Thursday, September 3, 2009

Saving Afghan Women

While Obama did bring up in a speech last week, the prospect of dragging Osama out of the dialysis-enabled cave in Afghanistan where he has been living for the last eight years, the main justifications for increasing the attack on Afghanistan have moved beyond that implausible scenario and on to the new one - "saving Afghan women".

This is something that sends me to sputtering rage in record speed. The US, which destroyed the hopes and lives of the progressive people of Afghanistan; by destroying their revolutionary government, bent on improving the lives of all its people, including women; by funding fringe groups of reactionary mullahs in the wilds of Afghanistan, now uses the resulting misery of the women to justify more death and destruction to their country.

Last Friday, we showed the movie, "Afghan Women, A History of Struggle", which gave a succinct and graphic history of the sordid history of American intervention in the hopes and dreams of the Afghan people. It showed scenes from the 70s -the streets of Kabul filled with cheering people waving red flags, women, bareheaded, arguing politics with their male comrades, women teaching other women and children. Then it showed the mullahs, sullen and bearded, soon to be showered with money and arms by the US and the Saudis. It showed Brzezinski and Carter, who started the flow, which increased to a flood with Reagan. It showed the Soviet invasion, the civil war and the fall of the Afghan government in 1992 and the coming of the Northern Alliance, which the women state was the beginning of their loss of rights, not when the Taliban took over in 1996. The Taliban only worsened the women's position. Then the invasion of the US, in 2001. Paper changes were made, but, as we know, women's lives in Afghanistan continue to be horrible.
So here's my point. How can you possibly look at 3o years of intervention on the side of the religious fundamentalists, and 8 years of literal occupation of the country, with women much worse off today than they were in the 70s, and use their oppression as an excuse for more intervention? Is this not illogical on its face?

So, of course I, with my continuing deluded belief in the 18th century ideals of Enlightenment, was sure that if people could see the history for themselves, they would realize that the US was cynically exploiting the conditions that they had helped create in order to further their imperial goals. Surely, anyone who saw the movie would be enlightened and would oppose US military escalation.

I hung flyers and passed out leaflets, and publicized the movie as much as I could. Ironically, one event I attended was a history of the American suffragettes in their own words. Starting in 1776, with Abigail Adams entreating her husband to "remember the ladies", to 1848 and the Seneca Falls Declaration, to the words of the women imprisoned, beaten and forcefed for demonstrating for the right to vote, and talking about the importance of the right to birth control and the right to equal employment,the event was a powerful reminder that American women weren't given the rights that we have by a benevolent government, or by the corporations that run our country. We didn't wear the veil (except for Catholics), but we did wear corsets, and dresses and we weren't allowed to work freely, and if we did, our wages belonged to our husbands, as did our children. It took a couple of hundred years to win women's rights in the US, and I could argue that it wasn't until the corporations realized that they could get two workers in a family for the price of 1.57 that "women's liberation" began to be publicized and heavily promoted.

In any case, people should realize that a woman in a patriarchal society is not better off when her man is killed or imprisoned. Do Americans really believe that killing an Afghan women's husband frees her? Does she then throw off her burka and get a job?

With all my publicity, 2 new women showed up, and one promptly left when she realized there was no air conditioning. We showed the movie. It was very moving.

Then I asked for comments and the new woman asked what I thought should be done, and I said, the US should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans, and she said that "we" had a responibility to "help". She parroted the "Pottery Barn" slogan, we broke it and we should fix it. I pointed out that she was assuming that the role of the US Army is to help and that is not true. It is the armed repressive enforcer of the ruling class. It kills people to make the country safe for profits or pipelines, as Major General Smedley Butler pointed out years ago.

There were other people attending who also firmly believed that the US military could be used as a force for good, and pointing out facts and history did not dissuade them from their beliefs.

I can't tell you how depressing it is to know that this self-selected group of people interested enough to come out to a documentary on a Friday night is still so brainwashed that they believe in American benevolence, even after a long movie documenting the opposite.

Sometimes, I lose hope.

OK. I found another resource debunking the "we have to save the women by destroying them" propaganda.


betsy davenport, phd said...

Yes, by definition, an army is a force dedicated to destruction. I have just found your blog (via Haloscan, ICH) and will subscribe to its feed. You think and write very clearly and, while your writing reveals high dudgeon, it is much more than diatribe.

Thank you for doing your part.

David G said...

Don't lose hope, Wage Laborer! The world needs people like you, people who see the world's faults and who tries to do something about them.

I understand your frustration with people. They are so indoctrinated that they, in the main, are beyond redemption. Like the Catholics used to claim: give us your children up to the age of ten and they're ours forever!

We must struggle on, do our best. What choice do we have?


siddig said...

What lacks Americans is the free thinking that all other nations on the planet do. that is really sad. the number one feature of free people is the way they think. If you are not free to think, what do you need by freedom

wagelaborer said...

Thank you, betsy, for your kind comments and David, for your encouragement.
siddig, Americans are massively programmed from birth to believe in their exceptionalism and their right to kill for fun and profit.

It's an uphill struggle!