The women's movement and the U.S. war in Afghanistan
By Minnie Bruce Pratt
A group of leaders of women's rights organizations took out
an ad in the New York Times May 24 that urged President George
W. Bush to "expand the size and scope of peacekeeping [sic]
forces in Afghanistan." Their reason? That this U.S.
intervention would the lives and secure the future of Afghan
Signers included Kim Gandy, president of the National
Organization for Women, Gloria Steinem of Ms. magazine, Jane
Fonda--once a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War--and Robin
Morgan, editor of the germinal anthology of Second Wave
feminism, "Sisterhood Is Powerful."
In a letter to Bush, they stated that "unlike most wars,
U.S. women supported the war [on Afghanistan] ... because they
believed your promises that it would liberate Afghan women from
abuse and oppression." They are disappointed because, in their
view, Bush should intervene more, not less, in Afghanistan.
However, many women do not believe the war propaganda that
promises U.S. troops will bring women's liberation, in
Afghanistan or anywhere, especially since the Bush
administration has in fact been waging both a domestic and an
international war on women.
One of the first acts of the Bush administration was to try
to bar U.S. funds from international family planning
organizations that even mentioned abortion as an alternative.
Before becoming U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft, as a U.S.
senator from Missouri, supported the deceptively named
"Infant's Protection Bill." That piece of legislation "was the
most egregious assault on reproductive rights of any of
them--even going so far as giving a defense to those who might
engage in violence," said Kate Michelman, president of the
National Abortion Rights Action League. "It was an
extraordinary bill. And Ashcroft supported it fully." (Salon,
Jan. 18, 2001)
In other words, the attorney general who now wholeheartedly
supports a massive military expansion, in the name of fighting
"terror," supported terror against women's clinic workers.
Another law he favored would penalize abortion providers and
their patients with life imprisonment.
Despite the pretense that being anti-abortion is to be
pro-child, this administration has no concern for mothers or
children. It has wiped out whole villages in Afghanistan while
attempting to cut funds for WIC food supplement programs in the
U.S. toppled pro-woman government
In fact, the U.S. engineered the overthrow of the only
government in Afghanistan that worked for the liberation of all
women--not just of a privileged few. In 1978, a revolutionary
government led by a young socialist movement, the Progressive
Democratic Party of Afghanistan, abolished the bride price so
women could be free to choose their marriages, prohibited the
punishment of women for losing their virginity before marriage,
and trained women of all classes, not just the elite, as
doctors, teachers and lawyers. In this move ment, a wide
spectrum of Afghan women were fighting for and winning their
own liberation, as part of larger social change.
The U.S. began funding a massive counter-revolutionary army
of religious fundamentalists in 1979. After six months of
defending itself from this covert assault, the Afghan
government called for Soviet assistance. But it did not survive
the CIA-orchestrated war, which lasted more than 10 years as
the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and other factions, all of
which drew their power from the feudal landlord class, fought
for supremacy--which they are continuing to do under the shield
of the U.S.
This situation--which the ad signers refer to as greatly
endangering women with "rapes, lootings, beatings,
kidnappings"--will not be remedied by more U.S. intervention,
directly or through so-called "peace keeping forces" of the UN.
When has an imperialist army not brought with it rape and
crimes against women?
In the aftermath of the U.S. bombing war on Yugoslavia, for
instance, the sex-slave traffic in East European women
accelerated into a major problem in Kosovo. An April 24, 2000,
Washington Post article described a situation where "porous
borders, the presence of international troops and aid workers,
and the lack of a working criminal-justice system" created
"almost perfect conditions for the trade." The article
continued, "The first case of sex-slave trafficking came to
light--four months after NATO-led peacekeepers entered the
So much for imperialist troops "protecting women."
Even U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post admitted that
the strongest supporters of the 1978 Afghan revolution were
women. Liberation for all women, the poorest and the
illiterate, could happen only with a change in property
relations and land ownership. U.S. intervention interrupted
this revolutionary process.
Can the U.S. feminists who signed the letter to Bush really
think they are advancing the cause of women's rights? By
aligning themselves with a U.S. government that has
unrelentingly bombed the men, women, and children of
Afghanistan for nine months? By implying that women's rights is
something that must be exported into Afghanistan at the end of
an imperialist gun barrel?
These women do not represent women's liberation. Instead,
that spirit lives on in pro-women organizations that are also
against imperialist war. Groups like Boston Women's Fightback
Network (www.iacboston.org). They say, "Money for food,
childcare, jobs, hospitals, schools, parks--for welfare, WIC,
Section 8, youth services, recovery programs and AIDS funding."
They hold high signs reading, "No racist war!" Their chant is
"Housing and health care! Not warfare!"
Reprinted from the June 20, 2002, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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