Category Archives: International

Women, War, and Economics: NYTimes Special Issue

Today’s Times Sunday magazine is all about the women. From Hillary Clinton on a government agenda that actually pays attention to women and girls, to Liberia’s first female president on what things would look like if women ruled the world, to the rising power of female philanthropists, we’re seeing a lot of focus on the X-chromosome.

Two articles in particular caught my attention. First, one on a topic I’ve posted on before: Feminist Hawks. While I thought the Feminist Majority Foundation’s stance came out of the blue, the Times indicates that the feminist Hawk position has not only had web prescence since the 90s, but that it’s provided an argument for conservative warmongers like David Horowitz to appropriate. Of course, I had noticed before that the only time the Bush administration seemed particularly worried about women’s freedom was when using it as a talking point to support war in the Middle East.

Even though the article’s main focuses is the evolving web presence of feminist hawks in terms of Afghanistan, its failure to mention anything about the “War on Terror” in Iraq is still a problematic oversight. After all, any discussion of feminist hawks and the Middle East should point out that Iraq was the most secular country there pre-invasion. Now? Well, if you want a long read, check out What Kind of Liberation?: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. In brief, they’re way worse off. The state has moved much closer to a theocracy, restricting the rights and freedoms of women, while a March Amnesty International report details the rising violence against women–violence that wars tend to provoke, not solve.

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s “The Women’s Crusade,” which discusses the power of improving the position of women in fixing a slew of global ills, was a more impressive piece that you should click over and read immediately. Rather than suggesting invasion as a quick-fix for women’s rights, Kristoff and WuDunn spend a lot of attention on the potential of microfinance, probably the most interesting economic subject in ages. Seriously, if I’d been studying microfinance I might have stuck with my economic major; although, speaking of campus activities, my college did launch a microfinance organization, SEEDS, a couple years ago, and other student activist groups with an international focus have been getting onboard, too. Microfinance is sexy.

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Filed under Feminism, International, Iraq War

Murky Water: Murder and Crusades by America’s Favorite Mercenary

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder.

I’ve been thinking about this story, published at thenation.com, all day, but am still lacking in words to respond.

It’s not exactly disbelief that stops my train of thought: we’ve been aware of a lot of dirty dealings at the infamous Blackwater, so why not that owner Erik Prince had whistle-blowers against his corrupt company murdered? It’s just a bit much, especially as the first thing I see in the morning before I’ve even eaten. (I’m not a morning person.)

It’s especially disturbing when combined with the allegations that Prince also considered himself a “Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe” who “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.” (This is from just the opening paragraph of Jeremy Scahill’s article.) The Christian supremacists he attracted even borrowed call signs from the historical crusaders themselves, the Knights of Templar.

I guess when the US President even used the term crusade offhand to describe American military force (oh, George W., when will your memory fade away?), this shouldn’t be all that surprising either.

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Filed under International, Iraq War, Religion

Feminists and Atheists for War?

Codepink‘s  provided such splashy anti-war protests, I plumb forgot that feminism is not equated with peace. I was yanked from this pink dream by an angry  Alternet headline attacking the Feminist Majority Foundation for supporting increased peacekeeping troops to protect Afghan women and girls.

Then, on Monday, Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God, brought attentionto the warmongering of atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.

I recently discussed my frustration that today’s leading voices of atheism are predominantly male, despite my conception of the belief system as ideal for women, in bypassing the history of sexism (and misogyny) of most religion. Now feminism and atheism are bought being called out for their less-than-pacifistic tendencies.

I’m a recent convert to pacifism–I’ve always been primarily anti-war, but didn’t quite feel that I was a pacifist. After all, what about World War II? But under the influence of a close friend, I decided that I was a pacifist, though the deep imperfections of the world might mean you can’t always condemn a war (like WWII) as either right or wrong.

But I digress. Feminism and atheism are such core aspects of my beliefs, they feed into my support of pacifism in such a way that the links seem obvious. Of course, having studied the split in the international feminist movement and domestic organizations over support for the first world war, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Then, too, pacifists assumed that their feminist comrades would oppose war–and got a rude awakening by the hyper-patriotic jingoism of many leaders of the women’s movement.

And then there’s atheism…with all the wars (crusades) that have been fought in the name of one religion or another, I breathe a sigh of relief from within my secular humanist belief system that there’s no god pushing me to the battlefield. Yet Hitchens et al are demonstrating that their loathing–and fear–of fundamentalist religion has lured them into a violent stance.

For me, feminism, atheism, and pacifism are all about equality, understanding, and peace. It looks like people who share this sense might have to fight for their beliefs–with the mighty pen, of course.

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Filed under Atheism, Feminism, International

Red, White, and Blue: Bid Patriotism Adieu

It’s almost the Fourthof July: red, white, and blue color store windows, early (unauthorized) fireworks boom at night, and patriotism fills the air–leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s not solely bitterness over the way conservatives cried “anti-patriotic” (stealing a page from McCarthy) to stifle dissent toward the Iraq War, the anticipated resulting disaster, and the tragedy of unnecessary death. Some might call this a “misuse” of patriotism, a manipulation for a corrupt political agenda. But I don’t think it’s a misuse at all: it reflects the essential nature of patriotism and what it’s used for.

Patriotism and nationalism divorce people from a sense of universal humanity. Sure, the well-being of friends and family is and should be more important to you than that of people you’ve never met–the ability to create these bonds of personal caring is fundamental to human nature. However, there’s little noble in determining one stranger’s life to be superior to another stranger’s based solely on their nationalities. It’s not personal connection or human feeling that creates this situation: it’s an us-versus-them, we-are-better-than-them, mentality, that treats members of other countries as subhuman.

Would over a hundred thousand dead Americans be an acceptable toll for the Iraq War in the eyes of the U.S. public? Doubtful–the few thousand American fatalities to date are seen as too much, and even in the much-protested Vietnam War we lost just half that number. Yet, over a hundred thousand Iraqi deaths are overlooked. That’s patriotism: believing the death of human beings means less if they hold a different passport from your own.

In response to a question regarding whether better means than torture exist for gaining intel, former CIA officer Michael Scheueur replied: “Why would you care? If we get the information we needed and America is better protected, who cares? …These are not Americans.” That’s nationalism. That’s patriotism.

As the 4th approaches, the American public is learningabout the 100 detainees who died under torture, while Obama considers an executive order that will allow him to continue the Guantanamo Bay practices of indefinite detention. Is this something to celebrate?

“Patriotism” is also the concept behind intolerant (sometimes violent) religious fundamentalism, just by another name; it draws from the same place as racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. It’s about division.

We learn patriotism from the get-go, from idealized stories of the Revolutionary War taught in elementary school classrooms and children’s books. Especially in a democracy, war-mongering relies on patriotism and demonization of the other; domestic industry utilizes it to gain protective tariffs and subsides, and to wage economic warfare; and countries claim “sovereignty” to keep free of international agreements that would “bind” them” to serve a global well-being, ruining the potential of organizations like the United Nations.

I’ll love seeing the light show over the Hudson on Saturday, but let’s not swoon over a little razzle-dazzle. And if you’re desperate for a substitute for nationalistic patriotism on the 4th, think about becoming a card-carrying Citizen of the World. Hey–while he might not be registered, even Obama called himself a citizen of the world in Berlin last year. (Let’s hope he remembers.)

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Filed under International, Iraq War, Torture