Posts Tagged ‘international members’

Senator Kerry’s Conflict of Interest in Afghanistan

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) traveled to Kabul on August 17 to deliver the Obama administration’s warning to Hamid Karzai that he must clean up corruption in his government if he wants the United States to continue sending its treasure and troops to Afghanistan.

News reports recall that Kerry traveled to Kabul in November, 2009 to urge him to respect the findings of the Electoral Complaints Commission that Karzai had not won a majority of the votes in the first-round elections for president on August 20, and that consequently a second-round election should be held.

Karzai acceded to this immediate request. However he refused to respond to the demand of his rival in the presidential runoff, Abdullah Abdullah, that the Independent Electoral Commission’s members be replaced in order for there to be a real chance for a fair second-round election. The Independent Electoral Commission had been deeply involved in the massive fraud in Karzai’s favor in the first-round elections, and had officially sanctioned that fraud. Only the Electoral Complaints Commission, which at that time had a majority of “international” members, prevented that fraud from being directly consummated, by ruling that Karzai had not achieved a majority of the votes.

In view of Karzai’s failure to replace members of the Independent Electoral Commission who had sanctioned the fraud, Abdullah withdrew from the second-round elections before they could be scheduled to be held. Under the electoral law, the candidate who finished third should have advanced to the second-round runoff. This did not occur.

From these facts, news organizations began to repeat the canard that Senator Kerry had, through his personal “rapport” with Karzai, succeeded in persuading the Afghan president to honor the official results of the first-round election, accepting that a second round would have to be held.

In an apparent bow to the demands of Pakistan’s military and as part of the price of a deal for their help in negotiating with the Taliban, the U.S. stopped pressuring Karzai to enter a national unity government in talks with Abdullah, effectively pulling the rug out from under the latter.

Given Karzai’s failure to respond to his demands and the likelihood of massive fraud in the second-round elections, Abdullah withdrew from the elections. The United States immediately accepted this outcome, and began trumpeting to the world that Karzai was the legitimate and democratically-elected president of Afghanistan.

Senator Kerry’s Fundamental Conflict of Interest

Senator Kerry, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has a duty to oversee the actions of the executive branch in conducting the foreign policy of the United States. He and his Committee are responsible for advising the Senate as to the wisdom and coherence of that foreign policy, and whether to approve legislation to finance its implementation.

Yet by acting in an executive branch capacity to directly assist the President in his achievement of foreign policy objectives, Kerry has entered—perhaps unintentionally and with the best of motives—into a realm where his efforts on behalf of the executive involve a direct conflict of interest with his responsibilities as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For he cannot be expected to exercise the independent judgment required in conducting Senate oversight responsibilities of foreign policy actions in which he himself has directly taken part.

Senator Kerry may indeed have important diplomatic skills that might be employed in service to the nation. If Hillary Clinton were to resign, he would certainly be a strong candidate to become Secretary of State.

But he cannot undertake executive functions and responsibilities without entering into a fundamental conflict of interest with his legislative mandate and duties as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Only the Executive, under our constitution, can conduct the foreign policy of the United States. Statements by Senator Kerry that he is in Kabul in his capacity as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee should be dismissed as the fig leaf that they are. It appears beyond doubt that, as a result of Karzai’s interference with the work of anti-corruption bodies established in Afghanistan, the Obama administration found itself in an impasse with Karzai and called upon Kerry to help break it.

This is implementing foreign policy, not gathering information that might be useful in making legislative judgments. However well-intentioned such conduct may be, it is constitutionally inappropriate.

We need Senator Kerry in his constitutional role as Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivering absolutely independent, objective, and critical judgments on the wisdom and conduct of U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan.

Given the importance of the position he holds in the Senate, his judgment must at all times avoid even the appearance of impropriety. In the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan, we need his independent and critical judgment more than ever.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

Afghanistan: Controversy Over Live TV Coverage of Attacks, Deafening Silence on Karzai’s Electoral Coup

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

The government of Hamid Karzai has proposed a ban on live television coverage of militant attacks and active security operations in response. In the meantime, Karzai’s takeover of the Electoral Complaints Commission stands, and is unlikely to be reversed.

Live Television Coverage of Militant Attacks, Human Rights, and Freedom of the Press

Alissa Rubin of the New York Times reports

Minute-by-minute news coverage by Afghan television stations of two recent suicide attacks proved an embarrassment for the government, showing that it could not stop militants from penetrating even heavily guarded areas of the capital.

The stated reason for the ban is that live coverage presents a security risk because it lets the attackers see how the security forces are responding and allows them to send guidance to militant operatives. Officials also said they were trying to protect journalists from gunfire and bombs.

“While there is an operation going on, the journalists’ lives are always in danger; it doesn’t mean we are censoring the media,” said Waheed Omar, the spokesman for President Karzai. “We will find a way to protect journalists’ lives and to prevent enemies from using those live broadcasts for their benefit.”

–Alissa J. Rubin and Abdul Waheed Wafa, “Afghanistan Aims to Ban Live Coverage of Attacks,” New York Times, March 2, 2010

The Taliban has objected on the ground that the ban would violate human rights including the right to freedom of the press:

“We the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemn this proclamation of the Kabul authorities and this is actually a violation of the international law of media, civil society and human rights,” said Zabibullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman in a telephone interview.

“Banning the free media actually indicates that they are violating freedom of speech. This is unacceptable and a violation of worldwide media freedom,” he said.

–Alissa J. Rubin, “Taliban: Bomb the Ban,” New York Times (At War blog), March 3, 2010

Meanwhile, FOX News quoted Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as follows:

The State Department will voice its concerns to President Karzai about a proposed ban on live media during Taliban attacks, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Tuesday.

“It’s pretty obvious we support free press”, Holbrooke told reporters at a State Department briefing. “We don’t support restrictions on press. My whole career has been devoted to supporting that and PJ [Crowley, State Department spokesman] and I and the Secretary of State are concerned and we’ll make our support of free access by the press clear to the government.”
-Justin Fishel, “Afghans Propose Media Ban, U.S. Reacts,” FOX NEWS Live Shots, March 2, 2010

Since this appears to be a difficult issue for Western officials, the Observer suggests they consult with their respective millitary leaders and ask them for their views on the question of live television broadcasts of ongoing military operations.

Played for Fools?

As this human rights controversy raged, there was a deafening silence from the United States, NATO countries and the U.N. regarding Karzai’s blatant coup and takeover of the Electoral Complaints Commission, in flagrant violation of the Electoral Law and the Constitution.

In short, we are debating whether there should be live TV coverage of police and military operations in Afghanistan, while the U.S. media, with few but notable exceptions, ignores the takeover of the electoral machinery by Karzai and what is being done to reverse that decision. Meanwhile, he engages in ploys that would circumvent legal requirements that women serve in the National Assembly, as he appears to prepare the stage for more electoral fraud in the national assembly elections expected to be held in September of this year.

The details of the electoral coup are important to understand. On February 22, 2010, Karzai published a decree giving himself the power to appoint the five members of the ECC, under his authority to issue decree laws when the National Assembly is not in session. By twisted logic, it is believed that a constitutional provision establishing that the electoral law cannot be changed within a year of an election would prevent the National Assembly from reversing his decree. This is a question of Afghan constitutional law, which in an ideal world an independent constitutional court or Supreme Court with constitutional review authority would throw out as a preposterous interpretation of the law. But Western governments seem baffled as to what to do, and are likely to accept a face-saving solution that leaves Karzai with the power to appoint the ECC with a majority of at least three Afghan members.

Former U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide has stated that Karzai promised him that two of the five members of the ECC would be international members (as opposed to the majority of three required in the previous legislation), and diplomatic efforts may lead to that result. But the bottom line is that Karzai will still control the ECC and therefore the outcome of election disputes and elections.

The U.S., NATO countries and the U.N. are all likely to be quite satisfied with that outcome, demonstrating once again that Karzai is a master strategist and tactician in the game of protecting the power of Karzai.

The burning question is how many more U.S. and allied lives should be sacrificed for that cause.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited, in any language. If in a language other than English, please provide an English translation. A Google translation will be sufficient.