Propaganda for an occupation

August 17, 2010

TIME MAGAZINE'S recent cover photo of an Afghan woman, her nose cut off and accompanied by the words "What happens if we leave Afghanistan," (there is no question mark), is meant to provoke both pity and murderous rage.

Pity, of course, for women who are horribly oppressed in that country, and murderous rage against the Taliban. Both are needed in equal measure to reboot national and international support for an un-winnable war that has gone on for nine long years and has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to change the status of the majority of women in Afghanistan.

In fact, life has gotten worse for women since the United States invaded. It is a lie of massive proportions that the war ever had anything to do with protecting or liberating women and girls.

In most parts of Afghanistan, women cannot leave the house without a male escort; they are trapped in the home for much of their lives. According to Anand Gopal, a war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, half of humanity is missing in Afghanistan, as women are rarely seen outside. Moreover, he reports, the aerial bombardment of civilian homes by drones results in the disproportionate killing of women.

The numbers tell the story: 87 percent of women report domestic violence, 60-80 percent of marriages are forced, 57 percent of brides are under age fifteen, and Afghan women have the lowest rate of literacy and the highest rate of suicide in the world. Out of profound despair, women have turned to self-immolation. The Ministry of Women's Affairs has documented a total of 103 women who set themselves on fire between March 2009 and March 2010. Life expectancy for Afghan women is 44 years of age.

If the war in Afghanistan was about raising the status of women, about freeing women from centuries of violent misogyny, why are these numbers still so staggeringly high and increasing? How come President Obama's troop surge of 30,000 soldiers hasn't forced the numbers in the opposite direction?

In February of this year, U.S. Special Forces deliberately shot and killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl. One of the women was a mother of 10 children. In a bumbling and ghoulish attempt to cover up their war crime, the soldiers dug the bullets out of their victim's bodies, then washed the wounds with alcohol. They lied to their superior officers about how the women died, but were later found out.

I want to see a photo of the two dead pregnant women's mutilated bodies on the cover of Time. It would be gruesome, but it would be the truth. And the caption for the photo: “What happens if we stay in Afghanistan.” No question mark needed.
Helen Redmond, Chicago

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