War Does Not Equal Liberation

Statement by Sonali Kolhatkar, Co-Director of Afghan Women’s Mission

Recently prominent liberal voices in the United States have expressed the view that the US war in Afghanistan is being waged to help secure the rights of Afghan women. The Feminist Majority, a prominent women’s organization in the US responded today to my critique of their pro-war position, co-authored with Mariam Rawi, a member of RAWA. The FM response was originally published under the title, “Why the Feminist Majority Foundation Supports Engagement in Afghanistan,” and later changed to “Why Is the Feminist Majority Foundation Refusing to Abandon the Women and Girls of Afghanistan?” In it, Eleanor Smeal and Helen Cho assert that “As long-time peace activists, we did not support the bombing of Afghanistan after 9/11.” But the FM also never came out against the war in Afghanistan as they did against the war in Iraq. Instead they called for full inclusion of women in any post-war government. That silence meant tacit support of the war. Today that support for war continues by equating the security craved by all Afghans with the war being waged by US troops. While I fully agree with the FM that the US must stop supporting warlords, and pour resources into development and aid I disagree that dropping bombs, fighting ground offensives, imprisoning Afghans, and all the byproducts of war are somehow making women safer.

Similarly, Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and one-time Presidential candidate on a liberal platform, in an interview on Democracy Now on Friday July 17th, pronounced his support for the US war in Afghanistan based on protecting women’s rights. In the interview, Dean repeated the logic that the US is waging war for Afghan women’s liberation. And on the flip side, according to Dean, “if we leave, women will experience the most extraordinary depredations of any population on the face of the earth.” By this logic, Dean implies that the US has for the past 8 years been a bulwark against a the deterioration of women