NYT op-ed: Afghan impunity “good for democracy”

Another appalling op-ed in the New York Times March 5, this one arguing that an amnesty for war criminals is “good for Afghan democracy.” This Orwellian exercise, “New Justice, No Peace,” is by Richard May, a fellow with the World Security Institute‘s Center for Defense Information, and a former captain with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan’s parliament has approved the amnesty law letting all the warlords from all the factions that tore the country apart for a generation totally off the hook. International human rights groups are petitioning President Hamid Karzai not to sign it. While paying patronizing lip service to critics’ “humanitarian feelings,” May writes that “President Karzai should sign the law—for four good reasons.” A very dangerous historical revisionism is clear in May’s reasons—portraying the warlords as Cold War heroes.

“First,” May writes, “almost all Afghans have blood on their hands,” and the law could lead to prosecution of foot-soldiers—an argument which doesn’t seem to apply to those being prosecuted for the bloodlettings in Bosnia and Rwanda, where murderous brutality was arguably even more of an equal-opportunity employer.

“Second, political participation like the pro-amnesty rally is a good sign for the future.” Yeah, like the Beerhall Putsch? And even if this Mujahedeen intimidation-fest (where mass murderers were cheered and “Death to America!” was a favorite slogan) was really a salubrious exercise in civic involvement, that says absolutely nothing about the validity of the cause.

“Third, the rejection of the amnesty law could easily turn the people against the government and the coalition forces that operate in Afghanistan. Should Karzai refuse to sign, it would convince many Afghans that their government is more interested in the views of the international community than that of its own people.” Oh? Since when do the warlords who inflicted endless atrocities on Afghanistan’s inhabitants speak for “the people”?

“Fourth, calls for justice tend to ignore the reality of the civil war… The warlords were, and in many cases still are, closer to the people than the Kabul government has ever been. Most warlords came to power protecting their families, clans and land from Soviet troops. The members of the militias the warlords commanded were cousins, sons and neighbors.” Yeah, and those they killed, raped and tortured were the cousins, sons and neighbors of others—for a decade and more after the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Nobody is talking about prosecuting anybody for shooting back against Soviet troops. And some of the warlords covered in the bill, such as the charming Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, collaborated with the Soviets.

There has been an awful lot of such reactionary hogwash in lead Times op-ed slot of late.

See our last post on Afghanistan.