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The real story behind Time’s Afghan woman cover: American complicity

COMMENTARY | August 11, 2010

The repressive and misogynistic forces the picture depicts are the very ones that were bolstered by U.S. policy in the early 1980s, and again now. The head of Jobs for Afghans proposes an answer to 'warlordism' and its medieval attitude toward women.

By Ralph Lopez

There has been much discussion, as well as misunderstanding, of the Time magazine cover photo of the Afghan woman who had her nose cut off by the Taliban. The purported object lesson is clear: If we leave Afghanistan now, this is what will happen. The woman had tried to run away from her abusive husband, and this was her punishment. Despite the torrent of bad news about the war, Time would have us believe this is the choice we face. But that is a comic-book version of Afghanistan.
The reality is even more disturbing: The repressive and misogynistic forces the picture depicts are the very ones now being bolstered by U.S. policy.
How could this be? To understand Afghanistan, it is necessary to understand that the key fissure in the society's slow evolution towards modernity is not tribal, nor ethnic, but country versus city. And here, America’s historical role in the region has had a disastrous effect on Afghanistan’s women.
In 1979, the CIA started secretly aiding opponents of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, increasing the likelihood that the Soviet Union would be drawn into what Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski hoped would be "their own Vietnam." The young socialist government, which had overthrown a centuries-old monarchy, was cosmopolitan, outward-looking, and stressed the education of women as well as men. This was a time when women in Kabul could wear mini-skirts. In its search for proxies to attack the Kabul regime, Brzezinski and the Cold Warriors turned to the conservative warlord elements in the countryside. They were of all ethnicities; Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek. What they had in common was their ability to raise and organize fighters – and their Medieval attitudes toward women.
These Mujehadeen were natural enemies of any central government that sought to consolidate power and force change. The CIA supplied them with billions of dollars in weapons and ammunition, including surface-to-air missiles that could bring down Russian jets and helicopters. The rest is history. The Russians left, Afghans were abandoned by the U.S. to deal with bombed-out rubble and millions of landmines which remain to this day, and the country devolved into brutal civil war among the factions we had armed, from which the Pakistan-based Taliban emerged victorious.
After the American offensive in 2001, Afghans woke up from their Taliban nightmare, which had imposed law and order by reducing the number of punishments for nearly all crimes to one: death. But when they looked around at their new government, to see who was now running the country, to their dismay they saw the same conservative, mountain village warlords who had made life so hellish they made the Taliban look good by comparison.
Many of these warlords had played key roles in Brzezinski's game of bogging down and enfeebling the Russian military. Now they have posts in the new government, or if they do not, soon might. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord and war criminal, started his career throwing acid in women's faces back in his college days in Kabul. These days, he fights alongside the Taliban, but is not one of them – and the U.S. and Karzai are considering bringing him into the government, because he commands 10,000 men and can help keep order.
The Tierney Report, issued this summer by the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. Tierney (D-MA), shows that we are in the process of strengthening exactly these conservative, misogynistic elements. This is the result of massive and systematic protection payments to warlords and their insurgent allies, for safe passage of military supply convoys to American bases. Without the payments, there is no way to get supplies through. The report, "Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan", shows we are working at terrible cross-purposes in Afghanistan.
Rural marriage traditions which allow girls to be essentially given away as early as age 10 are at the root of much of the abuse which women endure. Dr. Soraya Sobhrang, commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, is at the center of attempts to change the legal age of marriage for women to 18, which is the age for men. But enforcement of such a law would require government structures that can rival the power of the rural warlords. Sobhrang told a reporter in 2007: "The international community made a mistake empowering the mujahedeen who are now stronger in the provinces. They make and follow their own laws there."
For going on 10 years now, U.S. policy on Afghanistan has allowed traditional enemies of any central government to grow unchecked, unbalanced by any real effort to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. When their power is diluted with jobs programs, community infrastructure projects, and opportunities in the cities, then warlords of all stripes lose. But keep everyone in a perpetual state of semi-starvation and hopelessness, and the warlords (including the Taliban ones) remain the only employers in town. Usually those jobs involve fighting someone or other.
The answer to the warlords -- and more importantly to what Afghans, especially the young, call "warlordism" -- is the economic strengthening of the popular base. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently unveiled a program to lure the economic Taliban, that is, fighters who fight mainly for the wage, away from the insurgency with the lure of jobs. In this she has heeded the words of Karl Eikenberry, now the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, but formerly the commander of U.S. forces there, who told the House Armed Services Committee in 2007: "Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families."
But Clinton's proposal threatens to fail by not going far enough. If jobs, preferably involving the construction of basic infrastructure, are politicized and given only to those who quit the Taliban, then those ex-combatants and their families will become targets for retaliation. This would add yet further impetus for violence. For far less than the cost of one month of military operations -- about $5 billion -- a widespread cash-for-work program could be implemented for everyone.
Some Americans will say this is ridiculous when there are not enough jobs right here in the U.S. But Americans don't work for $5 a day, and Afghans are happy to. It's not the $5 billion we spend on a civilian solution in Afghanistan that will break the bank and take away jobs from Americans. It's the $250 billion and counting that we have spent on counterproductive military operations and hardware.
General David Petraeus says frequently and correctly that the "center of gravity is the Afghan people" -- not Afghan combatants, nor former combatants, but all the people. Despite his interpretation, that’s an excellent argument for abandoning so-called "counter-insurgency" operations, preparing for U.S. troop withdrawal, and placing bets on an economic strategy that weakens the warlords. All our military presence has done so far is alienate a people who were not alienated before. After the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, the oppressive and rather spooky characters who had terrorized Afghans for 7 years were suddenly gone. Afghans began listening to music again, shaved their beards if they felt like it, flew kites, and engaged in countless other long-deferred Afghan pleasures. Wedding palaces went up in all their gaudy, flashing neon-light glory, and one of the first public entertainments to re-open in Kabul was the movie theater. The longest running blockbuster by a wide margin? Rambo III.
Now self-immolation and the suicide rate among Afghan women are at an all time high. With the warlords of all sides still strong and getting stronger, nothing has changed for them. The constant state of war only strengthens the Taliban by placing them in the position, as disliked as they are, of national liberators.
Strengthening the "center of gravity" by going big on jobs and development in a country where unemployment is 40 percent will weaken the warlords -- those who sit in the Karzai government and those who fight against it. By changing the dynamic, Afghans might someday resume their experiment in empowering women, so suddenly aborted by Brzezinski's eagerness to give the Russians "their own Vietnam."

Important read. We have little time left to get it right.
Posted by Susan Serpa
08/11/2010, 11:06 PM

The shocking picture on the cover of Time of the defaced young Afghan beauty reveals deeper problems than can be solved by military actions. Thank you for publishing this.

Posted by Planck
08/12/2010, 11:23 PM

The historical role of Time Magazine to support the reactionary military industrial war machine when needed is well understood simply because of what is well known about Henry Luce. But, for more juicy, check out Russ Baker's "Family of Secrets" to find out how Time Magazine has been a host to CIA operatives for many years. And there have been others like Reader's Digest, and Washington Post (won't name names read the book).

It is absolutely disgusting that American citizens are subject to Propaganda programs from our own government which violates our rights to self-determination and a Fourth Estate like the Founders said was our right to judge our Politicians and our own self-interest effectively.

It is bad enough these operatives routinely get away with this in foreign countries to destabilize them, so our business Plutocrats can dominate their economies and natural resources. But, that its done to us, to manipulate us to suck more money out of us for a war machine is unconstitutional despite the inaction to protect us of this current bought Supreme Court. Given what Alan Dulles is on record saying about us, we know this rot starts from the Top, and will have to be rooted out from there too!

Posted by Dismayed
08/13/2010, 01:29 AM

Wow... way to completely ignore everything Mr. Lopez explained, Susan.

The whole point was that war is pointless, that it's more important to appoint appropriate leadership; not to randomly start wars then mess up everything else.

Posted by HSM
08/13/2010, 03:01 AM

thank you for the article.

Posted by Dr Irony
08/13/2010, 10:40 PM

It seems that Lopez writes for Opednews.com and he wrote a delightful article on April 3, 2008 titled: It Has Happened: I'm a 9/11 Truther; A New Investigation, Broad Amnesty, and Forgiveness.

So Harvard gets a 9/11 Truther to write an article about the Taliban .... Ironic, no?

For Dr Irony
Posted by Dr Common Sense
08/15/2010, 12:32 AM

Dr Irony, can't you do any better than attack the author's character? I guess not, since the facts are against you...

Posted by Dante
08/15/2010, 02:23 PM

Dr. Irony, Thank you for pointing out that article. It seems intelligent and well-written. Now I have questions too. But if you are going to defend the Time cover, perhaps you should stick to the subject and cite your facts rather than pulling in extraneous matters. At least Mr. Lopez uses his real name and says where he stands, and why. You on the other hand hide behind a coward's anonymity.

Posted by Dr. Meredith, Emeritus
08/15/2010, 03:25 PM

I have referenced the website the mentioned article revolves around; it consists of military officers of general rank, CIA and other intelligence professionals, fighter pilots, crime scene investigators. Don't seem to be conspiracy proponents attacking the military and the government; they WERE the military and the government. Interesting.

http://patriotsquestion911.com ...

And now if we can get back to the subject.

9/11 truther garbage
Posted by Carl Fortner
08/16/2010, 12:25 PM

A charlatan who peddles 9/11 truther garbage has no character to comment on.

Posted by Studebaker
08/16/2010, 03:53 PM

Mr. Fortner,

Then you must include among those with no character the 1200 licensed architects and engineers who have recently called the official story of the collapse of the buildings patently impossible, especially Building 7 which was not even hit. They sign their names and list their academic credentials here:

Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth:

http://www2.ae911truth.org/signpetition.php ...

What is your degree, Mr. Fortner?

In addition you must include among those with "no character" the firefighters now calling for an investigation of Rudy Giuliani's destruction of the evidence, the steel which was shipped to China in record time to be melted, which comprised the skeletal cores of the buildings, and which would have yielded the answers to their collapse. This should have been of special interest since the collapses were extremely anomalous, and the kinetic energy of the jetliner hits was relatively minor compared to the density and mass of the buildings (the ones which were hit, not Tower 7 which somehow managed to fall straight down at free fall speed all by itself.)

Firefighters for 911 Truth:

http://firefightersfor911truth.org ...

In addition you must include Senator Max Clelland, who resigned from the 911 Commission, calling it compromised.

The fact is that 911 is the seminal event in American history, surpassing even the Civil War, and no amount of examination can be excessive. It is the justification for two disastrous wars and a shredding of civil liberties such as has never been seen before. The inquisitive frame of mind is something which is prized in academia. To equate anyone who has questions on such an important event as having no character suggests you have an agenda. Now what can that be? Asking questions should never be out-of-bounds in a democracy.

Anyone who would attack someone's character based on the asking of question belongs in the age of the Spanish Inquisition which burned students of Copernicus. In other words, it is you who lack character.

Posted by Carl Fortner
08/16/2010, 04:53 PM

My degree is irrelevant, but if you must know I hold an MS in mechanical engineering. Hundreds of thousands of manhours have gone in to analyzing the collapse of the world trade center by the American Society of Civil Engineers and they have put together detailed reports and analysis on the subject.

http://www.asce.org/Content.aspx?id=25300 ...

The signatories of these petitions have done no such work and rely mostly on debunked speculation (jet fuel cannot melt steel, “thermite” was found in the debris, yada yada). Their empty claims are just that: “claims”. They have nothing to show for their allegations that the NIST Report or the various reports from the ASCE are wrong. No calculations, no models, nothing, just a lot of talk, just a lot of talk about fictitious NORAD standowns and Israeli agents.

Once again, why Harvard would print anything from someone who could so callously write these kinds of blood libels is an absolute outrage.

Posted by Vargas
08/17/2010, 12:07 AM

And how is this a "blood libel?" Yes, here we go, anyone who has questions about 911 is either a) a kook, a lunatic, crazy or b) vile, malicious, bad.

My, such a spirit of dispassionate inquiry. I take no position and have not thought about it much, but if this is the rabid animal reaction of those who oppose the popular version of events, I might just have another look.

Posted by Studebaker
08/17/2010, 02:37 AM

I have examined the Architects and Engineers website and nowhere do they claim "fire does not melt steel." If they do, please show me where. If you cannot then this is a straw man. Although extensive calculations have been performed to bear out the obvious, such as those by Professor of Physics Terry Morrone, Alelphi University, the fact remains that it is a simple concept that a relatively small amount of kerosene (jet fuel,) combined with isolated, cool-burning office fires, cannot come close to generating the heat-energy required to significantly weaken the enormously dense and massive interlocked core of 47 steel columns.
Dr. Morrone:
http://journalof911studies.com/volume/200704/ProfM ...

A fairly good idea of how impossible the official story is can be gleaned with no more than a few simple calculations on the back of an envelope. Let us scale down the approximately 80,000 tons of steel in the skeleton, about 35,000 tons of that continuous core steel, to an amount which can be easily grasped, say the 90 pounds represented in two 45-pound barbell plates seen in any gym. Take that amount of steel, and melt it into lengths of rebar to represent the model of the steel skeleton of one tower. This is just a little over a one two-millionth scale of the building. There are 2,000 pounds in one ton. 80,000 tons divided by 2 million to equal 80 pounds.
Employing the same scale, a 100-ton jetliner, about a third of that weight being fuel, would thus reduce to the weight equivalent of an empty aluminum Coke can, with a half-ounce of kerosene in it. Jetliners are light and hollow, relative to the core grid of 47 steel columns, and are mostly made of aluminum, which is a light, soft metal.
Add in the maximum amount of office synthetics which may have been burning, and it still does not come close to the amount of fuel required to significantly weaken, never mind cause, catastrophic failure, even burning at perfect efficiency in an oxygen-rich environment. Steel is an almost perfect heat conductor, and heat energy dissipates evenly to all points of the structure. You may as well try to bring a crowbar to red-hot malleability with a match. Evidence that the fires were cool and never reached forge-like temperatures, as the official report says, is the black smoke which shows cool, oxygen-starved fires nearly going out, and the people standing in the windows near the fires.

Posted by Studebaker
08/17/2010, 02:39 AM

PART II to Mr. Fortner:

If the structure failed as the NIST report claims, then this has revolutionized the foundry business, which depends on large quantities of expensive coal and forced air, in a blast furnace, to bring steel to malleable temperatures.
You say: "They have nothing to show for their allegations that the NIST Report or the various reports from the ASCE are wrong...just a lot of talk."
You obviously have not read not a shred of what you so authoritatively purport to refute. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers report which you cite has been specifically challenged by the 911 Architects and Engineers for falsely claiming that the buildings were never intended to withstand hits by jetliners. They were engineered to withstand not just one but multiple hits. WTC building designer John Skilling said that they “looked at every possible thing we could think of that could happen to the buildings, even to the extent of an airplane hitting the side… A previous analysis carried out early in 1964, calculated that the towers would handle the impact of a 707 traveling at 600 mph without collapsing.”
http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/2007/05/world-tra ...
New York city skyscrapers were designed with this in mind after a B-25 bomber lost in fog hit the Empire State Building in 1945.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-25_Empire_State_Bui ...
The redundant design of the towers was such that, even with multiple columns in the core and perimeter cut, load would be transferred to remaining supports adequate to bear the load of the building. Even in the event that some floor pancaked down, they would have stripped themselves from the core columns and the core would be left poking up into the sky, as it was during construction. In order for the buildings to implode as they did, the steel skeleton would have to loose its integrity all at once, which is how demolitions are performed. Many of the Architects and Engineeers for 911 Truth are themselves members of the ASCE. A&E911 also criticize ASCE for accepting $250,000 from the government for the study, which spurred an internal investigation by ASCE.

Posted by Studebaker
08/17/2010, 02:41 AM

As for specific criticisms of the NIST report, the 911 Architects and Engineers point out that above all the NIST report engages in a major deception required to make the official story plausible, which is to simply deny the existence of the massive core supports, and instead describe the core as a "hollow steel shaft."

The NIST report states:

"These exterior walls bore most of the weight of the building. The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped."
It is simply not true. Exterior wall could never bear the weight of such a building. The core colulmns were like a the spindle on one of those old record players; in the worst case, some of the floors might collapse, but as designer Skilling said, the cores would remain standing. In no case could they simply roll down upon themselves into a neat, two-story pile of rubble.

http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/arch/core.html ...

Finally, the presence of the demolition explosive nano-thermite has not been debunked. You have not included a single citation or source to back up your assertions. You spout only venom and hate.

All this does not even begin to address many other impossible contentions of the official story, such as the 280 degree, corkscrew dive into the Pentagon supposedly performed by a flight school drop-out, Hani Hanjour, or the cellphone (not Airphone) calls at 20,000 feet.

Pilots for 911 Truth one observes of Hanjour's stunt maneuver:

"without going into a graveyard spiral, he started to pull out of the descent at 2200 feet and accelerated only 30 knots more at full power to 460 knots in a descent from 2200 feet to the pentagon in about a minute (Whats Vmo at sea level for a 757? Flap speed? Since it looks like he may have found the flap handle only accelerating 60 knots from 7000 feet, the from 2200 feet at full power). AA77 crossed the highways, knocking down light poles, entered ground effect, didn’t touch the lawn and got a 44 foot high target (Tail height of 757) into a 77 foot target completely, without overshooting or bouncing off the lawn, or spreading any wreckage at 460 knots."

http://pilotfor911truth.org ...

Truther Retards
Posted by August Cooper
08/17/2010, 09:07 AM

Nothing quite like seeing a school of truther retards swim against the current of reality.

Posted by Richard White
08/17/2010, 01:59 PM

"Truther retards," a most erudite comment for a Harvard site. Do you wear your baseball hat backwards too?

Buildings fall like magic is your reality? I'd say you are in serious denial.

Posted by Water Lily
08/17/2010, 03:36 PM

Ann Jones has written another excellent piece on the woman on the Time cover, whom she has interviewed. Very interesting. The Taliban had nothing to do with it. The Time report is false.

http://www.thenation.com/article/154020/afghan-wom ...

Jones writes:

"I know Bibi Aisha, the young Afghan woman pictured on the August 9 cover of Time, and I rejoice that her mutilated nose and ears are going to be surgically repaired. But the logic of those who use Aisha's story to convince us that the US military must stay in Afghanistan escapes me. Even Aisha has already left for America.

I realize that last remark has no logical basis, but then neither does the Time cover line "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan" beside a shocking photo depicting what happened (to this woman) after we had already stayed for eight years. I heard Aisha's story from her a few weeks before the image of her face was displayed all over the world. She told me that her father-in-law caught up with her after she ran away, and took a knife to her on his own; village elders later approved, but the Taliban didn't figure at all in this account. The Time story, however, attributes Aisha's mutilation to a husband under orders of a Talib commander, thereby transforming a personal story, similar to those of countless women in Afghanistan today, into a portent of things to come for all women if the Taliban return to power."

Posted by Andrew
08/20/2010, 07:42 PM

Great article. Almost as enthralling as the comments section. My question is: With all the previous experience regarding our Government fabricating reports and incidents to justify going to war (turning over incubators in Kuwait, tonkin gulf, etc), would it not be prudent to at least inspect the "official" story with a fine tooth comb?

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