Loose Canons

Sharpies at the U.N.

How Kofi’s boys botched the monitoring Saturday’s Afghan election. But did you hear who won in Australia?

By 10.11.04

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No, not the people who helped Saddam loot Iraq and pocketed billions from the Oil-for-Food-for-Bribes-for-Weapons program. Sharpies: those wonderfully-handy felt-tipped pens with permanent ink that my wife continues to swipe from my desk. The Afghan election -- an otherwise wonderful and historic event -- is now in dispute because the U.N. didn't have Sharpies handy.

Laugh if you must, but the humor of this can only be appreciated by the overpaid bureaucrats of Turtle Bay. The U.N. was supposed to be monitoring and assuring the validity of the Afghan election in which Hamid Karzai and about seventeen others were vying for the presidency of this war-ravaged nation. The U.N. failed. Not because of violence in the polling places, though there surely was some. Not because hundreds of thousands of Afghanis quailed at the terrorists' threats of murder if they tried to vote, because they didn't. The U.N. failed because its infallible, impartial, and professional election monitors planned to mark the cuticle of one thumb of each voter with ink to show they'd voted and thus prevent them from voting again, and couldn't manage to get even that right. You'd think they'd have arranged for pens with ink that wouldn't wash off immediately, rendering the result in doubt of massive Chicago-like vote fraud. But they didn't. It's as if the U.N. election monitors had been trained by former Louisiana gov Edwin Edwards. In truth, that would probably have been an improvement.

In the fall of 2001, Afghanistan sat under the oppression of the Taliban, UBL and the Pakistani Intelligence Service that kept it in the sorry condition it had been since the Soviets withdrew in defeat. After September 11, the reign of the Taliban was brought to an abrupt end, al Qaeda was almost destroyed, and OBL was on the lam. In just three years, Afghanistan went from a nation that had never in its history allowed its people self-determination, to one in which -- despite the strictness of Islamic law that still dominates much of its people -- millions voted. The picture on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post said it all: a woman, garbed head to toe in a burqa, only her hands visible, pushing her paper ballot into a ballot box. According to one report, pollsters weren't able to get good exit polls because the Afghanis were reveling in their ability to keep their votes secret.

That the U.N. couldn't manage even this simple thing leaves me wondering just what role it can possibly play in the January elections in Iraq. Let's help. Every American (and everyone else interested in seeing democracy take root in Iraq) should send a Sharpie to Secretary Kofi Annan (Hizzoner Kofi Annan, Secretary General, U.N. Headquarters, First Avenue at 46th Street, New York, NY 10017). Maybe by this little act of charity we can help prevent in Iraq the same buffoonery that just occurred in Afghanistan. Don't send nasty letters. Just a little note saying we're trying to help the U.N. do what it obviously can't do on its own.

THANK HEAVEN THAT the U.N. played no role in the Australian election last week. Prime Minister John Howard, who braved enormous political opposition to do it, joined Mr. Bush's Coalition of the Willing, and sent Aussie troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. His survival was long in doubt but the Aussies reelected him with a substantial margin of victory. Now, maybe President Bush can mention his name again with prominence in the final debate against Vichy John Kerry. Aussie liberals are shocked by their loss. Maybe they should think about it more. Their message didn't fail with the voters because it wasn't clear enough, or because they didn't articulate it well or loud enough. It failed because Aussies are practical people. They don't want terrorism at home, so they're willing to fight it at its source. So must we.

Two out of the four elections that should affect the war on terrorists and the nations that support them have passed, and but for the U.N. screw-up, both would stand as a powerful message to the enemy. The effect of the January Iraqi election will depend on what happens here in November. If Mr. Bush wins, terrorism will remain on the run. If Kerry prevails, we will suffer an enormous setback.

Kerry's "plan" for Iraq is in tatters. He says -- and John Edwards reiterated on Meet the Press on Sunday -- that the Iraq war is the wrong war, at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Kerry's principal idea, to bring in those nations that have so far refused to join in the fight, has only meant one thing. In his awesome egotism, Kerry believes that just because he is who he is, France and Germany -- and perhaps even Russia -- will send troops to relieve the burden we have shouldered. It's false, like so much else Kerry and Edwards say. Chirac and Schroeder have already said that they won't send troops no matter who the President may be on 21 January 2005. Kerry says that if we do this right, we can begin to withdraw our troops in six months, and be out of there in four years.

Mr. Kerry objects to fighting this war on the terms it must be fought in order to win. We can't fail to build the bases in Iraq we're now building, but he'd stop the construction. If we lack those bases, then any further action in the Middle East -- against Iran and Syria -- will be much harder to accomplish when Kerry's successor takes office. He wants to stop the program that's developing tactical nuclear penetrating bombs that can destroy Iran's buried nuclear weapons program untouchable by conventional weapons. Mr. Kerry wants to bring the troops home from this war, just as he did in the Vietnam War. Someone should remind him that we lost that one thanks to him, Hanoi Jane, and their ilk.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.