December 11, 2004

A Hell Of A Story

The inauguration of Hamid Karzai as the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan just three years after the fall of the Taliban is what Dick Cheney was calling "a hell of a story". Stephen Hayes was there, and he notes how the story got buried back in the U.S. But first he quotes from Karzai's inaugural address:

Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan--the peace, the election, the reconstruction, the life that the Afghans are living today in peace, the children going to school, the businesses, the fact that Afghanistan is again a respected member of the international community--is from the help that the United States of America gave us. Without that help Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists--destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education. We are very, very grateful, to put it in the simple words that we know, to the people of the United States of America for bringing us this day.

Sadly, most Americans never heard these words. Gratitude, it seems, is not terribly newsworthy. Neither is democracy. The Washington Post played Karzai's inauguration on page A-13, a placement that suggested it was relatively less important than Eliot Spitzer's decision to run for governor of New York or the decision of the U.S. government to import flu vaccine from Germany.

This is an embarrassment. The foreign policy of George W. Bush will likely be remembered for two highly controversial decisions: (1) to eliminate not only terrorist networks but also the regimes that sponsor them, and (2) to cultivate democracy in the region of the world long thought least hospitable to it.

These are radical goals. And we may ultimately fail to achieve them. But with the removal of the Taliban and especially the inauguration of Karzai as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, they can no longer be dismissed as naive or unrealistic.

Posted by dan at December 11, 2004 5:32 PM