Women’s rights and the US’s ‘civilising’ mission in Afghanistan

In July, former United States president and warfare prison turned portrait artist George W Bush bewailed the upcoming withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after he ordered the invasion of the nation.

Afghan girls and women, Bush warned, would endure “unspeakable harm” on account of the American departure – an ironic evaluation, to say the least, coming from the person who kicked off a “war on terror” that has so far killed greater than 47,000 civilians (together with girls) in Afghanistan alone and displaced tens of millions.

To make sure, the plight of Afghan girls by the hands of the Taliban has from the get-go provided a helpful pretext for US navy devastation.

Long earlier than the 9/11 assaults even transpired, US politicians, celebrities and self-declared feminist activists had been pushing for a “liberation” of ladies 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 good for feminine people, a lot much less some other organism.

In November 2001, the month after the launch of Bush’s invasion, then-First Lady 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 girls and kids was a “matter of deliberate human cruelty carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control”.

Never thoughts that the identical factor will be mentioned of invading US forces who perform “matters” like bombarding a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz with a Lockheed AC-130 gunship, incinerating sufferers and decapitating medical workers.

In her radio deal with, the primary girl went on to righteously affirm that “civilised people throughout the world are speaking out in horror, not only because our hearts break for the women and children in Afghanistan but also because, in Afghanistan, we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us”.

As for the world that the worldwide superpower itself had already imposed on everybody else, there was no point out of worldwide damaged hearts on behalf of such civilising endeavours because the US sanctions on Iraq that had as of 1996 reportedly induced the deaths of some half 1,000,000 Iraqi youngsters of each sexes.

Indeed, the US’s transparently Orientalist civilising mission in Afghanistan – of a bit with age-old colonial rhetoric within the Middle East and past – turns into much more nauseating when one recollects the US observe report of transparently uncivilised therapy of ladies worldwide.

To decide one instance from an limitless multitude, there was that point within the 1970s that the US gave the navy junta in Argentina a carte blanche to go after its personal “terrorists” – on this case, some 30,000 suspected leftists who had been dropped from aeroplanes to their maritime deaths or in any other case disbursed with.

The BBC notes that the Argentine navy “drew the line at murdering pregnant women”, who had been as an alternative “allowed to give birth in prison – only to be murdered a few days later”.

How’s that for ladies’s rights?

Then there may be the perennial US carte blanche prolonged to Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian and Lebanese girls and women, along with males and boys.

Incidentally, the institutionalised US-backed Israeli terrorisation of regional Arabs performed no small half in fuelling the 9/11 assaults. As the late Robert Fisk – the primary Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden – presciently wrote on the event of 9/11, “this is not really the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days”.

It was, he wrote, additionally “about US missiles smashing into Palestinian homes 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 through refugee camps”.

This remaining reference was to the three-day bloodbath of as much as a number of thousand individuals within the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut in 1982, the instant aftermath of which affair Fisk witnessed first hand. In his e book Pity the Nation, he described scenes such because the younger baby in a white, mud-stained costume who “lay on the roadway like a discarded doll” as a result of the “back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain”.

A feminine corpse in the meantime “held a tiny baby”, additionally lifeless, and somebody had moreover “slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child”.

As Columbia University historian Rashid Khalidi reiterates: “The United States was responsible for the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut.”

So a lot for “civilisation”.

And but the West by no means grows weary of its civilising missions – or the entire lies that maintain them. This grand train in deception is aided considerably by a mainstream press that tirelessly peddles recycled rhetoric to a public consciousness seemingly impervious to worldly actuality.

One want look no additional than the embellished overseas affairs columnist of the US newspaper of report: the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, poster boy for imperial hubris and actual embodiment of the model of paternalistic, sexist condescension with which the US relentlessly lectures the Arab/Muslim world on gender equality and ladies’s rights.

In his e book Longitudes & Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11, Friedman entered right into a state of Orientalist rapture recalling a scene at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, the place al-Qaeda POWs had been being handled to a “mind-bending experience” courtesy of the US navy. This unparalleled academic trajectory allegedly noticed the al-Qaeda members go from “living, as James Michener put it, ‘in this cruel land of recurring ugliness, where only men were seen’”, to being instantly “guarded by a woman with blond locks spilling out from under her helmet and an M16 hanging from her side”.

After all, nothing says girls’s empowerment like having ostensibly gender-enlightened New York Times columnists journey over themselves in ecstasy over the weaponisation of blond locks.

Mind-bending experiences apart, it goes with out saying {that a} navy that kills and in any other case punishes girls throughout the globe – whereas additionally notoriously affected by an epidemic of rape and sexual assault inside its personal ranks – isn’t any blueprint for ladies’s liberation.

Flash ahead to the US withdrawal and the somewhat mind-bending conviction, amongst sure involved events, that what is required is additional Western intervention to save lots of Afghan females from the scenario they’re now in, thanks largely to Western intervention within the first place.

Beyond the truth that the US warfare on its penultimate most popular existential menace – communism – straight set the stage in Afghanistan for the rise of the “terrorist menace”, there are many different indications that the US was by no means truly within the enterprise of bettering the lot of ladies within the nation.

As Rafia Zakaria – writer, most not too long ago, of Against White Feminism – feedback in an article for The Nation, white feminists within the US determined from the outset that “war and occupation were essential to freeing Afghan women”, it doesn’t matter what these girls themselves thought.

Obviously, it requires a definite stage of imperial delusion to suppose you could bomb and occupy girls into quite a lot of freedom that they don’t wish to be bombed and occupied into.

Zakaria goes on to specify that a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars} in growth assist that the US “poured into its saviour-industrial complex relied on second-wave feminists’ assumption that women’s liberation was the automatic consequence of women’s participation in a capitalist economy” – an anticipated but terribly misguided assumption given the oppressively patriarchal nature of capitalism, imperialism and all that good things.

Undoubtedly, it’s immensely helpful – from an imperial standpoint, no less than – to have a bevy of self-identifying feminists readily available to whitewash US navy barbarity.

Call it white-women-washing, if you’ll.

But, because the likes of George W Bush proceed to decry the “unspeakable harm” that can befall Afghan girls within the wake of the US navy withdrawal, additionally it is price reflecting on the hurt completed to US girls themselves by a patriarchal capitalist society that spends trillions of {dollars} on wars overseas – somewhat than on healthcare or childcare or the rest which may profit the typical girl or human somewhat than, you understand, the typical US navy contractor or company.

Such a reckoning, ultimately, can be an actual civilising mission.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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