Yep – Afghanistan again (remember Afghanistan, kids?). The quote is from Ramazan Bashardost, former planning minister in the post-Taleban regime. According to Reuters, he reckons that “Billions of dollars of aid that have poured into Afghanistan have done little to improve people’s lives”.
Three things to prove he’s talking arse:
1) No more state-organised public beheadings
2) Women are now allowed to be educated
3) Women are now allowed out in public without wearing tents
But – and it’s a big but – he does have a good point, merely one that is expressed horrendously badly. Apparently Bashardost resigned in protest over corruption in the 2000-odd NGOs that are supposed to be overseeing the country’s reconstruction (following the best part of three decades of invasions and civil wars), and is now trying to highlight the inefficiency in distribution of the vast sums of money which have supposedly been channeled over there since the US-led invasion – an inefficiency which can be linked to the highest levels of government, suggesting at best some kind of complicity in the corruption (in the best tradition of all those dodgy African regimes that pinch charity cash for guns).
All more than fair enough, and a valuable concern to raise. But when the hell are people going to learn that hyperbole is not the best approach in the current climate? I’ll freely admit to having little knowledge of (or interest in) domestic Afghan politics (I was up for kicking the Taleban out and quite enjoyed Rambo III, and that’s about as far as it goes), but such language makes the guy sound like an Afghan George Galloway – easily dismissed as a nutter by those who disagree with him. Galloway, too, often has good points to make; he, too, uses language that is seemingly calculated to offer the least possible conciliation from his opponents, even when stating the blindingly obvious.
A hypothetical example. Which of these claims do you think is more likely to prompt a rethink (remember, I said it was hypothetical…) in post-Saddam Iraq strategy from the coalition leaders?
a) “Iraq’s infrastructure has yet to reach an acceptable level of reliability, largely due to the increased number of attacks from militants, in part thanks to inefficiencies in the strategies of the companies that won the constracts to aid Iraq’s reconstruction post-Saddam.”
b) “Iraq’s worse now than it was under Saddam! Haliburton is corrupt and evil!”
Bashardost is capable of expressing his concerns in a calm and considered manner, so why hasn’t he done it this time? Simple – restraint is easier to ignore. He’s been banging on about this for ages, and no one has paid the least attention.
So, the options are as follows:
a) Express your concerns in a calm and rational manner, and hope that someone pays attention to your reasoned and logically-consistent arguments
b) Shout and rant about them so that they get heard – and be dismissed as a nutter.
Hell, in the UK you can even be dismissed as a nutter when you present yourself calmly and rationally – cf some of the responses to campaigning ex-Ambassador Craig Murray (“Look, look – he’s fixated on something! He must be barmy! Sod the fact that the thing he’s fixated on is actually pretty damn worrying and has fairly unpleasant implications! He’s a loon!”) or even the government’s various responses to the Law Lords whenever they have the temerity to suggest that taking away centuries-old liberties might be a bad move.
As near as I can tell, Afghanistan’s going to be screwed for years no matter what’s done there, and no matter how much shouting about corruption, political idiocy and the like goes on. The same’s probably the case in Iraq.
In the UK, however, since the death of Robin Cook there seems to have been a dearth of high-profile non-shouty people. As the news breaks that the 100th British soldier has been killed in Iraq (fingers crossed not my mate who was posted out there just after Christmas) – just as Blair begins his campaign to make everyone forget about foreign matters for a while with education, health and criminal justice reforms – those who still care about Britain’s role in this whole Iraq business (a group in which I can’t honestly say I count myself) really need to sort themselves out.
Who is the spokesman for the “Iraq’s a bit fucked up” movement now? Galloway? Do the anti-war lot want to be dismissed as nutters or merely ignored? Can anyone come up with a better strategy than the current one, which seems merely to be “Oh well, Bush and Blair should both be out of office by 2008 – maybe things will change then…”?
This whole shambolic and bloody affair has been going on for nearly three years now and – it has to be said – I really do not see the least improvement.