Friday, November 20, 2009

Poor President Karzai

Hal Pepinsky,,
November 20, 2009
Yesterday Hamid Karzai signed on for five more years as Afghani president. I felt for him as I heard NPR and BBC descriptions of the ceremony: in a zone surrounded by armored protection, the bulk of the first three rows in the audience consisting foreign dignitaries led by Hillary Clinton and the rest by warlords of old, the abject pledge of the new president to take apart “corruption” in his own political family to maintain enough Euro-American support to stay alive in the Afghan presidential palace.
I was born months before WWII ended. When I was 16 I moved for a year with my parents to Trondheim, Norway. A neighbor and professional host of my parents, Einar Thorsrud, founder of the Norwegian Institute for Industrial Democracy, had spent years in the mountains as a partisan fighter against German occupation. When Germany surrendered, 50 Norwegian collaborators were sentenced to death, and half of them were executed before Norwegians had had enough. The first hanged was Vidkund Quisling, whom the Germans made Norwegian chief executive after King Olav had fled to England before the invaders could get their hands on him. Einar Thorsrud was a specialist in open grassroots democratization who showed us pictures of his hideouts in the mountains, and who shortly before his death from cancer, took Jill and me to the occupation museum in Oslo, at the foot of the fort that guarded the harbor in times past. I carry this experience of my youth in my viscera as I think about President Karzai’s plight.
President Karzai was a Pashtun war hero. He was also US trained and sponsored into the presidency. Karzai is a logical candidate for being considered a Quisling by Afghanis who suffer US bombardment. I also imagine that he wishes that he had turned down this career opportunity.
How Anglo-American news media scramble to keep hope alive that the war in Afghanistan that must be won (“loss is not an option”) is winnable (as though winning is an option). A visit by my daughter Katy this weekend brings to mind what she said at the age of 7 or so when we sat in the bedroom watching the big battle scene in the movie “Patton”: What a mess! Love and peace--hal

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