Antiwar movements support political oppression

WBy Nick Busse why is it we don’t hear about Afghanistan anymore?

We still have troops stationed there, engaged in roughly the same activities as they were a year ago, back when antiwar activists were condemning the bombing of Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan as a war against innocent civilians, much in the same vein as the current antiwar rhetoric over Iraq. So what happened? Why did the protests over U.S. actions in Afghanistan stop?

A journalist friend of mine who snuck into Kabul only days after it had fallen to the Northern Alliance said when local women discovered she was an American, they came up to her in the street and hugged her, thanking the United States for bombing the Taliban into nonexistence. The subsequent article she wrote for Elle magazine chronicled how the Taliban had systematically deprived Afghan women (and men, as well) of their rights, forcing people who were educated professionals into a patriarchal, radical Muslim lifestyle. A recent report on the psychological conditions of Afghan women shows the

results – 97 percent suffer from major depression, 42 percent from post-traumatic stress disorder, and roughly 25 percent have recurrent suicidal impulses.

Perhaps the reason we don’t hear antiwar demonstrators talk about Afghanistan anymore is because they’re embarrassed, and rightfully so, for having declared their sympathies to be on the side of the Taliban, one of the most brutal totalitarian regimes in recent history. The fact that feminist groups protested a war that liberated the people of Afghanistan from a regime that used women for target practice must easily be one of the most absurd ironies of our generation. And now it’s happening again, this time with Iraq.

But before I go any further I had better backtrack a little because I can already hear the letters to the editor forming: “But we supported the Taliban! We supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s!” Yes, we did, and I shall not venture to defend the utterly stupid Cold War-era foreign policy that led to the establishment of al-Qaida and failed to condemn Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. But we must also remember those policies were the result of a kind of cowardice on our part – the U.S. government sought to influence Middle Eastern affairs without directly putting itself at risk, and in order to do that it resorted to affiliating with a lot of nasty people – Hussein’s Ba’ath Party in Iraq, the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan, and more recently the Turkish

and Saudi governments. (I’ll leave Israel out of this, for the time being.)

That these policies were fairly disastrous in their long-term consequences should be evident by now. It should be equally evident the U.N.-imposed sanctions against Iraq have killed thousands of Iraqis without affecting Hussein’s authority one bit. Those sanctions should be lifted – immediately and without a doubt.

But this still leaves us with the problem of Hussein and, more to the point, the problem of the despotic nature of Middle Eastern governments in general.

Let’s go back to the Afghanistan analogy for a moment. The Taliban are gone – that’s good. Afghanistan now has a national army and a tentative government – that’s good, too. But Congress has only budgeted a shameful $300 million to help rebuild the country – better than nothing I suppose, but totally pathetic compared to the $36 billion the Turks are trying to extort from us just to use their airbases. What those of us inclined to activism ought to be lobbying for is the exportation of democracy to the Middle East – which means not only eliminating dictatorships like the one in Iraq, but also investing significant capital in order to rebuild those countries, a la the Marshall Plan. The George W. Bush administration claims it intends to do this. We need to make sure it keeps its promise.

So far, the antiwar movement seems

content to tell itself that opposing “war” – that is war in the abstract sense of the word – endows it with a kind of moral superiority. This is why the antiwar cause is so popular among celebrities. Who could be in favor of war, after all? To take the position that war is wrong under any circumstances involves no compromise of one’s own moral self-image. To say that under certain circumstances military action might be necessary to overthrow violently oppressive governments is much more difficult – and risky.

In any case, I only wish the antiwar demonstrators would apply the same standards to other countries as they do to ours. The people who think the United States is an evil country would benefit from spending some time in a country that’s actually evil. And I’m not talking about spending a weekend at the Al-Rashid hotel in Baghdad as part of a “solidarity mission,” being led around by the nose by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. I’m talking about living one’s life in a country where speaking out against the government will result in having your tongue forcibly amputated.

The antiwar movement needs to reconsider its aims. The current wave of protests throughout North America and Western Europe constitute little more than a misguided showing of de facto support for a fascist regime in Iraq.

Nick Busse is a University junior

studying history and English. Send letters to the editor to

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