Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that the United States will not abandon Afghan women and girls today as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting the United States.
According to the Associated Press, Clinton told three senior women Afghan officials who were traveling with Karzai that “We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always.” Clinton also said it is “essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled on in the reconciliation process.” Her statements indicate that the US will not support reconciliation with Taliban militants unless they “respect women’s rights,” renounce the Taliban, and abide by the country’s laws, reported the Canadian Press.
Forgive my cynicism but we abandoned Afghan women many years ago, and greatly exacerbated their plight when we cynically used them as a justification to destroy their country and our continued military presence is only making things worse. This latest statement from Clinton reads like yet another ploy to use the lives of Afghan women as an excuse–this time for not talking to the Taliban. While I am in no way saying that we should condone the Taliban’s misogyny, our military presence is not the key to addressing that issue. In fact it is likely making matters worse.
Women’s lives have always been part of the battleground over which opposing forces fight. However, as Laura Carlsen points out, it has gotten much worse in recent years:
* At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians
* In World War I, 15% were civilians
* In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed
* By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians
* Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians-the majority women and children
Forget the complaints of “collateral damage”. As military leaders brag that modern technology has produced the most accurate weapons in history, during war strikes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, women and children die.
They are not the collateral damage-they are the targets.
As this blog pointed out recently, despite assurances that this is not the case, there is anecdotal evidence that the U.S. military is still using training chants that encourage the killing of innocent women and children.
I went down to the market where all the women shop
I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop
I went down to the park where all the children play
I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.
What was that about not sacrificing or trampling on women’s human rights?