Afghanistan 1984

By: Daniel Nardini

Afghanistan is a country (well barely being a country) that is a spotlight of some very troubling statistics. It is the country with the longest running war. It is the worst country to be a child. It is the tenth poorest country on earth. It has the third worst level of corruption of any country. It is still the largest source of opium and with it heroin. But if this is not enough, now its people may become the most biometrically scanned. As the U.S. military draws down its presence in Afghanistan, American troops and Afghan police are trying to use special machines called an Automated Biometric Toolsets (BAT) to scan, fingerprint and iris scan all Afghan households. The goal of the project is to scan everyone in Afghanistan so that the Afghan government can issue national identity cards with a person’s biometrics put into them.

The national card will be used by the Afghan government to find out who are Taliban, who are wanted criminals, and business people currently under investigation. But the new national I.D. cards may become a source of abuse by the government. The Afghan government might use the national identity cards to keep tabs on political dissidents, religious dissidents, journalists, political opposition, and their families and relatives. Such technology can be used for political purposes as well as for trying to “find the enemy.” If anything such a national identity card system may prove useless because many of the Taliban are based in Pakistan and the Afghan military does not have control of many parts of Afghanistan itself. But the national identity cards can be used to crush dissent, and many human rights organizations fear that is most likely what will happen.

One other fear is that Afghanistan might become the blueprint for what might be done in the United States. The technology is from the United States, and this biometrics scanning of the Afghan population is being done in collaboration with the U.S. military and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Afghan government will have computer link-ups with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. One has to wonder whether this might be a first step to creating such a national identity card system in the United States? The prospect is frightening, and behooves George Orwell’s book 1984 . The book describes a society where the government controls all aspects of life and what people do, what people think, and what people are allowed to know and believe. Are we seeing this happening in Afghanistan? Our leaders “promised” that we would help Afghanistan with democracy. This does not sound like democracy to me. With what we are doing we might be giving the Taliban another chance to win. Or worse, we will have an Afghanistan that is little different from North Korea or Myanmar. Is the U.S. government creating an Afghanistan 1984 in order to safeguard the country? What price salvation?

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