Home CommentaryOpinions 1,2,3,4… What the Hell are we Fighting for?

1,2,3,4… What the Hell are we Fighting for?

by Archives April 7, 2009

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, has said his government will back away from a despicable new law that would have severely limited women’s rights. The law, which only applied to the country’s Shiite minority, would have allowed husbands to rape their wives; required women to get their husband’s permission before leaving the home; and denied them custody rights in a divorce.
“Obedience, readiness for intercourse and not leaving the house without the permission of the husband are the duties of the wife,” the law states, adding that the wife “is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires.”
But the law doesn’t forget about women’s needs. A husband is only allowed to force sex on his wife once every four nights and if he’s the one not putting out she has to get sex at least once every four months.
While some might see this as a step backwards, to the days of Taliban brutality; sadly it is merely another sign of how little progress Afghanistan has made.
Last month the Afghan Supreme Court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for a journalism student convicted of “blasphemy.” He was writing about women’s rights.
When we first declared victory in Afghanistan, after the sacking of Kandahar city, in late 2001, we heard a lot of propaganda about how, finally, now the women of Afghanistan would be free. Liberated.
The problem was, we hadn’t won. Like George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” banner, in Iraq, we had conquered the capital, but we had hardly won the war.
Poppy growth is bigger than ever, the Taliban stronger than before, and human rights are still lacking.
It begs the question, what the hell are we fighting for?
We first went to Afghanistan to strike back at Al-Qaeda and the Taliban for supporting them, but there was always the underlying theme that our soldiers would bring democracy and freedom to the Afghan people, especially women, suffering under one of the most brutal regimes in the world.
Now, almost eight years later, we still haven’t captured Osama Bin Laden, and the Taliban has continued the battle in Africa and Iraq. More and more our government’s rhetoric surrounding the war has become about fighting for “democracy” and to prop up the token government of Hamid Karzai. But again this has been a failure, outside of the Potemkin villages of Kabul and Kandahar, his government has little or no control. Even in the areas where they do have power, corruption is rife and with laws like this, how are they any better than the Taliban bullies?
Some may say it is wrong for us to attempt to impose our values on the Afghan people. But some values are not western values; they are human values. Human rights are not western values; they are human values. While we cannot expect that the nation of Afghanistan, or any other nation, will look exactly like the west; no one in any country should have to fear petty tyrants who rule with a whip and a Kalashnikov.
Increasingly there are those who say that the war cannot be won. But this is a war that should be won, the problem is we aren’t fighting it the wrong way. The Taliban is an army of guerilla fighters, it was created to fight the Soviet occupation, and they won. It is pure hubris to think that our military can succeed where the Soviets did not. We cannot win with an occupation. What we need in Afghanistan is a more nuanced strategy. Most importantly we must work to create civil society: courts that are fair and free from corruption; a government that obeys the rule of law; and a free press.

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