November 21, 2001
What are those incredibly
strange noises we hear coming out of the White House? When cats start
barking and dogs begin meowing, you know something's amiss.
George Bush, Colin Powell and
even Laura Bush, among others, have a new big cause, loudly proclaiming
their deep concern for the rights of women in Afghanistan.
Of course, they said nothing
about this issue in the five years prior to the Afghan War. And even
after the Afghan War started, they waited several weeks to bring up the
subject in any meaningful way.
Why the sudden interest in
the human rights of Afghanistan's horribly beleaguered women?
First, it's one element of
the Bush administration's just recently expanded effort to win the
propaganda war, which they feared they were losing to the Taliban. The
Taliban mistreatment of women is so universally condemned that merely
raising the issue is an easy way to score points.
Second, there's not a little
hope among the White House's re-born suffragists that as a byproduct, some
of this pro-women's rights rhetoric will help shrink the gender gap in the
U.S. electorate between Republicans and Democrats.
Does anyone seriously believe
that had the events of 9/11 not taken place, Laura Bush would be taking over
one of her husband's weekly radio addresses to announce her solidarity with
the suffering women of Afghanistan?
All this being said, I'm not
Better that Bush does the
right thing for the wrong reasons, than -- as is most often the case -- the
wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
Put another way, George Bush
and his cohorts never do a damn thing for anyone other than themselves and
those in their wealthy, ruling class-type circles -- unless they themselves
will benefit at least as much as those they are purporting to help. So
if the Bush administration can ensure that women's rights are guaranteed in
post-Taliban Afghanistan, more power to them, even if it does narrow the
electoral gender gap. (I would hope that no one would be fooled by this
transparently non-heartfelt policy, but assume that many people will be.)
The operative word is if.
Talk is cheap. Let's see what type of treatment is accorded women in
Afghanistan after a new government takes over.
Beyond that, let's see
whether Bush's newfound concern for women's rights extends beyond just where
it's politically expedient, and continues to where it's not, e.g., Saudi
Arabia, where women face some of the same drastic restrictions the Taliban
imposed on them.
I suspect George Bush,
feminist will quickly disappear. I could be wrong. And I hope I