Sunday, 20 December 2009

Code Pink’s misfire on Afghan women

That’s the headline on a piece by Wazhma Frogh And Lauryn Oates. An excerpt:
In October, the women's antiwar organization, Code Pink, went to Afghanistan. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the pink T-shirted women were surprised to learn the overwhelming majority of women do not support a withdrawal of foreign troops from their country. Expecting their counterparts - Afghan activists fighting for peace and gender equality - to support their demands, they were confronted with the problem that perhaps their position has been counterproductive to the Afghan women's movement, or even wrong.


Code Pink's modus operandi is symptomatic of a western feminism that is not rooted in values of global solidarity, but is self-interested, insular and shamefully relativist. It is based on tribalism and rejects internationalist values. In this feminism, emancipation is only for western women - not for women in places like Afghanistan.

On Oct. 12, the New York Times reported that Code Pink would stick to its position of calling for troop withdrawal. Even when the shrillest "antiwar" pseudo-feminists are caught in a direct confrontation with facts exposing the moral bankruptcy of their demands, they recoil from the duty of solidarity with Afghan women in struggle.
Read the rest. Via Terry Glavin, who has much more on the topic.

And here’s an account from Sara Davidson who joined the Code Pink trip to Afghanistan.

We were a group of eight women and one man organized by Code Pink, Women for Peace, and we arrived in Kabul believing the U.S. should withdraw its troops and spend more money on development.

After eight days, our presumptions were turned upside down, splitting us into camps with conflicting opinions. Some still wanted an exit strategy, but one woman who’s spent 40 years in non-violent peace work reversed her lifelong stand, believing the military should stay and more troops might be helpful. “It shocks me to admit this,” she said.
The UN director has to stop to compose herself. “Her husband called his neighbors to hold his wife down while he chopped off the tips of all her fingers. Then he told his son to punch her in the eyes. When we found her, she was unable to see.” The director shakes her head. “If your neighbors witness something like that, they’ll think twice about going to a hospital.”

We’re subdued as we ride away from the UN office. We’re hearing numerous stories like this, which makes us probe and question our assumptions. Ann Wright, 63, a former army colonel and State Department officer who has kind blue eyes and speaks with a Southern lilt, says, “I have changed a little bit. Before this trip I was leaning toward: let’s get the hell out! Accept the inevitable! Now I feel we have a responsibility—to be part of a security strategy and help provide education and jobs. That’s a far better way to deal with terrorism.”
One of the guests, Anand Gopal of the Wall Street Journal, says the party is the equivalent of “hanging out with Jeb Bush during the Bush years.” He’s not surprised that we’re hearing people say they want U.S. troops to stay. He says there are two Afghanistans: Kabul, with 5 million people, and the provinces with 25 million. In Kabul, people enjoy more freedom than they did under the Taliban and want the U.S. here as a buffer. But in the south, where shooting and bombing are destroying homes and killing civilians, they want the troops out. “Under the Taliban, they had order and peace,” Anand says.

A woman reporter cuts in, “It was the peace of the oppressed.”
Norine adds, “I’d like to see the troops go into Pakistan and rout out the insurgents.” There’s silence at the table. (After the meeting, Ann would say, “Norine lives here and that’s reality. We represent the ideal, and somebody has to hold that.”)

Norine continues, “Here’s another controversial proposal but you’ll like it better: Give all the aid and development money to Afghan women. It will empower them. The men will have to go to them if they want a new well.”

Jodie says, “That’s what we fight for, but we want to do it without troops.”

“You need both,” Norine says.

“If you had to choose between troops and development?” Jodie asks.

“Had to choose? I’d put money on development.”

“Yay!” Jodie says.

This kind of questioning divides our group. Some are upset that the Code Pink leaders are leading people to get the answers they want instead of listening without bias.
Medea and Jodie say the soldiers they talked with want out of Afghanistan fast. “They told us, ‘We hate them and they hate us.’”

I say I didn’t hear anyone speak like that.

“Must be the way we ask questions,” Medea says.

“Must be.”


Oscar Grillo said...

Do you believe that the Americans may also invade Tower Hamlets?

kellie said...

Didn't they already invade in the 1940s?

When I have time one day, I'm going to have to translate some of Dan Turèll's comments on American culture vs Danish culture.

Back on Afghanistan, it's been argued elsewhere that it's a mischaracterisation to talk about America invading Afghanistan in 2001, as most of the fighting against the Taleban was by Afghans, supported by US airpower and a very small number of US ground forces.

The positive side of this was that many Afghans felt ownership of the victory. The downside was that factionalism persisted, and injustices by some of the new victors encouraged recruitment for the Taleban, and the continuation of civil war.