When the Women of Afghanistan Speak, Does Howard Dean Listen?

Governor Howard Dean was just on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! to discuss healthcare and did a great job of explaining the need for a public option – but sadly he fell back on tired pro-war propaganda when he addressed Goodman’s questions on Afghanistan (transcript from Rethink Afghanistan – full rush transcript will be available later at Democracy Now):

Howard Dean: Roughly 50% of the Afghan people are women. They will be condemned to conditions which are very much like slavery and serfdom in a 12th century model of society where they have no rights whatsoever. So I’m not saying we have to invade every country that doesn’t treat women as equal, but we’re there now we have a responsibility, and if we leave women will experience the most extraordinary deprivations of any population on the face of the earth. I think we have some obligation to see if we can try and make this work. Not just for America and our security interests, but for the sake of women in Afghanistan and all around the globe. Is this acceptable to treat women like this? I think not.”

Amy Goodman: We just interviewed an afghan parliamentarian, Dr. Wardak and she said the opposite. She said that yes, she agrees with you on the way women are treated, but this is worsening the treatment–that the increased number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the huge number of troops that are coming in right now, are alienating the Afghan population.

Governor Dean, have you asked Afghan women if they agree that our expanding war in Afghanistan is “an obligation. . . for the sake of women in Afghanistan and all around the globe?”

The women of “a farming family in the village of Tawalla” would tell you something different today:

“When we reached the garden, the helicopter shot at us and injured three of my brothers, one sister, my mother, father and sister-in-law, and killed Rahmania, a 4-year-old girl,” he said.

“I do not know the reason; we did not hear any fighting that night, and there are not any Taliban in our village,” he said. “It was a very frightening night for us — we could all have been killed.”

His father, Niamatullah, 46, … found seven members of his family lying wounded on the ground in the orchard, including four of his sons, his wife, his sister-in-law and her daughter.

He listed four neighbors, all farmers in their 20s and 30s, who he said were killed in the attack, besides Rahmania, his cousin’s daughter. Haystacks and wood piles caught fire from the gunfire, which continued until 3 a.m., he said.

The Governor of Kandahar told the CBC that:

"There were some casualties. There was a total number of 17. Four were dead," Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said Friday."Thirteen were wounded people. That includes, unfortunately, very young kids like one-year-old, three-year-old and six years old."

Perhaps Governor Dean would like to talk to the mothers of those “very young kids”?

Or perhaps he’d speak with Afghan women leaders like Mariam Rawi of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, or Malalai Joya, the Afghan member of Parliament who was forced from her seat by US-backed warlords because she was too outspoken about the need to protect women?

Joya has been quite clear about how best we can show our support for the women of Afghanistan: stop the war.

Instead, Governor Dean’s statements become another piece of the push for expanding the war in the same week that Secretary of Defense Gates is already speculating that even more troops, above the limits set by President Obama, will be sent to Afghanistan this year, while Adm. Mullen repeats McChrystal’s happy talk claims about protecting civilians – claims we have heard over and over during the past several years. Claims which continue today.

Governor Dean, your voice has been such an important one on so many progressive issues. Today, you were instead repeating the pro-war propaganda that substitutes the voices of US hawks for the legitimate voices of the women of Afghanistan.

Please listen to those women – and help their voices be heard.

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