Afghanistan’s Little Girls on the Front Line, Part 2

This post was previously published as a comment by M. Jamil Hanifi, Open Anthropology’s new blogger. While we work out bugs with Jamil’s access, I am republishing his comment as a post. It first appeared in connection with the article, “In Afghanistan It’s Now All About the Little Girls“.

M. Jamil Hanifi

15 August 2009

Everything touched by the American imperial stupor turns to dust. This mindless, bloody and brutal machine has reduced to rubble the state of Afghanistan. In violation of every international standard it destroyed the secular state of Iraq and installed in its place a fragmented theocracy. This rogue Zionist-infested fascist state and its rulers are guilty of crimes against humanity. From the onset, the American imperial presence in Afghanistan has been engaged in a culture cleansing project. The imposition of “secular” schools for Afghan girls in Panjsher is the tip of the iceberg in this project. Christian missionaries and Western liberal feminism are lurking in all corners of the so called reconstruction of Afghanistan. Christian missionary activity including the distribution of Bibles in Paxtu and Farsi (distinguished with blue and green covers) by American soldiers has been documented. Most of the nearly 4500 NGOs in Afghanistan have direct or indirect connections to Christian agendas for Muslim Afghanistan. Virtually all of these NGOs receive subsidies, in one form or another, from the American and other Western governments and are sheltered by the American and NATO military umbrellas. The “Clash of Civilizations” is the foundational premise of the Western presence in poor and helpless sub-industrial Afghanistan. The HTS teams are the American frontline scouts in this brutal and destructive scandal. The program is a crude, simple-minded, and counterproductive attempt at imposing colonial culture with the tips of bayonets and military boots on the people of Afghanistan through the “C3”, comparative cultural competence, buzzwords in the so called “military anthropology”, and staffed with incompetent and clueless but expensive (annual salaries of 300-400K) “social scientists” and interpreters (“terps”) from the poverty stricken Afghan diaspora in the United States. Blind leading the blind!

From the start radical feminism and the American occupation of Afghanistan have manipulated each other for the promotion of their respective agendas in Afghanistan. During February 2005, while speaking in public, the US Marine General James Mattis who commanded troops in Afghanistan stated that “it is fun to shoot some people….Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know , it’s a hell of a hoot….I like brawling…You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil…You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of lot of fun to shoot them” (afghaniyat@yahoogroups.com February 3, 2005). The general was merely “counseled” by the Pentagon for this obscene backwater display of patriarchal feminism. This writer retorted: “Abusing human beings is reprehensible. But this is fascist vulgar rhetoric and for Mattis to speak about women’s rights anywhere is a profound hypocrisy. In no other country are women so abused , exploited, demeaned and vulgarized as in the country he pretend to defend” (Lansing State Journal, February 14, 2005).

Now comes the Dakota educated, Big Sky Country settler cowboy and mountaineer Greg Mortenson on the shoulders of the “warrior chief”, U. S. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, fighting the phony “war on terrorism” with opening a “secular” school for young Afghan girls in the Panjshaer valley. Mullen has armored himself for this occasion by reading “The Book Seller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad who has been sued in a Scandinavian court by her chief Kabuli informant for publishing lies about women’s lives in Afghanistan. The report of this militarized feminist scam is produced by a Zionist mouthpiece and tutor of the imperial presence, Thomas L. Friedman who thinks “Urdu” is the local language as if the cultural content of Dari speaking Panjshaer valley is interchangeable with the cultures of India, Pakistan, and Nepal where Urdu is a universal language. Imperial hubris thrives on essentializing the dominated. Afghanistan is simply another footprint.

Cowboy Mortenson is the co-author of “Three Cups of Tea”, a story about mountain climbing in northern Pakistan and his rescue by Balti villagers whom he reciprocates by destroying their way of life through building “secular” schools for their little girls. He drifts into Afghanistan with this deconstructive project by opening 48 secular schools—one and one half school in every Afghan province. Faithful to a vulgarized understanding of secularity Mortenson expects these innocent little girls to have “fewer children” when they grow up. Of course, this design will require classes in sex education and family planning with free contraceptives in the Panjshaeri school curriculum. Everything will be modern, industrial and “up to date” in Panjshaer including young women in high heeled seductive shoes, make-up, contraceptives, abortion clinics, and bikini clad sunbathing teenage Panjshaeri girls on the banks of the Panjshaer River. I am sure Mortenson has plans for shelters all over Afghanistan for abused Afghan women just as in Butte, Lansing, Little Rock, Cedar Rapids, Mobile, Phoenix, and all over Eastern Pennsylvania. And he will look the other way when these Afghan girls end up as the abused, exploited, demeaned, and vulgarized subjects of pornography produced in Rokha, Charikar, and Kabul. Far more importantly, mountaineer Mortenson hopes to reverse the conventional old to young human process of cultural reproduction. Mortenson’s Montana zeal will create an Afghan world in which “the girls will bring home meat and veggies, wrapped in newspapers and the mother will ask the girl to read the newspaper to her and the mother will learn about politics and about women who are exploited”. His model will culture to flow from young to old, bottoms up, so to speak, whichin practical terms will terminate the culture of present day Afghan mothers and grandmothers. He will replace the cultural construction of women, femininity, and womanhood in Afghanistan with the nightmares of radical NOW and Eleanor Roosevelt, the original chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission.

I wonder whether Greg Mortenson, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Thomas Friedman have read the current American imposed constitution of Afghanistan. Here are relevant sections from this document that speak to Mortenson’s project of building “secular” schools in Afghanistan: Chapter 1, article 1, “Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unified, indivisible state; chapter 1, article 2, “the religion of the state of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam”; chapter 1, article 3, “in Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”; chapter 2, article 2, “education is the right of all citizens of Afghanistan, which should be provided up to the level of B. A. (lisans) free of charge by the state”; chapter 2, article 24, “the state shall devise and implement a unified educational curriculum based on the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, national culture, and in accordance with academic principles, and develop the curriculum of religious subjects on the basis of the Islamic sects existing in Afghanistan”. A bystander would say: By opening the secular school for Afghan girls, Admiral Mike Mullen and mountaineer Greg Mortensen are trampling the Afghan constitution. Never mind. The “warrior chief” gives and the “warrior chief” takes back.

Greg Mortenson is the founder and CEO of Central Asia Institute headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. Is his institute subsidized by funds from the American government? One of his pamphlets (An introduction to Central Asia Institute, p. 12) contains a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We cannot shake hands with a clenched fist”. How much American military hardware and how many American soldiers were present at the opening of the “secular” school for girls in Panjshaer? Bagram airbase is about thirty miles from Panjshaer. When Mortenson’s secular school was being opened Afghanistan was occupied by more than one hundred thousand Euro-American soldiers.

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Dr. M. Jamil Hanifi is currently an independent scholar whose long standing research interests focus on the anthropology and history of Afghanistan. He is himself an Afghan, born in Sorkhab, Logar Province. He obtained his Ph.D in Anthropology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, in 1969. He earned his M.A. in Political Science, from Michigan State University, in 1962. He graduated with a B.Sc. in Social Science, from Michigan State University, in 1960. Dr. Hanifi is also fluent in Farsi/Dari, and Paxtu. He also has reading ability in Arabic, Russian, Tajiki (in Cyrillic), and Urdu. He teaches part time in anthropology at Michigan State University and Lansing Community College. He was formerly a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University, from 1969 to 1982. Dr. Hanifi’s research has been partially supported by the United States National Academy of Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies, in the period from 1982 to 2006. He is also the author of the Historical and Cultural Dictionary of Afghanistan (1976) and numerous articles in journals and encyclopedias. You can read more about Dr. Hanifi here, here, and see his Anthropology of Afghanistan group page.

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16 thoughts on “Afghanistan’s Little Girls on the Front Line, Part 2

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/magazine/23Women-t.html?em#

    Here is a continuing effort on the spin. As the ongoing war continues to become unpopular with Americans and the liberal population, give it a new shelf life and a shot in the arm of support as a “Women’s Crusade.” And no doubt a lot of people are dumb enough to fall for this. Coincidentally those women will be saved to become consumers and low wage workers for the saintlike companies, er, I mean country that wants to save them.

  2. Well so much for fnord’s thesis that nobody has been trying to cast this as a war for women. Thanks for that link.

    As for the unpopularity of the war, most of my comments have tended to emphasize the fact that a majority of Canadians want out of Afghanistan now, and have felt that way for years. It now seems that most people in Britain, and a majority of Americans (finally — according to several polls now) are against the war as well.

    This is a war by an interventionist elite, backed primarily by war profiteers, liberal interventionists and their associated right wing ideologues, not to mention the fanatical milblogging community that contains mercenary elements and people who mistake imperialist domination with patriotism.

  3. Coming back to this article, one really sees the sloppy analysis that marks the growing poverty of liberal mainstream writing in North America. It is manifest in the opening paragraph:

    “IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.”

    In the 19th century, one of the moral challenges, for those who admitted it as a moral challenge, was European enslavement of Africans. That debate was one internal to Europe and America, about Europe’s and America’s own behaviour, and therefore not at all comparable to the interventionist, imperialist doctrine of R2P that we hear today. However, it suits the writer’s purpose to create a chain-like effect with words, otherwise slavery would not even have been mentioned — this is a writer who writes about the past by projecting the present backwards, thereby inventing a suitable history.

    The plan is to create the uber-evil composite applicable to Muslim dominated societies: totalitarian, misogynist, enslaving of women and infidels. The idea is an extremely dangerous one, real crusader ideology (the title is no accident after all): to turn the war against “terror” to a full blown war against all Muslims, as if fighting that, and winning it (as if), is to be the apex of human moral achievement. Talk about extremism and fundamentalism.

    To say that the 20th century challenge was totalitarianism — as if that had passed from the world, when in fact it is more present than ever, and has widened to include deluded self-identified liberal democracies — is to engage in romance. One would think that all we did was gear ourselves toward eliminating totalitarianism, even while the U.S. was propping up one dictatorship after another around the planet. The last one, the struggle to liberate women, is conveniently chosen to match the George & Laura Bush narrative for Afghanistan. They could have added domestic abuse to the list…but then that would bring North America to mind too much, and this is meant to be an othering discourse.

    What gets left out, because the system relies on it, is class exploitation and class inequality. This is neither reporting nor analysis, it is mere mystification, and poorly fashioned. It’s not supposed to be this transparent.

  4. What was the Dashiell Hammett bit about the sign on the bar? “Only genuine pre war whiskey sold here.” His protagonist: I tried to count all the lies in that sentence and stopped when I got to seven.

    And now we have: “This rogue Zionist-infested fascist state and its rulers are guilty of crimes against humanity.”

    This is nuts. Really. Quite mad.

    Not to cast dispersions or anything, but whoever wrote this needs help. Lots of soothing, caring, padded-room help.

    Dr. Forte – do you offer any editorial advise to your posters at all? I have some…crazy talk of this magnitude tends to derail any cogent argument that might ever be made by the author. He might as well start out by describing how one should adjust the settings on his tin foil hat.

  5. I think you might consider taking your own “advise” (advice), and no I do not presume to edit the work of a senior colleague, also because his summarizing statement is painfully accurate:

    “This rogue Zionist-infested fascist state and its rulers are guilty of crimes against humanity.”

    Let’s break it down so that even the hopelessly indoctrinated good citizens like yourself can possibly start to understand facets of your beloved homeland that you hold beyond question, and clearly beyond thought.

    Zionist-infested:
    * Rahm Emmanuel, former IDF.
    * Joe Biden, interview with Israeli Television, “I am a Zionist, we all are.”
    * Obama, first event after securing the nomination, speech at AIPAC to reassure Israel of unshakable bonds
    * Obama, zero condemnation of Israeli atrocities in Gaza, condemned by all human rights organizations
    * unrelenting support for Israel, to the tune of billions of dollars per year, regardless of the extremism of the Israeli government in question, such as the current one, which has virtual carte blanche to do what it pleases, assured of U.S. taxpayer support.

    Fascist state:
    * marriage of corporations with the military-industrial complex
    * assumption of more and more powers by the presidency, what Bacevich calls “the imperial presidency”
    * wide ranging domestic spying
    * increased powers for the police
    * Patriot Act
    * militarization of the universities
    * pliant media

    Crimes against humanity:
    * covering up war crimes in Afghanistan
    * torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo
    * massacres committed by mercenaries hired by the U.S. government
    * unilateral decisions to initiate unprovoked wars
    * attacking those who never attacked the U.S.
    *abduction and indefinite detention of civilians from Afghanistan, without charge, without evidence

    Now, a tin foil hat is something that is meant to block the transmission of alien signals. It seems that much of the reality of the past decade has passed you by. Your tin foil hat apparently needs no further adjustment.

    You are right about one thing: nuts, really, quite mad — a good description of how you can live through this and not recognize what stands on top of your face.

  6. Unfortunately, I largely left out the “rogue” aspect, even if it is mentioned in passing above:

    Rogue state:
    * curtailing its commitments to the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners and civilian populations in occupied territories
    * going to war and ignoring the opposition of its closest allies
    * rejecting the International Criminal Court
    * failure to prosecute its war criminals for actual war crimes
    * covering up war crimes (also a war crime)
    * rejecting numerous treaties to govern the use of indiscriminately lethal ordnance

    …and that’s just for a start. That is the most obvious list that should really come to mind to anyone with a mind that has been paying attention.

    I was going to say that I would like to see what innocent, rosy-faced portrait you have in mind, but I know it already: the U.S. is “civilized” and “free,” and whatever its Harvard-trained men in suits do while sitting in leather chairs in prestigious institutions is above reproach. They can do no harm.

    I am thankful for the few who fight back, and the very few who actually have the decency, dignity and apparently the courage to state things as they are.

  7. How I would like to respond:

    I think the US a deeply flawed nation, one that has caused much damage around the world. I won’t get into how “great” a nation she is, mainly because I think such characterizations serve little purpose.

    The US is deeply conflicted, and often paradoxical. But I believe that as a nation she is sometimes good, and sometimes bad.

    To apply a worldview that has the US as consistently in the wrong, and those who oppose her as aggrieved by caveat, does not allow for acceptance of the time when the US does the right thing. Or, at least, acknowledgement that the US chooses not to do the wrong thing.

    Without a recognition that the US can be good, you relegate yourself to a fringe that adds little to any wider discourse.

    That line…rogue…Zionist…fascist…it sounds insane. It seems rabid. It takes away from everything else.

    And as for editing senior academics. Holy crap man, may you never find yourself editing a journal. Or does editing constitute a breach of academic freedom? Based on the length of many of your posts, I suspect you may believe that.

  8. Let me start with the ending first. I have edited a journal, yes, and peer reviewers recommended what they saw as improvements. The author was left to decide how best to address the recommendations and criticisms if any. Having a colleague write freely on my blog is a different matter — none of this is peer reviewed in any sense commonly accepted by academics. In fact, it’s not an academic blog…some claim to have “academic blogs” but the existence of such an entity, as something other than a contradiction in terms, is not widely accepted in academia. In this case then it would be arrogance on my part to tell Jamil, “no, this is what you should write.” I won’t do it. He writes what he wants, freely, and without censorship.

    The line that sounds insane to you — you should use your reaction productively. The way it strikes you is the same way that “your” words strike others when speaking about them. Too many people come to this blog having imbibed the slogan “No moral equivalence!” (which effectively boils down to this: when we torture, it’s a good torture, a democratic one; when “they” torture, it’s evil). The result is that they fail to learn a fundamental anthropological lesson that I try to teach here repeatedly — in fact, it has become one of the strongest leitmotifs of this blog: learn to apply your own standards of judgment to yourselves; don’t judge the sins of others as if you were angels; learn to see the world through the eyes of others; and, learn to see how you look in the eyes of others. So if the line sounds insane — despite the fact that there actually is factual evidence to support it — then you have to stand back and ask yourself: “Is this the way we sound to so many when we call them terrorists, thugs, rogues?”

    Does the U.S. ever do anything good? I am sure it does. You say that the line you objected to dismisses that possibility. Leaving aside that I am not certain it actually does that, let me ask you: do you think that America’s adversaries never do anything good?

    Last and least, the length of many of my posts: who doesn’t want to read, don’t read. If they want the Twitter version, I’m in there too. By the way, the line you objected to was great for Twitter, but it required considerably more words to flesh out. I leave the choice up to the reader.

  9. …then you have to stand back and ask yourself: “Is this the way we sound to so many when we call them terrorists, thugs, rogues?”

    Except that I don’t. I have never said that, and I never will. I would think that it sounded categorical, bloody, and mad. Just like the statement at issue.

    How many lists could I draw up showing that Bin Laden, or the Taliban, or Saddam are terrorists, thugs, and rogues? I think it is possible to match you item for item, to tell the truth.

    But it is not useful. Anything that I would say about a topic that starts with “…terrorists, thugs, rogues” would undermine the purpose of exchanging ideas. Just as happened with this post.

    If the left, even the academic left, wishes to be taken seriously, there is a measure of restraint that must be exercised no matter the perceived provocation. You have spent your responses assuming what I believe, how I have been indoctrinated, and what I would say in return. I have become your straw man for no other reason than I have questioned the approach of your guest poster. Your presumptions are, on the whole, wrong.

    So, yes. The remark was off the wall offensive. It belongs more on Speakers Corner than on a blog aspiring to discourse. It is not arrogance to suggest to someone using your forum that they tone down the rhetoric and focus on the issues. It reflects poorly on you that this site can be tagged as part of a lunatic fringe because of the needlessly hot air of tarnishing a nation with cheap characterizations. There may be more to the post than just calling a nation fascists, but why read past that?

    But go ahead, presume to tell me what I think and why I think it. So far I have enjoyed the parlor games of your presumptions…boy that Max, he got me pegged.

  10. If I misunderstood you, as you seem to be saying, then my apologies. I reacted to what was presented, and what appeared to follow a familiar pattern, which is not a straw man, but it also allows for no exceptions — which is what you appear to now be.

    Let me explain again: my commitment to free discourse and no censorship is an absolute one. If people do not want to hear or read certain things, then the problem lies with them, at least just as much. Offense is taken, at least as much as it is given.

    There is no one here that says that you personally are being targeted — also because we have no idea who you are — and there is no one constraining you to think like a nation. Why the nationalist reaction? This is something you need to examine, for yourself, about yourself.

    The presence of the remark you address will mean that some take offense, as you did. Others, instead, will take heart from the fact that some are willing to criticize in plain language, without speaking like they have butter in their mouths. As someone who claims to appreciate brief posts, you should know that long word plays that dance around an issue, in an attempt to fool or lull the reader into some state, are rarely short.

    If we are going to have any discourse at all, that is worth having, it has to be open, free, direct, and honest. I not only will not censor Dr. Hanifi, I do the opposite: I celebrate the fact that, for once, here is an Afghan anthropologist with tons to teach all of us about Afghanistan, and not as the servant who duly licks the boots of foreign warriors, who says what we hope to hear, want to hear, and in the way we want it said. If you are interested in learning, and not being entirely under the influence of your own government’s reductive demonizations, you would pay close attention.

    What is unacceptable is that anyone interested in Afghanistan would turn to an Afghan anthropologist with two immediate reactions: (a) you are offensive, and, (b) someone should shut you up.

    Do you follow me?

  11. It is very obvious to me that this is an argument in which I personally have no say, control, or authority over as I am a basically simple man.
    I post only to say that I find some of the tenets of islam to be “radically” offensive to women, who as fellow human beings should be given the rights that we, as men, enjoy. While it is true that women are of a different makeup than men, and therefore inherently flawed, it can also be said that this difference can be positively construed as constructive…. I find in my personal life, without the aid of my wife and partner, that I would not be able to navigate the difficulties of life and achieve the higher class lifestyle that we enjoy. Does this make me “soft” or unable to rip the balls off someone who questions my way of life? Hardly. I am THE man, my wife would NEVER say otherwise, and I am quite capable of taking care of my wife and family- and I accept her role as helper graciously.

  12. I think you are trying to be deliberately provocative with your commentary about women being inherently “flawed.” I was going to ask you to explain and list what you think those “flaws” are, but then I don’t want this to turn into Archie Bunker’s second home.

    Even without knowing you or your wife, I must certainly agree: she is very gracious, and certainly very tolerant.

  13. To the offended “Zionist Imperialist”:

    Now that you have Dr. Forte’s syllabus, here is a prescription of introductory readings to help sooth your pain:

    Blum, William. 2001. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.

    Finkelstein, Norman G. 2005. Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

    Mearsheimer, John J. and Stephen M. Walt. 2007. The Israeli Lobby and
    U. S. Foreign Policy.

    I would underscore Dr. Forte’s anthropologically couched recommendation for the installation of the software for empathy and doing empathy.

    The thinking that went into my construction of “This Zionist-infested fascist state and its rulers are guilty of crimes against humanity” was informed, in part, by the total destruction of the secular state of Iraq and Afghanistan—two countries that had done us absolutely no harm—the slaughter of tens of thousands of unarmed civilians in Dasht-e Layli, Faluja, Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Gaza, and the continued massacre of innocent and unarmed human beings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.

    What has the United State’s state machinery (not “nation”) and its partners in crime touched in the global system during the past sixty years that has not turned to dust and does not deserve “tarnishing” condemnation? Please help me come up with some expensive honorifics for this destructive and bloody record.

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