Monday, November 16, 2009

An Encounter With The Latest Poster Girl For Dizzy, Bourgeois Vanity.

"Bravest woman in Afghanistan" my ass, Brian Platt, my colleague at the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, observes. Brian also discovers that to ask the only pertinent question of Malalai Joya - have you even thought about the implications of what you are demanding? - is to be dismissed and shouted down by Joya's fans for asking an impertinent question.

During my many conversations with feminists and progressives in Afghanistan last year, one thing that came through loud and clear was that the "troops out now" posture so commonplace in polite society in western countries has no support among Afghan women's leaders. What was also clear was that Joya and her backers with the so-called Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, to the extent that they are thought about at all, are regarded as faintly ridiculous and marginal characters, at best.

Apart from slandering the leadership of the Afghan women's movement, engaging in weird and disruptive sectarianism and busying themselves with the attention-getting exhibitionism of transgressive, Maoist sloganeering, what the hell has RAWA done for anyone lately? And what has Malalai Joya ever done?

Six years ago, Joya was elected to the Afghan parliament - an event that wouldn't have even happened if all her rich "troops out" friends in Southern California had gotten their way. In 2003, she made a speech in the Loya Jirga that made her famous for its resort to unparliamentary language of the kind that would have earned any politician, anywhere, at least a suspension. In 2007, she said similarly mean things about certain of her hillbilly parliamentary colleagues in a television interview. That's about it. So what?

In Afghanistan, Joya is dimly remembered for these things, but is otherwise beautifully useless, and is in fact understood as largely an invention of the western media, anyway. For all the stenography that accompanies her travels in the masquerade of "journalism" in western capitals, it isn't at all clear what her real story is. Malalai Joya isn't even her real name.

It is only in "the west" that she serves any purpose. She can be summoned as a sort of celebrity spokesmodel for that caste of the west's rich liberals who have a weird need to believe the lie that there is something "feminist" or "progressive" in the narcissistic, reactionary isolationism they have adopted as the defining mark of their own political virtue. It's the reason why so much effort is expended in building up a cult of celebrity around Joya. That's all that's going on here. It has absolutely nothing to do with what Afghan women want or need.

Even in the "west," real feminists understand this: "Though we'd prefer that all U.S. funding be spent on development aid, we cannot in good conscience advocate the immediate military pullout that some are suggesting. The 2009 UN Humanitarian Action Plan noted that in 2008, "Approximately 40% of the country, including much of the South, remains inaccessible for most humanitarian organizations." Last year, 92 aid workers were abducted and 36 were killed, double the number from 2007. In recent public opinion polls, Afghans put security in their top three concerns right after food. Without stabilizing the country, there can be no significant redevelopment effort."

You want a real, brave Afghan feminist? Just one, among thousands, is Sima Samar, head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission: "Finish the job you started. It's not just for protecting Afghanistan, or protecting Canadians. It is about the protection of humanity. This is a human responsibility. It isn't possible to escape this kind of responsibility."


Blogger Robert W. said...

Terry, there's something I'm not clear about. What is "Malalai Joya" predicting will happen once the Western forces pull out?

Is she suggesting that the Taliban will not come back and take over the country?

Most curious.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I'm not clear either, because she tends to give different answers whenever she's asked the question - yes it would be chaos, wait, no it's chaos now, etc. - or refuses to answer the question at all, as was Brian's experience.

Ask Steve Coll what would happen -is there anyone who understands the situation better than Steve Coll? - and this is his reply:

5:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Terry, how many Canadians root for the Taliban to defeat the GIRoA and ANSF? How many Canadians see the ANA as an evil instrument of repression?

In America, many Americans use to root for those attacking the GoI (Gov of Iraq) and its ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) in 2004-2007. When the GoI and ISF won, then suddenly this support stopped. Strange.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Who are the warlords? Haven't the GIRoA and ANSF mostly completed dismantling the various warlord militias?

5:19 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...


A "warlord" is pretty well anyone of any means or substance in Afghanistan circa 2001. Sometimes used interchangeably with "tribal chieftain." Always intended as a pejorative. Usually the most unseemly sort of character. But not always.

By the way, the short version of Steve Coll's answer to the question, What if the UN/Nato/ISAF/Yanks/Canucks/Brits all just left like the stoppists want?

1.The Nineties Afghan Civil War on Steroids 2. Momentum for a Taliban Revolution in Pakistan 3. Increased Islamist Violence Against India, Increasing the Likelihood of Indo-Pakistani War 4 Increased Al Qaeda Ambitions Against Britain and the United States.

These days, Obama and Gordon Brown seem to be fixated on # 4, which is the least likely outcome, and the least saleable argument to the 40 other countries with soldiers dedicated to the project through ISAF.

We should be focussing on the Afghan people, and their security, and their needs, and helping to rebuild their country. we should be listening to them, and not cocktail-circuit celebrities who claim to speak for them.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

PS Mikeal: Drop dead. You're not welcome here.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Robert W. said...

Thank you Terry and Anand.

As for anonymous "mikeal", I have no idea what he wrote but I can make an educated guess. Too many people on the Internet - and I'm guessing he's one - think it's perfectly fine to enter a discussion and scream whatever $%#!@$%$@%^!@#!& they feel like. Such comments add NOTHING to the conversation, almost always provide no facts, and often are laced with more than a little hate and bigotry.

Yet when a moderator removes such comments, the anonymous thug screams "Free Speech, Free Speech!" How ironic that they seem to never exert their free speech rights via their own blog! I think we all know the reason why.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I have half a mind to publish Mikael's real name, his home address, and some of his lurid assocations.

But I couldn't be arsed.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Robert W. said...

Mikael and others may want to read these reasons the Huffington Post gives for enforcing moderation on their comment sections:

8:33 PM  
Blogger HOZ said...


I think, unfortunately, that you are fighting a losing battle. It is too bad.

1) People seem to revel in ignorance. "There is no reason to be there" and "It was an American (Bush)Imperial War" crowd is either unable or unwilling to listen to reason.
2)Our puny military simply doesn't have the capability to continue.
3)Our media has become too lazy to seek out the truth and rely too much on talking points.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

"Our puny military simply doesn't have the capability to continue." Complete nonsense. The Canadians could supply an understrenght "advisory" FID centric brigade that "embeds" with the Kandahar ANP over many years. Canada has enough brigade HQs to keep one in Afghanistan for many years. The Canadian understrenght brigade could be substantially augmented by US soldiers.

If the Canadians would take lead responsibility for advising the Kandahar ANP, that would be a sufficient contribution to the Afghan war.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...


Thank you for your contributions here. They're thoughtful, well-informed, and helpful.



11:47 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

. . .although HOZ does have a point about the Canadian military continuing at current strength in Kandahar.

11:49 PM  
Blogger HOZ said...


I agree with you. We could do that and if we must pull out I would prefer Canada doing something like that than sitting it out. That said...

I'd rather be fighting the good fight than cheering on the Americans doing it for me. Many of the Europeans, with far larger militaries, have been doing that to us for years now. It is unappreciated.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Bernard said...

I am trying to figure out how things in Afghanistan would be better if you remove the NATO troops. It strikes me they are the only power in the country that is reliably on the side of the people on the ground.

The NATO troops are not corrupt and have no agendas on the ground, something that is good to emulate. The NATO troops have strict rules of engagement, something that is good to emulate in the country.

After ages of no functioning civil society in the country, it is not a surprise that it will take time to develop the sort of social capital needed to make life work on a day by day basis.

Why does no one focus on the fact the NATO troops are the first ones in the country that are not there as a force of occupation?

2:11 PM  
Blogger Dave Zeglen said...

Moving the thread away from the topic of 'what would happen if troops left' for the moment, I'd like to ask some questions about RAWA specifically. I'm not very knowledgeable about Afghanistan, so hopefully someone will humbly oblige me.

What does RAWA do exactly? I've heard claims that they are Maoist, but if they are, why do they claim they radically opposed all Communist influence during 79-92?

Regarding RAWA's position about the US installing Northern Alliance leaders being just as bad as the Taliban, is this a legitimate claim? I thought the NA fought the Taliban? Or is this what you were referring to, Terry, when you defined 'warlord'?

Lastly, is there any substance to RAWA's social projects, ranging from schools to hospitals?

1:58 AM  
Blogger Mactaquac Mac said...

Dave Z: here's an informative video that details the development of the NA. Note the divisions of external support for Afghanistan's factions based on ethnic grounds.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Dostum traditionally was close to Turkey. Turkish special forces and trainers accompanied him in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Probably Iranian, Russian and Indian ones too.

Today, however, the warlords and former Northern Alliance have mostly been dismantled.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Dave, the Northern Alliance and warlord militias have been dismantled. The ANA and ANP manage security with ISAF assistance now.

RAWA is making a snide sectarian allegation. They are alleging that the ANA and ANP are "Northern Alliance." In practice the ANSF are 40% Pashtu, consist of professional officers.

4:05 PM  

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