Longtime readers -- and I do appreciate your loyalty and patience during my absence from the blogosphere -- know that I have bitched loud and often about how US/Canada/NATO have used and abused women and their (human) rights as an excuse to continue the war in Afghanistan.
Oh, it's never about the oil, the pipelines, the mineral rights, the regional hegemony, or anything like that. No no. It's always about the women. Save the women. Think of the women. Even though Afghan women themselves have decried the current corrupt regime as well as the continued oppression of women which appears to have been stepped up because of the war.
Even though there have been numerous occasions when NATO has allowed women to be sold out.
Now comes this despicable cover story in Time magazine.
The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose...
Now you would think I would be all for the exposure of the terrible treatment of women in Afghanistan, and that I would be cheering on the NATO foot soldiers who are dying because they believe they are fighting to make things right in that blighted country.
The thing is that I am all for these things and more. Much more.
But here's the other bigger thing. If the west gave a rat's tail about women's rights, it would also be in the Congo where women are being gang-raped daily in the fight for, among other things, the minerals that go into our iPods and mobile phones. It would not be in bed with the Saudi Arabian sexist apartheid state where women are chattel. It would not be bombing Afghan women and children, making the occupation worse and worse for them everyday.
And besides, wasn't the ostensible real purpose for going there in the first place to find the terrorist masterminds behind 9/11? (And let's not forget Prime Minister Stephen Harper's March 2006 speech about how our soldiers were also there to halt the drug trade.)
I don't know what the answer to Afghanistan's problem is but I do know that it doesn't come in the form of drones, tanks and fighter jets.
My principle -- and principal ;-) -- objection to this cover story is how it EXPLOITS the mutilation of a beautiful young woman to promote the continued war that really, let's not kid ourselves, has nothing to do with women's rights. I mean, come on. And I am not the only one who says that.
Here's The Nation's Greg Mitchell, with links to more must-read critiques of the Time story:
... worth mentioning: the girl on the cover was attacked not in long ago days of Taliban rule but with tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the country.
I have to ask: In Time's mission to really "illuminate what is actually happening on the ground" has it ever put on its cover close-up images of 1) a badly wounded or dead U.S. soldier 2) an Afghan killed in a NATO missile strike 3) an Afghan official, police officer or military commander accepting a bribe from a Taliban war lord. Alison Kilkenny has her own examples here.
No one makes light of the plight of women and children in Afghanistan under the Taliban--and, contrary to (Time editor Rick) Stengel's claim, many Americans do know about it. Indeed, liberal women's groups in the U.S. have raised the issue often and expressed mixed feelings about staying (or even escalating) in Afghanistan because of it. It's a serious issue. And please see the response to Time by the Feminist Peace Network. Jezebel with another good take here.
I like what Peter Hart over at FAIR has to say:
Something tells me that no one at a the magazine's editorial meeting suggested a "What Happens if We Stay in Afghanistan" cover headline, which would have been accompanied by a photo of the corpse of an Afghan child killed in an airstrike or a house raid.
Finally a few words from, you know, an actual Afghan woman, Sonali Kolhatkar, author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence. She is also co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports women's rights activists in Afghanistan. (via The Institute for Public Accuracy).
This is the same type of justification that the Soviets used (among others) to explain why they should remain in Afghanistan: to save Afghan women from the 'backward' fundamentalists. Foreign armies have always sought to protect Afghan women from violence by fomenting violence themselves. But in the end, just like the Soviets did backroom deals with radical misogynist groups, the U.S. has been empowering non-Taliban misogynist fundamentalists since the start of this war. There are incidents happening every day in Afghanistan of women and girls being harassed, raped, flogged and killed by pro-U.S. warlords and local commanders that are not working with the Taliban -- these incidents are rarely covered by the Western media. In many ways the U.S. occupation has actually made things worse for Afghan women. Afghan women activists I work with prefer to resist two threats to their security (the Taliban and the U.S.-backed central government) instead of three (the third being the U.S./NATO occupation) and have long called for U.S. forces to leave. Time magazine is playing to age-old racist stereotypes: that brown women need a foreign white army to save them from their men.
What a difference it would make in Afghanistan if, instead of spending hundreds of billions on bombs, we just gave all the money to the women and let them build a better society for everybody there.
UPPITY WOMAN DATE: On a related note ... this.