by Eric Martin
Some Afghan women don't seem to appreciate all the freedom and democracy that we've been bringing:
The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.
...[T]he tired claim that one of the chief objectives of the military occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghan women is not only absurd, it is offensive.
Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women's rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté...
Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.
Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.
Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.
In the past few years, some cosmetic changes were made regarding Afghan women. The establishment of a Ministry of Women's Affairs was one celebrated example. In fact, this ministry is so useless many think that it should be dissolved.
The quota for 25 percent women in the Afghan parliament was another such show. Although there are 67 women in the Afghan parliament, most of them are pro-warlord and are themselves enemies of women's rights. When the famed marriage rape law was passed in the parliament, none of them seriously raised their voice against it. Malalai Joya, an outspoken feminist in the parliament at the time, has said that she has been abused and threatened by these pro-warlord women in the parliament.
The U.S. military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.
Paper gains for women's rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.
These are the convictions of the government the U.S. has helped to create. The American presence in Afghanistan will do nothing to diminish them.
Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in Afghanistan may sound to those of us who live in the West, the biggest problems faced by Afghan women are not related to patriarchy. Their biggest problem is war.
More than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008. And disastrous air strikes like the one in Farah province in May that killed an estimated 120 people -- many of them women and children -- are pushing the death toll ever higher. Afghans who survive these attacks often flee to cities, where overcrowded refugee camps strain to accommodate them. Living in tents without food, water and often blankets, the mortality rate soars.
For those who do not flee, life is not better. One in three Afghans suffers from severe poverty. With a 1 in 55 chance of mothers surviving delivery, Afghanistan has been, and still, is the second most dangerous place for women to give birth. Afghan infants still face a 25 percent risk of dying before their fifth birthdays. These are the consequences of war.
...To make matters worse, corruption in the Afghan government has never been so prevalent -- even under the Taliban. Now, even Western sources say that only pennies of every dollar spent on aid reach the people who need it.
If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward.
...The first step toward improving people's lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.
In our conversations arguing this point, we are told that the U.S. cannot leave Afghanistan because of what will happen to women if they go. Let us be clear: Women are being gang raped, brutalized and killed in Afghanistan. Forced marriages continue, and more women than ever are being forced into prostitution -- often to meet the demand of foreign troops.
The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is doing nothing to protect Afghan women. The level of self-immolation among women was never as high as it is now. When there is no justice for women, they find no other way out but suicide.
There, there, that's nothing that 45,000 more troops and a few decades more of war can't solve. But seriously, the authors do highlight one of the primary obstacles to creating a liberal-ish government that will safeguard women's rights in Afghanistan : there are no major political factions, or constituencies, that would push for - or even support - such a government.
Even our ostensible allies - the warlords that we back in order to fend off the backwards Taliban - espouse views of women and women's rights that are in essence, and in many instances, literally, indistinguishable from the Taliban. And in pursuit of propping up this corrupt, warlord dominated, misogynistic government, we are killing thousands of Afghans - including and especially women and children. In addition to creating conditions that lead to more and unspeakable hardships for those same women.
Wars have a tendency to do that. Even the "good" ones.
What we don't know is if a successful Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would discredit the regime to the point that it would be forced out of power or if such an attack would be used to discredit the opposition, causing Iranians to close ranks behind their extremist leaders.
Actually, "we" do know how the Iranian people would respond to an attack by Israel. And it wouldn't be to give the Israelis a free pass while blaming their own government for...getting bombed by a country that the Iranians don't exactly hold in high regard. Even if it was the US doing the bombing, there would not be a collective, "Thank you sirs, may we have another." But with Israel on the delivery end of the ordnance, it's the ultimate no-brainer. But hey, maybe we can blame them afterwards for showing insufficient gratitude.