Wednesday, March 1, 2006
[A] man that thinks men can be turned into angels be an iliction is called a rayformer an’ remains at large.
— Finley Peter Dunne, Casual Observations
Watch out Bolivia. George Bush has you in his sights.
Bolivia just had an election. George Bush likes elections because that is what democracy is all about. He is especially proud of the one he sponsored in Iraq. That was proof that everything is coming up roses next to all the roadside bombs that are killing and maiming American service people and Iraqis.
He also liked the election that took place in Palestine. The result wasn’t exactly what he wanted but he nonetheless decreed it a good thing. Rather than paraphrase his eloquence, here in his own words is how he summed up the election:
I remind people, the elections — democracy is — can open up the world’s eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections — the election process is healthy for society, in my judgment. In other words, it’s one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. And you’ll hear a lot of people saying, well, aren’t we surprised at the outcome, or this, that, or the other. If there is corruption, I’m not surprised that people say, let’s get rid of corruption. If government hadn’t been responsive, I’m not the least bit surprised that people said, I want government to be responsive. And so that was an interesting day yesterday in the — as we’re watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East.
That helps us understand why Mr. Bush was pleased with the process if not, perhaps, the result. Bolivia is a different story.
Bolivia had an election in January 2006. The winner was Evo Morales, a Socialist leader. Mr. Morales has promised to end American-financed programs to eradicate Bolivia’s coca crop, which is used to make, among other things, shampoo, toothpaste and flour. It is also used to make cocaine. Mr. Bush does not like countries that export products used to make drugs unless they are our friends. Like Afghanistan.
According to CBS’s 60 Minutes, Afghanistan is the world’s largest exporter of heroin and the opium used to produce it. Aafghanistan supplies 87 percent of the world’s opium and according to Robert Charles, formerly assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement it is Afghanistan’s main cash crop. That wasn’t true during the year preceding the invasion when growing opium rendered the farmer death penalty eligible if caught. It became true when Mr. Bush invaded and enlisted the aid of locals to get rid of al Qaeda and the Taliban. When they left so did restraints on growing and exporting opium.
Mr. Bush has a good friend in Afghanistan. He is the president of that country and his name is Hamid Karzai. Commenting on opium production and export Mr. Karzai recently said: “Afghanistan will need at least 10 years of strong, systematic consistent effort in eradication, in law enforcement and in the provision to the Afghan farmer of an alternative economy.” He has a long way to go. One counter-narcotics official told 60 Minutes that he estimated that 90 percent of police chiefs in Afghanistan are involved in the drug trade or protecting those who are. The state department office dealing with drug trafficking said Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a “narcotics state.” Although Mr. Bush doesn’t like that it’s OK because Mr. Karzai is our friend. It’s a different story in Bolivia.
According to one report the United States is cutting off military aid to that country. If you believe what you read, it is not because of the coca crop. It’s because Bolivia has refused to ratify a pledge not to extradite Americans to the International Criminal Court. That doesn’t seem to have anything to do with growing coca except it turns out the administration has not cut off military aid to at least four other countries that have refused to ratify the treaty.
With the fiscal year beginning in October 2005, Bolivia will receive $1.7 million in aid from the United States. Next year it will get $70,000. Almost half the aid Bolivia will get this year will be used to send military officers to the School of the Americas in Georgia. Next year that won’t be possible. According to Adam Isacson, the program director for the Center for International Policy cutting the financing will “antagonize the Bolivian military.” The Bolivian military played a role in a number of coups in decades past. Mr. Isaacson described the military as being “mighty independent” and not an ally of Mr. Morales.
One wonders if Mr. Bush hopes that by cutting back on funding the Bolivian military will get so mad it will sponsor a coup so its personnel can go back to the School of the Americas at Mr. Bush’s expense. Time may tell.