Thursday, July 29th, 2010

'Time' Regrets To Inform You That We Will Kill These Women

Screen shot 2010-07-29 at 10.02.28 AM"We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it." That's Time editor Rick Stengel on his new cover story…. which is coverlined "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan," and has a portrait of a woman brutalized by the Taliban. The story contains this: "As the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, the need for an exit strategy weighs on the minds of U.S. policymakers. Such an outcome, it is assumed, would involve reconciliation with the Taliban. But Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined…. For Afghanistan's women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous." So… which is it? That sure sounds like an argument-and, you know, a very moving and affecting one!-for something like a permanent or at least extended occupation. Making things a little more complicated? The new issue also has an article by expert-without-portfolio Joe Klein, which goes: "Afghanistan is really a sideshow here. Pakistan is the primary U.S. national-security concern in the region." So now what am I supposed to think while I'm not going on summer vacation because it makes our children stupider?

53 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

Sorry, Puerto Rico. Looks like you'll have to be the 52nd state.

keisertroll (#1,117)

53rd, if the inaccurate American flag pizza box I used to eat from has anything to say from it.

Baboleen (#1,430)

I can't decide if I want to languish at a street corner or in front of a glowing screen.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I may be a soulless, inhuman monster for thinking this, but we can't commit the U.S. military to overthrowing or suppressing every regime that abuses human rights. The plight of women in Afghanistan is terrible, but is indefinite military intervention really the solution?

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

This is a clever bit of political judo. I hope whoever takes up this line of argument in defense of the war in Afghanistan is prepared to apply the same logic to our lack of military intervention in places like, say, Darfur. I guess if Chad had nukes, it'd be a different story.

xarissa (#3,317)

yes. the assumption we are supposed to make is that our entire goal was human rights protection. for some individuals–some military folks i know, and i'm sure many more–that is a major factor in their decision to join. but on a strategic level, the evidence seems clear that this kind of abuse was not our primary motivation.

It's always going to be a matter of who can convince people to do what they want with whatever argument they can find. It's not about Truth or Principles or Consistency, it's about Suasion and Time has staked their claim for the week. Next week: They Hate Dogs! Next Month: Why won't the Democrats give up on Afghanistan already?

People looking for the clean process we've always been taught about (honest, respectful, and rational argument) will always be disappointed. It's the only side guaranteed to lose every argument. Those days are gone (they never really existed; it was a rigged game that benefitted those who wrote the rules first), back to the trenches of bullshit. Of constant conflict. Over everything.

If you're against this war, get some pictures of wounded Americans or massacred weddings. It's not really an argument, it may not be a reason, or even your reason, but it is what will work.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

That was good.

HiredGoons (#603)

The current goal of US military warfare is simply to destabilize any region or group of countries which may, however remote the possibility, coalesce into a front against our interests.

We always 'win' even when we lose.

@DD: You are not soulless, but I do think you are missing a critical element: are we really in Afghanistan (or Iraq) on human rights grounds? Our pretext for going there was Osama Bin Laden. Human rights has become window dressing in the face of failing to make progress at our primary goal.

If our global military calling was human rights, we'd have invaded China after Tiananmen Square. Honestly, the last time we probably flexed military muscle purely in the name of human rights was probably Kosovo, right? I mean, there's no oil there or anything.

We go where there is oil. Columbia is on that list, although there the rationale for troops is drug dealing by the FARC. I'm just surprised we haven't invaded Nigeria yet.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Clarence Rosario: blocking Serbian hegemony over the Balkans region.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

The whole humanitarian PR is really a betrayal of the public's better nature. People want to do something to help these women, so war proponents set up a false dichotomy between continued occupation and "doing nothing." In reality, of course, there are a million better options than ongoing war.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"purely in the name of human rights was probably Kosovo".

As a Serbian, let me remind everyone that Serbian regime bombed entire villages, broke into peoples homes killing people indiscriminately, arresting, torturing, murdering and all that… and you know what the pretext was? Supposedly they were looking for "terrorists" and "insurgents" (what?), while all they were basically doing was pretty much waging a war on people simply because they were Muslims, while at the same time trying to scare the Christian population and reassure them that they are defending their interest where the enemy lives, so they wouldn't have to do it in Belgrade, after the enemy comes marching in.

Now who has ever heard of anything like that? Never again! Oh, wait…

We don't oppress Afghan women for religious reasons…we just bomb the shit out of them and their country for political/business reasons. It's all about motivation, you see.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Political Science Cosby strikes again.

Just get them some flowers, a little appreciation goes a long way.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

A trillion dollar military occupation is not exactly the best way to reduce domestic violence. How about working on spousal abuse in Washington DC and then we can build from there.

Should say, if we leave Afghanistan, Dynacorp and Blackwater's net revenue would drop by 35%. Thus the war must continue for ever.

Oh, and women's rights and shit.

Remember how the fact the Iraq troops had apparently raped Kuwaiti women was the outrage that got people behind the first Gulf War? I was like, man, there were three rapes in West Philadelphia yesterday – where're the troops?

Jim Demintia (#1,815)

Hmm. This is just like how the British had to colonize India, in order to stop the practice of Sati. And just to make sure it was really gone, they kept exploiting everyone economically for another hundred years or so.

So maybe it'll only be another century before we can finally stop occupying their country and killing village wedding parties and school girls with predator drones and suppressive fire, for their own good.

mmmark (#4,458)

Oh, and the oil spill? What? That little old thing?

brianvan (#149)


I mean, holy fucking shit, why are we sending children through MORE school when all of the twentysomethings who are coming out of school can't find work? Must be Gen-Y's fault for taking July and August off! Work them harder and make them more obedient unemployed citizens, eh? FIX THE FUCKING ECONOMY FIRST.

I think the reasoning is that as more and more formerly blue-collared jobs (factory job being moved overseas, etc.) are being eliminated the only way we are going to be able to help lower income students succeed is by making them more traditionally academically successful in school. One way is to realize that the structure of the traditional school calendar with its summer break is an unequalizer as lower income students return to the classroom with a learning loss of up to two months. The article, at least the one online, wasn't suggesting that we eliminate vacation, but create programs for lower income students that are the equivalent of what richer students do on summer break as a few communities nationwide are a currently attempting.

Not to mention the fact that funding allocations for schools get smaller and smaller as state and local governments try to make cuts and Tea Party America is unwilling to pay higher taxes to support public education. We can't afford the amount of school we have now, how the fuck could we possibly pay for ADDITIONAL MONTHS?!

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

So, since we've already helped Afghan women a bit, they are now more of a priority than Somali women (or North Korean children, etc.), whom we did not help at all? And are any of them more of a priority than "our men and women in uniform" (and their families)? How about we end the Cuban embargo and stop starving those kids, wouldn't that be the easiest thing to do? Ah fuck it, let's just stop pretending we give a shit about anyone and just keep bombing the (various) bastards. It's the most American thing to do!

cherrispryte (#444)

A few things – first, women in Afghanistan under the Taliban had it worse than women anywhere else in the world. This is absolutely undebatable.

Secondly, "we" are helping Somali women. USAID sent over $31 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia last year alone. We're not doing nothing there – the same goes for Yemen, Chad, Bangladesh, and most other developing countries. North Korean and Cuban children, you've got a point there.
While bombing is most definitely America's trade mark, the US is also pumping millions of your taxpayer dollars into the places we're not actively bombing (and um, not actively sanctioning.) While there's plenty of valid criticism of USAID and similar organizations, the idea that we're doing nothing is simply untrue. It's just rarely flashy enough to make headlines.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Geez, Cherri, it almost sounds like you think global humanitarian crises aren't best addressed by invasion and occupation. That's just silly.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

Communists, all of you!

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

The point is that helping people is not our priority. It's just something we do on the side, often for political points redeemed for achieving those higher priority goals.

cherrispryte (#444)

I know. My love of access to schooling, healthcare, infrastructure and better rights for women is just ridiculous. Howitzers for everyone!

cherrispryte (#444)

Well. National Defense! is our first and often only priority. The manner in which we try to achieve this goal varies. When we're idiots, we bomb and invade and fuel the fires we're trying to put out. The fact of the matter is, though, that by "helping people" we can turn them away from a life of terrorism before they've gotten started. And, you know, improve the quality of their lives, which is obviously secondary to the US. This, unfortunately, takes way more money than we're sending over, a degree of buy-in from the local population, a lot of trained personnel and a committment for generations. So it ain't gonna happen, but still – helping people could be the cornerstone of National Defense. It isn't because it's too hard and expensive.

cherrispryte (#444)

ugh. this was in response to Niko's second comment.

Honest Engine (#1,661)

More expensive than running a war in the most rugged country on earth? Also, would aid organizations be able to operate in the country without U.S. military presence? Something tells me that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan wouldn't be thrilled to have USAID around. I don't know the answers here. Just curious.

cherrispryte (#444)

Probably not more expensive than the war itself, but it would take considerably longer. When I mentioned "a degree of buy-in from the local population", that's where the local opinions (and ability of aid organizations to work without a military presence) comes in. There is also very much a right way and a wrong way to do development work, and we're still figuring out what exactly the right way is – USAID, due to its government associations, has a much harder time doing things "the right way". It's a much more risky gamble than saying "aw fuck it, let's bomb the motherfuckers," though the rewards would be much more substantial and long-lasting.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Yeah, actually, aid is orders of magnitude cheaper than occupation. The difference is that occupation is paid for in "Defense Dollars," which are basically magical monopoly money made of rainbows, sunshine and dreams.

KarenUhOh (#19)

It's a slippery slope that history turns upside down and flicks us off, into oblivion.

ish (#3,041)

So how many women in Afghanistan had their noses cut off by the Taliban vs. how many women in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) have been killed by predator drones or other U.S. airstrikes?
I'm pretty sure that makes the U.S. worse than the Taliban. And I'm pretty sure that makes Time magazine a piece of outright Pentagon propaganda.

Time for the U.S. to get out.

cherrispryte (#444)

I think the question that should be asked is how many women were killed by the Taliban vs. how many women have been killed by the US invasion. And lets be sure to include the thousands, if not millions of women in Afghanistan who, while not killed directly by the Taliban, were killed by their "husbands" and families under Taliban-sanctioned law, and all the women who killed themselves to escape life under the Taliban. Let's also include the women raped, beaten, attacked by acid, and otherwise deliberately disfigured by the Taliban and their henchmen vs the US.

It doesn't fucking compare.

Afghanistan is majorly fucked up, and I can't say that the US is making anywhere near as positive of a change as we'd all like to hope, but the idea that the US is worse than the Taliban is absolutely insane.

Yes, the US kills civilians and women. And that's not okay. But we don't play football with their heads afterwards.

ish (#3,041)

The Taliban are not nice, from what I understand, but really, reading your comment is like reading some account of white settlers being ravaged by savages on the old frontier. Which certainly happened. But somehow the Indians are the ones who are mostly dead. So I question your perspective.

cherrispryte (#444)

@formerly – will source this (and try and come up with numbers, if that's possible) when I get home from work, but check reports from HRW, UNIFEM, Amnesty, RAWA, etc – the Taliban's obscene treatment of women is well known amongst the international community and there's been some effort to document it.

@ish – I am kind of confused by your comment and analogy. Are you trying to compare Afghani women to white settlers and the Taliban to "the Indians"? Please clarify.
If I come across as pro-US, that's not my intent. But I am pro-women, and therefore very anti-Taliban. As I said above, when I've got time later to double check my facts, I'll post a sourced comment. (This is one of the only places on the internet that requires research and a bibliography for some comments, but that's part of why I love it here.)

ish (#3,041)

Well I'm not trying to compare them but I feel that's a metaphor for the stereotypes you're invoking. When I read diatribes about the barbarity of the Taliban, I think context becomes key. You know the minute I read about women in other countries being oppressed by some kind of culturally-based barbarism I ask what the rates of rape and violence against women are in the U.S.

"I'm not trying to compare them…" *makes comparison*

ish (#3,041)

C'mon Stalin. My point is that demonizing the Taliban is easy to do but not necessarily the accurate picture of who the real villains are.

cherrispryte (#444)


So I had this thousand word response all researched and ready, but rereading your comments – no. You don't warrant it. So first, please tell me exactly what part of my comment you see as "invoking stereotypes." Please tell me in what context throwing acid in the face of a girl because she is on her way to school is acceptable – because context, apparently, is key here. And that didn't happen once. That happened over 350 times, in 2007 alone. Google "self immolation Afghanistan" and tell me how I'm demonizing the Taliban.

The Taliban wasn't culturally based barbarism. Afghanistan was a constitutional government with legally protected equal rights for women and a fairly liberal society up until the 1970's. The Taliban were a bunch of power-drunk warlords, hyped up on US ammunition and a warped interpretation of the Koran, and aside from raping and murdering thousands of women (HRW's got a 2001 report that backs that up, if you want sources), they took away every woman's right they could possibly think of. ( – read it.)

Comparing rape and domestic abuse rates in the US to Afghanistan is insane, and doesn't actually have anything to do with the situation. For one thing, rape and domestic abuse were perpetrated and encouraged by the Taliban, and are illegal in the US. Do they occur in US society? Yes, but they are the exception, not the rule. Statistically, 12% of women in the US will be raped in their lifetimes, and that's horrible and needs to be addressed. However, 80% of Afghani women are in forced marriages, which would give them a minimum of 80% of their women being raped – half under the age of 16, and many far younger. (Forced, not arranged. Huge difference.)

Should we pay more attention to injustice and crime in the US? Of course, but waiting until our country is perfect (which it never will be) before getting involved with any other country is ridiculous, impossible, selfish and counter-productive.

You come across in your comments as not having the slightest idea what the hell you're talking about, or the severity of the situation women face in Afghanistan. I'm not sure what "accurate picture" you've vaguely hinting at, but the Taliban are the villains here.

ish (#3,041)

The bottom line is you believe the U.S. can be an agent of positive social change in another country and I don't. Your penultimate paragraph is the clincher for me. That word "selfish" is the most glaringly problematic, to which I will throw back at you "naive." Saving "social imperialist" til I know you better.
As for which of us has the slightest idea of what we're talking about, your nostalgia for the glory days of the Afghan monarchy, your conflation of the Taliban and the Warlords, and your apparent ignorance of the U.S. role in thirty years of Afghan destabilization says all I need to know.

ish (#3,041)
cherrispryte (#444)

You don't believe the US can be an agent of positive social change in a country? Tell that to everyone in the world who isn't dead of smallpox and polio. Tell that to Europe after WW2.

I do believe that, by virtue of our common humanity, that people have a fundamental responsibility to help each other, on a micro and macro level. Not doing so would be selfish, and if you find that problematic, well, I have similar opinions of your worldview.

Social imperialist? No. I wouldn't wish American culture or society on anyone. But I do believe that women's rights – most importantly, a woman's right to agency – trump cultural context. You want to wear a burqa? Fine, but it better damn well be your own decision, and not anything forced upon you.

I'm not sure where you see nostalgia in my comment. I was pointing out that the Taliban wasn't the logical cultural progression of governance in Afghanistan, not that Afghanistan of the 70's was some sort of magical land of perfection.

Ignorance of the U.S. role in Afghani history? What else do you think I was referencing when I said "hyped up on US ammunition"? The US has a horrible history in Afghanistan, one that's so well known I didn't think I needed to spell out for you my awareness of it.

Of course RAWA wants the US out. Malalai Joya wants the US out too. We've fucked things up quite royally there, gone about things in the wrong way, aligned with the wrong people, and made horrific mistakes. Would there have been a right way to get involved in Afghanistan? Maybe, but it takes the sort of research, subtlety and understanding of an impossibly complex situation that, frankly, the US government doesn't engage in.

Not for a moment have I said that the US occupation isn't fucked up and wrong. It is. I don't know if we should get out or not, but if we stay, we need to drastically change what we're doing and how we're doing it.

But we're not worse than the fucking Taliban, which is the only point I'm really trying to make here.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Ish, it's a logical fallacy to say "group A was unfairly demonized hundreds of years ago, so you're being unfair by demonizing group B today." Culturally speaking, pre-settlement native Americans and the Taliban are about as different as it is possible to be.

The Taliban was a brutal, fascist, fundamentalist regime propped up by military might (largely provided by the US). They inflicted horrifying abuses on the people of Afghanistan. That is just historical fact. They were one of the few governments awful enough to make the question, "is invasion and occupation by a foreign power better?" debatable.

ish (#3,041)

See Dr. Disaster that's why I'm not actually comparing the Taliban to the settlers. The metaphor I was using was about the demonization of the "enemy" providing cover for at least as "demonic" acts by the "good guys."

cherrispryte (#444)

"at least as "demonic" acts?" The US government isn't executing people in football stadiums. They're not using rape as a weapon of war. They've done terrible things, no doubt. But the magnitude of atrocities doesn't begin to compare. The Taliban engaged in a particularly depraved kind of torture that rivals the worst the world has ever seen.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

The U.S. occupations of middle east countries are objectionable and horrifying in any number of ways; no one is denying that. But if you're actually making the claim that women were just as well off or better off under unopposed Taliban rule, you've let relativism carry you way too far. To pretend that there haven't been some good consequences of the invasion along with all the awful ones is to deny the complexity of the situation.

SourCapote (#4,872)

well i read the awl during my summer vacation, and it seems to be pretty stimulating in more areas than one. Maybe they should make this mandatory summer reading for the poors

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