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U.S.-Britain gay-bashed Afghanistan
Published Dec 18, 2007 11:51 PM
In the months after the autumn 2001 imperialist military invasion, a rash of
gay-bashing and gay-baiting articles about Afghanistan appeared in the U.S. and
British corporate media.
Many of these articles purported to analyze sexualities and genders and the
organization of the sexes in Afghanistan.
In some of the coverage, “experts”—who are not
Afghan—focused on sexual and social organization in Pashtun culture, the
majority culture in Afghanistan, as though it was the only culture. Other
non-Afghan “authorities” didn’t differentiate between the
diverse cultures in that ancient land, including the Durrani, Ghilzai, Wardak,
Jaji, Tani, Jadran, Mangal, Khugiani, Kuchi, Safi, Mohmand and Shinwari; or
Uzbek or Arab. Most reports did not differentiate between peoples of the
lowlands and those in the mountain ranges. Or between peoples who lead nomadic
lives, and those who dwell in crowded cities. And speculations only focused on
same-sexuality between male-bodied individuals.
Colonialism and imperialism have always studied the cultures they sought to
conquer and destroy. The job of embedded anthropologists is ultimately always
to claim cultural superiority—the rotten plank on which white-supremacist
Not a word coming from the imperialist occupiers about Afghan cultures has any
validity. Some of the most bigoted theories these articles rehash and spew
about same-sex love and gender expression, and their relation to women’s
oppression, do need to be exposed and combated.
The organization of the sexes, socially accepted sexualities and gender
expressions in Afghanistan are rooted in that country’s ancient history,
and are not the same as in the U.S. or Britain. The existence of other forms of
social organization and sexual and gender expression challenges the biological
determinists who argue that sexuality is genetically fixed in the human
Therefore, colonialists and imperialists have historically used racist
characterizations like “obsessive sodomy,”
“promiscuity” and “unnatural sexuality, and gender-phobic
baiting of oppressed males as “effeminate” or
“hyper-masculine” to excuse the inexcusable: imperial domination
Brian James Baer, associate professor of Russian Literature and Translation at
Kent State University, wrote about the bias in the spate of Western reporting
about sexualities in Afghanistan in an article in the Gay and Lesbian Review,
Baer noted, “Journalists repeatedly used Western concepts such as
‘gay’ and ‘the closet’ to characterize the Kandahar
situation, thus imposing their notion of homosexuality as a minority
identity.” And, he added, “In their reporting Western journalists
insisted on reducing relationships that are often long-term emotional bonds to
a crude sexual bargain.”
Baer pointed out: “Maura Reynolds of The LA Times noted that ‘there
is a strong streak of dandyism among Pashtun males. Many line their eyes with
kohl, stain their fingernails with henna or walk about town in clumsy,
high-heeled sandals.’ But this equation makes sense only if we accept two
Western assumptions: that homosexuality and effeminacy are automatically
linked; and that the practices described are in fact
Baer stressed: “Despite statistical evidence demonstrating that
pedophilia in the West is more common among heterosexual men, the association
of homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children remains prominent in Western
anti-gay discourse, propelling ‘save our children’ campaigns to
restrict their contact with gay adults. By constructing age-stratified
homosexual activity in Kandahar as pedophilia, Western journalists provided
themselves a link to the ever-popular issue of child abuse—especially
hot, what with the unfolding scandal in the Catholic Church.”
Baer took journalist Michael Griffin to task for writing in The Times of London
that the Taliban hated women and that resulted in making sex with other males
popular in Afghanistan. On the eve of invasion, articles in the imperialist
media centered on the claim that the Taliban was repressing same-sexuality.
Baer also challenged Griffin for flipping the argument in the same article by
claiming that woman-hating appears to be “the product of a repressed
homosexuality.” Readers were spared theories about what is at the root of
women loving women.
The claim that same-sex love arises from hatred of women or that misogyny is
rooted in unexpressed homosexual desire pits sexes and sexualities that are
both oppressed under patriarchal class rule against each other.
Most of the imperialist war-time media reports claim that many males in
Afghanistan have sex with each other because of “extreme segregation of
the sexes.” Some of the same journalists did not attempt to reconcile the
contradiction to their theory when they quoted Afghan males who are married to
women and have sex with other males.
The “prison” theory of homosexuality is an old one. It assumes that
heterosexuality is hard-wired and “natural” and that sex between
males or females only takes place when the sexes are segregated.
Even the term “segregation” is judgmental. Every society has its
own organization of the sexes. However, in pre-class societies, in which women
were not ruled over by men, same-sex organization in collective households or
hunting or rituals was not oppressive. On the whole, such societies made room
for more sexes, sexualities and gender expressions, and socially accepted sex
reassignment than is allowed for in the patriarchal organization of modern
Dubbing Afghanistan as a “prison culture” for oppressed sexes and
sexualities allowed post-invasion articles in the U.S. and British media to
make it seem as though “gay liberation” was a collateral benefit of
imperialist massive bombing raids, invasion and military occupation.
But imperialism has tried to lock down Afghanistan like a prison. The
“don’t ask, don’t tell” Pentagon command didn’t
bring liberation from the Taliban. It brought the Taliban. It was the CIA and
“Defense” Department that armed and trained the Taliban and Osama
bin Laden and other counter-revolutionary forces to crush the 1978
Revolution—which was taking action, with women in the lead, to liberate
Afghanistan from semi-feudal rule.
After the Pentagon hammered the country with bombs, and Special Forces battered
down the doors of homes, U.S. and British journalists in Kandahar followed
behind, demanding that peoples under siege and under occupation talk publicly
about sexualities in their cultures.
While admitting, “There appears to be no shame or furtiveness about them,
although when approached, they refuse to talk to a western journalist,”
Reid turned around and charged the Pashtun with “lying” because
they did not confess to his definition of their sexualities.
Maura Reynolds quotes Mohammed Daud, a motorbike repair person, in her Los
Angeles Times article. “These are hard questions you are asking,”
he says. “We don’t usually talk about such things.” (Los
Angeles Times, April 3, 2002)
Rambo gay bashing
The Pentagon brass—which carry out a crusade of terror against gay,
lesbian, bisexual and trans GIs in its own ranks—gay-bashed Afghanistan,
Just days after the Pentagon began dropping a torrent of high-tech ordnance
from the sky over Afghanistan, the Associated Press released worldwide a
photograph of a gay-bashing epithet, “High Jack This
F—-,”scrawled on one of the bombs on a fighter jet parked on the
flight deck of the USS Enterprise.
The widely circulated photo created uproar among lesbian, gay, bisexual and
trans (LGBT) organizations in the United States. However, all but one of these
groups debated it from the standpoint of a hate-speech issue; they did not
denounce the aerial bombardment and post-9/11 Pentagon military aggression
AP spokesperson Jack Stokes used the weapon of xenophobia to deflect anger,
saying that the photographer “is not American, and that [epithet] meant
nothing to him.” Stokes didn’t bother taking a stab at explaining
how the photo got past everyone else in the process of selection and
At the Pentagon, Navy Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli said the ship’s crew
had been told to edit “the spontaneous acts of penmanship by our
sailors.” He concluded, “We want to keep the message
positive.” Pietropaoli is referring to messages written on bombs about to
drop on the population below.
The release of the photograph was very much in keeping with the menacing psy-op
messages of U.S. and British imperialism. Political pundits,
late-night-television comics, newspaper and Internet cartoons gay-baited and
transgender-baited the Taliban and Osama bin Laden—including threats of
anal rape. The threat of rape and sexual and gender humiliation is a primary
weapon of CIA and mercenary interrogators of Muslim men and women.
The following quotes, vicious and offensive, are repeated here solely to
spotlight the threat of violence that smolders in these reports, which are
broadcast around the world.
In an article in The Scotsman on May 24, 2002, journalist Chris Stephen wrote,
“In Bagram British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan
mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat—being propositioned
by swarms of gay local farmers.”
British Royal Marine James Fletcher said: “They were more terrifying than
the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours.
They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village.”
“It was hell,” said Corporal Paul Richard.
“They put some music on and ask us to dance. I told them where to
go,” said Cpl. Richard. “Some of the guys turned tail and fled. It
These quotes from military aggressors are a “homosexual panic
defense,” by which gay-bashers later claim in court that they were
justified to torture and murder because the victim made sexual advances.
Even after the U.S. and British invaded Afghanistan—dominating the
country militarily and crafting a legislative and political façade of
independent government and law—the imperialists did not remove the law
which they had said in pro-war agitation made same-sex love a capital
Next: Same-sex rights: Dec. 18 New York Times pits Iraq and Iran.
Read parts 116 and 117 on Afghanistan and the entire Lavender & Red
series at www.workers.org. Look for the Lavender & Red logo.
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