“Afghanistan is vital to American interests.” This statement, used to justify our war in Afghanistan, troubles me. But not for the reason it troubles many. For me I would rather the statement be more like “Afghanistan is vital to American interests and to humanity.”
My issue here is this: Why should we only be considering American interests in determining whether we remain in Afghanistan or not? Shouldn’t we consider the interests of the millions of Afghani citizens, who would be helpless victims of the Taliban should we leave? Should these mostly women and children not be a factor in our consideration of whether or not we stay and fight to win?
I know, I have heard the argument that we can’t be everywhere, save everyone, and stop despotism all over the world. But we are IN Afghanistan. We are there, we have committed enormous amounts of blood and treasure, and the good Afghan people are counting on us now whether we like it or not.
Consider Afghan women. When the Taliban took over in 1996, women who were professionals and doctors and teachers became beggars and prostitutes as they were no longer allowed to work. They had no choice in who married them. If they were even suspected of having illicit sex they were murdered. If they were raped, they were murdered! Their life expectancy was 44 years. 87% were illiterate. 70% lived in forced marriages.
In a complete turnaround, the 2004 Afghan Constitution gave full rights to women, equal to that of men. Schools for women were built, those female professionals who survived were allowed to return to work. Marriage became a choice. Millions of girls and women were liberated from the most awful form of oppression. We Americans should take great pride in this.
Why would we not consider the plight of Afghan women when we determine whether or not we should stay? Perhaps not as a determinative factor, but as a critically important one? Do we somehow feel that these people are less human, less worthy of life, less important, than women in our country? We tend to disconnect ourselves from the thoughts of what will happen to these women, but please take a minute now to envision it, and even imagine you are one of these women in Afghanistan today wondering if the American’s will withdraw. Imagine you are one of these women fearing this. Now imagine you are one of these women after the Americans withdraw. Imagine the experience. Put yourself inside it.
I often argued with friends that one of the key reasons we should remain in Iraq was to prevent the sure slaughter of millions of peaceful citizens in Iraq should we pull out as many urged that we do. We would have had the death of many millions of people on our hands. Due to the President’s steadfastness, and I’m sure having factored this humanity element into his decisions, we avoided this disaster.