The Worst Countries for Women (Afghanistan Isn’t on the List)

            Concern-trolling over the dismal plight of women in Afghanistan is powerfully appealing to liberals who look for reasons for the United States to maintain a military presence there. If and when the Taliban return to power, the warmongers argue, the bad old days of stonings, burqas and girls banned from school will come back—and it’ll be our fault because we didn’t stick around.

            Outrage over women’s inequality is often only ginned up in the service of some other aim, like invading Afghanistan or banning transwomen from high school girls’ sports teams. Scratch the thin veneer of phony feminism and the true agenda, which has nothing to do with women or girls, is quickly exposed.

            You may be surprised to learn that, according to a U.S. News & World Report analysis of data provided by the United Nations, Afghanistan isn’t among the ten worst countries for women. Which nations do have the worst gender inequality?

A list of staunch pals of the U.S.

But you’ll never see “woke” news media go after the U.S.’ best bros for treating women like dirt, much less the suggestion that these countries ought, like Afghanistan, to be bombed, droned, invaded and subjected to two decades of brutal occupation under a corrupt U.S.-installed puppet regime.

#1 worst nation in the world for women is the United Arab Emirates (“close friends and strong allies…with shared interests and common values,” crows the UAE’s embassy website, which showcases a cute photo of Biden). Common values that we apparently share with the UAE are its form of government (tribal autocracy), the torture and disappearance of political dissidents, female genital mutilation, wife beatings (perfectly legal), marital rape (perfectly legal) and “honor killings” (frowned upon and largely ignored). Women may vote, drive, buy property, travel and go to college. But they need signed permission from their “guardian”—who is usually their father or their husband.

Continuing down the list, we find U.S. “strategic ally” Qatar (#2), U.S. ally Saudi Arabia (#3), U.S. “treaty ally” India (#4), U.S. “partner” Oman (#5), major recipient of U.S. military aid Egypt (#6), U.S. “major non-NATO ally” Morocco (#7), U.S. ally South Korea (#8), U.S. “regional strategic ally” Sri Lanka (#9) and U.S. “key partner” Jordan (#10). Anyone who cares about the oppression of women should backburner Afghanistan, start with the UAE and work their way down this list of misogynist nightmare nations.

Not to say that the women of Afghanistan don’t have anything to worry about as the Taliban return to power. They do. Taliban spokesmen tell reporters that they’ve moderated their views about the status of women since 2001, that they would even allow women to work as judges and will now allow girls to continue their education and for women to work so long as they wear hijab. “Local sources told us the Taliban removed art and citizenship classes from the curriculum, replacing them with Islamic subjects, but otherwise follow the national [U.S.-backed government] syllabus,” the BBC reports from Balkh province near Mazar-i-Sharif. “The government pays the salaries of staff, but the Taliban are in charge. It’s a hybrid system in place across the country.”

 Reality in areas controlled by local Taliban commanders hasn’t corresponded with this relatively cheery and pragmatic vision. There are reports that the Taliban have demanded that girls over 15 and widows under 45 be forcibly married and, if they aren’t Muslim, converted to Islam. Taliban rule will likely be harsher and stricter in more rural areas.

It is perfectly reasonable to worry about the future of Afghan women. Though, to be fair, many were viciously oppressed, forced to wear the burqa, denied an education and even stoned to death, throughout the last 20 years of U.S. occupation. If you don’t, you are morally deficient.

But don’t forget the hierarchy of needs: women are even worse off in a number of other countries, all of which get a pass from the American press and giant chunks of American tax dollars from the American government. So the next time you hear someone affiliated with the U.S. government or in mainstream corporate media talking about how the Taliban mistreats women, remember that their real agenda is oppression and militarism, not emancipation.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Now available to order. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Divide and Conquer — Why Does the U.S. Hate Peace?

Give peace a chance, the song urges.

But the United States won’t have it.

Olympic diplomacy seems to be working on the Korean peninsula. After a pair of South Korean envoys visited Pyongyang, they issued a promising communiqué. “The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the statement said. Considering that the Korean crisis and a derpy emergency management official had Hawaiians jumping down manholes a few months ago, this news comes as a relief.

Then comes the rub. The South Korean statement continued: “[North Korea] made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed [my emphasis].”

In other words, the DPRK is saying — reasonably — we’ll get rid of our nukes but only if you promise not to invade us. That guarantee would have to be issued by two countries: South Korea and the United States.

This would directly contradict long-standing U.S. foreign policy, which clearly and repeatedly states that the use of military force is always on the table when we don’t get our way in an international dispute.

Kim Jong-On has good reasons to be afraid of us. In a speech to the UN President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. President George W. Bush declared them a member of the “Axis of Evil”; we invaded and currently occupy Iraq, one of the two other supposed Evildoers. After deposing and enabling the execution of Iraq’s president. Last week Bush’s UN ambassador John Bolton published a legal argument for nuking North Korea without provocation.

Believe it or not, this is the soft side of U.S. foreign policy.

For decades South Korea has tried to deescalate its relationship with the North, not infrequently expressing its desire to end formal hostilities, which legally never ended after the Korean War, and move toward the long-term goal of a united Korea under a single government. And for decades the United States has stood in the way, awkwardly trying to look reasonable as it opposes peace. “We do not seek to accelerate reunification,” a State Department spokesman said recently.

To say the least.

“South-North talks are inextricably related to North Korea-United States relations,” South Korean President Kim Dae Jung said in 2001, after Bush canceled dialogue with the North. The South, dependent on more than 20,000 U.S. troops stationed along its northern border, was forced to suspend reunification talks too.

The Reagan Administration pressured its South Korean ally to break off reunification talks in 1985.

Nixon did the same thing in 1974. After Nixon’s resignation later that year, President Gerald Ford opposed a UN resolution to demilitarize the border by withdrawing U.S. troops.

Even Mr. Reasonable, Barack Obama, refused to listen to South Koreans who want peace (and to visit long-lost relatives in North Korea). Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, Obama threatened to loose the dogs of war: “The United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always. That is what we do.” What Obama would not do was allow North and South Korea to sit down and work out their differences. Before talks, Obama said, North Korea would have to denuclearize. After which, of course, there would be no need for talks because, hey, regime change is fun!

Why, a sane person might ask at this point, would U.S. policymakers want to risk World War III over two countries that repeatedly say they want to make peace and get back together?

For my money a 2007 analysis by the geopolitical thinktank Stratfor comes closest to explaining what’s really going on inside the Beltway: “The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives.”

The U.S. is the Great Global Disruptor. “As powers emerge, the United States follows a three-stage program. First, provide aid to weaker powers to contain and undermine emerging hegemons. Second, create more formal arrangements with these powers. Finally, if necessary, send relatively small numbers of U.S. troops to Eurasia to block major powers and destabilize regions.” For example, Iran is the emerging hegemon in the Middle East. The U.S. undermines Iran with trade sanctions, props up rivals like Saudi Arabia with aid, and deploys U.S. troops next door in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Similarly the U.S. keeps China off-balance by propping up Taiwan and setting up new U.S. bases in the region. We play India against Pakistan, Europe against Russia.

A united Korea would create a new power center, potentially a new economic rival, to the U.S. in the Pacific Rim. So the U.S. uses threats (“totally destroy”) against the North and incentivizes the South (free border security).

It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sick. Here’s to the day the two Koreas see through us.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

AL JAZEERA COLUMN: Tied to a Drowning Man

The interconnectedness of the world economy means that US economic woes will have severe effects on others.

During the Tajik Civil War of the late 1990s soldiers loyal to the central government found an ingeniously simple way to conserve bullets while massacring members of the Taliban-trained opposition movement. They tied their victims together with rope and chucked them into the Pyanj, the river that marks the border with Afghanistan. “As long as one of them couldn’t swim,” explained a survivor of that forgotten hangover of the Soviet collapse as he walked me to one of the promontories used for this act of genocide, “they all died.”

Such is the state of today’s integrated global economy.

Interdependence, liberal economists believe, furthers peace—a sort of economic mutual assured destruction. If China or the United States were to attack the other, the attacker would suffer grave consequences. But as the U.S. economy deteriorates from the Lost Decade of the 2000s through the post-2008 meltdown into what is increasingly looking like Marx’s classic crisis of late-stage capitalism, internationalization looks more like a suicide pact.

Like those Tajiks whose fates were linked by tightly-tied lengths of cheap rope, Europe, China and most of the rest of the world are bound to the United States—a nation that seems both unable to swim and unwilling to learn.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, a process that began in the 1970s and culminated with dissolution in 1991, had wide-ranging international implications. Russia became a mafia-run narco-state; millions perished of famine. Weakened Russian control of Central Asia, especially Afghanistan, set the stage for an emboldened and highly organized radical Islamist movement. Not least, it left the United States as the world’s last remaining superpower.

From an economic perspective, however, the effects were basically neutral. Coupled with its reliance on state-owned manufacturing industries to minimize dependence upon foreign trade, the USSR’s use of a closed currency ensured that other countries were not significantly impacted when the ruble went into a tailspin.

Partly due to its wild deficit spending on the gigantic military infrastructure it claimed was necessary to fight the Cold War—and then, after brief talk of a “peace dividend” during the 1990s, even more profligacy on the Global War on Terror—now the United States is, like the Soviet Union before it, staring down the barrel of economic apocalypse.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera English.

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