The Times gives us a juicy piece in today’s issue about an American UN official named Peter Galbraith who plotted *gasp* to depose the fraudulent Hamid Karzai and install a more “western-friendly” leader in Afghanistan. The journalists at the Times treat this matter with the delicacy of threading a needle, for though it is clear Hamid Karzai’s victory was illegitimate, they want to make it clear that ousting a president is very, very bad (unless, of course, the US government does it).
Shortly after making this suggestion, Mr. Galbraith mysteriously left the country and was subsequently fired:
Mr. Galbraith abruptly left the country in early September and was fired weeks later. Mr. Galbraith has said that he believes that he was forced out because he was feuding with his boss, the Norwegian Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Kabul, over how to respond to what he termed wholesale fraud in the Afghan presidential election. He accused Mr. Eide of concealing the degree of fraud benefiting Mr. Karzai.
Galbraith was one of the few voices crying “fraud” after the August elections. He was soon vindicated, after almost one-third of Karzai’s votes turned out to be fakes in a UN audit this October. Galbraith then set upon outlining his plan to remove Karzai, which first took form in a letter to his boss, Eide. After reading the letter, Eide remarked that the plan was:
“unconstitutional, it represented interference of the worst sort, and if pursued it would provoke not only a strong international reaction” but also civil insurrection. It was during this conversation, Mr. Eide said, that Mr. Galbraith proposed taking a leave to the United States, and Mr. Eide accepted.
The whole election was “unconstitutional”, of course, and there can be no worse sort of “interference” than an armed invasion by a global superpower, but the question merits consideration: since Karzai is an illegitimate president, having won no elections, would the US be justified in forcibly replacing him? I have the feeling two wrongs do not make a right.
But the story gets even more complicated. Galbraith has repeatedly accused his boss of having corrupt ties to the Karzai government, and while I don’t think he specifically mentioned it, I’m sure the accusation is that Eide is somehow profiting from the vast heroin fortune that runs through the Karzai family.
The Times only mentions that Eide will be “in Afghanistan until the end of his term”, and says nothing else on the matter. But the policy blogs have been buzzing about Galbraith’s recent accusation (circa only three days ago) that the real reason his boss isn’t running for a second term is that Eide, in fact, was fired, for his corrupt contacts with the Karzai government.
It is interesting that The Times neglects to mention this accusation, and equally interesting that it places most of it’s article’s focus on Galbraith. Though it has not refrained from criticizing the August election (proclaiming it “deeply flawed” though not yet an outright fraud), The Times has displayed itself as a fundamentally pro-Karzai paper. Then it should be clear why they would focus on a failed coup idea (which led to its progenitor’s dismissal) and not to a benefactor of Karzai’s corruption (which also led to a dismissal.)
Meanwhile, this sorry little episode exemplifies, if anything, the staid dysfunction under which the UN operates, the pettery personal politics, and at times, outright corruption.