Peter Daou’s heart is in the right place when he tweets:
Negative reaction from (male) liberal peers when I suggest oppression, rape & slaughter of women/girls might justify military intervention
Keep getting asked if we should also consider intervention to save raped and ravaged women/girls in Congo and elsewhere. Answer: of course.
I understand where Daou is coming from. He is arguably the the most committed male champion of women’s rights I’ve seen in my lifetime. Unfortunately, military intervention solely on the behalf of women is just not what happens. Ever.
I’m torn over the current Time cover. On the one hand, I know that this issue must be made real to the rest of the world and images like this one assist in that goal. On the other hand, the use of the image to imply that ending our military operations in Afganistan will lead to more Aisha’s is beyond the pale. We must stay in Afghanistan, we are told, or terrible things will happen to women!
When I look at the cover, I see what has been done so many times: women being used as pawns, as currency, as bargaining chips. Their bodies are being used to manipulate our emotions and to fan the flames of war.
But there is an elision here between these women’s oppression and what the U.S. military presence can and should do about it, which in turn simplifies the complexities of the debate and turns it into, “Well, do you want to help Aisha or not?”
How is this any better than using the fear of another 9/11 (or worse!) to both dampen dissent on one side and to gain public support for the case for invading Iraq on the other? This woman’s image is being used as cover for our continued military presence in Afghanistan, pure and simple.
Abuse of women, physical and psychological is a global fact. I don’t write this saying I have a solution since atrocities against Afghani women are deplorable and it has yet to be seen if we can support the women of Afghanistan the way we would want to or would be the most effective. But I do take issue with the consistent practice in Western media to use women’s bodies to prove a point, because it creates a fantasy about what our motives are, obscuring the politics that are at play.
We must stay to protect the women, we are told. Really? Our military is already there and their presence did nothing to save Aisha.
The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband’s house. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn’t run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose.
This didn’t happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year.
Short of giving every woman and girl a military escort, and one that be with her 24/7, how do we protect all the Afghani from the culture they swim in? The culture that sees women as not human, as property, as deserving of having their ears and noses slashed off for disobeying their husband? Does anyone see this culture changing at the barrel of a gun, or the bomb from a drone?
A gun is useful to stop a thief or murderer. I’ve never seen a bullet cause a genuine change of heart. Would that they could. I’d take up arms to make it happen.
I don’t have an answer. Just saying my piece.