On September 10, 2001, I can honestly brag that I was one of the few Americans who knew about the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. A back issue of Bust gave them an entire page, an odd thing in a magazine that celebrates fashion more than politics. The tone of the piece mixed horror and outrage with confusion, as though the author wasn't quite certain that this was for real, that the regime hadn't been invented by a sci-fi writer as a post-apocalyptic cautionary tale. I mean, shit, women couldn't even show their eyes in public! Margaret Atwood's Handmaids could do that!
The next day, my eyes burned from the horror of watching people die on live television. I was grateful that Elliott was only 18 months old and I wouldn't have the additional burden of explaining this madness to him.
After we put our son to bed, Matt and I sat in the basement to watch TV so that my sobs and our collective howls of outrage wouldn't reach the crib on the second floor. By that night the word was that this horrific violence was the work of some creep with a funny name who was associated with the Taliban. "I hope we burn that country to the fucking ground," I growled, until file footage of Afghani women came onscreen. They looked like aliens, truly. But underneath they were women, horribly oppressed women, women who could only be outside in the company of male relatives or they would be flogged. I cried even harder when I realized what my statement of anger would mean for them. There was far too much suffering in the world already.
That Christmas, instead of family gifts, Matt and I made a substantial donation to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), the group mentioned in the Bust article. If you go to RAWA's website, you'll see that today they have two enemies: the Taliban and the United States. From a December 2007 press release:
The US and her allies tried to legitimize their military occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of “bringing freedom and democracy for Afghan people”. But as we have experienced in the past three decades, in regard to the fate of our people, the US government first of all considers her own political and economic interests and has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan.
The ongoing war in Afghanistan has split the already fractured American feminist community. A RAWA member took Eleanor Smeal's Feminist Majority Foundation to task this summer for their outspoken support of the U.S. military's so-called "peacekeeping forces" (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). Smeal responded:
Afghanistan is in terrible shape. The Taliban has gradually returned. Nothing is as it should be, which is why we are asking for no less than a Marshall Plan to rebuild Afghanistan, the same way we did for Germany and Japan after World War II......Though we'd prefer that all U.S. funding be spent on development aid, we cannot in good conscience advocate the immediate military pullout that some are suggesting.
And other, many far more eloquent than me, have pointed out September 11, 2001 was an opportunity for worldwide healing that got lost in a heated rush to consolidate power. My children will understand George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as two of the most ruthless, despicable people in the history of our nation. Of this I have no doubt whatsoever.
People lose their lives, families lose their loved ones, people lose hope for a future that can be just and humane. I could lose my mind if I write any more.