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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 ideologues stand.

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.

Imperial anthropology

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 species.

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 and exploitation.

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, March-April 2003.

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 ‘effeminate.’”

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 imperialist societies.

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, too.

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 against Afghanistan.

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 production.

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 was hideous.”

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 offense.

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.

Email: [email protected].