests, his future in politics is predicated on America’s
presence there. After all, another Pakhto proverb has it that
you are known (and judged) by the company you keep, and “that
company” wears the stars and stripes.
much of the world, regardless of his demeanor and sartorial elegance,
Karzai is seen as another drug kingpin, indirectly controlling
one-third of the world’s opium supply. So, no tears are
likely to be shed if he is gone.
brothers, who make their livelihood in the US, have done well
with their culinary enterprise. As a personal aside, I’d
like to add that although I am palatable-intolerant to dishes
having a pumpkin base (an apparent Afghani kitchen must), the
way lamb is prepared in their San Francisco restaurant is unparalleled.
all the help that Karzai and Khalilzad have afforded the Bush
administration to secure a stronghold for the United States in
the Middle East and Southwestern Asia, one might suspect that
this Pashtun novelty act will crumble… and soon. As to the
ultimate fate of these two gentlemen, fear not.
can always co-manage the affairs of his brothers’ bicoastal
Helmand restaurant chain; and the neocon fraternity can reward
Khalilzad for past services (failures all) by endowing a chair
of “Hegemony Studies” for him at some high profile
university; or, perhaps, by placing him in one of the existing
ultra-right think tanks.
sun may be setting on these two Pashtun men… but not on
the determined 25-30 million Pashtun who populate the Afghan-Pakistani
region. They are likely to survive and prosper… for they
know how to “do pakhto.”
writer is an author, analyst and freelance journalist based in
Washington State. He has his web site: http://www.tanosborn.com