Nov 27 2009

Combating Withdrawal Symptoms

If 30 nations pull everything out and Afghanistan reverts to Taliban-land hosting the Al Queda hotel, how is that good for Afghans?

The “troops out now” propaganda machine that is Malalai Joya refused to answer my more polite version of this question a few years back when I talked to her on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. I’m guessing she won’t drop by my blog to leave an answer in the comments, but you never know. She certainly isn’t trying to answer that question on her little book tour. Ah, well.

From my article in the Mark:

Afghan politician Malalai Joya is the darling of the left’s “Troops-Out-Now” movement. She was a member of Afghanistan’s parliament until she (truthfully enough) condemned her fellow politicians for being warlords and gangsters. These days she’s on a book tour to promote her ideas on how Afghanistan can emerge from the carnage of the last eight years. Her solution? Total withdrawal of international support for Afghanistan.

This certainly makes the isolationist and anti-American crowds happy. But it’s clear, from what Canadian human rights professional Lauryn Oates is hearing, that most Afghan women are disgusted by Joya’s views and afraid of what could happen if the international community pulled out.

Again and again, when confronted with the question of precisely how Afghans would benefit from a withdrawal, Joya retreats into xenophobic rhetoric that seems to imply that Afghans would rather have an oppressor of their own choosing than receive aid – and the security that makes that aid possible – from the UN-mandated mission.

Indeed, Joya’s arguments are virtually indistinguishable from Taliban head honcho Mullah Omar. Take this quote from a recent story in The National Post, “Saturday interview: Afghan activist Malalai Joya”:

Your government lies that they brought democracy and women’s rights to Afghanistan.

Just so we’re clear, this is from the woman who lived firsthand through the first stirrings of that democracy and participated directly in it. Indeed, the same article notes that “when the Taliban were toppled, she cast off her burka, took on the religious fundamentalists, and ran for parliament”.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the point is that she won her political rights after the Taliban were toppled. Joya’s prescription for Afghanistan’s ills will almost surely end up in a rollback of those rights for women that Joya was able to use to her own advantage.

It gets worse. Another of Joya’s rants against the West:

We gave a good lesson to the Russians in the past – a superpower country who faced the resistance of my people. We gave good lessons to the British and we will give good lessons to the U.S. and Canada and NATO, if they do not stop this so-called war on terror, which is war on innocent civilians.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before, from Taliban chief Mullah Omar:

If you insist on occupying our land, you too will be defeated under the strikes of the Afghans around the world, just like the former Soviet Union.

Joya’s rhetoric is indistinguishable from the Taliban’s own propaganda talking points in too many ways. We know that as hard as life is for Afghan women at present, it was much worse when the Taliban was in charge. The question then is not just why Joya is saying these things when she must know in her heart that an international withdrawal will lead to a resumption of the Taliban’s misogynist brutality. The real question is why some in the West, where freedom and human rights for both genders are well established, are so eager to listen to this quisling.

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