Kabul, Tuesday - Support for a second term for George W. Bush as President of the United States of America has come from a small settlement about 80 km (50 miles) north west of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Abdul Musdallah (not his real name), chairman of the local opium growers' cooperative, is enthusiastically endorsing the Bush-Cheney campaign. Speaking through an interpreter, he told reporters, "George Bush is good for our trade. Before he drove the Taliban out, business was terrible. The Taliban used to come and cut off our hands if they found us growing opium. Now the Americans have driven away these people, we're free to go back to our traditional ways."
In Abdul's case, the "traditional ways" include the cultivation of one of the world's most lucrative crops--the opium poppy. He is naturally coy about the amount of money he made last year from the sale of the heroin produced by the village cooperative, but he laughs that "it's quite a lot". The two new Toyota SUVs and Mercedes-Benz sedan outside his house would seem to bear this out.
"President Kerry would be bad for us"
"We don't want to see Kerry elected," continues Musdallah. "We know that if he says something, he means it, unlike Bush, who's got a long history of saying one thing and doing another. In Afghanistan, we don't see why Kerry is seen as a flip-flopper when Bush is the one who's always changing his mind. I admire Kerry's principles, but President Kerry would be bad for us." When asked to elaborate, Musdallah adds, "Kerry will go after al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and won't get distracted by side issues. We'll have many more soldiers from different countries running round Afghanistan, and i won't be able to grow my poppies in peace." He admits that life without al Qaeda would be more tranquil, but the amount of money he would lose in the operation would overwhelm any potential benefits.
Gifts to the White House
Unaware of FEC regulations prohibiting gifts or campaign contributions from non-US supporters, Abdul recently mailed a sample of his product to the White House. Excitedly, he recounts how he was watching satellite TV, and saw Mr. Bush in the first Presidential debate against John Kerry. "When I saw the man's eyes, and listened to what he was saying," Abdul told us, "I knew that our gift had reached him and he'd used it."
A White House spokesman made no comment, except to add that "the President and Vice-President welcome support from all quarters and the support from the agricultural sector of the newly democratic Afghanistan is a welcome sign of the emerging freedom of that country".