Laura Bush and Afghan Women
The world often applauds Former First Lady Laura Bush for her work helping Afghan women. She was involved in the publishing of the book We Are Afghan Women. Thus, many politicians and activists consider her to be a voice for the voiceless women in Afghanistan. They consider her an ally and an advocate for Afghan women who are victims of brutal gender-based violence.
Bush opens the book by describing the Taliban’s horrific gender apartheid that keeps women second-class citizens subjected to enormous violence. She then writes, “At the end of 2001, the story changed again. By December, the United States and its military allies had removed the Taliban from power and disrupted al-Qaeda terror cells, which were behind the horrific attacks of September 11th. Women came out from hiding, out from under their burqas. They began to rebuild their homes and their nation.” She illustrates an image of the “oppressed Muslim woman hiding under their restrictive clothing”. Of course, controlling and violent Muslim men enforced this fate upon her. She paints the United States as Afghanistan’s heroes. They entered the country, liberated Muslim women from their backward and violent oppressors, and “freed them with democracy”.
Reality of U.S. Imperialism in Afghanistan
In reality, the picture First Lady Bush has painted is a completely inaccurate representation of United States military intervention in Afghanistan. U.S. Warhawks and White feminists constantly utilize the narrative of “saving” Muslim women simply to justify their own imperial interests in foreign affairs. Throughout the War on Terror, Laura Bush championed U.S. military intervention as a method to preserve women’s rights. In her November 16th 2001 radio address to the nation (approximately a month after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan), Laura Bush condemned the “severe repression against women in Afghanistan.” She asserted that the “fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”
By contending that Muslim women need saving, Bush posited that Muslim men are hostile creatures unfit to govern their land. They need the help of “powerful, advanced, and more civilized” powers to enter and free women of oppressive rule. This is the essence of the colonialist narrative.
White Feminist Hypocrisy
It is important to ask ourselves, do White feminists care about Muslim women? Not a single feminist spoke out about the fact that almost half of the women currently being prosecuted for ISIS-related offenses are wives, sisters, or household members of the accused men. There is little evidence against them. White feminists also show little outrage that hate crimes against Muslim people have risen 91% since last year. Specifically, the hijab was listed as a trigger in 15% of them. Or that Muslim women continue to fight for their basic right to dress as they please? Why do White feminists suddenly care about Muslim women’s oppression in foreign countries while turning a blind eye to the oppression they may be complicit to in their own homes?
Secondly, how does military intervention save Muslim women? Does bombing and occupying a country really decrease violence against women? Take sanctions for example. UN Sanctions in Afghanistan began in 1999, and UN Security Council Resolution 1267 specified “continuing violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights, particularly against women and girls.” The U.S. cut off aid to Afghanistan specifically for the Taliban’s brutal mistreatment of women. However, sanctions only further lengthened the mistreatment of women. Sanctions left millions impoverished, starving, and without medical aid. These forms of structural violence harmed Afghan women, just as the Taliban’s oppressive policies did.
The United States holds clear political and military goals in its foreign policy. However, aiding Muslim women is not one of them. If the United States truly cared about Muslim women, they would end military intervention, lift sanctions, and allow women to live a more stable life. Muslim women become pawns in the United States’ everlasting endeavor to exert control in foreign affairs.