The Afghan Escalation and Women’s Rights


One of the main arguments made by self-proclaimed “liberal humanitarian interventionists” in support of President Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War is that a return of the Taliban to power will condemn women to conditions approaching slavery. It is true that women’s rights in Afghanistan are almost medieval in character, but the central question of humanitarian intervention is fundamentally one of whether the US escalation will improve things or make matters worse.

The United States has a sorry track record in this regard, and we bear a heavy moral burden for the current state of affairs, including the dismal state of woman’s rights.

During the last two years of the Carter Administration, led by national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, together with the support Pakistani Government, the Saudis, and (probably) MI6, the US deliberately inflamed Islamic crazies in Afghanistan in the hope that it would increase the probability of a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Zbig reasoned that such an invasion would be motivated out of fear that Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan would spill over and destabilize its Central Asian Republics. The US aim was to bog down the Soviets in their own Vietnam — a policy that equated Afghanistan to being a mere pawn that could be sacrificed on the Cold War chessboard. Brzezinski’s plan worked like a charm when the Soviets invaded in late 1979. His plan also had the short-term grand strategic benefit of making it easy to portray the Soviet invasion as an offensive war of aggression, even though we had encouraged it by fanning the defensive obsessions of the Soviet government.

Like the Americans in 2001, the Soviets established a puppet regime and tried to institute civil and economic reforms, including equal rights for women. But the anti-Soviet Mujahadeen supported by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan were dominated by warlords, conservative tribesmen, and Islamic fundamentalists who either cared less about women’s rights or fervently believed that women should be maintained in a state equivalent to chattel. And the US, being rabidly anti-Soviet, in effect, adopted a policy consistent with and thereby approving of the Muj’s primitive view of women’s rights.

The Soviets left Afghanistan in defeat in 1989, and the US, its anti-Soviet job done, abandoned and quickly forgot about Afghanistan. Murderous and rapacious warlords of the Northern Alliance took over and instituted what amounted to a reign of terror in Kabul and elsewhere, raping and murdering women and young boys, among other things. We did nothing to stop the descent into murderous chaos, in effect writing off any sense of moral responsibility for this state of affairs. The excesses of the Northern Alliance gave rise to the Taliban, a nationalist movement that aimed to restore a semblance of order under a government that aimed to establish a oppressive version of a 7th Century Islamic theocracy. Women had no rights in the Taliban’s world view, but they were safer, as long as they conformed to the onerous standards of the Taliban theocracy, like being covered up in burkas, not trying to go to school, not getting raped (for which under the islamic law of the Taliban, they could be punished), not being disobedient to their husbands, and a general passive acceptance of the their chattel-like lot in life. But as one Afghan women activist who hated the Taliban told me in 2002, they were safer as long as they toed the line.

With the toppling of the Taliban in 2001 and the US imposition of the Karzai government, many of the warlords displaced by the Taliban returned to power. And a new cycle of corruption and violence began, while we again abdicated any sense of moral responsibility by diverting our attention to a trumped war of aggression in Iraq. Despite rhetoric about improving women’s rights, the situation is now dire, with the Karzai government backsliding big time.

With this background in mind, consider please the argument made by Anne Friedman and ask yourself if too much water has now gone over the dam for us to correct the wrongs we have inflicted on the Afghan people, including, indirectly, afghan the women.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com


Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

Weekend Edition
November 28-30, 2015
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving