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Fundamentalist Terrorism: Theirs & Ours

In the wake of September 11th's terrorist attacks and now a full-blown war on Afghanistan, Americans have been fed a steady diet of male voices telling us what to think. Male generals and journalists, congressmen, FBI agents and "experts," all breast-beat about the assault on America's manhood (after all, what could be more phallic than those twin towers?) and call for violent retribution in rhetoric that makes it impossible to distinguish between "our leaders" and "the terrorists."

Where are the faces, the voices, the perspectives of women that half of the population who will bear the brunt of the suffering this military inferno unleashes? Where are the images of the millions of Afghan women streaming out of their cities and villages, made refugees by the bombs? The voices of U.S. women decrying the gutting of every social program to pay the cost of war? The intelligence of female experts on foreign policy, on the effects of militarization, on the real costs of war?

Those voices have been silenced ... erased ... banned as completely as Afghan women have been banned in their own country.

Afghanistan A Short History
In 1979, Afghanistan was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union. The U.S., embroiled in the Cold War anti-Soviet mentality of the time, launched a bloody counter-operation against the Soviets. From 1979 until 1989 when the Soviets pulled out, the U.S. brought together, funded, trained, and armed a loose coalition of militia called the Mujaheddin.

A major part of that U.S. training was indoctrination in a new form of radical fundamentalism, constructed on the base of the Islamic religion, calling for a jihad, or holy war against the Soviets. Among those U.S.-trained Mujaheddin was a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden, who later spread this virulent, misogynist fundamentalism throughout the Muslim world.

After the Soviets and the U.S. left Afghanistan, the country disintegrated into a civil war among the various Mujaheddin forces a war that decimated the country, destroyed its economy and infrastructure, and made Afghanistan the second poorest country on the planet. In the end, the most extreme fundamentalist group, the Taliban militia, took power. It is the Taliban fostered, indoctrinated and armed by the U.S. that holds power today; the Taliban who shields bin Laden; the Taliban who again calls for jihad, this time against the United States.

The Invisible Women of Afghanistan
Prior to the rise of the Taliban, Afghan women participated fully in public life. They were students, teachers, government officials, lawyers, doctors. They moved freely through their world and had some measure of control over their lives. That would all soon come to an end.

Women and girls were the first targets of the Taliban. Suddenly the door to the world slammed shut, as women were banned from schools, jobs and public events, forced to shroud themselves from public view, barred from health care, beaten into silence. Public stonings and executions of women became commonplace for even minor infractions of "religious" rules. Female suicides skyrocketed. (See Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan Article.)

As feminists in Afghanistan and around the world cried out against the Taliban's deadly denial of women's rights, U.S. support continued $40 million just this past May. Clearly a holocaust targeting 13 million women and girls meant nothing to the men who run this country.

Instead it is these women and their children who are now the targets of U.S. bombs, of U.S.-created starvation, of U.S. terror, in addition to being targets of the fundamentalist Islamists the U.S. put in place in their country. It is these women who today flee the bombs into one of the world's most heavily mined terrains 80% of the country is covered in land mines. It is these women whose already unbearable situation has been dramatically worsened by America's demand for revenge.

Deals With the Devil
You may think the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban, then, would lead to the liberation of women. Nothing could be further from the truth. Currently, Bush administration plans are to replace the current regime with a coalition government that would include the Taliban, as well as the Northern Alliance, a grouping of military forces with ever-shifting allegiances.

The Northern Alliance was a major player in Afghanistan's civil war, controlling the north during the late 1990s. Their systematic human rights abuses, cataloged by Human Rights Watch, included summary executions of civilians, widespread rape, ethnic cleansing, torture, disappearances and the utter subjugation of women.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), an independent Afghan women's organization, warns that U.S. intervention will only replace one foreign-backed puppet government with another and plunge the country back into the chaos of the 1990s. For Afghan women, things will only get more desperate.

Terrorist Attacks on Women
As the war heated up in mid-October, anthrax became the big story here at home, with all major media obsessed with purported anthrax-laced letters delivered to a handful of congresspeople and media stars.

In the midst of all that coverage, however, they completely ignored 110 letters said to contain anthrax delivered to women's health clinics in just one day. Signed by the Army of God, a domestic terrorist network (not unlike bin Laden's) that has targeted women's right to abortion for years, the letters said, "You have just been exposed to anthrax." At a time when five anthrax threats permeated the media, you'd think news of more than a hundred such threats would dominate the airwaves. It didn't. NBC didn't cover it; CNN ignored it; no major newspapers reported it; the Bush administration never mentioned it.

Women's clinics in the U.S. have been the targets of terrorist attacks by religious fundamentalists for twenty years. Clinics have been bombed, burned and attacked with chemical weapons, including anthrax. Doctors all over the country have been harassed, threatened and murdered; yet these terrorist attacks hardly rated investigation. Most of those terrorists are still at-large.

If U.S. officials were serious about launching a war against terrorism, they would put an end to the domestic violence that imprisons millions of American women, and women's health clinics would become Ground Zero. If they were serious about stamping out a religious fundamentalism that threatens fully half the population, they wouldn't be making deals with the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and they would take a good, hard look at the U.S. Supreme Court.

This war isn't about terrorism it's about global power and testosterone.

Women should not be fooled. As the boys trade threats of holy war and launch their weapons from one side of the globe to the other, let's be clear: in the long run the Taliban and Bush's right-wing regime share a common enemy. That enemy is us.

© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
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