May 30, 2006

Good News From Afghanistan

Only seven people were killed (or maybe twenty, max), and twelve vehicles damaged, after US soldiers lost control of their vehicle when driving through peak hour traffic in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Only about 2,000 locals were involved in the spontaneous rioting which ensued.

Protesters moved through the city center towards the presidential palace and parliament, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai", but only buildings in the diplomatic quarter were ransacked and set alight, including a charity compound. Police vehicles and checkpoints were also attacked, but no police were killed.

There were bursts of heavy gunfire around the US Embassay, but no staff were hurt. 21 European Union diplomats and staff were rescued from their compound by British Royal Marines. The US Military has denied claims that their soldiers were driving recklessly or that they shot at people in the crowd.

When reading the BBC report of this incident, remember that the BBC is known to be an extremely unreliable and anti-American news source. Similiarly, this news report from an eyewitness Times correspondent should not be considered reliable until verified by the US Military:
"We managed to get to within about a half-hour drive of where the accident happened and could hear gunfire. We stopped to ask what was going on.
"The mob crowded around the car and people were shouting: 'Let's get them - let's skin them alive'. We got out of there pretty quickly and as we were leaving we noticed a car was following behind.
"As we came onto a roundabout we ducked behind another car, pulled up onto the pavement and managed to lose him, thanks to the skill of our driver.
"I've been in Kabul for nine months and there has never been anything like this before..."
UPDATE: Juan Cole points out that over 400 Afghans have been killed by US bombing and military actions in only the past two weeks.
Despite Bush administration pledges to reconstruct the country, only six percent of Afghans have access to electricity. Less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Although the gross domestic product has grown by 80 percent since the nadir of 2001, and may be $7 billion next year, most of that increase comes from the drug trade or from foreign assistance... About half the economy of Afghanistan is generated by the poppy crop, which becomes opium and then heroin in Europe. Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and no other country comes close in its dedication of agricultural land to drug production (over 200,000 hectares).

The government lives on international welfare. Some 92 percent of Afghan government expenditures come from foreign assistance. The Afghan government is worse at collecting taxes than fourth world countries in subsaharan Africa. Unemployment remains at 35 percent. Unemployment is estimated to have been 25 percent in the US during the Great Depression.


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