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Monday, October 09, 2006

Afghanistan and Womens Rights - A truly Canadian Farce.

One of the most risible justifications for the war in Afghanistan is the argument that we are protecting the rights of women.

First though, one must make a comparison to our other noble venture in Iraq. It is under the false aegis of bringing freedom and democracy to the people that the rights of women in Iraq are being steadily eroded.

Analyzing the two countries shows that the presence of a foreign occupying power is generally a detriment to women’s rights and freedoms. In Iraq a once strongly secular nation, frustration at the US’s farcical attempts at democracy have left the people desperate and without hope. When viable political institutions are no longer available to the populace the people tend to turn to religion to get their social needs met. A corollary of this migration to religion is the deterioration of the rights and status of women as radical religion comes to power, which is the case in occupied Iraq. Everyday there are stories of women being harassed for not wearing what the fundamentalists believe to be the proper modest clothing. Professional women in Iraq are being harassed doing their jobs, or just walking without a male relative in attendance. Yet we hear no clarion call to restore Iraqi woman’s rights, no indignation about the injustice they are facing, so why the furor in Afghanistan but not Iraq?

The reason why there is no mention of women’s rights in Iraq is painfully simple. The answer is the withdrawal of the illegal occupation forces stationed in Iraq and the restoration of authentic Iraqi sovereignty. US imperial design leaves no room for such dalliances as women’s rights when they will not serve to further justify the imperial cause. The circumstances in Afghanistan though are slightly different as we can paint ourselves as noble protectors of women and their rights, as it fits in with the current military objectives.

The ‘noble cause’ of protecting woman’s rights in Afghanistan unsurprisingly coincides with the strong hegemonic current flowing from the US; therefore defending women’s rights is acceptable (for now). If the West is so concerned about Afghani women they why did they generously fund, equip and support the Taliban in the late 1970’s and early 80’s? The Taliban’s radical interpretation of Islam was not a mystery to anyone in the West…ever. If the US and the western nations knew about the Taliban’s take on women’s rights then why did they so fully support such a repressive authoritarian regime?

Fighting the evil of Communism would be the standard answer for US apologists. A more realistic view is that the US needed a force, any force, to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ethical and moral standards notwithstanding. For empire, no decision is too despicable, too cynical as long as the needs of the empire are served. Up with the gallant Taliban heroes to fight the Red Menace and stop the spread of Communism…insert propaganda here etc. Never mind that the Taliban tore Afghani civil society to shreds and transported women’s rights back to the dark ages, that is entirely acceptable to Empire. The primacy of hegemonic power does not respect human rights. The impassioned commentators and courtiers never mention this dark chapter in the struggle for Afghani women’s rights.

It is blatantly hypocritical to clam to be fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The claim rings as hollow as the promise to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Canadians must resist the propaganda spewing from the Harper government. What we are doing in Afghanistan in fundamentally wrong. Not only are we supporting the efforts of a unjust, immoral, imperialistic nation, we are throwing away what slight international credibility Canada has of being on the side of internationalism, diplomacy and most importantly, peace.

What is needed is a mediated peace agreement, not more violence and death meted out by our military. We must withdraw our troops from Afghanistan or at the very least cease all offensive operations immediately. We are spending the lives of our soldiers in a shortsighted, hopeless, lost cause that can only end badly for Canada as a nation.

Afghanistan has humbled far greater military powers than the meager Canadian contingent. Ask Britain and Russia about their success in Afghanistan… Why do we strive to be added the ignominious list of countries that have failed in Afghanistan?

We as Canadians are making a mockery of women’s rights by trying to use them as justification for occupying Afghanistan. We must dispense with this cynical casuistry and begin working on a mediated agreement that will work for the people of Afghanistan, rather than the needs of the imperial interests that currently dominate the debate on the legitimacy of the Canadian mission.

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