Friday, March 16, 2007

Couldn't have said it better: "the eXile" on women and Afghanistan.

And about how the war on Afghanistan was supposedly about women's rights, as much as it was about anything that Bush thought of that week to bolster potential support for it.

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"But wait -- we don't have to wait. The propaganda war to save Iranian women actually kicked into gear one year ago this week, during George and Laura Bush's official celebration of International Women's Day.

"We must remember," said the U.S. president, "that many women in other countries around the world are still struggling for basic rights in places like Iran." Rounding out Bush's Axis of Estrogen-Suppression were plucky police states North Korea and Burma, but the Islamic Republic very pointedly came first. Bush might as well have handed out copies of Azar Nafisi's best-selling mullah-slamming Reading Lolita in Tehran, then called it a day.

Posing as the world's White Knight coming to the aid of damsels in distress across the globe may seem strange when you consider that this is the same administration that has been working to roll back the clock on reproductive rights and sexual health policy at home and around the world. It's even stranger when you consider it is best friends with leading wife-beater nation Saudi Arabia. In the Kingdom, women who appear in public without a male escort are breaking the law; if they do so dressed in non-Sharia clothes, they risk arrest and a good stomping by the religious police. Gender discrimination is state policy and strictly enforced.

So why is the Bush administration selectively posing as enlightened and chivalric international defender of women?

Because it's good for war. It helped rally the public behind the Afghanistan campaign; then it briefly helped shore up support for the occupation of Iraq. A year before the march on Baghdad Colin Powell proclaimed, "[T]he worldwide advancement of women's issues is not only in keeping with the deeply held values of the American people; it is strongly in our national interest as well." Blair and his cabinet were naturals at framing the rights of Muslim women as a national security and civilizational priority. UK Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt, of Blair's cabinet, said before the Iraq invasion, "This [war] is about building a new civil society in Iraq after 35 years when we know women were suppressed, and ensuring women have a voice in Iraq.""

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