U.S. and Afghanistan
The cynical abuse of 'women's rights'
Lavender & red, part 116
Published Dec 6, 2007 8:21 PM
The U.S. did not unleash war on Afghanistan in 2001 to “liberate”
women. But pro-war spin doctors—embedded with the corporate
media—went into overdrive to create that impression after 9/11. Public
relations campaigns “sold” as liberation a high-tech imperialist
war against an impoverished country with no air force.
This was designed to obscure the fact that imperialism had no right to violate
Afghanistan’s self-determination and sovereignty.
The New York Times offered a more candid geopolitical view as early as Jan. 18,
1996, in an article entitled “The New Great Game in
Asia”—referring to the 19th century struggle among capitalist
powers to control the Eurasian landmass and the warm-water ports of the Persian
The Times explained, “While few have noticed, Central Asia has again
emerged as a murky battleground among big powers engaged in an old and rough
geopolitical game. Western experts believe that the largely untapped oil and
natural gas riches of the Caspian Sea countries could make that region the
Persian Gulf of the next century. The object of the revived game is to befriend
leaders of the former Soviet republics controlling the oil, while neutralizing
Russian suspicions and devising secure alternative pipeline routes to world
After overturning the bloc of workers’ states in the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe, U.S. finance capital schemed to secure ownership of trillions
of dollars worth of buried oil and gas treasure in the Caspian Sea region,
which had for decades been collectively owned by the workers and peoples of the
Transnational energy giants like Unocal and Enron saw Afghanistan as the best
path to pipe oil and gas from Central Asia to the world market.
The Bush neo-cons, Pentagon brass and the military-industrial complex worked
overtime to frame this as a campaign for women’s rights.
Laura Bush delivered the presidential radio address on Nov. 16, 2001—a
month after the Pentagon assault began. Her speech focused on women’s
rights in Afghanistan: “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for
the rights and dignity of women.” It was a total lie.
Afghan Revolution advanced women’s rights
An article in Workers World on Oct. 10, 1996, by Deirdre Griswold showed how a
progressive revolution in Afghanistan in 1978 had taken measures to liberate
women and challenge centuries of landlordism. In response, the U.S. pulled
together an army of pro-feudal elements to crush that revolutionary government,
forcing it to call on the USSR for support.
The WW article quoted from a 1986 Department of Defense publication titled
“Afghanistan—a Country Study.” Even this Pentagon book had to
admit that the 1978 revolution brought many gains to Afghan women and
Women were organized in the Democratic Women’s Organization of
Afghanistan. The national group had been founded in 1965 by Dr. Anahita
Ratebzada. Her companion Babrak Karmal, who founded the People’s
Democratic Party of Afghanistan the same year, later became the country’s
One of the first actions of the revolution was to end “bride-price”
and allow women to make marriage choices. Punishment of women who had sex
outside of marriage was prohibited. Women could choose to wear or not to wear
the veil, travel in public, get an education and work at a job. Women of all
classes—not just the well-to-do—were trained as doctors, teachers
Brigades of women and other young Afghans brought medical care to rural
The revolution impacted the life of one third of the rural
population—landless peasants, sharecroppers and tenants held in virtual
bondage to landlords and money lenders.
Before the revolution, 5 percent of the landlords claimed ownership of more
than 45 percent of the country’s arable land. “When the PDPA took
power,” the Pentagon report noted, “it quickly moved to remove both
landownership inequalities and usury.” One of the revolutionary land
reforms was the cancellation of mortgage debt for agricultural laborers,
tenants and small landowners.
On the eve of the revolution, 96.3 percent of the women of Afghanistan were
illiterate; rural illiteracy for all the sexes was 90.5 percent. The
progressive government created massive literacy programs and printed textbooks
in Dari, Pashtu, Uzbek, Turkic and Baluchi.
The 1986 Pentagon report stated, “The government trained many more
teachers, built additional schools and kindergartens, and instituted nurseries
The Washington Post admitted that Afghan women were the strongest supporters of
the 1978 revolution.
But this revolution was crushed by a well-funded, well-armed counterrevolution
in which U.S. imperialism made common cause with feudal patriarchs. Women were
then bought and sold as property once again.
National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert M.
Gates later publicly bragged that, beginning in early 1979, the CIA had
funneled money and arms to counter-revolutionary groups, many of them members
of militias loyal to local landowners.
Democrats and Republicans had approved at least $8 billion for this
counterrevolutionary effort that hired, armed and trained the Taliban, Osama
bin Laden and other forces.
CIA historian John Ranelagh recalls that then President Jimmy Carter OK’d
“more secret operations than Reagan later did.” Carter later
admitted in his memoirs that his administration actually considered the use of
tactical nuclear weapons against the progressive developments in
U.S. set women’s rights back centuries
By 1992 the Soviet Union was overturned and the progressive government in
Afghanistan was defeated by imperialism. After four years of internecine
struggle among different Afghan factions, the Taliban came to power.
Michael Meacher, a senior Labor Party member of Parliament who had been a
member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet, observed in a
Sept. 6, 2003, article in the Guardian of London, “Until July 2001 the
U.S. government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia
that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and
gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and
Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean.
“But confronted with the Taliban’s refusal to accept U.S.
conditions, the U.S. representatives told them ‘either you accept our
offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of
Washington took advantage of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to launch an
invasion of Afghanistan.
U.S. occupiers appointed former Unocal advisors to be both the titular
president of Afghanistan and the U.S. ambassador to the country.
The continuing imperialist blitzkrieg has destroyed the
infrastructure—including potable water, sewage and
electricity—worsening hunger and disease. Soviet-built public urban
housing complexes and schools lie in ruins.
These conditions create suffering for all sexes, genders and sexualities in
Afghanistan, particularly for women. In 2004, some provinces reported 593
maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.
Pentagon Special Forces commandos can kick in the door of a home at any hour of
the day or night, body search Afghan women and their loved ones, and drag them
all off in hoods to torture chambers.
That’s imperialist-style “liberation.”
Research by Minnie Bruce Pratt
contributed to this article.
Next: U.S. warmakers gay-baited
and gay-bashed Afghanistan.
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