Okay. Umm, you know, this is kind of awkward and I don't really know how to tell you this, so I'm just going to come right out and say it...
We're not really in Afghanistan to save the women.
There. I said it. Sorry.
Cause, you know, if we were there to save the women, we could have made that effort a looong time ago. We're acting all affronted now, and we're helping the US occupy the country, because, you know, we're helping the women. But you know what the Americans did the last time there was a government in Afghanistan that aggressively promoted gender equality? They helped bomb the shit out of them. They sided against it because they were a communist party, and we can't have that, I mean, women's rights are one thing, but we can't have no goddamn commies administer them. So it's nice to know that we can comfort ourselves with the warm and fuzzies of Women's Rights – which I'm for, so I look forward to our next campaign, which I'm sure will involve marching into Riyadh to liberate the women there.
Our military goes wherever it's political masters tell it to go. The troops are stuck with the mission, so it behooves their mental health to convince themselves they're saving women and children. If they let reality sink in that they're making matters worse, well, that just leads to post-traumatic stress and other varieties of mental breakdown– so, yeah, “helping women and children”, right. Lets go with that.
But on the Afghanistan question, 4 out of 5 Afghan women agree: a good start might include not installing women-hating warlords into government. We're all proud of ourselves for running the Taliban outta Dodge, but then they were replaced by drug-lords, criminals, and misogynists.
Is it any wonder that the one-man puppet show, Hamid Karzai, felt pressure to pass pro-rape laws to appease his rivals?
I know, I know – under the Taliban, women, especially in the rural areas, were confined to their homes, couldn't work or go to school, had no rights and were forced into marriages, often as children. And Today? Well, let's see... women are confined to their homes, can't work or go to school, have no rights and are forced into marriages, often as children. Oh, and one other thing: they're dodging bombs and bullets with varying degrees of success. Sooo, sorry 'bout that, Aghan women. My bad.
But if there's one thing Western governments like, it's progress on paper. “After all”, you might say, "they have their own ministry." Sure, and the starving children of the world had their own song, so, you know...good for them. But yes, it's true, there is a piece of paper, maybe even a plaque on a door somewhere that has “Ministry of Women's Affairs” written on it, but last I heard that closet was being used to store the parliamentary hookah and unread copies of “the kite runner”.
The reality is that in the current Afghan government you can't swing a cat without hitting a woman-hating warlord. This is the group that appointed a fundamentalist judiciary that sends women to prison for adultery, which they commit during the act of getting raped. In the recent elections Karzai and his two warlord running mates ran on the slogan: Misogyny! It's not just for the Taliban anymore!
So, these paper-gains are for the benefit of people who believe in the Wizard of Oz. You know, giving the scarecrow a Ph.d and saying he had a brain was meant as a joke making fun of pieces of paper – Guess what? The scarecrow's still an idiot. I'm sorry, he was.
The only thing our military presence is doing now is pissing people off, doing our part in making sure a steady stream of angry young men find a way to scratch the itch of hatred. When civilians get killed in Afghanistan, the families' response is revenge and joining the Taliban help them get it.
Afghan women know there's work to be done, and people like Malalai Joya, who was kicked out of parliament and had five attempts on her life for criticizing the warlords and their corruption, are prepared to do it. Our help is welcome. But they need the negotiating team, not our bullets.
And, no, we're not actually helping the women. Sorry.
Lalo Espejo is a writer, monologist and political satirist whose work has appeared on CBC radio, campuses across Canada. He has also taught writing and presentation skills at career colleges in Vancouver. firstname.lastname@example.org