G.W. Bush--"Liberator" of Afghan Women

jacdon at earthlink.net jacdon at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 1 15:54:23 MST 2001


The following article is from the Dec. 1, 2000, issue of 
the Mid-Hudson (N.Y.) Activist Newsletter


BUSH’S HYPOCRISY ABOUT “LIBERATING”
THE WOMEN OF AFGHANISTAN

By Jack A. Smith

There’s an unseemly hypocrisy in the Bush administration’s recent effort
-- launched Nov. 17 with a radio address by Laura Bush and the
publication of a State Department report -- to take credit for ending
the subjugation of the women of Afghanistan and to communicate the
illusion of compassion for the plight of women in general.

In her address, the First Lady said that “Afghan women know, through
hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering:  the brutal
oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists.”  The
government report, stressing that “the Taliban’s war against women...is
particularly appalling,” provided facts and figures about the lowly
status to which women were forced to descend after the Taliban took
power in Kabul in 1996.  A few days earlier, at the administration’s
request, Congress released some funds to benefit Afghan women and
children.

Omitted from this touching scenario was the role of the United States in
bringing about the precipitous downfall of women in Afghan society by
financing, arming and directing the right-wing civil war against the
left government that successfully elevated the status of women from 1978
to 1992, when it was overthrown.  Also omitted was the scandalous 
repression of women by the forces of the Northern Alliance --
Washington’s proxy army in Afghanistan today -- between 1992 and the
Taliban victory four years later.

The campaign to depict the U.S.  and President Bush as the liberator of
women, was conceived by senior presidential advisor Karen P. Hughes --
not only as one more justification for bombing Afghanistan but also to
improve the GOP’s standing with women voters, a fairly large majority of
whom vote Democratic.  When asked if this might be the case, Hughes said
that “If through this initiative women who might not have previously
wanted to support the president can see him in a different light, then I
hope they will see his compassion and his sincere concern for human
dignity.”

Here are a few other facts that were omitted:  The U.S. has been the
protector of oil-rich Saudi Arabia for a half-century and hasn’t once
complained about the degraded status of women in that country.  Indeed,
Washington enjoys close relations with a number of countries where women
are demeaned, such as Kuwait, where they are denied the right to vote. 
Likewise unmentioned was the Bush administration’s decision to withdraw
any financial aid to international health or family-planning
organizations that even hint abortion may exist as an option for women.

The U.S. superpower, which has the resources to finance UN efforts to
alleviate the degradation of women around the world, traditionally looks
the other way when Secretary-General Kofi Annan pleads (as he did last
July) for special measures to improve the lives of women who, “despite
making up more than half the world's agricultural  workforce, are often
denied the right to learn, to own or inherit land, and to control their
own fertility.”  Washington’s ears go deaf when he declares that,
"Enhancing women's opportunities enables them to make informed choices
about family size--and to break the vicious cycle of poverty and
environmental degradation." 

Figures regarding the women of the world are bleak. According to the
2000 UN Population Fund report, the lack of reproductive choice or
adequate healthcare for women results in some 80 million undesired
pregnancies and about a half-million preventable deaths from pregnancy. 
The report indicates that half of all deliveries in the third world are
not assisted by a trained attendant.  Other findings: Well over a
billion women and girls--or about a third of the world female
population--will experience violence during their lifetimes, usually at
the hands of a family member or an acquaintance.   Each year, about
5,000 females are the victims of male “honor” killings.  Large numbers
of women die each year from HIV/AIDS because they  are not allowed to
control their own sexual activity.  Of the nearly 900 million totally
illiterate adults in the world, some 66% are female.   With its
extraordinary resources and power, the U.S. government has the ability
to support UN efforts to transform these conditions into their opposite,
were it not for Washington’s penchant for spending its money on
militarism for wars and tax-breaks for the wealthy.

And what about at home?  What’s the government doing to help the
millions of mothers kicked off welfare?  Or to really stop the terrible
toll of violence and the rape of women in our society? What about
exploited, minimum wage and sweatshop women workers?  What’s the Bush
administration doing to protect abortion clinics or to strengthen the
right of women to choice? And what about daycare?  Thirty years ago this
year, President Richard Nixon vetoed a Congressional measure obliging
the federal government to support daycare centers around the country. 
His rationalization was to preserve “family-centered traditions” and to
oppose “communal approaches to childrearing,”  a point of view still
prevalent today in rightist and centrist circles and a quintessential
element in the Bush administration’s ideology. 

It's going to take a lot more than bombing Afghanistan for the women of
the world to become impressed with Bush’s “compassion and his sincere
concern for human dignity.”

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