Saturday, October 09, 2004

Note to Chicken Little: wrong again

Babble on.

To paraphrase (OK, completely brutalize) the words of Mark Twain: predictions of catastrophic violence preventing the Afghani presidential election have been grossly exaggerated. Which is not to say there has been no violence at all:

Gun battles, mine blasts and US air strikes on the day of Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban election left 38 people dead today...

Some of those killed were members of the Afghani security forces. I, for one, would like to recognize the selfless sacrifice of men who laid down their lives in defence of nascent democracy and freedom in an extraordinarily tumultuous area of the world. And it is important to note that their sacrifice was not in vain:

Rebels opened fire on four pick-up trucks carrying ballot boxes from Chura to Tirin Kot, the capital of central Uruzgan province, as it passed through a mountainous area at about 5pm, an hour after polls closed, police chief Rozi Khan said.

“They fought for just a few minutes, then withdrew to the mountains,” Khan said.

Three policemen were killed and four others wounded, but the convoy was able to continue to Tirin Kot, where the US military or the United Nations are expected to collect the votes by helicopter for counting in the southern city of Kandahar.

Of course, some candidates have complained that the elections were unfair, as we knew they would (nod to Pogge). This is not to say that the process was perfect, but that it was perfect enough to start Afghanistan down the road to democracy.

Fifteen of 18 presidential candidates demanded at midday that the election be called off, alleging widespread fraud.

They complained that many people voted more than once after their thumbs were marked with ink that could be easily removed instead of an indelible type meant to limit them to one ballot.

The joint United Nations-Afghan committee running the election promised to investigate but refused to stop the voting.

Ray Kennedy, a committee chairman, acknowledged that mistakes were made but said they weren't severe enough to deny Afghans their first chance to elect a president.

"There have been some technical problems but overall it has been safe and orderly."

Small victories for freedom will lead cumulatively to bigger victories for freedom. I continue to be inspired by a significant majority of the Afghani population which has discarded the decades-long experience of violence and intolerance in that country to strive for peace, prosperity, and freedom.

Even that statement is too weak: they are willing to lay down their lives in the hope that their sacrifice will allow their children will live the free and happy lives they were denied. For that, they have my respect and admiration.

Now the challenge is to make democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity thrive. But that's a post for another day...

Babble off.


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