Finding the Voice of Reason in Afghanistan
Katherine Raymond and Rae Kramer
Mainstream media serve as cheerleaders of the latest military surge, seemingly undisturbed by nine years of warfare. The limits of empathy are self-evident; we don't suffer, so it is hard for us to feel the suffering of others. When one thinks about Afghanistan, thoughts of the Taliban blowing up US/ NATO soldiers come to mind. We hear about the dangers and hardships of our troops, and the succession of less-than-effective plans to destroy the Taliban. We also hear about the military's concerted efforts to provide and/or assist local leaders in providing a variety of services (e.g. schools, public safety, access to health care, etc.) to the civilian population.
If we are the outsider "good" guys trying to help the local "good" guys why isn't there more appreciation for our presence? What we don't hear as often is the voice of the Afghani people calling for freedom from the US/NATO presence, which to them is more invasion than a charitable action. Why do we not hear these voices? We know that there are many civilian deaths, maiming injuries and destroyed homes, followed by heartfelt apologies, followed by more devastation. We learn from non-western media that there are atrocities caused by US/NATO military and private contractors. Is it possible that if we in the US had a more realistic sense of how our presence is contributing to the horrors of war, we might be less enthused about the "fix-it plan du jour" and more forceful in calling for complete troop withdrawal immediately?
The voices that we don' hear as often, civilian voices, are increasingly coming from women who are empowering themselves to take charge of their nation and their future. The women of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) work toward bettering the lives of women affected by war and violence. RAWA works at spreading the word by "alerting international sentinels of human rights such as Amnesty International and similar organizations to human rights violations against women." They act as the doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and police for women and children harmed and distraught because of the war.
After the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, RAWA shifted its focus from "agitation for women's rights and democracy"; to "the war of resistance," according to their Web site (rawa.org/rawa.html). Ever since, they've been working to end fundamentalist control and oppression of secular society.
As we go to press, yet another US airstrike has killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan. The reaper drones flown remotely from Hancock Airbase are now directly involved in missions over Afghanistan (confirmed by the Post-Standard in an article dated December 7, 2009). Join SPC's antiwars committee to help end the US occupation of Afghanistan and support the women of RAWA in their struggle for freedom.
Next Meeting: Tuesday, March 9, 7pm at SPC.
Despite the US occupation and its call for freeing and democratizing the Afghani people, not much has changed. "In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the US administration is replacing one fundamentalist regime with another," the RAWA Web site says and continues, "The US government and Mr. Karzai [Afghani president] mostly rely on Northern Alliance criminal leaders who are as brutal and misogynist as the Taliban."
RAWA is not alone. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs works hard to re-open schools for girls and help women work in present day Afghanistan. They found, as did RAWA, that since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 life has gotten better for some women, but many basic needs are still unmet. Not least of these is security. Many girls and women are still at risk of being kidnapped, forced into child marriages, trafficked, abused, and sexually exploited, according the Ministry's Web site (mowa.gov.af/).
RAWA strongly believes that it's the job of the Afghani people to fight for democracy without the help of outside forces - "freedom and democracy can't be donated." The Afghani people need the help of the Afghani people and not that of oppressive governments. While RAWA acknowledges that the US/NATO presence does some good, change won't work unless the US plans on staying in Afghanistan and running the schools and health clinics. The structure of society needs to transform in order for change to stick. The Afghani people need to go through this transition on their own because the US is not always going to be there. However, when the US leaves, we should be held to account for the damage we caused and make reparations as defined by the Afghani people.
As the US begins to talk about leaving Afghanistan, we should listen to the people who live there who have to pick up the pieces. When the US went into Afghanistan, we didn't realize the effect it would have on the civilians of the country. The US military was more worried about retaliation. Now, US policy says we want to help rebuild the country, but the military presence itself is harming the people. Many Afghanis, like RAWA, are eager to implement progressive social change. Let's listen to these voices of reason.