Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Afghanistan is in the midst of a civil war and has been for thirty years. The status of women is one result of the war, and the other result is the place of women in Muslim culture. We as a nation have an interest in the status of women, but we cannot be the moral enforcer for the world. Afghan women need to figure out how to fight their fight for freedom; while they do that, a lot will die. American woman figured out how to do fight discrimination, but that took 200 years. The NGOs and their supporters are essentially useless in that fight, as they are foreigners who go home and tsk-tsk each other and liberals for money while the women in these societies die. If the writer really cares about women, figure out some way to win the war--then she will have time to try changing Afghani's attitude toward a woman's place in society. Afghan women's idea of where they belong in society is very different than the liberal Western writer's idea of a woman's place in society, so that will be an uphill struggle.

michael fellion

Carmichael, CA

Oct 25 2009 - 12:34am

Web Letter

It is not possible for any power to invade and occupy Afghanistan, and then transform via this route the cultures in Afghanistan into a modern Western format. Those in the West (including a lot of female political commentators) who believe this are at best vain.

There is also a note of hypocrisy in the belief that the West, via its military force, can "rescue" Afghani women. We here in the US can't even get the supposedly populist, reform party (the Democrats) to enact a law allowing victims of gang rape employed at military contractors like Halliburton to file criminal complaints against their attackers. That would be too big a threat to the wealth and profits of the military contractors.

Placing aside the lunacy of believing that the occupation of Afghanistan should continue in order to "rescue the women" there (as if such a goal would ever be a guiding motive behind a US military mission) and the fact that we won't protect our own women against gang rape if that threatens corporate profits and parts of the plutocracy, there is still more to say to those who hold the crazed belief that the US should continue its occupation.

Afghanistan has been gang-raped by the West. Regarded by all as obviously culturally inferior, Britain, Russia and the United States have all attempted to carry the White Man's Burden in Afghanistan and to "civilize" the "savages" at gunpoint, of course in the pursuit of each of our own "interests" at the various points in time I indicate. The motive in truth has always been imperial gamesmanship among great powers. Britain had an empire that never lost its roots in the East India Trading Company. Soviet Russia and the United States spilled lakes of blood in Afghanistan over ideological dominance and sea routes. The United States re-invaded in pursuit of Usama bin Laden, but that temporal situation long ago passed and the US occupation of Afghanistan is now about "winning" so as not to seem to "lose"--bad news for a superpower--and the US occupation of Afghanistan is very much about the career and political standing of the current US president.

Throughout the gang rape of Afghanistan, the sad status of women in that country has largely been a sideshow. The status of women in Afghanistan has been a coffee-table book that has allowed comfortable Western in particular American women to tut-tut and moralize while relaxing in their living rooms and backyard gardens. The status of women has been a pump used by Western women to maintain their inflated sense of superiority and righteous goodness while as a body the West and most recently the US has acted as a savage barbarian in Afghanistan.

We must remake our own culture into a culture that does not abide by the arbitrary use of military power to pursue immoral or simply strategically undefined goals that are based in our own economic interests or the simple and obvious fiction we've internalized as to our own cultural superiority.

Finally, on the note of the gender breakdown of suffering in Afghanistan, if that breakdown must be studied, I suggest that the tribesmen who have a willingness to fight out of economic need, or nationalism, or tribal affiliations, or religious ideology, have been cruelly exploited. These tribesmen have been killed in numbers in their homeland for a long time now and the situation has come to resemble a Western big-game safari. As much as women are second-class or worse in Afghanistan, at least they aren't objectively hunted like game animals by the invading military du jour.

Seymour Friendly

Seattle, WA

Oct 23 2009 - 10:47am

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.