Monday, February 21, 2005

The Wayback Machine: It's Not Just for Sherman Anymore

Hey, remember Afghanistan? Y'know, that last country we "liberated" from a tyrannical regime we set up in the first place? Ever wonder how they're faring with all that new-found freedom and democracy?

As it turns out, not so great. From the New York Times:

Three years after the United States drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan and vowed to rebuild, the war-shattered country ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index, according to a new report from the United Nations.

It was trailed only by a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone.


"The fragile nation could easily tumble back into chaos," concluded the authors of the study, led by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, the report's editor in chief. "The basic human needs and genuine grievances of the people, lack of jobs, health, education, income, dignity and opportunities for participation must be met."

Huh! Y'know, from the sounds of that, it almost sounds as if they're no better off for our bombing their country, torturing their suspected terrorists (read: farmers and children), and destroying their infrastructure. Surely there must be some mistake! Oh, here:

More than 54 percent of school-age children are enrolled, including four million high school students. The economy is making great strides, with growth of 16 percent in nondrug gross domestic product in 2003 and predicted growth of 10 to 12 percent annually for the next decade.

Take a good look at that last sentence. Notice how they slip in the word "nondrug" in there? That's cause over a third of the country's economy is from opium.

"Well, sure," you say, "but even so, a 16 percent growth in the rest of the economy is great. Those guys must be rich over there!" As it turns out, not so much. According to the AP,

most of the country's income is being mopped up by warlords with strong political and military connections, creating a dangerous gap between rich and poor and between the cities and the countryside. Half of all Afghans are poor, it said.

"Well," you might say, "what about those wonderful schoolchildren? Surely having a little over half of their children in school is a good thing, right?" And I might agree with you. Except if you read on again in the NYT article, you'll see this little tidbit:

Afghanistan now has the worst education system in the world, the report concluded.

I'm not so happy for them now. How about you?

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