Terrorism: Theirs & Ours
the wake of September 11th's terrorist attacks and now a full-blown
war on Afghanistan, Americans have been fed a steady diet of
male voices telling us what to think. Male generals and journalists,
congressmen, FBI agents and "experts," all breast-beat about
the assault on America's manhood (after all, what could be more
phallic than those twin towers?) and call for violent retribution
in rhetoric that makes it impossible to distinguish between
"our leaders" and "the terrorists."
are the faces, the voices, the perspectives of women – that
half of the population who will bear the brunt of the suffering
this military inferno unleashes? Where are the images of the
millions of Afghan women streaming out of their cities and villages,
made refugees by the bombs? The voices of U.S. women decrying
the gutting of every social program to pay the cost of war?
The intelligence of female experts on foreign policy, on the
effects of militarization, on the real costs of war?
voices have been silenced ... erased ... banned as completely
as Afghan women have been banned in their own country.
– A Short History
1979, Afghanistan was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union.
The U.S., embroiled in the Cold War anti-Soviet mentality of
the time, launched a bloody counter-operation against the Soviets.
From 1979 until 1989 when the Soviets pulled out, the U.S. brought
together, funded, trained, and armed a loose coalition of militia
called the Mujaheddin.
major part of that U.S. training was indoctrination in a new
form of radical fundamentalism, constructed on the base of the
Islamic religion, calling for a jihad, or holy war against the
Soviets. Among those U.S.-trained Mujaheddin was a young Saudi
named Osama bin Laden, who later spread this virulent, misogynist
fundamentalism throughout the Muslim world.
the Soviets and the U.S. left Afghanistan, the country disintegrated
into a civil war among the various Mujaheddin forces – a war
that decimated the country, destroyed its economy and infrastructure,
and made Afghanistan the second poorest country on the planet.
In the end, the most extreme fundamentalist group, the Taliban
militia, took power. It is the Taliban – fostered, indoctrinated
and armed by the U.S. – that holds power today; the Taliban
who shields bin Laden; the Taliban who again calls for jihad,
this time against the United States.
Invisible Women of Afghanistan
to the rise of the Taliban, Afghan women participated fully
in public life. They were students, teachers, government officials,
lawyers, doctors. They moved freely through their world and
had some measure of control over their lives. That would all
soon come to an end.
and girls were the first targets of the Taliban. Suddenly the
door to the world slammed shut, as women were banned from schools,
jobs and public events, forced to shroud themselves from public
view, barred from health care, beaten into silence. Public stonings
and executions of women became commonplace for even minor infractions
of "religious" rules. Female suicides skyrocketed. (See Gender
Apartheid in Afghanistan Article.)
feminists in Afghanistan and around the world cried out against
the Taliban's deadly denial of women's rights, U.S. support
continued – $40 million just this past May. Clearly a holocaust
targeting 13 million women and girls meant nothing to the men
who run this country.
it is these women and their children who are now the targets
of U.S. bombs, of U.S.-created starvation, of U.S. terror, in
addition to being targets of the fundamentalist Islamists the
U.S. put in place in their country. It is these women who today
flee the bombs into one of the world's most heavily mined terrains
– 80% of the country is covered in land mines. It is these women
whose already unbearable situation has been dramatically worsened
by America's demand for revenge.
With the Devil
may think the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban, then, would lead
to the liberation of women. Nothing could be further from the
truth. Currently, Bush administration plans are to replace the
current regime with a coalition government that would include
the Taliban, as well as the Northern Alliance, a grouping of
military forces with ever-shifting allegiances.
Northern Alliance was a major player in Afghanistan's civil
war, controlling the north during the late 1990s. Their systematic
human rights abuses, cataloged by Human Rights Watch, included
summary executions of civilians, widespread rape, ethnic cleansing,
torture, disappearances and the utter subjugation of women.
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA),
an independent Afghan women's organization, warns that U.S.
intervention will only replace one foreign-backed puppet government
with another and plunge the country back into the chaos of the
1990s. For Afghan women, things will only get more desperate.
Attacks on Women
the war heated up in mid-October, anthrax became the big story
here at home, with all major media obsessed with purported anthrax-laced
letters delivered to a handful of congresspeople and media stars.
the midst of all that coverage, however, they completely ignored
110 letters said to contain anthrax delivered to women's health
clinics in just one day. Signed by the Army of God, a domestic
terrorist network (not unlike bin Laden's) that has targeted
women's right to abortion for years, the letters said, "You
have just been exposed to anthrax." At a time when five anthrax
threats permeated the media, you'd think news of more than a
hundred such threats would dominate the airwaves. It didn't.
NBC didn't cover it; CNN ignored it; no major newspapers reported
it; the Bush administration never mentioned it.
clinics in the U.S. have been the targets of terrorist attacks
by religious fundamentalists for twenty years. Clinics have
been bombed, burned and attacked with chemical weapons, including
anthrax. Doctors all over the country have been harassed, threatened
and murdered; yet these terrorist attacks hardly rated investigation.
Most of those terrorists are still at-large.
U.S. officials were serious about launching a war against terrorism,
they would put an end to the domestic violence that imprisons
millions of American women, and women's health clinics would
become Ground Zero. If they were serious about stamping out
a religious fundamentalism that threatens fully half the population,
they wouldn't be making deals with the Taliban and the Northern
Alliance, and they would take a good, hard look at the U.S.
war isn't about terrorism – it's about global power and testosterone.
should not be fooled. As the boys trade threats of holy war
and launch their weapons from one side of the globe to the other,
let's be clear: in the long run the Taliban and Bush's right-wing
regime share a common enemy. That enemy is us.