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Women, War and Afghanistan

I want the women of Afghanistan to be liberated. Do I have to support the war?

Short answer: No. In fact, supporting the war only works against their liberation.

If you can’t stand the idea of The Handmaid’s Tale come to life; set in a dusty, third world country and despise the thought of women being kept out of schools and in large respects the outright chattel property of their fathers or husbands, then in fact you must work as hard as you can to end the continuing U.S. occupation and war against Afghanistan (as well as Iraq, Pakistan, and the potential war against Iran that still lies “on the table”). The reality is that The Handmaid’s Tale continues… While the Taliban were and are harshly oppressive – they are cut from the same fundamentalist cloth as the Northern Alliance which the U.S. brought to power, and the current regime has meant even more acute suffering for most women living in Afghanistan.

Pro-war imperialists, including everyone from Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama to the truly laughable fascist types on FOX News have argued that the war in Afghanistan is necessary to bring the girls of Afghanistan a chance to be free. This is not about Clinton valiantly struggling to put women’s rights on the agenda and sometimes succeeding against all odds. This is not about Obama’s administration “fixing” mistakes made by the bumbling Bush/Cheney regime. This is about a war for empire, pure and simple. The rhetoric about the oppression of women provides a convenient excuse for the continued occupation but does not justify the war- not from the initiation nor the present day bombs still raining on wedding parties.

It’s more than the scandals that reveal that the mercenaries protecting the US embassy in Kabul have been buying and pimping women sex slaves in Afghanistan (which is, today, a major crossroads for international “sex trafficking” [read: slave trade]).  It’s more than the recent law passed in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (the full name of the country post- U.S. ‘liberation’) that explicitly legalizes marital rape as well as forcing women to dress and make themselves up (while in the home, of course) according to their husband’s demands, outlawing the ability to leave the home without a husband or a good reason to do so, and automatically granting custody of children to the male relatives (fathers or grandfathers). It’s not just the fact that the government has been cobbled together from the same warlords and fundamentalists that ruled the country before, in a fragile and fraught coalition under the corrupt Karzai regime.

It’s the fact that the whole relationship between the U.S. and the region (as well as the world) has been about imperialist domination in one form or another. For instance, Zbignew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, has bragged about “giving the USSR its own Vietnam” in Afghanistan by funding and arming the Mujahideen in the then pro-Soviet Afghanistan in 1979. The Mujahideen, of course, is the movement that eventually overthrew the government of Afghanistan, gave bin Laden his political start, and evolved into the Taliban of Afghanistan. The entire war on Afghanistan was, in fact, conceived before 9/11 at least in part to address the needed stability in order to build an oil pipeline across the country (see also: Parts 2 and 3 of the series by Larry Everest: “A War for Empire—Not a “Good War” Gone Bad”).

When we marched in the streets in 2001 against the bombing of Afghanistan, we not only chanted “our grief is not a cry for war” but also, “bin Laden, Saddam, Pinochet: all created by the CIA” (perhaps a little over-simplified, but a good teaching chant!). The hysterics in the aftermath of 9/11 were designed to focus the grief and anger without regard for history into blind support of Bush’s crusade – which, as we know, didn’t stop at Afghanistan, and had larger goals than Iraq. This lopsided relationship of domination should not be bandaged or sustained by diplomacy or by the “international community.” It must be broken, and the people of Afghanistan must choose their own destiny. The more clearly we reject the brutality of “our own” country’s occupations (and airstrikes against countries the U.S. hasn’t declared war on, like Pakistan), the more clearly we can show the people of Afghanistan that the choice for them isn’t between death from above and puppets in Kabul vs. the known vicious repression of the Taliban; that there is another way for the people to fight, and another goal to fight for. The women of Afghanistan cannot be liberated as the whole nation is subjugated, ground up, and bombed. As the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) courageously wrote on the anniversary of the invasion last year:

“The path of the freedom-fighters of our country without doubt, will be very complex, difficult and bloody; but if our demand is to be freed from the chains of the slavery of foreigners and their Talib and Jehadi lackeys, we should not fear trial or death to become triumphant.”

This is not a time to “wait and see” what happens. It has been far too long, and far too many have died.

LINA THORNE can be reached at: lina@worldcantwait.net.

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