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Ben Franklin's bifocals December 26, 2004

Right Way - Wrong Way

Today was election day again in the Ukraine. Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was the winner with a majority of the popular vote cast under the eyes of thousands of European election observers. Freedom and democracy has finally come to this former member state in the Soviet union. Not a shot was fired, and not a life was lost, in spite of the fact that the Kremlin-sponsored candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was heavily backed by Russian President Putin, had tried to poison his opponent (fortunately, he succeeded only in disfiguring him). That same Kremlin puppet tried to steal the previous election by stuffing the ballot boxes, prompting a huge popular protest in Kiev, which forced the current rerunning of the election after the Supreme Court of Ukraine found that there had been widespread election fraud. This is the way that democracy and freedom truly take hold when the people demand it. American lives lost: zero. Cost to the US taxpayer: zero. Result: a nation of almost 50 million people takes a bold step in the right direction (Westward).

Today was also the day that President Karzai of Afghanistan swore in his new Cabinet. It notably did not include a number of the warlords who had challenged the central authority of the new government, and who maintain their private militias by intimidating the populace and profiting in the drug trade. President Karzai had the power to do this because he is the first popularly elected president of his country, having won 55% of the popular vote in the recent presidential election. The election was a result of the US intervention that involved about 9,000 troops and relied primarily on the local Mujahadin to take down the Taliban regime. American lives lost: about 150. Cost to the US taxpayer: about $20 Billion. Result: a nation of almost 30 million people takes a small step in the right direction.

Today the violence and insurgency continued in Iraq. The week past marked the deadliest single attack on Americans in Iraq, and the first major US contractor to pull out. US troop strength in the country is at 150,000, and it is clear that substantial forces will have to be maintained in Iraq, possibly for a decade, to ensure stability in the country. Since the unprovoked US invasion of the country almost 2 years ago, civil order and public safety have virtually disappeared. A government-sponsored survey taken late last year indicates that the most likely winner in a presidential election would be a Muslim cleric. Elections are scheduled for next month, but it is uncertain whether the Sunni minority will participate in significant numbers. American lives lost: over 1,300 to date, with ten thousand wounded. Cost to the US taxpayer: approaching $200 Billion. Result: a nation of almost 24 million people takes an uncertain step in an unknown direction.

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