Columns: Afghanistan's corrupt oligarchy
AUSTIN, Texas -- Our national leaders' rationale for investing so much money and so many boots on the ground in that awful war in Afghanistan was that we'd leave behind a stable, popular government to assure peace and prosperity for all.
That was 11 years ago. Now that America has begun withdrawing from Afghanistan, what are we actually leaving behind? Answer: a despised and corrupt oligarchy.
To put faces to it, look no further than the family of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's incompetent, impossibly vain and dishonest president. His brothers have amassed astonishing fortunes during his tenure from insider deals, drug trafficking and the siphoning of untold millions of U.S. aid dollars.
Despite their stashes of ill-gotten wealth, however, the Brothers Karzai aren't much of a brotherhood. They're roiled with jealousies, business rivalries and murderous intrigues. For example, Mahmoud Karzai was developing a massive private housing project on 10,000 acres of land said to have been seized from the government when brother Shah Wali Karzai suddenly pulled off his own seizure. Early this year, he secretly "transferred" $55 million from Mahmoud's corporation to one of his own.
Meanwhile, another very rich brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed last year, resulting in one of his aides being imprisoned, though he's still not been charged with any crime. The aide isn't being held by regular authorities, but by the personal security guards of Shah Wali -- who seem to think the aide knows where Ahmed's fortune is stashed.
Our country sacrificed lives, treasury and moral standing for this? America's "leaders" of the past decade owe us -- especially our troops -- an abject apology.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.