Afghan Presidential Candidate: The U.S. Occupation Must End
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The following is Co-Director of Afghan Women's Mission Sonali Kolhatkar's statement regarding an ongoing debate among progressives over the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, and appearing below it the transcript of a recent interview by Kolhatkar with independent candidate for Afghan president Ramazan Bashardost.
Recently prominent liberal voices in the United States have expressed the view that the US war in Afghanistan is being waged to help secure the rights of Afghan women. The Feminist Majority, a prominent women's organization in the US responded today to my critique of their pro-war position, co-authored with Mariam Rawi, a member of RAWA. The FM response was originally published under the title, "Why the Feminist Majority Foundation Supports Engagement in Afghanistan," and later changed to "Why Is the Feminist Majority Foundation Refusing to Abandon the Women and Girls of Afghanistan?"
In it, Eleanor Smeal and Helen Cho assert that "As long-time peace activists, we did not support the bombing of Afghanistan after 9/11." But the FM also never came out against the war in Afghanistan as they did against the war in Iraq. Instead they called for full inclusion of women in any post-war government. That silence meant tacit support of the war. Today that support for war continues by equating the security craved by all Afghans with the war being waged by US troops. While I fully agree with the FM that the US must stop supporting warlords, and pour resources into development and aid I disagree that dropping bombs, fighting ground offensives, imprisoning Afghans, and all the byproducts of war are somehow making women safer.
Similarly, Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and one-time Presidential candidate on a liberal platform, in an interview on Democracy Now on Friday July 17th, pronounced his support for the US war in Afghanistan based on protecting women's rights. In the interview, Dean repeated the logic that the US is waging war for Afghan women's liberation. And on the flip side, according to Dean, "if we leave, women will experience the most extraordinary depredations of any population on the face of the earth." By this logic, Dean implies that the US has for the past 8 years been a bulwark against a the deterioration of women's rights.
But even cursory examination of the actual situation on the ground reveals that aside from theoretical changes embodied in the constitution, women's rights have actually deteriorated as a direct consequence of deliberate US policy. This policy has included empowering anti-woman warlords who have committed rape and thrown out female members of parliament, appointing a fundamentalist judiciary that has imprisoned women for adultery and being victims of rape, etc. Additionally, the US war has fueled an misogynist insurgency that has only gotten stronger and worsened anti-woman sentiment.
I spoke very recently with independent candidate for president Ramazan Bashardost about his view of the US war. He put it bluntly: "This is not a war for women's rights in Afghanistan. It is not a war for human rights in Afghanistan." He added, "the problem is that the analysis of the Afghan situation by the US is wrong."
The Feminist Majority, Howard Dean, and other American liberals in support of this war need to re-analyze the situation in Afghanistan and examine the real consequences of the US war over the past 8 years that have done more harm than good to women's rights.
Additionally liberals need to honestly assess that whether there has been some sort of about-turn in US policy since January 2009 save for a stated desire to reduce civilian casualties. In fact, the US has not suddenly changed its mandate from war-fighting to providing security under President Obama, and no such policy shift is on the horizon. The Democrats and Republicans, led by President Obama are waging a war, not winning a peace. And war is a force for destruction, not liberation.