Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Evil of Lesser Evilism

The New York Times

May 11, 2010

The Evil of Lesser Evilism



Everybody here lies.

But with the arrival of Hamid Karzai, the mendacity blossomed into absurdity.

The question for the Obama White House is not whether it can grow to appreciate the caped capo who runs Afghanistan. (President Obama can’t stand him.) The question is whether Karzai will fall for all the guff they’re throwing at him.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal were paraded into the White House press room to pretend as though their dispute about the efficacy of the surge, given Karzai’s serious flaws as a partner, has been put to rest. (It hasn’t.)

The administration crooned a reassuring lullaby to the colicky Karzai: that it has a long-term commitment in Afghanistan (it doesn’t) and an endgame there (it doesn’t) and that it knows that the upcoming Kandahar offensive will work (it doesn’t).

Asked by a reporter about the change from sticks to carrots, Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan who has had contentious sessions with Karzai, replied: “No, I certainly don’t think it’s changed.” (It has.)

For their part, the Afghans promise to work on stemming corruption and stopping the poppy trade. (They won’t.)

The administration is trying to delay the inconvenient truth that Karzai wants reconciliation with Taliban leaders; this makes the U.S. cringe, thinking of Mullah Omar and other 9/11 killers.

Like a lover who has learned from bitter experience that his fickle mistress responds better to sweets than rants, the administration has abruptly switched from nagging the corrupt Afghan president to nuzzling him.

On Tuesday evening, Karzai was honored at a starry State Department reception along with his ministers — or at least the ones he could get into the country. He didn’t bring his brother, the C.I.A. pal and drug lord, or other especially sleazy government officials.

President Obama, who last month was threatening to rescind the invitation to the maddening dandy, will have an Oval Office meeting and East Room press conference with Karzai on Wednesday.

The Afghan leader was also due to be feted Wednesday night at a private dinner at the home of Vice President Biden, who once stalked out of a Karzai supper at the palace in Kabul when the Afghan president claimed there was no corruption, and got furious again last month when Karzai said he would join the Taliban if foreign interference continued. (Translation: Stop upbraiding me, Obama, you’re stuck with me.)

On Thursday, Karzai is slated to get a special treat — a long, intimate walk in a Georgetown garden with Hillary Clinton — the one person in the administration who prides herself on getting along with him. Romantic strolls through gardens, the administration has decided, are the best way to move the corrupt coxcomb to its point of view.

Last October, when Karzai was trying to purloin the election with a million illegal votes, John Kerry persuaded him to agree to a runoff by taking a long walk through rosebushes and the presidential mosque on the palace grounds in Kabul.

Both Kerry and Hillary bonded with Karzai by confiding how they, too, had felt very wounded by a bruising election experience. “Sometimes there are tough things,” Kerry told the Afghan leader. Yeah, like if you had to steal an election twice.

The Taliban in Pakistan is training jihadis to attack New York, belying again W.’s chuckleheaded contention that we have to wage war against terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them at home. Our battles meant to diminish enemies replenish them. The inept Times Square bomber was infuriated by U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan.

The Pentagon, the public and administration allies are all expressing frustration with Afghanistan. A majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll says Afghanistan is not worth the cost.

A report by the Center for American Progress run by John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff who helped lead the Obama transition, faulted the administration, saying it “has not yet outlined a clear plan for transferring control to the Afghan state or sufficiently prioritized the reforms needed to ensure that it can one day stand on its own.” A Pentagon report also shows that General McChrystal’s boast that he could wheel “a government in a box” into Marja was premature.

The Pentagon said there had been “some success in clearing insurgents from their strongholds” but “progress in introducing governance and development to these areas to move toward hold and build operations has been slow.

“The insurgents’ tactic of re-infiltrating the cleared areas to perform executions has played a role in dissuading locals from siding with the Afghan government, which has complicated efforts to introduce effective governance.”

A walk in the garden, it’s not.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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