Women’s rights and the US’s ‘civilising’ mission in Afghanistan | Women’s Rights7 min read
In July, previous United States president and war criminal turned portrait artist George W Bush bewailed the impending withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, almost 20 many years immediately after he ordered the invasion of the region.
Afghan gals and women, Bush warned, would go through “unspeakable harm” on account of the American departure – an ironic assessment, to say the minimum, coming from the man who kicked off a “war on terror” that has therefore much killed extra than 47,000 civilians (such as gals) in Afghanistan by yourself and displaced tens of millions.
To be absolutely sure, the plight of Afghan females at the fingers of the Taliban has from the get-go available a handy pretext for US armed forces devastation.
Extended prior to the 9/11 attacks even transpired, US politicians, celebrities and self-declared feminist activists had been pushing for a “liberation” of women of all ages in Afghanistan that conveniently dovetailed with imperial geostrategic pursuits. As if “B-52 carpet bombing”- to borrow the New York Times’ terminology – has ever been very good for woman humans, substantially less any other organism.
In November 2001, the thirty day period after the launch of Bush’s invasion, then-Very first Girl Laura Bush charitably took to US radio waves to guarantee listeners that the “fight against terrorism” was concurrently a “fight for the rights and dignity of women”, and that the plight of Afghan women and children was a “matter of deliberate human cruelty carried out by these who find to intimidate and control”.
In no way head that the exact same thing can be stated of invading US forces who have out “matters” like bombarding a Physicians With no Borders medical center in Kunduz with a Lockheed AC-130 gunship, incinerating clients and decapitating professional medical employees.
In her radio tackle, the initial girl went on to righteously affirm that “civilised folks all through the planet are speaking out in horror, not only for the reason that our hearts crack for the women and kids in Afghanistan but also since, in Afghanistan, we see the planet the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us”.
As for the entire world that the worldwide superpower itself experienced by now imposed on absolutely everyone else, there was no mention of international damaged hearts on behalf of these kinds of civilising endeavours as the US sanctions on Iraq that had as of 1996 reportedly triggered the deaths of some 50 % a million Iraqi little ones of both of those sexes.
In truth, the US’s transparently Orientalist civilising mission in Afghanistan – of a piece with age-outdated colonial rhetoric in the Middle East and outside of – will become even additional nauseating when a single remembers the US keep track of record of transparently uncivilised treatment of females throughout the world.
To decide one particular case in point from an limitless multitude, there was that time in the 1970s that the US gave the armed service junta in Argentina a carte blanche to go after its personal “terrorists” – in this scenario, some 30,000 suspected leftists who were being dropped from aeroplanes to their maritime deaths or in any other case dispensed with.
The BBC notes that the Argentine military “drew the line at murdering pregnant women”, who were in its place “allowed to give beginning in jail – only to be murdered a handful of times later”.
How’s that for women’s rights?
Then there is the perennial US carte blanche extended to Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian and Lebanese gals and women, in addition to men and boys.
Incidentally, the institutionalised US-backed Israeli terrorisation of regional Arabs performed no small element in fuelling the 9/11 assaults. As the late Robert Fisk – the very first Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden – presciently wrote on the celebration of 9/11, “this is not seriously the war of democracy vs . terror that the earth will be questioned to think in the coming days”.
It was, he wrote, also “about US missiles smashing into Palestinian houses and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 … and about a Lebanese militia – paid and uniformed by America’s Israeli ally – hacking and raping and murdering their way as a result of refugee camps”.
This closing reference was to the 3-working day massacre of up to many thousand folks in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut in 1982, the quick aftermath of which affair Fisk witnessed to start with hand. In his guide Pity the Country, he described scenes these kinds of as the younger youngster in a white, mud-stained costume who “lay on the roadway like a discarded doll” mainly because the “back of her head had been blown absent by a bullet fired into her brain”.
A feminine corpse in the meantime “held a tiny baby”, also dead, and a person had also “slit open up the woman’s tummy, reducing sideways and then upwards, potentially attempting to destroy her unborn child”.
As Columbia College historian Rashid Khalidi reiterates: “The United States was responsible for the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut.”
So much for “civilisation”.
And but the West under no circumstances grows weary of its civilising missions – or all of the lies that maintain them. This grand work out in deception is aided appreciably by a mainstream press that tirelessly peddles recycled rhetoric to a general public consciousness seemingly impervious to worldly actuality.
One have to have glimpse no more than the decorated international affairs columnist of the US newspaper of document: the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, poster boy for imperial hubris and correct embodiment of the model of paternalistic, sexist condescension with which the US relentlessly lectures the Arab/Muslim world on gender equality and women’s rights.
In his e-book Longitudes & Attitudes: Checking out the Environment Just after September 11, Friedman entered into a state of Orientalist rapture recalling a scene at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda POWs have been currently being addressed to a “mind-bending experience” courtesy of the US armed service. This unparalleled instructional trajectory allegedly observed the al-Qaeda members go from “living, as James Michener put it, ‘in this cruel land of recurring ugliness, the place only adult males ended up seen’”, to being out of the blue “guarded by a girl with blond locks spilling out from beneath her helmet and an M16 hanging from her side”.
Following all, very little states women’s empowerment like possessing ostensibly gender-enlightened New York Moments columnists excursion in excess of them selves in ecstasy in excess of the weaponisation of blond locks.
Mind-bending encounters apart, it goes without indicating that a military that kills and if not punishes ladies throughout the world – although also notoriously suffering from an epidemic of rape and sexual assault inside of its have ranks – is no blueprint for women’s liberation.
Flash ahead to the US withdrawal and the rather mind-bending conviction, among particular worried events, that what is desired is additional Western intervention to help save Afghan ladies from the condition they are now in, many thanks in big element to Western intervention in the to start with spot.
Further than the reality that the US war on its penultimate preferred existential menace – communism – specifically established the stage in Afghanistan for the increase of the “terrorist menace”, there are a lot of other indications that the US was hardly ever in fact in the organization of improving upon the lot of women in the place.
As Rafia Zakaria – creator, most not long ago, of In opposition to White Feminism – opinions in an report for The Nation, white feminists in the US determined from the outset that “war and profession have been vital to freeing Afghan women”, no make any difference what people females on their own considered.
Of course, it involves a distinctive degree of imperial delusion to imagine that you can bomb and occupy females into a range of flexibility that they do not want to be bombed and occupied into.
Zakaria goes on to specify that hundreds of tens of millions of dollars in progress help that the US “poured into its saviour-industrial advanced relied on second-wave feminists’ assumption that women’s liberation was the automatic consequence of women’s participation in a capitalist economy” – an predicted yet terribly misguided assumption provided the oppressively patriarchal nature of capitalism, imperialism and all that very good things.
Definitely, it is immensely helpful – from an imperial standpoint, at minimum – to have a bevy of self-identifying feminists on hand to whitewash US military barbarity.
Get in touch with it white-girls-washing, if you will.
But, as the likes of George W Bush carry on to decry the “unspeakable harm” that will befall Afghan gals in the wake of the US army withdrawal, it is also truly worth reflecting on the harm performed to US women them selves by a patriarchal capitalist society that spends trillions of pounds on wars overseas – instead than on health care or childcare or nearly anything else that may profit the ordinary female or human somewhat than, you know, the normal US armed forces contractor or company.
This sort of a reckoning, in the finish, would be a actual civilising mission.
The views expressed in this short article are the author’s individual and do not essentially reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.