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WikiLeaks reveal

CIA told media to promote women’s horror stories in Afghanistan

Published Sep 9, 2010 11:04 PM

Recent WikiLeaks disclosures reveal just how low the U.S. government and its media mouthpieces will stoop to revive support for its occupation of Afghanistan.

A March 11 secret memorandum from the CIA’s Red Cell problem-solving group, now made public, suggests “promoting women’s horror stories” to bolster faltering support for the Afghan war, says John Gorenfeld in the Aug. 16 New York Observer.

Gorenfeld continues, “Subtitling their memo ‘Why Counting On Apathy Might Not Be Enough,’ the agents warned that sending more soldiers to Afghanistan threatened to outrage the French and German publics. ‘Indifference might turn into active hostility,’ they wrote, especially if soldiers and civilians die. The fix? Instead of using generals in desert camo [camouflage] as the face of the NATO mission, use oppressed Afghan women.

“These victims could make ‘ideal messengers,’ the analysts wrote, ‘in humanizing the ISAF [NATO International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.’ The report also urged that these stories be pitched to TV shows with large female audiences.”

Surely the CIA knows that the reality is that under the U.S. occupation “women’s rights have actually deteriorated as a direct consequence of deliberate U.S. policy, including alliances with warlords hostile to women’s rights,” according to Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission of the International Humanities Center (Women’s eNews, July 26, 2009).

Taliban not the only culprits

Meanwhile, major U.S. media are enthusiastically following the CIA’s guidelines. That the U.S. occupation hurts Afghan women didn’t matter to Time magazine when it pictured on its Aug. 9 cover a woman whose nose had been cut off by a relative living under the U.S. occupation. Time wrongly blamed the mutilation on the Taliban, and implied that a Pentagon withdrawal from the country would be “abandoning” Afghan women.

But The Nation, a progressive magazine, blew the whistle in an article entitled, “Afghan Woman Have Already Been Abandoned” (Aug. 12). Ann Jones, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said the woman on Time’s cover, Bibi Aisha, told her that she had been mutilated by her father-in-law as a punishment, and the Taliban had nothing to do with it. But to the CIA and, it seems, to Time, what happens to Afghan women is irrelevant, as long as these women’s sufferings can be exploited to provide backing for the war.

There is another sordid revelation concerning this Time cover story. Its author, the magazine’s Afghanistan Bureau Chief Aryn Baker, did not disclose that she personally profits from the U.S. occupation. John Gorenfeld reports that Baker’s spouse, Tamim Samee, “is a board member of an Afghan government minister’s $100 million project advocating foreign investment in Afghanistan, and has run two companies ... that have solicited and won development contracts with the assistance of the international military, including private sector infrastructure projects favored by U.S.-backed leader Hamid Karzai.” (New York Observer, Aug. 12)

Time responded to the Observer investigation by moving Baker to another, undisclosed country, but continues to defend her specious article as a “straightforward reported piece.”

With the generous help of the establishment media, the U.S. government would have us believe that Afghan and Moslem culture is terrible and misogynist; and that Afghan women need to be “saved” from their culture and from men by a U.S. invasion. This is a false and racist bill of goods.

Afghan women can never find freedom under an occupying power. For women to have their rights, the very first need is for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan and stop interfering in its affairs.

Meanwhile, by relegating violence against women and forced sex with women and children solely to Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures, the major media downplay the situation of women here.

The National Organization for Women points out that there is “an epidemic of gender based violence and sexual assault” right here in the U.S., and the numbers, NOW says, are shocking. “In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.”

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control says that women experience about 4.8 million intimate-partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. The U.S. Department of Justice itself explains that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds and a woman raped every two minutes. The National Crime Victimization Survey of 2006 revealed that more than 600 women a day were raped or sexually assaulted in the U.S.

If Washington is so concerned about violence against women in Afghanistan, why isn’t it doing anything about violence against women in the U.S.? Why don’t the media start a campaign exposing the maiming and killing of women here by spouses and lovers?

The FBI also estimates that well over 100,000 children and young women are sexually trafficked in the U.S. today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11. This is sexual slavery of children — right here. Where are the media exposés?

Western priests rape thousands of children

When it comes to pedophilia, Catholic priests have repeatedly raped thousands of children in their charge for decades without punishment. In the U.S. “only a fraction of the perpetrators have been jailed and little been done to punish those who covered up the crimes.” (Agence France Press, April 4) The U.S. government did nothing while victims, mostly working-class boys, were intimidated into silence, and “abusive priests moved to unsuspecting parishes where they found new prey.”

When researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice were given access to church files, they “found that more than 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons sexually abused at least 10,677 American children between 1950 and 2002. Just 615 of those incidents had been reported to law enforcement and only 384 clergy members were criminally charged, resulting in 252 convictions. A further 3,091 abusive clergy and 4,568 victims were identified from 2004 through 2009, according to a report published [in February].”

Are cops the U.S. Taliban?

The press has reported many stories of Afghan women under the subjection of men with guns who kill and maim without being reported to police or government. That doesn’t happen here — or does it?

Barbara Sheehan faces 15 years to life for killing her spouse, a retired police officer, and will be tried in Queens, N.Y. For 20 years, her spouse, who carried two guns at all times, beat her black and blue, threatened to push her out of cars, humiliated her, pulled guns on her and taunted her. He told her that if she left him, he would kill her family and their children. He dared her to call the police. “I couldn’t call 911. He was 911,” Sheehan said. The police “would never have arrested him. And then what would happen when they left?” (Women’s eNews, July 13)

Women like Sheehan have no one to turn to and often nowhere to go. Many women’s shelters refuse to take in the abused wives and families of police for fear of retaliation by that cop and his buddies on the force.

“Domestic violence is two to four times more common in police families than in the general population,” according to Purple Berets, a group which advocates for victims of sexual assault. “In a nationwide survey of 123 police departments, 45 percent had no specific policy for dealing with officer-involved domestic violence. — The most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling.” (purpleberets.org)

This is the U.S. version of the Taliban, and it’s a national phenomenon. The outcome can be very tragic. For example, Jeffery Grahn, a Clackamas County, Ore., sheriff sergeant, had been reported three times to his superiors in the police department for spousal abuse, including holding a loaded gun at his spouse’s head, and also for being “suicidal.” But an investigation by the police buried the matter, and allowed Grahn to keep his badge and gun. On Feb. 12 Grahn killed his spouse Charlotte, two of her friends, and then himself. (Women’s eNews, Aug. 4)

If Washington doesn’t stand up to this kind of violence against women here, how could it possibly stop violence against women in Afghanistan?

Next: Washington’s agent of salvation for Afghan women is the Pentagon. What is the Pentagon’s record on women?