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UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."

TIME'S RIPOSTE TO WIKILEAKS: A COVER PHOTO OF AN ABUSED AFGHAN WOMAN

August 5, 2010

In the aftermath of the Wikileaks revelations regarding the overwhelming futility of the Afghan war, it was time for some of what professionals call "perception management" for the U.S. public.  So the new issue of Time magazine bears the portrait of an Afghan woman disfigured by having her nose slashed off.  It bears the caption:  "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan."

By evoking raw emotion and outrage with a scandalous photograph, Time provided a fine illustration of why Norman Solomon titled chapter 5 of his book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2005) "This Is About Human Rights."

The suggestion that saving people like the young woman on the cover is what the U.S. war in Afghanistan is about is, to the rational mind, ridiculous.  What—should the British reoccupy India because honor killings are on the rise and the caste system has not been dismantled?  But the claim that war is motivated by human rights abuses and atrocities is a staple of war propaganda and appears in every war.

Time's managing editor penned a defense of the photograph in which he justified its publication by saying that "bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them."  "We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it," said Richard Stengel ("The Plight of Afghan Women: A Disturbing Picture," Time, July 29, 2010).  But however sincere Mr. Stengel may be, it is just not possible to print millions of copies of such a picture on the cover of the best-known newsweekly in the United States next to the words "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan," say that "We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it," and expect to be believed.  It's as if one gave money to a candidate and then said:  "I do not give this money either in support of that candidate or in opposition to her."

By mentioning prominently the Wikileaks documents, Stengel makes clear what this is really about.  The claim that "what you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead" counters what Frank Rich called the ratification of the downward trendline of the Afghan war's narrative (Frank Rich, "Kiss This War Goodbye," New York Times, August 1, 2010).  To judge from the abridged version of the cover story Time posted online, (Aryn Baker, "Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban," Time, July 29, 2010) its entire thesis is that chapter title in Norman Solomon's War Made Easy:  "This is about human rights."

But it's not.  The longer that American troops stay in Afghanistan, the stronger reactionary forces like the Taliban will become.  In the West, suffragettes were savagely repressed and often subjected to abuse (see on this subject chapter 2 of Margaret Jackson's The Real Facts of Life: Feminism and the Politics of Sexuality (Taylor & Francis, 1994), but they did not require occupying foreign armies to secure their rights, and neither do Afghan women.  "'Feminists have long argued that invoking the condition of women to justify occupation is a cynical ploy,' wrote Priyamvada Gopal in the Guardian, a liberal British newspaper, on Wednesday,'” the New York Times reported (Rod Nordland, "Portrait of Pain Ignites Debate over Afghan War," August 5, 2010).

We might add (see UFPPC's Jan. 22, 2004, "Statement on Women's Rights in Iraq,") that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has actually brought about a regression of women's rights.  Before the U.S. invasion, women in Iraq had lived for forty years under a civil code with some of the most modern elements to be found in the Muslim world.  It protected women by barring marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorces, and automatic preferences accorded to men in child custody and property inheritance disputes. 

But now, in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, it is forbidden in Iraq to enact legislation that is antithetical to Islam, and that means the establishment of sharia law (Lauren Vriens, "Islam: Governing under Sharia," Council on Foreign Relations, March 23, 2009).  Why Americans should have died to establish sharia law in Iraq is something our leaders have never explained to us.

The bottom line:  Anyone who thinks that more years of U.S. fighting in Afghanistan will establish women's rights there should have their head examined.

 

UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."