In the name of liberating Afghan women several American feminist organizations joined forces with various American Zionist groups (including the Zionist “neocons”), manufacturers of weapons, and other American militarist groups to invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 incident. There is a substantial volume of academic and popular literature dealing with this general subject. This article historicizes the participation of two highly influential American educated Afghan compradors and their Western feminist wives in the production of policies and operations of the violent American imperial venture into Afghanistan. One of these wives, Rula Ghani, is the focus of this essay.
In an interview with the BBC (October 14, 2014), Rula Ghani, the 66 year-old Lebanese-American Christian wife of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the American appointed “co-president” of Afghanistan, lamentably stated that “My father had a very open mind. He was a very traditional person and then he had an open mind as far as I was concerned. And I love for all Afghan men to become like my father or like my husband”. The interchangeable modelling of father and husband suggests a mirrored oedipal complexity which leads the audience to assume that what Rula loves in men is a hybrid of masculine traits drawn from Ashraf Ghani and his Lebanese Christian father-in-law. Or, Rula Ghani’s lamentations may be anchored in her Christian faith in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ wants people to become like Him.
Rula Saade Ghani’s desire for Afghan men to become like her father or husband, her aspirations to Christianize the women of Afghanistan, her demand of more respect for Afghan women, and her consciousness about the presence of Judaism (see below) in her matrilineage, offer an opportunity to speak to her laments, longings, and aspirations and to identify and historicize the social context in which her cosmologies for changing social life in Afghanistan were constructed. An important layer of this context consists of a quartet: two Kabuli young boys—Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Zalmay Khalilzad—seeking “higher education” and two hypermodern young women—Rula Saade, a Europeanized Lebanese Zionist Christian and Cheryl Benard, a Euro-American staunch Zionist Jew. All four contemporaneously attended the ultra-liberal American University of Beirut (AUB) during the early 1970s. Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Khalilzad are prominent names in the American political discourse about the occupation of Afghanistan from its first step during October 2001 to the present. I have written elsewhere about the participation of Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Khalilzad in the American imperial venture into Afghanistan.
Here I wish to draw attention to the young women (especially Rula Ghani) in this quartet and reflect on how these two women and the two Kabuli boys coalesced into one of the most influential bands of Zionized feminists and feminized compradors in the service of the American imperial savagery in Afghanistan. How did two Western-struck Kabuli boys and their Western Zionist wives end up playing such crucial roles in the bloody American destruction of Afghanistan? Specifically, how did a Westernized hypermodern fiery feminist Lebanese Christian woman end up being the “banu-ye awal” (Farsi, first lady) of Afghanistan being interviewed by the BBC in the presidential palace of Afghanistan?
Rula Saade Ghani or bibi gul (Farsi, flower lady—her Kabuli household honorific title) was born in Lebanon in 1948 to a Maronite Christian father and a Jewish mother. She completed her undergraduate university education at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris during 1968. Rula “recalls vividly her time in Paris during the student uprisings of the 1968”; she “found it very refreshing to see people decide that there are certain things they wanted and some things they did not want. It showed some independence of mind” (Pulse Religion, November 3, 2014). She states that “her time at the (French) university, together with two years working as journalist for Agence France Presse in Beirut, trained her to ‘think in a very logical way’”(ibid). “At AFP her role involved monitoring Arab radio and press every morning for news related to the political upheavals of the early 1970s” (ibid). Rula Ghani adds: “It was great training for a journalist, because it taught you to be quick but at the same time you had to be accurate” (ibid). Thus, we can see some of the roots of Rula’s fluency in French language and admiration for French culture. I do not have information about the political and economic resources which enabled Rula Saade Ghani to study in France. Clearly, the socio-economic location of her parents and their modernist ideological orientation was a major factor in this Lebanese teenage girl’s solo journey to the cradle of European feminism and liberal modernism.
Rula Saade Ghani, “a self-professed Francophile” (The Red Bulletin, October 3, 2014) is in “full agreement with” the 2011 French ban on women’s veil (Daily Mail, October 31, 2014; The Muslim Times, December 15, 2014; AFP, October 3, 2014). Rula urges Afghan men to “give women more respect” (The Red Bulletin, October 3, 2014) and declares that women “should be respected for whatever role they are taking, whether it’s at home or outside the home” (Radio Free Europe, November 28, 2014) implying that Afghan women are not respected or not respected enough by Afghan men. What standards of respect for women and their various roles are etched into Rula’s cultural and political handbook of womanhood and femininity?
After returning from France in 1968 Rula Saade enrolled at the ultra-liberal American University of Beirut—a secular private university accredited by the New York Board of Regents. AUB regularly collaborated with the University of Paris, Columbia University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University. While Rula Saade was a student at AUB, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Zalmay Khalizad, and Cheryl Benard were also enrolled at that institution. The four students could be considered classmates. All four received academic degrees from AUB within 2-3 consecutive years: Rula (Saade) Ghani received an MA in journalism during 1974; Cheryl Benard earned a BA in political science during 1974; Zalmay Khalilzad received a BA degree during 1974 and an MA in political science during 1976; Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai received a BA (probably 1974) and an MA in political science during 1977. (Also, Anwar ul-Haq Ahady [Karzai’s minister of finance] received a BA from AUB in 1974. He holds a PhD in political science  from Northwestern University). While at AUB these four students became close friends leading to marriage—Rula Saade married Ashraf Ghani during 1974 and Cheryl Benard tied the knot with Zalmay Khalilzad around this time (specific year unknown).
Ashraf Ghani’s marriage to Rula created the framework in which Fouad Saade, Rula’s older Marxist brother (and a member of AUB faculty), tutored Ashraf Ghani enabling him to earn academic credentials from AUB. I have been told by an Afghan contemporary of Ashraf Ghani at AUB that Ashraf Ghani was failing at AUB and was close to being dismissed when, due to the intervention of Rula, Fouad Saade ordered Ghani to stay locked up in his room until he had memorized a pamphlet about Marxism. Upon Ghani’s passing a quiz about the pamphlet and at the request of his sister, Fouad Saade agreed to tutor her husband and intervened with the AUB administration not to dismiss Ghani because of poor grades (Nassratullah Wassimi [Ph. D., Michigan State University, 1985], personal communication, Okemos, Michigan, Summer1992). Understandably, Ashraf Ghani’s PhD thesis is dedicated “to the memory of Fouad Saade”. This life-saving historical experience must be an important conditioning element in the personal, academic and political power of Rula Ghani over the thinking and behavior of her husband. Here is another example of this Rula-Ashraf power hierarchy: The title of Ashraf Ghani’s thesis (1982 or is it 1984—both dates are printed on its cover pages) is “Production and Domination: Afghanistan, 1747-1901”. In footnote #3 to his 1990 article in the Journal of Afghan Affairs 6(4):150 Ashraf Ghani writes: “I have dealt with these issues in a book called Production and Domination: Afghanistan 1747-1901, currently under publication by Columbia University Press”. A few years later, probably during 1993, in a telephone conversation, I asked Ashraf Ghani about the status of his book from Columbia University Press. I do not recall the exact words of his reply but I do remember hearing something like “Rula decided not to publish it”. This book is yet to be published. Rula seems to be the author of all that Ashraf Ghani is intellectually, politically and socially.
In an interview with Foreign Policy (PashtunForum [Bost Bastan News], March 20, 2014), Rula Saade Ghani reveals information about her husband’s pro-Israeli foreign policy: “Dr. Ashraf Ghani has a very intellectual approach to his country’s affairs and believes in cooperation with all countries in the world for political and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan. He believes that there is no reason to cut relations with any country in the world and just setting up a relationship with them is important. Dr. Ashraf Ghani believes that both Palestine and Israel should simultaneously have representation in Kabul and there is no political obstacle in the way”. In this interview we also learn about Rula’s Christian and Jewish background and her thinking about Afghanistan and the prospects of the conversion of its women to Christianity: “being Christian is not a crime; however, my mother is a Jew. I believe that Afghan women have converted to Islam under pressure, because there have not been another way. If you describe Christianity for them, no doubt, more than half of them will be converted to this religion. During past ten years, I have indirectly supported the works of some Evangelical Christian groups in the central, northern regions as well as Kabul. If I am present in presidential palace, surely I will expand this job. Because Afghan people should know that Christianity isn’t what Mullahs have told them. Women’s freedom will be so sweet on its own that will solve the issue of my Christianity”. Rula Ghani’s Christian and Jewish heritage have become sources of distrust in Kabuli political discourse. Maulawi Habibullah Hasham, a prominent religious leader in Kabul has stated: “I believe her (Rula’s) mission is to convert people to Christianity” (Declan Walsh and Rod Norland, “Jolting Some, Afghan Leader Brings Wife into the Picture”, New York Times, October 14, 2014). Others in Kabul have stated that Rula Ghani is “an Israeli agent” (ibid).
Other than what I stated above regarding Rula-Ashraf power relation, I do not have reliable information about the hierarchies of power involving these two Kabuli husbands and their wives. But based on what is available in the media, we can locate some other indicators of power relations in this quartet. There is a visible rejection and ambiguous use of ordinary Euro-American and Westernized Kabuli customs of post-marital naming in one of these two marriages. It is widely stated that Cheryl Benard and Zalmay Khalizad have two sons: Alexander Benard and Maximillian Benard. There is no trace of Khalizad’s Kabuli cultural identity, especially his name, in the names of these boys. Perhaps Zalmay Khalilzad is not the biological father of Alexander and Maximillian. Nor is there any effect of Khalilzad’a name in the post-marital identity of Cheryl Benard, his alleged wife. This may be related to Benard’s Jewish matrilineal and matrifocal ideology and/or the matricentric nature of their marital (or non-marital) relationship.
After AUB Zalmay Khalilzad and his wife moved to the University of Chicago where he studied under Albert Wohlstetter, one of the most influential Zionist academics in North America and recipient of several awards including medals from the US government for his promotion of the Cold War and anti-Soviet and pro-Israeli activities. Under Wohlstetter’s supervision at Chicago, Khalilzad received a PhD in political science during 1979. During the transition from AUB to Chicago, Cheryl Benard managed to receive a doctorate in political science from the University of Vienna. (I am unable to find more information about this overlapping transition). After a brief stint at Columbia University during the early 1980s where he developed a close relationship with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the polish born hater of Russians and an anti-Soviet Cold War agitator, Zalmay formally joined the American neocon group (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, Lewis “scooter” Libby, etc.) in the US government policy-making apparatus at the Department of State, Department of Defense, the White House, and private institutions.
These experiences enabled Cheryl and Zalmay to get connected with influential political and academic Zionist networks (especially the RAND Corporation). Zalmay and his wife were regularly present at official ceremonies and receptions at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. All this earned Zalmay Khalilzad the title “Zionist poodle” in American political circles. The neocon and Zionist groups to which Zalmay and Cheryl belonged manipulated the American state apparatus to invade and destroy Afghanistan and Iraq. Cheryl and Zalmay have jointly authored numerous publications about Islam, Afghanistan and Iraq. These writings (many of them published by RAND) are heavily tinted with imperial feminism, Islamophobia and Zionism. Zalmay Khalilzad and Cheryl Benard currently live in Vienna, Austria. Recently there were allegations in the media about the illegal transfer of millions of dollars to Cheryl Benard’s bank account. Cheryl Benard continues to serve as senior policy adviser at RAND. It has been reported that Zalmay Khalilzad’s role model was (the now dead) famous anti-Muslim Lebanese Zionist Fouad Ajami who most likely recruited Zalmay Khalilzad and Cheryl Benard (and probably Rula and Ashraf Ghani) for the Mossad
Unlike Cheryl Benard, Rula Saade appears to have incorporated portions of her husband’s name into her identity after their marriage. (This may be strictly for political purposes. I do not have access to official documents like their passports and citizenship papers). But this does not reflect the variety of names with which Ashraf Ghani markets himself. In some instances Rula has added Ghani to her pre-marital name (Rula Saade Ghani); in other cases she has replaced her last name (Saade) with Ghani (Rula Ghani).
Ashraf Ghani’s 1977 MA thesis at AUB is under the name Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Ashraf identifies himself as “Ashraf Ghani” in his PhD thesis. After returning to Afghanistan with the American occupation forces during 2001, he has fluctuated between these two names. When he was Karzai’s minister of finance and President of Kabul University he called himself Ashraf Ghani. During the recent “elections” Ashraf campaigned as “Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai”. After he was sworn in as “president” of Afghanistan he issued an executive order in which he instructed the Kabul government bureaucracy to officially address him as “Mohammad Ashraf Ghani” (Omaid Weekly, #985, November 5, 2014, p. 1). This last format is the one with which he is identified in Ludwig Adamec’s 1987 “A biographical dictionary of contemporary Afghanistan” (p. 55). Multiple and fluctuating identities are also visible in how Ashraf dresses in public. It is likely that Rula has a hand in how her husband—her model of masculinity for Afghan men—constructs himself in public space with names and body covers. However, due to the mercurial shifts in her husband’s self-naming (Ashraf Ghani, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Mohammed Ashraf Ghani) we cannot be certain how will Rula be identified (in the long run) in the media and in the annals of Afghanistan’s politics and histories.
Following graduation from AUB Ashraf and Rula moved to Columbia University in 1977 or 1978. After acquiring a doctorate degree from Columbia University (1982 or 1984), Ashraf Ghani taught for one year at UC-Berkeley. From 1984-1991 he was a member of the anthropology department at Johns Hopkins University. At JHU Ashraf became closely associated with Sidney Mintz, the founder of the anthropology department at JHU and a theoretician in political economy with knowledge about and connections with institutions housing global corporate capital. Mintz had served as a consultant with various “development” programs. It is probable that the link with Mintz enabled Ghani to join the World Bank from where he could bridge American corporate capital with the “Third World” resources. In fact, to this day, in his public rhetoric, Ashraf Ghani continues to entreat corporate capital to “fix” Afghanistan by way of exploiting its human and natural resources.
It was at Johns Hopkins University where Rula Ghani found an opportunity to closely engage materialist theory in anthropology and apply her linguistic skills in French. She translated Sidney Mintz’s landmark 1985 “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” into the 1991 French “Sucre blanc misere noire: Le gout et le pouvoir”, Nathan: Centre nationale des letters. Rula’s repeated crude use of concepts like “civil society” is probably historically grounded in her association with Marxist anthropologists and their writings at Columbia and Johns Hopkins. Before joining the World Bank during 1991 Ashraf attended the Harvard-INSEAD (French, Institut Europe’en d’Administration des Affaires [European Institute of Business Administration]) and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business. Of course, during these orientations and during Ashraf Ghani’s work for and romance with heated capital, Rula must have been standing close by looking over her man’s shoulder. (During the years of his residency in the United States [1978-2001] or when he was at AUB, Ashraf Ghani had developed a taste for crabs—a taboo food for Muslims. One of his associates at Johns Hopkins recalls: “He liked fairing out for crabs….He loved the crabs” [Jean Marbella, “Former Hopkins Professor Eyes Afghan Presidency”, Baltimore Sun, April 27, 2014]).
As we can see, during the last three decades of the twentieth century, our quartet of AUB graduates have been absorbing ideas about and feelings for corporate capital in the back alleys and corridors of the American state machinery. The 9/11 incident created the framework for the Kabuli boys in our quartet to return home to Afghanistan not as patriots but as guides and pimps for the enraged American imperial venture into Afghanistan. Ashraf and Zalmay started their return home by playing leading comprador roles in organizing the 2001 Bonn Conference which created the bogus legitimizing machinery for the occupation of Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad became the American ambassador to Kabul. Ashraf Ghani became a high ranking member of the American installed Kabul government. The remainder of their service for the American empire in Afghanistan is stored in history.
Until the last three months of 2014, Cheryl and Rula had remained “behind the scene” and invisible to public view. This is more so in the case of Rula. Cheryl has enjoyed a more visible public presence especially through her published writings. Rula did not appear in public view until the last few months of 2014, during the American sponsored “presidential elections” in Afghanistan. But we all know that she has been there producing and directing the smoke and mirrors performances of her man standing knee deep in the blood soaked political and economic ruins of Afghanistan openly expatiating scripts that are inspired and colored by Rula Ghani’s imperialist feminism. And there are reports (Zhman blog, December 25, 2014) about Zalmay Khalilzad and Cheryl Benard having opened an office in the Kabul presidential palace. If this is true, it would be another, more visible, reunion of the AUB quartet engaged in planning and committing crimes against the people of Afghanistan in the service of American imperial stupor.
In engaging the history and the highly influential role of this quartet of AUB graduates in the American intervention (during the 1980s and 1990s) and post-2001 occupation of Afghanistan some important questions need to be contemplated and answered: Is the convergence of this quartet at AUB during early 1970s a mere historical coincidence? Did these two couples happen to accidentally appear in Beirut during the 1970s in the midst and in the aftermath of the 1967 and 1973 wars between Egypt and Israel? Or was this quartet tracked by Zionist ideological forces to converge on the campus of the American University of Beirut during the early years of 1970s to create the cradle for the upcoming Euro-American destabilizing interventions in Afghanistan and other spaces in the Middle East? What is Cheryl Benard, a Louisiana born Austrian Jewish Zionist woman, doing in Beirut, not far from the border of Israel? The construction, historical course, and the current presence of these two Afghan compradors and their Zionist wives in the highest levels of the American-constructed and subsidized government bureaucracy of Afghanistan require a systematic and comprehensive scrutiny. Here I have merely presented a brief outline about and a few historical, political, and ideological glimpses at this powerful but mysterious quartet.
In closing this outline, the following advisories are issued as blunt and forceful rejections of Rula Ghani’s lamentations and imperial dreams about respect for Afghan women and Afghan men becoming like her father and husband.
Rula Ghani: There is no ”War on Women” in Afghanistan. Nor is there a war on Afghan men. The people of Afghanistan do not want or need a gender war. You will not be able to or allowed to start a war on men in Afghanistan. Given the crude radical feminist bubbles that radiate out of your rhetoric, you are planning to seed a war on men in Afghanistan. But fortunately, the cultural values of the people of Afghanistan (and the Middle East, Central and South Asia) do not promote or accommodate wars promoting free for all, anything goes, inter-gender relations. (Read Do Muslim women need saving? (2013) by Lila Abu Lughod). The women of Afghanistan do not want to be demeaned by being sexualized and vulgarized; they do not want to be pornographized like the women of America—the cradle of your identity as a female and imperial feminist. Afghan women do not want to become participants in the growing American “vaginal rejuvenation, basically pussy tightening” industry (JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, September 28, 2009, p. 8; also, see Rachel P. Maines, 1999, The technology of orgasm: “hysteria”, the vibrator, and women’s sexual satisfaction and Viv Burr, 2008, Sex, violence and the body: the erotics of wounding). No matter what you (and your mentally unstable comprador husband and the other members of your quartet) imagine, the women of Afghanistan are fully respected by the people of Afghanistan for the contributions they make to the political economy of the communities in which they live. They do not want to show “skin”—virtually naked bodies for the gaze of men in public view. Indeed, the women of Afghanistan and the larger Islamicate (and much of the so called “Third World”) enjoy far more respect (for all the statuses they occupy and all the roles they perform) during their life course than the women in Europe and your dreamland USA where you have spent most of your adult life and where you learned the culture of “skin”—hyper-sexualized and vulgarized womanhood—through the false consciousness of “feminism”, “equal rights” and other tactics of male domination. The ideology and “deep structure” of Rula’s “feminism” is all about women’s freedom to show “skin” in public view—the more visible and accessible, the more decorated and perfumed a woman’s presence with “skin”, the more she would be tolerated (and desired) by men—retreat to the good old days of our primate ancestors.
Rula Ghani: Face and embrace the bloody historical and political realities of the past few decades: The vile American feminist hysteria (which you openly represent) actively encouraged the Zionized imperial American warfare machine to destroy the state structure of Afghanistan causing massive painful separation, dislocation, migration and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent and unarmed Afghan children, men and women. You, your feminism, your husband, and AUB classmates have participated (and continue to participate) in crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Rula Ghani: Keep your delusions and hallucinations about “respect”, “feminism” and “human rights” to yourself. Remember, the massive size and scale of the American industry of “shelters for abused and battered women” is unmatched in the world. In no other country are women, womanhood, and femininity so abused, demeaned, exploited, vulgarized, sexualized, and pornographized as in your homeland USA. Your America leads the world in the degree and extent of widespread violence (especially domestic violence) including rape against women. Rula: Being a smart woman, married to the second “top thinker” in the world, are you familiar with “glass ceilings” for women and “invisible escalators” for men (both made by men) in your beloved America? Invisible man-made cultural and political barriers are virtually non-existent in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan do not want to be Christianized or Americanized.