Donald Douglas has a longish — especially due to the photos — post concerning Scott Horton’s interview of Medea Benjamin following reports that Code Pink was “rethinking” its call for a U.S. troop withrawal from Afghanistan. This quote from Mrs Benjamin caught my eye:
Well as in all discussions with people, it really depends on how you phrase the question. If you say to people, “Do you want 40,000 more troops, or would you like that money to go to economic development, healthcare, education?” They almost always said the latter. So people told us that war was not the answer. That after eight years of U.S. presence and billions of dollars being thrown into this conflict that the lives of people, especially those living outside of Kabul have virtually stayed the same, and that even women who know that the Taliban has had a very retrograde position in terms of women’s rights, even they told us that, look, the majority of Taliban are just poor villagers who don’t have another way to earn a living. We’ve got to reintegrate them into society, we’ve got to have peace talks and we’ve got to find ways other than through guns and bombs that we solve this conflict.
I’d like to show you Code Pink’s website logo:
Note that they are “Women for Peace.” Code Pink is very upfront with its complaints about human rights abuses, having a petition leading to this on their front page. So, I have to ask: has no thought at all been given to what would happen in Afghanistan if Code Pink got its way concerning policy?
A very brilliant man, Vincent Davis, was one of my professors at the University of Kentucky. It’s been a long time since I was in college, but there are a few lessons that I can remember like they were yesterday. Dr Davis, then the Director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, said, very simply, if you have the power to do something, and choose not to do it, you have taken just as positive an action as if you had done it. If we choose to leave Afghanistan with the Taliban undefeated, and in fact gaining, we will be allowing their return to power. Mrs Benjamin remembered the Taliban’s “very retrograde position in terms of women’s rights” — how’s that for a euphemism? — but she, the founder of Code Pink, an organization so very dedicated to human rights and women’s rights, would soft-peddle just how the Taliban governed and how women, in particular, were treated under Taliban rule.
Under the Taliban regime, Sharia law was interpreted to ban a wide variety of activities hitherto lawful in Afghanistan: employment, education and sports for women, movies, television, videos, music, dancing, hanging pictures in homes, clapping during sports events, kite flying, and beard trimming. One Taliban list of prohibitions included:
pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.
Men were required to have a beard extending farther than a fist clamped at the base of the chin. On the other hand, they had to wear their head hair short. Men were also required to wear a head covering.
Possession was forbidden of depictions of living things, whether drawings, paintings or photographs, stuffed animals, and dolls.
The Taliban are a predominantly Pashtun radical Sunni religious and political movement; they combine a very strict form of Islamism with Pashtun nationalism, and under Taliban rule the other ethnic groups in Afghanistan were subjected to Pashtun dominance.
Our well-intentioned pacifist friends have to realize just what their ideology means: in adhering to a policy of American withdrawal, they are concomitantly supporting the consequences of such, consequences which look very much like the reclaiming of political power by the Taliban, and the reinstitution of the Taliban’s version of shari’a law.
it’s not like everything will be warm and fuzzy and peaceful if NATO troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Taliban will probably return to power, democracy will die, human rights will be vastly restricted, and al Qaeda will once again have a safe haven. Does Medea Benjamin realize this? Does she even care?
President Bush was unfortunately wrong about one thing: he believed that once people had democracy and experience with democracy, they would just naturally like it and flock to it. Regrettably, that has not proven to be the case. But there was a basic decency about the man, a decency which didn’t like seeing other people being oppressed.
Now we see President Obama, a decent enough man himself, but one who approaches problems differently. What President Bush was attempting to do in Afghanistan was hard work, harder work than the tools President Bush gave our military allowed them to do, but it was still a noble idea and a worthwhile mission. President Obama, facing far less of a problem in Iraq, now has the opportunity to give our military more tools for the tasks in Afghanistan, yet, if the leaked reports concerning his decisions are accurate, will not do so, but will allow the Taliban to return to some official power.
That would be naïve in the extreme: the Taliban aren’t some political party who would share power democratically; the Taliban are a military organization who seek to seize and control total power. They are seeking military conquest in neighboring Pakistan as well, and Pakistan has atomic weapons.
As much as we dislike war — and as the father of two soldiers I have two very personal reasons to not want war — sometimes the price of a sham peace and withdrawal in the face of resistance is much higher.