Hundreds of Thousands?!

How fraudulent was the recent Afghan election for president? In the province of Kandahar, home of incumbent president Hamid Karzai, 350,000 ballots were turned in to be counted, as reported by the New York Times. The problem is, only around 25,000 people actually voted there. Additionally, somewhere along the order of 800 fake polling sites were set up, existing on paper only, where all votes reported went to Karzai. The Electoral Complaints Commission, the organization tasked with monitoring the election, has stated, somewhat calmly considering the numbers involved, that it found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” in the vote. In short, Hamid Karzai’s supporters have created hundreds of thousands of votes for their candidate out of thin air. Incredible.

This would be a travesty for democracy in its own right, but one we in America could live with, were it not for the fact that American soldiers and Marines are dying every day to protect this sham government in Kabul. The election still hasn’t been certified, but if the results as of today stand, with Karzai holding a 54% to 28% lead over the next closest candidate, Abdullah Abdullah (the majority tally precluding a runoff between the two), then there is little reason to believe the government in Kabul is any more legitimate than its Taliban foes. The Afghanis will certainly understand that reality, and here in the United States, we will as well.

If the election is ended without a clearly unambiguous resolution, there’s a chance it will go down as the final moment when the war in Afghanistan became an exercise in pure futility. The warning signs have been there for years, obscured by the Bush administration’s focus on Iraq, but now the good war is also the war of record on the nightly news, and people are noticing the waters of the swamp rising ever closer to our necks. President Obama and his generals have a tough one on their hands, and whatever strategy they come up with for the long-term prosecution of the war, it has to be implemented in an environment where Hamid Karzai’s supporters were not allowed to steal an election. Karzai can still win this election legitimately, and that’s fine, but it will result in nothing but woe to all involved if the farcical attempts at ballot stuffing in Afghanistan are allowed to stand.