Lacan Was Right: There Are No Such Human Beings As Women

It must be what the US government is thinking since it decided to promote institutionalized rape, otherwise, what would be the point of this?

"The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You’ll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country’s roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency’s operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people — whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don’t offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region."

So let me see if I get this straight: if a warlord demanded a group of children because of his pedophiliac tendencies in exchange for loyalty and cooperation, that would work just fine, right? Whatever it takes. Or is it just when it is the means of raping more and more often that it works? Because that is what it is. What does these officials think these old guys do with Viagra, take and jerk off for as long as the boner last? No, they go home and rape the available women whether they like it or not.

As Historiann says,

But Afghanistan is officially a democracy, so, all is fine and dandy and US officials are only being culturally-sensitive, right. Because the only human beings recognized as people in this culture are men.

Afghanistan – Plus Ca Change…

[Update: Jonathan Turley reminds us that Muslim fundamentalists are not the only ones throwing acids in the faces of the women who challenge the religio-patriarchal order, Orthodox Jews in Israel have done it as well. It fits, of course, as acid is not only horribly painful but disfigures, that is, destroys what misogynists think women are only good for, beauty as sex appeal… note how one of the young teachers below has internalized this and is repeated mindlessly by the article (19, not married, afraid of being disfigured).]

Via The New York Times,

“No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.

A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.

The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.

One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.

”Today the school is open, but there are no girls,” Qaderi said Thursday. ”Yesterday, all of the classes were full.” His school has 1,500 students. (…)

Qaderi said he believes there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.

The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.

But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.

”They don’t want us go to school. They don’t like education,” said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.

”They didn’t say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away,” Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.

The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi’s face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother’s hand.

”I am worried that I will have scars on my face,” said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.

Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.”

This is not an isolated incident, girls schools have been targeted for such terrorist attacks, because that is what it is: terrorism.

“Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls’ schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls’ school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.”

It would be nice to see the government be actually proactive in protecting these women and girls from these obviously preditable attacks. Obviously, the assailants are not exactly hiding. Because, apparently, it appears that it is all left up to the courage of the teachers and their students to show up every day under the threat of these horrific acid attacks.

One cannot help but see the similarity in tactic between the Taliban and the anti-choice crowds that gather at clinics to bully women into submission to the patriarchal order. The social representation is the same: a woman’s body is a public image of her moral status as social object. As such, it can be mutilated (as in female genital mutilation), used for the public infliction of social sanctions (acid attacks) or taken over for the reproduction of the patriarchal order (forced pregnancy).

Culturally, there is a whole industry dedicated to the promotion of feminine norms of beauty and fitness, and others to make sure that women conform to these ideal norms of beauty and femininity. All these social practices have to be understood as a continuum of structural gender oppression.

As such, women live more deeply in the surveillance society than men as their actions, behavior, bodily display are all to be publicly interpreted as statements of conformity or deviance (with the corresponding sanctions) to culturally-established norms. In this sense, the terrorism of which they are victim in Afghanistan, and other places, is a strong means of social control, not a deviant act. Let’s call it Institutional Terrorism.

Afghanistan’s Most Famous Policewoman Assassinated in Kandahar

Kandahar, as the article indicates, is a Taliban stronghold. Malalaï Kakar, 40, mother of 6, was in charge of the Division of crimes against women at th Kandahar police department. She had received threats from the Taliban before. Herself the daughter of a police officer, she had fled the country when the Talibans had taken over but had returned in 2001. She had then become the first woman police officer.

Two years ago, Malalaï Kakar refused to wear the burqa and never went out without her weapon and in the company of a male relative. Police officers are especially targeted by the Talibans in the current wave of violence. In the past 6 months, 720 police officers have been killed. A policewoman had already been assassinated by the Talibans last June in the Western part of the country.

This is part of a clear pattern that indicates that living conditions are still precarious for women in Afghanistan, especially those that challenge the traditional gender role… or cages where the Taliban would like to have them confined.

Why We Fight: So Men Can Gang Rape with a Bayonet and Get Pardoned

I challenge you not to be utterly disgusted by this:

"The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has pardoned three men who had been found guilty of gang raping a woman in the northern province of Samangan.

The woman, Sara, and her family found out about the pardon only when they saw the rapists back in their village.

“Everyone was shocked,” said Sara’s husband, Dilawar, who like many Afghans uses only one name. “These were men who had been sentenced and found guilty by the Supreme Court, walking around freely.”

Sara’s case highlights concerns about the close relationship between the Afghan president and men accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.

The men were freed discreetly but the rape itself was public and brutal. It took place in September 2005, in the run up to Afghanistan’s first democratic parliamentary elections.

The most powerful local commander, Mawlawi Islam, was running for office despite being accused of scores of murders committed while he had been a mujahedeen commander in the 1980s and a Taliban governor in the 1990s, and since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Sara said one of his sub-commanders and body guards had been looking for young men to help in the election campaign.

“It was evening, around the time for the last prayer, when armed men came and took my son, Islamuddin, by force. I have eye-witness statements from nine people that he was there. From that night until now, my son has never been seen.”

Dilawar said his wife publicly harangued the commander twice about their missing son. After the second time, he said, they came for her. “The commander and three of his fighters came and took my wife out of our home and took her to their house about 200 metres away and, in front of these witnesses, raped her.”

Dilawar has a sheaf of legal papers, including a doctors’ report, which said she had a 17mm wound in her private parts cut with a bayonet. Sara was left to stumble home, bleeding and without her trousers."

The couple sued and pursued all legal avenues available to them to get justice, but in vain. Mawlawi Islam was elected to the Parliament and was able to protect the other men from prosecution. Then, he was assassinated, the men went to trial and were sentenced to 11 years in prison, except the commander, who was acquitted.

Then, Hamid Karzai personally signed the pardon, on the grounds that the men had been forced to confess to the crime.

Now that the story is out, it is all very embarrassing to the Presidency, so, there will be an investigation. However, one has to question what kind of institutional power structure the allies have allowed to develop in Afghanistan:

"The MP, Mir Ahmad Joyenda, said cases similar to Sara’s were actually becoming more common. The police and the courts, he said, were usually under the sway of local commanders. “The commanders, the war criminals, still have armed groups,” he said. “They’re in the government. Karzai, the Americans, the British sit down with them. They have impunity. They’ve become very courageous and can do whatever crimes they like.”

Sara and Dilawar are again in hiding, having felt too vulnerable to stay in their village. Dilawar was prepared to discuss the case. In Afghanistan, speaking about rape means risking further dishonour, but when asked whether he minded Sara’s story being publicised, Dilawar said, “We’ve already lost our son, our honour, we’ve sold our land to pay for legal costs and we’ve lost our home – what else can we lose?”"

Not Everybody is Feeling the Crunch

High gas prices, home foreclosures may be squeezing people in the United States and Europe (in major parts of the Global South, feeling the big time crunch is a chronic condition), but not everybody is hurting. According to the BBC, there are now more global millionaires:

"The number of people worth more than US$1m (£507,000) rose to 10.1 million in 2007, a wealth survey suggests. Despite the growing credit crisis, there were 600,000 more members of the global millionaires’ club than there were a year earlier. Their combined wealth also rose, by 9.4% to $40.7 trillion, according to Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini. The fast-growing economies of India, China and Brazil saw the biggest rises in the number of wealthy individuals. The number worth more than $30m increased by 8.8%, while their total wealth grew by 14.5%."

According to Cap Gemini’s World Wealth Report 2008, this is where the wealthiest are:

  • North America – $11.7 trillion
  • Europe – $10.6 trillion
  • Asia Pacific – $9.5 trillion
  • Latin America – $6.2 trillion
  • Middle East – $1.7 trillion
  • Africa – $1 trillion

How do these lucky few spend their money? According to the Guardian,

"They spend 16% of their money on "luxury collectibles" including cars, boats and private jets, another 16% on art-underpinning the booming global art market, 14% of their money on luxury travel and another 14% on jewellery, gems and watches. They spend 5% on sporting investments, buying up teams and race horses."

Well, that is certainly productive investment and not at all conspicuous consumption engaged in by the leisure class. But not all is rosy, however:

"The bad news for the world’s millionaires, is that their dollars are not stretching as far they used to. According to Merrill Lynch they face personal inflation rates of 6.2%."

Aww, now I feel really bad. They might have to give up some of the items listed above and that’s heartbreaking. I mean, it’s like these people in Indonesia who have to give up their children because their economic situation makes it more likely that the kids will be better off in an orphanage – via IRIN:

"Faisal, 13, has no idea why his parents dropped him off at a crowded orphanage in Jakarta six years ago and never returned. "I think they couldn’t afford my school," he said, struggling to remember their faces. (…)

Only 6 percent of about 500,000 children in Indonesia’s orphanages are actually orphans. But about 0.6 percent of the country’s 85 million children end up in institutions, one of the highest rates in the world, according to Save the Children in Indonesia.

The number of childcare centres is estimated to have jumped nearly five-fold over the past decade to more than 8,000, according to the NGO.

Florence Martin, a researcher for Save the Children, said this was an "alarming" trend, which is being underlined by rapidly rising fuel and food prices. Some parents are no longer able to pay for schooling and food, so rather than depriving their children of education they turn to the orphanages."

So, ok, that’s a little extreme, the rich won’t have to dump their kids in orphanages. That’s what exclusive private schools are for. Maybe, if the crunch continues, they will have to make them work for a living, you know, like some people in Afghanistan have to do to pay off their debts:

Bricks "Over 2,200 children are working long hours in dozens of brick-making factories in Nangarhar Province, eastern Afghanistan, to pay off their families’ debts, a survey by the Child Action Protection Network (CAPN), an Afghan body, has found.

Up to 90 percent of 2,298 children – boys and girls – who work in 38 brick-making factories in Sorkhrod District of Nangarhar Province do not go to school and are deprived of other means of education, said the survey conducted by a local non-government organisation (NGO), Wadan Afghanistan."

Let’s not forget that debt bondage is the most widespread form of contemporary slavery and brick-making is an activity where slavery is rampant not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere in Asia as well (for all things pertaining to slavery, Free the Slaves is the website to check out).

These children work 8 to 12 hours a day to help pay off their parents’ debt and brick-making is not work for children. It is dangerous and bone-breaking (literally).

But I guess as long as there is wealth production and upward "distribution", it means the system is still working! After all, if it stopped producing millionaires, now THAT would be reason to worry.

Is Al Qaeda Irrelevant or Broken?

Two good pieces on Al Qaeda landed in my Newsreader this week and they both point in the same direction, albeit in different terms. The first one is from Tony Karon who questions the current relevance of Al Qaeda as the big post-9/11 bogeyman. For Karon, Al Qaeda is irrelevant and always was. In this respect, Al Qaeda is comparable to Trotsky… Huh? How does the comparison apply?

"Al-Qaeda is irrelevant, and yet U.S. hegemony in the Middle East is facing an unprecedented challenge from Islamist-nationalist groups. To understand the link between al-Qaeda’s weakness and the greatly expanded strength of groups such as Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, Iran, over the past seven years, it’s worth turning to the 20th century precedent: Leon Trotsky and his followers vs. the larger, nationally-focused parties of the left in the mid 20th century.

Trotsky rejected pragmatism and compromise by nationally-based leftist movements and insisted, instead, that they subordinate their specific national interests and objectives to the fantasy of “world revolution.” And as a result, long before his murder by Stalin, he found himself holed up in Mexico City, manically firing off communiques denouncing all compromise, and being largely ignored by the more substantial parties of the left world-wide. He had become an irrelevant chatterbox, caught up in a frenzy of his own rhetoric while world events simply passed him by. The same can be said of Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri — it is not al-Qaeda, but the likes of Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood that represent the future of the nationalist-Islamist challenge to Western power in the Middle East."

What makes Al Qaeda seemingly powerful are two factors: the one mentioned by Karon, that is, the fact that the United States treats Al Qaeda as this omnipresent threat of global proportion and reacts to every action as if it were the beginnings of a terrorist apocalypse. The second one, which I think is relevant here and contributes to the first, is that fact that Al Qaeda, being a non-state group, articulates itself opportunistically to nation-based movements (Algeria, Philippines, Indonesia, or Iraq).

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From the Dark Ages – A Journalist Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy in Afghanistan

It’s a good thing the United States and NATO liberated Afghanistan from the fundamentalist religious rule of the Taliban and.. oh wait…

Afghanistan : le Sénat soutient la condamnation à mort d’un journaliste pour “blasphème”
LEMONDE.FR | 30.01.08

© Le Monde.fr

What exactly is the blaspheme? Sayed Parwez Kaambaksh, journalist at a local newspaper, stated that men and women should be equal within Islam and asked why a man could take four wives whereas polyandry is forbidden. According to the court ruling, such statement constituted a humiliation of Islam… Yes indeed, so what?

This case has gained some global visibility and international organization as well as the United Nations have mobilized against the judgment. Along with them, Reporters Without Borders (English version) as well as local journalists groups have called on President Karzai to intervene. This is actually a good test to see whether Afghanistan is now a democracy with a secular government or still a theocracy in disguise.

Well, the results are in on that one and it’s not encouraging: the Senate confirmed the judgment (something it is not constitutionally allowed to do) and the Senate President (an ally of Hamid Karzai) denounced the international mobilization as interference.

Sayed Parwez Kaambaksh has appealed his sentence.