Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cowardly Warriors Hiding Behind Women in Afghanistan

Source:  RAWA photo 2002 "Many of the over 70,000 war wodows in Kabul make a living by begging in the streets."
Afghanistan and Pakistan share an unlucky geographic fate, placed as they are up against the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas, straddling the Indus River (once part of Afghanistan, before Great Britain made it part of their colonized India). Currently they are the gateway to the riches of Asia's gas fields and oil fields; overland transport to the port of Karachi the prize.

Source: Lonely Planet
Other occupiers have included Alexander of Macedonia, the Roman Empire, the Parthian Persians, Genghis Khan, the U.S.S.R. and, most recently, the U.S.A. doing business as NATO. All have struggled to subdue the indigenous people who, like the Vietnamese, have been invaded so many times that they imbibe legends of resistance with their mother's milk.

So much for the prologue. The story of NATO hiding behind women's skirts begins during the Cold War, 30+ years ago, when the communist regime of of Soviet Russia held sway. Quaintly, leaders in the U.S.S.R. seemed to believe that progress in the form of education, industrialization, infrastructure building and research & development would solidify their hold on Afghanistan.

source: "Biology class, Kabul University." From a book published by Afghanistan's planning ministry in the 1960's.
Ok, the image above is from pro-Soviet government propaganda. But it was digitized and published online by a professor who grew up in Kabul and remembered it thus. In 1980, when I visited Kabul, I waited to cross the street next to a woman in a burka holding a child by the hand. A taxi pulled up and another woman got out, dressed as if for lunch in Manhattan: Chanel suit, pumps, and a mane of glossy, dark hair. The Soviets had just invaded, there was a military curfew at night, and tanks rolled through the streets outside our hotel.

Invisible U.S. tax dollars were already flowing to the mujahadeen, Islamists also allied to Arab investors eager to compete with Iran's influence in the region. The U.S. was determined to give the Soviets "their Vietnam" i.e. a debilitating, unwinnable war against insurgents defending their hard-to-conquer homeland. The Soviet's puppet regime, the PDPA, used heavy handed tactics typical of one patriarchal system trying to oust another:

From the Afghan Web's women's history timeline:
Alongside the rapid modernization and reform agendas, the communist ideology was also forced down on people, many times using brutal violence. There was very little tolerance for tribal and religious customs. In rural areas, PDPA was seen as disregarding sensitive tribal values and traditions, and thus caused resentment and backlash.
Ten years of proxy war ended in Soviet defeat, followed by a decade of civil war between warlords of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, or "students", fundamentalists trained in the refugee camps of Pakistan. Then came 9/11 in which not a single Afghan participated. But did that stop the U.S. from bombing Afghanistan "back to the Stone Age" ostensibly to squelch the very mujahadeen they and the Saudis had been funding for twenty years?

Urbanite and president of California State University, East Bay Mohammad Qayoumi wrote in Foreign Policy:
Remembering Afghanistan's hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic. ... it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan's youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.  
From a self-help group, operating in both Kabul and the countryside, the Revolutionary Assoc. of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):
There has been no improvement in lives of this the most miserable and ill-fated portion of Afghan society since the establishment of transitional government...
The people of the world should know that though the disgusting, ludicrous and oppressive rule of Taliban was over in our ill-fated Afghanistan, but this never means the end of the horrible miseries of our tortured women. 
Because contrary to the aspirations of our people and expectations of the world community, the Northern Alliance, these brethren-in-creed of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are again in power and generously supported by the US government. 
Now comes Amnesty International to claim otherwise. During the recent NATO summit in Chicago they used your contributions and mine to fund bus kiosk advertising with this misleading headline:
Source: Amnesty International
Activists present in Chicago were shocked to see what many at first took as satire. It was the same old "protect the women" line trotted out by Hillary Clinton and others when the incoming Obama administration surged more troops and drones into Afghanistan. But WTF was human rights organization Amnesty International thinking? Are the burkas supposed to represent the progress or ?

Amnesty International USA has a new executive director, Suzanne Nossel, who formerly worked for the State Dept. and as Vice President of Strategy and Operations at the Wall St. Journal. Hmmm....

Today, Afghans have an average life expectancy of 48 years. According the UNICEF, 68% of children under five suffer from either stunting or wasting due to malnutrition. For a detailed examination of claims that key indicators of progress such as maternal mortality have improved, see this article by researcher Tim Anderson published on Stop the War Coalition Sydney's website.

Hiding behind the skirts (and burkas) of women to control key territory is like hiding behind drones to kill without risking your own life. As the patriarchy spirals violently downward, making war has never looked more cowardly.


chrisrushlau said...

Racism is suicidal.

chrisrushlau said...

And not to change the subject from this great essay, but here's a bit of news:
ANNA News Journalist Marat Musin about Houla Massacre (Translation from original text.) 31 May 2012 On the weekend of May 25, 2012, at about 2 PM, big groups of fighters attacked and captured the town of Al-Hula of the Homs province... The town was attacked from the northeast by groups of bandits and mercenaries, numbering up to 700 people... When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the center of town and located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the families loyal to the authorities in neighboring houses, including the elderly, women and children. Several families of Al-Sayed were killed, including 20 young children and the family of Abdul Razak. Many of those killed were "guilty" of the fact that they dared to change from Sunnis to Shiites. The people were killed with knives and shot at point blank range. Then they presented the murdered to the UN and the international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army, something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies... Note that once, the exact same provocation failed at Shumar (Homs) and 49 militants and women and children were killed, when it was organized just before a visit of Kofi Annan. The last provocation was immediately exposed as soon as it became known that the bodies of the previously kidnapped belonged to Alawites. This provocation also contained serious inconsistencies - the names of those killed were from people loyal to the authorities, there were no traces of bombings, etc.
(Excerpted from blog at