Reaction to the Time cover has become something of an Internet litmus
test about attitudes toward the war, and what America’s responsibility
is in Afghanistan. Critics of the American presence in Afghanistan call
it “emotional blackmail” and even “war porn,” while those who fear the
consequences of abandoning Afghanistan see it as a powerful appeal to
The debate was fueled in part by the language that
Time chose to accompany the photograph: “What Happens if We Leave
Afghanistan,” pointedly without a question mark.
That is exactly
what will happen,” said Manizha Naderi, referring to Aisha and cases
like hers. An Afghan-American whose group, Women for Afghan Women, runs
the shelter where Aisha stayed, Ms. Naderi said, “People need to see
this and know what the cost will be to abandon this country.”
Ms. Naderi would be the first to concede, however, things are already
bad enough for women in Afghanistan without a return to a government
run by the Taliban.
So far, we’ve already abandoned that country twice. Once, when we held a little useless proxy war there and used it to get our national rocks off and then fucked off and left it, and twice, when our glorious War Preznit decided Iraq would be way more fun to blow up becauseit just would so shut up. So to act like now, now we’re going to huff off into the sunset and that will be somethingnew for us is just stupid. Afghanistan and its people have had plenty of practice being abandoned by us (and by other countries whose examples of nation-building ADD we failed to heed).
I said during the campaign and I said when Obama announced his Afghanistan troop increase that everybody was looking for a way out of Afghanistan that didn’t make us the asshole. That didn’t make us the latest in a long line of countries that came in with great speeches and big guns and slouched out with a halfhearted “sorry we blew some of your relatives up, guys, our bad” parade. All we’re doing now is trying to find something to drape some bunting over, to find a way to say, no, we’re notthose douchebags, we’re a good country and we did this better than everybody else did.
It’s a desperate search for pundit-meaning, a way to make David Brooks and David Broder feel good about themselves, a way for Joe Klein to write columns that don’t make him feel like a dirty, anti-military, America-hating hippie. It’s a way for Obama and his advisors to say they unfucked the dog George W. Bush fucked, did the warright, and made everything better. It’s a passion play for the benefit of the American people, and I would be a little more tolerant of it as a piece of masturbatory theater if the benefit to our national psyche wasn’t offset by LOTS AND LOTS OF DEAD PEOPLE.
I’m not discounting the plight of women in Afghanistan. Plenty of DFHs were all about kicking Taliban ass long before 9/11 focused the rest of the world on how much things fucking sucked over there. But I have a major problem fetishizing one particular group of women when a staggering portion of the world treats women like dogs or worse and does so without Time magazine using the victims of religious and political violence as arguments for prolonging war. We can hold in our minds at once the concept that what happened to Bibi Aisha is cruel and horrible, and that it does not obligate us to continue to wage a war that didn’t stop her mutilation in the first place.
There’s no “litmus test” here.