In the United States we tend to hear (at least from the mainstream, corporate press) few options for the Afghan people after eight years of occupation by U.S. and NATO (a bit player) - either increase the numbers of U.S. forces or pull out and leave the country to the evil Taliban. It is, as are most of the arguments laid down by the U.S. foreign policy elite, simplistic, and demonstrates either a vast disregard of history and the current situation, or utter and complete ignorance, or perhaps both.
The situation that the foreign occupiers have created in Afghanistan owes much to the legacy of empire and its illegitimate child, colonialism, and the way the Western world has done business for hundreds of years. The only difference today is that the U.S. leads the way in conducting this dirty business, but it is essentially the same old ugly game, and the results for the Afghan people have been tragic.
Enter a dissenting voice, but not one from the United States; rather a voice from Afghanistan itself, and what is most incredible is that it is a woman's voice. Malalai Joya has been called "The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" by the BBC, and I do not doubt that she, and countless other Afghan women, have bravely stood up to the male-dominated, fundamentalist power structure.
After spending her early years in Iranian and Pakistani refugee camps, Malalai returned to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where she worked with underground organizations helping women. She was elected to the Loya Jirga that wrote Afghanistan's constitution, and then to the Parliament in 2005. She was suspended from Parliament in 2007 "after saying it was worse than a stable, because at least 'in a stable we have animals like a cow which is useful in that it provides milk, and a donkey that can carry a load.'" Now that is speaking truth to power!
Malalai continues to speak out just as forcefully, and always for the good of the Afghan people, as when she was in Parliament. You can read an interview with her at Foreign Policy in Focus, in which she gives an exceedingly clear picture of the mess we have created in eight years of occupation, and why the U.S. military (or any other military) cannot be part of the solution .
Malalai will soon be in the U.S. on a speaking tour; you can check the schedule by clicking here. If you are interested in the Canadian leg of her tour, click here. I know that the majority of you reading this blog are in Washington State, and YOU are in luck! Malalai will speak in both Seattle (Nov. 11) and Bellingham (Nov. 12). This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear the uncensored truth from one who recaptures the true essence of patriotism.
Meanwhile, go to United Against Afghanistan Escalation to see your Legislators' positions on increasing troops in Afghanistan, and call on them to oppose escalation. Time is short! Act NOW for Peace!
Read the interview with Malalai Joya at Foreign Policy in Focus.
Check out: A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, C2009, by Malalai Joya.
Read the special issue of The Nation that takes on the rationale(s) for escalation in Afghanistan.
Bonus Reading: How to get out of Afghanistan, By Hugh Gusterson 12 October 2009, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.