Afghan Women and the Surge

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sunita Viswanath, founder and board member of Women for Afghan Women, offers her take on the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.


Sunita Viswanath

Comments [14]

yobro from NYC

I admire the goals the guest is working towards and I support her in her call to action for an end to the violence and oppression of women in well as the USA and everywhere else. There is perhaps no more important cause.

However, to use this cause as a rationale for a military invasion, occupation, and escalation is misguided. I do not back this absurd surge but I for one at least found it somewhat refreshing that Obama did not use women's rights as a rationale for his decision to escalate the war. Perhaps because it's so obviously disingenuous as a justification, a blatant propaganda tool to manufacture consent for war. Taliban society is hardly the only patriarchal society in the world--as another commenter pointed out, using this rationale for war logically means invading several dozen other countries, possibly even including some in Europe. While we're at it, what about the homeland? How many women die every day in NYC at the hands of their husbands and boyfriends?

Ms. Viswanath makes it sound like we are liberating Afghani women as we fight the Taliban in the Afghan civil war. Unmentioned is that the Karzai government that we are fighting alongside and financially supporting has hardly been an ally for women: for example, this summer they reportedly passed a Shari'a law dictating the frequency that women should be having sex with their husbands. I'm sure the guest agrees that the legalization of rape is hardly a step forwards.

It would have been helpful had we heard an actual debate on this show. For example, what about the Afghan women who believe that their situation has been worsening since the US invasion in 2001? Here's a radio interview that takes a more critical look at the issue:

Dec. 17 2009 03:35 PM
Amy from Manhattan

In response to the last caller on this segment, the US has a responsibility to help in Afghanistan because it was the US that chose the most hardline Muslim extremists to fund, arm, & train as resistance fighters against the Soviet invasion & then left once the Soviets withdrew. Surprise--they took over the country w/the arms we gave them & imposed their rigid, violent version of Islam on its people. We needed a Marshall-type plan to help the country rebuild, but instead we left the people we'd armed to develop into the Taliban. (So John [5], we already did, indirectly, force culture changes on that society. Let's not forget that before the Taliban, women in Afghanistan did get educations & hold jobs & went out of their homes w/out a male relative accompanying them.)

Dec. 17 2009 11:47 AM
Tracy from NYC

Voter from Brooklyn,

I never said men didn't care. Just commented on the trend of comments--and I don't think any of those comments said you didn't care. It's also interesting how few women commented at all, if that helps.

Also, I never said anything about military involvement, only about the lack of news coverage.

It wasn't my intent to offend, just to bring some more points to the discussion.

Dec. 17 2009 11:45 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Tracy (#9),
This isn’t a case of men not caring about the welfare of women. That is a disingenuous (and personally I think, pretty filthy) argument. This is a case of asking why we are in Afghanistan (and not Saudi Arabia, Sudan, The D. R. Congo, eastern bloc countries who traffic in women and any other number of dozens of countries) and what we need to do to accomplish our stated goal to strengthen American security. I’m sure every man commenting on this site cares about the plight of women globally, but that is not the primary reason we are in Afghanistan regardless of what the guest wants.

Dec. 17 2009 11:36 AM
Richard Johnston from Upper west side

Passionate as some advocates like this lady may be, it is not in the United States' national interest, or even the world's interest, for us to spread ourselves around trying to combat all the social injustices that exist.

Dec. 17 2009 11:33 AM
Tracy from NYC

Interesting that so many of the people who think this is not our responsibility are men.

Interesting too that there was no coverage of hte plight of women in Afghanistan before the war like there was coverage of Apartheid in South Africa for so many years.

We have so far to go as a global community when it comes to taking women's human rights seriously.

Dec. 17 2009 11:26 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

And make no mistake, I do not support the treatment women are subjected to in Afghanistan; however, for the guest to say women’s rights should be the United States of America’s prime concern—and not freeing all Afghanis from the Taliban or women globally from oppression— in sending billions of dollars and thousands of young men and women into harm’s way is galling.

Dec. 17 2009 11:22 AM
Nick from NYC

Your guest just made her position clear: she said that she hopes the US role in Afghanistan is "nation building". I think that many would see that as a fool's errand, especially if we try to do it by military means.

Kudos to her group and their brave efforts. It's tragic that this situation exists due to theocratic fanaticism. But, can she explain just what she would have the US do?

Dec. 17 2009 11:22 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

It's sounds as though Women for Afgan Women (WAW) has some very strong nation building aspirations. I agree what we have made a promise to the Afgans (Afgan women in particular) and should do our best to fulfill that promise. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I'd like to risk my own neck for the promises of the Bush Admin given that even with out best efforts we may fail. I think WAW would have a stronger case if they were risking their own life and limb for this cause. What examples can our guest site? Perhaps they take risks not through military service but through working in Afghanistan.

Dec. 17 2009 11:20 AM
John from NYC

What nonsense? It is neither America's business and nor is its our interest to force cultural changes upon a foreign society.

Already the quest to bring a basic level of security in the country is causing Afghan resentment. Imagine what would happen if we start insisting on cultural changes.

This is absolutely not our objective. The Bush administration used this issue to sell a militarist policy.

I applaud Obama for not making that case.

Dec. 17 2009 11:19 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Is WNYC implying, while speaking to the American public and the American men and women who will be fighting and dying in Afghanistan, that the President of The United States of America maliciously turned his back on the women of Afghanistan?
If that were truly the case, we’d take our toys, get out of the sandbox, and go home.
With an ungrateful guest like this, perhaps we should do just that saving our lives and treasure.

Dec. 17 2009 11:17 AM

Is the guest Indian or Afghani?

Dec. 17 2009 11:17 AM
Nick from NYC

Please ask your guest why the US has this obligation in Afghanistan, but not, say, in Saudi Arabia - India - many other countries?

Surely the US should be a moral leader in supporting women's rights globally, but, is this the same as intervention - at what level do we intervene? Especially militarily?

And, why is it the US's obligation, in particular, not the greater international community's?

Dec. 17 2009 11:16 AM
Coraline from Brooklyn

I'm surprised this hasn't shown up in the press more. There was an article in the Times magazine about schools for girls in Afghanistan (after some of the students were attacked with battery acid) but even places like Salon don't seem to bring up the issue of women there as often as you'd think.

Dec. 17 2009 11:13 AM

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