Posted March 31, 2009
This morning I heard the news that the installed president of Afghanistan is backing a law that would legalize rape and confine Afghan women to their homes unless accompanied by a man. Women leaders in parliament are calling it “worse than the Taliban.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, many of the 128 people awaiting state murder are believed to be “guilty” of homosexuality. These two offenses to equality and justice are not only tragic, they also demonstrate the emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric about “an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable.”
In the lead up to the United States’ bombing and invasion of Afghanistan more than seven years ago – and then its sequel in Iraq a year and a half later – propaganda outlets went into overdrive concocting a range of justifications for the carnage. Having inherited the fiction of “humanitarian intervention” from their predecessors in the Clinton administration, Bush & co sold the engagements of the “War on Terror” as also a war of deliverance for the women of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, some liberal organizations bought the line of feminism delivered on the tips of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.
It’s telling that, because the war machine can’t openly state its aims of securing political domination, resources, and markets, it has to appeal to a defense of human dignity and solidarity. But those things can only be won by the efforts of independent organizations fighting for the rights of women, youth, LGBT people, and national minorities in those countries. The very fact that these “humanitarian” justifications are surfaced and buried according to their utility as a pacifier against anti-war sentiment tells us that they are not the real goals.
Intervention in Afghanistan, strategically questionable as it is, has been a particularly schizophrenic episode for US imperialism as attention to shifts. There won’t be a victory. Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of poorly-armed, poorly-equipped freedom fighters! The fact is that you’ve underestimated your competition. If you’d studied your history, you’d know that these people have never given up to anyone. They’d rather die than be slaves to an invading army. You can’t defeat a people like that. We tried. We already had our Vietnam! Now, you’re gonna have yours.
Is this Sean Penn speaking at an anti-war rally? Nope. It’s a line from the classic piece of 1980s cinema Rambo III, in which anticommunist Vietnam vet John Rambo teams up with the future Taliban to run around the mountains of Afghanistan blowing up Soviet helicopters (the line is delivered to a commie bad guy who has captured one of Rambo’s buddies.) Yesterday’s “freedom fighters” become today’s enemies, become tomorrow’s allies…
A friend of mine who was active in GI resistance during the Vietnam War told me once that a key argument he used with his fellow soldiers in encouraging their resistance was: “How can we, who are trapped in one of the most undemocratic institutions in the world, be fighting for democracy on the other side of the world?”
Today we might say, how could we expect the US military, in which women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq, to play any progressive role for the women of Afghanistan?
Check out the websites of IRAQI LGBT and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.