Iraqi Women Take on Roles of Husbands

•April 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Sabriyah Hilal Abadi began sleeping with a loaded AK-47 by her bed shortly after the war began.

So begins the Washington Post commentary on Iraqi women, in a piece about their positions on the ‘new Iraq government.”

Iraq’s government is intent on proving it can enforce the law. But in its determination to rid the party building of its squatters, the women say, the government has plunged them deeper into homelessness and may have pushed others toward violence.

The article says Iraqi women have “embraced new roles” as “their men” have been claimed by violence.  Abadi is quoted as having watched an American news show “on an hour long rescue of a cat stuck in a drainpipe,” which had given her hope for the mercy and gentleness of the American public.

The bias towards seeing Iraqi women, even in the midst of conquest, as saved from their oppressive roles, is clear.  What man woman wouldn’t feel liberated with a gun in her bed?  Why even start an article like this with a dual reference to such sexualized objects as the bedroom and objects of warfare, unless the intent is to create a connection to the sexualized Western ideal of liberation?

Yet another thought occurs to me.  We have failed Abadi as much as the characters in Control Room, the correspondent proclaiming at the very beginning of the bombings that the American people would surely stop further invasion, that he had absolutely faith that this was true.  Yet our apathy may allow the Infernal Machine’s author’s prediction to come true, that in the current state of non-involvement we may enter into a dystopian future of permanent war against a (constantly evolving) invisible enemy.  The allusions to Big Brother are astoundingly clear; when will the book burnings begin?  The book banings already have.  The media censorship is so entrenched as to be invisible to the American public.  Their faith in the goodness of the government in many ways absolute.  We are spending billions more dollars in war and terror and creating billions of fearful citizens in the process.


A Montage of Fear

•April 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Apparently if you say them enough, words legitimize a cause for war. Now, this video is sort of cute, its simple and easy to digest. It has been viewed over thirty-thousand times, perhaps because it functions as easily as the ideology that it wishes to critique.

I would maintain that work such as this is politically and socially unhelpful. The reason I posit this is because it doesn’t allow for any sort of questioning. In fact, it moves at such a rapid pace that it doesn’t leave much time for anything but acceptance -vaguely reminiscent of a CNN news ticker. The things we accept because they move too fast to be analyzed.

Yet while this video may be, at its surface, anti-war, it as actually building into a polarized, structuralist ideology which is part of the machine which produces our culture’s views on war and terror. If one chooses a side (anti or pro) so quickly and never looks back, how as that any more helpful than soldiers blindly following orders?


•April 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Subaltern

I realized that in another entry, I mentioned ‘the subaltern’ and did not define my terms very well. But I think that by looking at the subaltern, at its definition – one might be able to illuminate some notion of otherness in the war on terror. My inquiry into the word comes after reading the Grassroots Political Militants: Banlieusards and Politics article by Emilio Quadrelli (french writer) on InfoShop

This word gains much of its prominence around the marxist thinker Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who published “Can the Subaltern Speak” in 1988. While his work focuses primarily on Indian women and specifically around the notions of sati, its intention could certainly be appropriated here. Spivak argues that the subaltern is not any oppressed person, but rather a person or group that has been so marginalized that they fall outside of the hegemonic structure.

It could certainly be said that something like this is happening in western performance of Iraq and Afghanistan from the equation of the war – essentially pushing them (ideologically at least) out of the hegemony. We have secluded the truth of their being a part of a globalist culture (even in moments of outright rejection) by distancing ourselves so greatly from all possible connections to their government, economy, and politics in the media.

Now, this doesn’t stop us from shooting them, but it allows for a softening of representation to west. In years to come, this will certainly have a huge cultural backlash, similar to that of Alloula. I am not certain what the cure for this, save for perhaps listing the specific names of all of the casualties in the war; our side and theirs. war. It would seem that, from media at least, the war is being conducted outside of actually casualty. By using labels such as “freedom” and “terrorism” and even (perhaps through an associative and disturbing conflation) “Iraqi” we are removing any relevance to what those terms mean and placing them under a non-regulated yet horrifically oppressive definition.

Blogging: The Pharmakon: Lebanon

•April 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Blogging and Cultural Information on War

This week I read a blog about an article by Lebanon’s The Daily Star entitled There is more to be mourned than Iraq’s ancient treasures” which highlighted the destruction of modern art in Iraq and the loss of cultural identity ensued.

I was reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s treatment of the Pharmakon when I think of internet blogging as cultural production. He argues in “Memory, History, and Forgetting” that the writing of history is at once the cure for, and poison to memory. Yet in many of our in-class texts we have discussed what I feel to be the opposite, a look at the danger of historicizing information through this biased, Westernized media which takes such an Orientalist perspective on reporting, such a biases framing of the war and the people in it.

In terms of The War on Terror, I feel that this is especially appropriate however to try on the opposite view. If we consider all of the media produced about the War on Terror to be, in one sense or another, a type of exteriorized memory: something which has been preserved outside of a testifying body: then one might ask what affect that has on the body which originated the memory in the first place? Will we in time feel a sense of overwhelming guilt at the clear bias of our reporting, and will this force us to change the way we look at the world? Will Americans one day wake up, look around at the and the CNN trash that they have been consuming and realize with sickening dread that they have no real idea of where the war is and how much its costing them and what the real psycological price was that was paid by both themselves as the citizens terrorized by our campaigns abroad?

Time will, of course, mar memory but doesn’t the process by which we make media enact a similar process? Doesn’t blogging allow the individual to not only look back on their personal archival of memory, but change, alter it, perform some sort of ritualistic memory cleansing when new information is found and found to be true? And so we come to blogs. Blogs which are the cornucopia of externalized thought, and by their very nature a relief of memory. With all of these war on terror blogs now subsiding in intensity for more current topics (elections, China, etc.) we are left with a discursive ‘blog archive’ which cannot accurately describe the initial testimony which prompted its existence. Ricoeur speaks to this when he says that no truth is born out of documents, but rather the synthesis of document and historical questioning – still, I wonder who now has the right vantage point to judge or are we, as Foucault says ‘too deep in our discourse’.

Afghan Gender Cafe

•April 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

A fabulous news source from Afghanistan! A must read!  I read through an analysis of the 2001 Department of State report The Taliban’s War Against Women, which the Afghani woman author explained not only how this documented created a totalizing “victim woman” for the USA to save, but generalized the female experience as one totally tied to her bodily restrictions.

(((You know for people that, according to many American news sources, live in caves – these people seem to have a lot of things in better perspective than we do.)))

I could outline the site, but it would be much better for you to check it out for yourselves. It really is an incredible resource and even, I would argue, a subtle nudge against the way that the west views Afghanistan. But please look into it – It is this sort of thing that can make a person believe, even a little bit, in the hope of a positive self-identification.

How interesting that this site allows itself to be “gendered” in such a way that the western media never could. At least not gendered outwardly in a feminine light without the use of pink ribbons and poodles, or referneces to fighting breast cancer.

It says something about the similar engenderment of women’s bodies in America and women’s bodies in Afghanistan/The Middle East during this war and it’s media framing. Both sets of women, by American standards, are portrayed as little more than their oppressive sexualized parts, with American women holding up the pink banner of “girlhood” as a triumphant feminist flag, and Afghani women “in need of saving” from their brutish, terrorist husbands.

“Three Big Lies About Afghanistan”

•April 20, 2008 • 1 Comment

Eric Margolis (foreign correspondent for major networks INCLUDING FOX) might share our sentiments when he says, to open this blog piece with a self-evident title:

The public is getting distorted news from Afghanistan because the North American media has substituted jingoism and flag-waving for reporting of hard news.

Margolis makes some interesting points that I may use in my final paper for this class, specifically about our involvement in Afghanistan and the use of women as a justification point; “oppression under the Taliban.”  He makes some problematic points about the end of drug-dealing during the Taliban regime, such as this quote,following.  And slipping in a comparison to India seems a big under handed…:

Today, women in post-Taliban Afghanistan are just as repressed as they were under Taliban, save for a few schools in Kabul. Women are equally repressed in Pakistan, India, and Saudi Arabia. Many Afghans share Taliban’s social views, if not politics. The Uzbeks in the north – now US and Canadian allies – are in even more vicious and brutal than Taliban, and up to their turbans in drug dealing. The US and NATO are running a nation that supplies 80-90% of the world’s heroin.

Women in India and women under the Taliban are two very different stories.  Indian women can hold jobs, own property, and walk around without a full length garment or a male escort— this seems like a bit of a testament to the differences that a fundamentally liberal and socially progressive government can make.   

It was good to read a piece with some emotional input.  At least Margolis is honest about his biases.  There is none of the glorification of war in this reporting piece: none of the action, the explosions, or the tallies that make most of the pieces I’ve read so horrific.  So many people would like to glamorize the war, to make it into the Hollywood Spectacle that Hollywood makes it out to be.

He should also be credited (as another blogger pointed out) for recognizing that “Taliban” is plural for “Talib.”


Malalai Joya: Courage under fire

•April 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

After watching the FLEEF film this week on Malalai Joya (ملالی جوی) I decided to track down some information on her in whatever media I could find. This is what I came up with on the Telegraph, a United Kingdom news production.

There were highs and lows to the way the story was reported, but his was one of my favorite quotes:

But even the burqa cannot always hide Afghanistan’s most famous woman. A visit to a maternity hospital in Kabul last month provoked a security alert. Initial irritation among the pregnant women standing in the dusty heat turned to near hysteria as they realised who was behind the veil. A whisper, ‘It’s Joya, Joya is here,’ spread like electricity through the crowd. Women have been known to walk for miles just to touch her. For them, she is their only real hope for a better future.

While I can’t get behind the overwhelmingly tiresome use of the burqa to represent women’s lives in Afghanistan, I can get behind the use of women finding a powerful woman figure in their political lives. Of speaking of pregnant women without focusing on their pregnancy, or the imminent child, but the woman herself.

Malalai’s presence in the legislature was anything but welcome:

In May this year her enemies retaliated. In an Afghan television interview in Kabul Joya claimed the legislature was ‘worse than a zoo’. When an edited recording was shown in parliament she was found guilty of violating Article 70 of the Rules of Procedure that forbids lawmakers to criticise one another. She was thrown out of parliament and banned until 2009. It was, Joya claimed, a ‘political conspiracy’, and risible given that earlier in the month fellow MPs had made death threats and thrown bottles at her in parliament.

Malalai Joya

She knows that there is a price on her head. ‘They will kill me, but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women,’ she said earlier this year. ‘You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring.’

What a wonderful quote! What an encouraging woman! Where is Malalai in our stories of Afghani “reconstruction?”