by Butch Lee
[A paper critiquing the political assumptions of today’s Anti-War/anti-imperialist activism by J. Sakai - Beyond McAntiwar: notes on finding our footing in the collapsing stageset of u.s. empire -war has been circulated in the current issue of the maoist zine 8th Route. Below is an alternate viewpoint from a “radical Beguine” perspective.]
i like J’s rant. i think we need this kind of reality check. The world situation is changing with such surprising twists. But yet & again, it still is only from men’s viewpoint. And no matter how radical, that can only dead end somewhere. Because what we’ve learned the hard way is that the solutions aren’t in that framework. Men can’t find the right answers because they’re the problem. Patriarchy is the problem. That’s what’s at the heart of capitalism. That’s why it keeps coming back no matter how many times revolutionary men drive a stake through its heart. In Red China, they executed the old landlord class by the millions. They drove into exile the old capitalist class. They salted the earth with the ground-up middle class in the Cultural Revolution. But a generation later they have industrial capitalism on steroids back again. It’s like some Wall Street wet dream.
Just as men searched for the Rosetta Stone to finally decipher hieroglyphics into Egyptian voices, women have long been searching for the password to actual liberation. The key is lying there right in front of us, but it is as hard to pick up as red-hot metal. This entire political world from jihads to anti-globalization campaigns, from leftist guerrilla armies to green parties, from Republican Party to anarchists, is a furious plain of men and men’s clashing cultures. Just as there are no angels or saints in Hell, only demons and the damned, so there are no women in power in the entire dimension of the political world as we know it. It is an entire dimension of men. Some may ask, but don’t women hold up half the sky, as Mao Zedong famously said? No, women hold up all the sky, but that old slogan confused oranges and apples. Women are everywhere, from the 1st Armored Division to the Anti-War movement. But women are “embedded” in men’s movements as their pets and assistants and saviors and sex objects and laborers and just-like-men.
Millions of women have conditioned themselves to pretend to be men politically, from military police just-like-men to revolutionary activist just-like-men. Would the nuclear aircraft carrier or the Marxist-Leninist Party miss a beat (much less disappear) if all the women in its ranks suddenly vanished? Would its character or politics change? Of course not. Because none of it is ours. It doesn’t come from us, it doesn’t belong to us, and it’s not going anywhere for us.
So how can a grrrl kick some ass in this new world?
If you can’t believe that men have hit the wall, that they can’t be reformed any better at this point in time, then the Anti-War movement is like proof arriving in the mail. Try to look at the world through the eyes of women, instead. What do women see when they stick their heads out of the trenches? That some class of capitalist men will win there--but not women. The Anti-War movement has nothing to do with what women see or need. And whoever wins, it won’t be women. But embedded women will have helped make the disaster happen, with all their energy and enthusiasm and determination to stay at men’s sides.
The main thing that i want to ask Anti-War women is this: is the war that you are opposing also the war against women? Underneath the big explosions, the nightly videotapes of the war in Iraq between two male nations and two classes of men, there is an even bigger war against Iraqi women that both sides are waging. Are you doing your sit-ins and sabotage and reeducation and risking things to stop the war against women? And if not, why not--if you are truly “Anti-War”?
The islamic-fascist male fighters in Iraq aren’t just into driving the amerikkkan occupation out the door. No, they’re honest here. Maybe more honest than we’ve been up to now.Their plan also necessitates keeping Iraqi women as their collective and personal property. The islamic-fascists are about terrorizing and killing women wholesale who try to be free. That’s the war that both sides are waging together, side by side, Dick by Dick, in the big urinal of men’s politics. But Mr. Anti-War doesn’t see the systematic terror and killing against women as a war. Since to him only killing men is important enough to be a war. That’s only reasonable from men’s point of view, since if you kill livestock it’s not a war. If you terrorize birds it’s not a war. Just like in the Slave South days in amerikkka, when settlers killing Afrikans wasn’t officially a war or even murder. That’s where we are, where women on a world scale are. Down among the livestock and the other property that men own.
i’ve had enough of that smirking mentally-disturbed “W” and criminally-insane Rummy, and their whole gang in suits. Let’s go to women in this war, to real people. There has been an opening of women’s activity in Iraq since the u.s. occupation began. The most flash has been shown by Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi exile who sold her house in Montreal, parked her 17 year-old son with her former husband, and flew back to Baghdad to start OWFI (the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq). Lauren Sandler of New York University, in a report on the women’s situation in Iraq for Amnesty International, says:
“And then there’s Yanar Mohammed, suddenly a household name in Iraq because of her relatively radical public views, who speaks openly about women’s rights in her role as founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She packs a pistol in her handbag and travels with bodyguards, so constant are the death threats she receives for her secular politics.”
Yanar operates several women’s shelters (started with that money from selling her Canadian house), with the usual secret locations and armed guards with Kalashnikovs, for women fleeing their male family members who want to kill them for infractions of the islamic holy code. Publishing their office address and telephone in their newspaper, Equality, so that women in crisis may reach them, OWFI intervenes in many different situations. Yanar herself represented 47 women bank clerks who were jailed after their supervisor accused them of embezzling. Shouting at Iraqi officials and u.s. Army officers alike, Yanar helped the women break through the indifference and get themselves freed after the case was reexamined (a male bank official was found to be the embezzler).
This Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq has staged their own small marches--teaching women how to “take up space”, to chant slogans and shout loudly in public--in Baghdad. Last July 30th they joined many other small women’s groups in a march of several hundred women demanding equal representation on all government councils (OWFI was invited to take part by more conservative women’s groups who initiated the protest).
Iraqi women from a squatter community even came to the OWFI office and asked for help stopping their eviction. Because of all the bombed out buildings and seized buildings there is a housing shortage for working class families in Baghdad. These poor families had all taken over rooms in the former government TV & radio complex in al-Salihnia. An OWFI group led by Layla Muhammed, vice-president of OWFI, visited the squatters in return. Eventually, the homeless families were helped to win a postponement of moving and the promise of alternate housing. Protests and struggles with the occupation authorities have been a regular part of OWFI’s work.
While the Anti-war movement and the Left here has largely ignored OWFI and other Iraqi women, they have been noticed by white feminists, of course. The world war against women has been noticed here, a little. How could the blaze on the horizon not be seen, as we are being burned alive all over the world?
On last March 3, 2004, at an Anti-War march there was a small women’s "Demonstration Against U.S. Occupation and the Imposition of Islamic Shar’ia" in New York (which was later attacked by a guest on local public radio station WBAI as racist and an “ignorant” slander on islam--the station refused to either apologize or give the women demonstrators equal time to reply). But Amy Goodman’s public television show “Democracy Now” had Yanar Mohammed on as a guest, and Leslie Jane Seymour, the editor of Marie Claire fashion magazine, donated $5,000 to Yanar as one of their “women activists” of the year. Even the establishment N.Y. Times has run several very positive articles and columns by liberal women on OWFI and Yanar herself. While women’s anti-war groups like MADRE and Code Pink have raised funds for OWFI. This was nice, but it’s not that nice.
White feminists here reacted to what Yanar and her comrades are doing because it’s just like “home” for us. It resonates so strongly because OWFI’s program is what amerikkka is already doing. The few battered women’s hide-out shelters, help line, drop-in center, small protest demonstrations, fund-raising campaigns, demanding that the male occupation government do this or do that to help women, the whole routine feminists are used to. Only, done under far, far more dangerous circumstances. If battered women’s shelters have to remain hidden in amerikkka so that fugitive women don’t get shot down by the men in their lives, then how much more dangerous are they to do in Iraq?
These are some courageous sisters, doing the best that they can do in horrible circumstances. But i gotta say, if it hasn’t worked in richie rich amerikkka, it’s hardly going to work in Baghdad. It helps some women stay alive now, but it’s only a cup of water tossed into the raging bonfire of the worldwide war against women. It’s an approach women worldwide have shared, that we haven’t gotten beyond.
OWFI appears to be a small organization now for all its bravery, as are other new women’s efforts in Iraq. The problem isn’t hard to figure out for any woman--it’s stark terror. Fear on all levels. The old Iraqi Women’s League, which represented educated middle-class women, was banned and driven underground by the Saddam regime. Now, some of its surviving activists have resurfaced, but they are afraid to do or even say much. The Amnesty International report quotes them: “The Iraqi Women’s League--strong and outspoken from its founding in the 1950s until Saddam’s secret police forced it underground in the late 1970s--is meeting openly again. But it does not discuss, much less act on, the rise in rape, a crisis of overwhelming concern to Iraqi women. Most women in the league feel it would be suicide to say anything that might alarm radical islamist groups, explains founding member Wassan Al Souz. ‘Just like under Saddam, the problem here is the barrier of fear,’ she says.” Just like in Juarez or Tokyo or Chicago or Darfur, women are terrorized as a condition of our mass existence.
Confronting the Iraqi rape movement (and it is a movement among men) might get you killed because the islamic-fascists are politically backing these attacks, as part of their campaign to keep women down. As OWFI has highlighted, these islamic-fascist attacks on women became even more important last year during the “holy” month of Ramadan (what are men’s holidays for, after all?):
Terrorist acts against women in Iraq by Islamic groups have increased dramatically in recent months and reached an unprecedented level under the rubric of ‘observing sanctities during Ramadan.’ A fascist Islamic group called ‘Mujahideen Shura Group’ has warned that it will kill any women who are seen on street unveiled whether by themselves or with a male companion! “In the northern city of Mosul, Christian women are targets of a killing, kidnapping and rape campaign. One such barbaric crime took place in this city where two women were kidnapped and raped by multiple men and then were sold as female slaves to another group of men. They were again raped repeatedly for four days before they managed to escape!So what is the answer to this present War? The truth is that for women there is no answer within the dimension of men’s politics. Only by leaving men’s politics behind can we find real answers. To me, everything starts with admitting this truth. Now is the beginning of the new men’s capitalist wars, this is the exact best time to deal with this problem. What i’m talking about, women worldwide developing armies and politics and civilizations of our own, isn’t something utopian for the far future. It’s timely. Men’s new wars against women are just starting. Rape camps blossom. Bushes and Pol Pots unravel everything men have inherited. Bit by bit the world is being destroyed. We’ll be fighting on this ground for the next 100 years. We can’t wish it away. All we have is the worth of our choices. i always liked the line which is so true here: “Which will you be, hammer or anvil?” It’s timely now to begin to do new women-centered things, to study war, establish rear base areas and outlaw ways of life within a new culture. There’s nothing wrong with the impulse to anti-colonialism or anti-imperialism in this unjust world. It’s only good. But the old forms, the old debates, the old movements that these impulses took form in are dead, now decaying. If something is broke, you can’t go on using it as if nothing was wrong.
“In the city of Falluja, at the Mujahideen congress held on October 20,2004, the Islamic criminal Abdulla al-Janabi and Falluja’s Shura Council gave a fatwa (religious decree) that Mujahideen fighters should rape girls at age 10 before they are raped by Americans!
“Scores of university girls have been beaten up, often severely, for wearing jeans or for not wearing hijab (Islamic veil). Women who go to hair dressing salons are frequently attacked by Islamists and their hair is cut in a public display of shaming.
“Thousands of leaflets are distributed across the country everyday warning women against going out unveiled, putting on make up, shaking hands or mixing with men. More than 1000 female university students have taken leave of their studies to protect themselves against the terrorism of Islamists. ..
“This is the benefit of the liberation that the US government has brought to the Iraqi masses. The only true benefit has come to the Islamic terrorist groups, which are free to attack, and kill women! Women in Iraq and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq expose these forces, which try to delude people by posing as ‘resistance’ to the US occupiers. The Islamic movement has made it clear that even if the US forces are expelled or withdraw from Iraq , they will declare Jihad against any secular government! They want to establish a Caliphate (Islamic government) where women are will be set back by 1400 years! The Islamic terrorists have come with their bayonets directed at women in Iraq.
“We must stand up to the groups of Islamic terrorism in Iraq. There is no other alternative. “
This is something you’re going to hear us say over and over again: When we talk about creating an army and a foreign policy of our own, we’re really talking about changing the culture that is the daily lives of millions of women. That’s where it all comes from. This globalized consumer culture we live is bankrupt, because it is a slave culture. Everywhere women are awakening & rising, and this rising can only be grounded in the construction of a new world culture. By which we don’t mean only a style or an art, but a complete way of life.
It really impressed me when i went to a women of color conference once, and at every session’s start and as the first thing every time they spoke, Native women would say: “Remember that you are on Indian land.” Consciously reminding all of us that every city, every neighborhood we think of as “ours” on this continent was once part of Native societies--and taken from Native women.
In a similar light, we need to remind ourselves over and over again that what all the foreign wars and culture wars are really about is who shall own women’s bodies? Everyone cares about who controls our bodies, because women reproduce the most important thing in society. Women reproduce people, everyone else just produces things. Women reproduce the labor to keep society going, both biologically and socially. That’s why it’s so important who owns us. That’s why our bodies are a battleground. That’s the dialectical weirdness of women’s lives--we produce both ourselves & our enemies. That’s why men all want to control our sexuality.
Years ago i ran this down, what culture is to us, but let me point to it again (the examples are old, but the point is still sharp):
It's only natural that patriarchal imperialism creates the need in us for an opposing culture, whether you think of that as women' s culture or revolutionary culture. But our attempts at a culture of our own sputter, flare and never really catch fire, because the minimum standard for a new culture today is that it has to confront the centrality of genocide. Otherwise it's not for real, not going to cut it. Revolutionary women's culture is usually thought of as uplifting & entertaining, having to do with the creative arts (music, painting, drama, dance, literature, sculpture). Kinda our counter-part to the patriarchal capitalist arts. They have Michael Jackson and the Metropolitan Opera, we have Holly Near and Sweet Honey in the Rock. They got poems by T.S. Eliot, we got poems by Adrienne Rich & Pat Parker. This is misleading.Out of all this torment, all this killing & suffering, a women’s worldview is going to be born. It isn’t a matter that the Anti-War protests should add a few slogans. It is not a question of who’s more radical or correct. It’s that women and men have violently different viewpoints. Men’s movements and politics just suck up the energy & hope of women. Women never get the ability to have autonomous lives separate from a male culture. Men want women’s energies transferred from your family or job into their projects & strategies--but when its life or death for women, nothing ever happens except a few nice words. Like, the current war is very clarifying. How can women support either side in this war of the “Man”? If the u.s. empire loses, then women will be under the lash and chains of Shar’ia law no matter what they call it. If the u.s. empire wins, then women will be under the tank treads of “Falluja law” just like in Palestine. An Anti-War movement that simply calls for the defeat of u.s. imperialism is just handing out death sentences to Iraqi women. “U.S.Marines vs. Mullah this or that”--men want us to pick a side of theirs so that either way we’ll be sure to lose.
When i speak here of culture i mean the distinctive characteristic of a stage of civilization or the distinctive way of life of a given society. In that sense, Michael Jackson & Holly Near are both parts of patriarchal imperialist culture. Revolutionary culture isn't something you go to visit (such as a concert) or buy (such as a book). It's much larger than that -- which is why no matter how hard you shop or how many concerts you go to you can't get it. It's something you gotta create by living in it -- or not. Revolutionary culture is a way of life that counteracts genocide civilization, a different way of seeing & answering problems, a set of productive & reproductive relationships between people. It's what some call communalism and others call women's liberation. Many haven't found a name for it, it's just a dumb vision in their pain.
While listening to Holly Near may look like women's culture, when it's divorced from the real relationships of Land & property & production, it becomes its opposite. Just as Michael Jackson came outta an oppressed culture but is regarded by everyone as a talented entertainer in & for white oppressor culture. This isn't to criticize either entertainer. A Holly Near might sing of Chilean women who produce the fruit we eat, but if that isn't part of an opposing culture that says produce it ourselves or do without, then it's really an acceptance of genocide culture.
An outward show of a separate culture can be & is absorbed into genocide culture, a product that we can buy which makes us feel better about ourselves ("I care about other women, about oppressed people. I'm entertained by their struggles.") although we aren't better people.
We can see this pretty clear when it happens to other people, to Indian cultures, say. We don't think that the tour bus pulling up at "AUTHENTIC INDIAN POW-WOW $3.00 ADMISSION" constitutes Indian culture. We don't think that robbing indigenous nations of their Land and productive life but having them make rugs & belt buckles for us is building their culture.
When it comes to us we got blinders on, however. We don't see it'll happen to us, too, without armed struggle, without territory & production. We think women's culture is somehow exempt from all this, but it isn't. We could end up with Adrienne Rich Boulevard and Andrea Dworkin Highway, too. Just as this racist society has Sojourner Truth Elementary School and Malcolm X Blvd. Leaving us with nothing. It's only in going for all of it that you get to keep any of it.
Because we have no scientific understanding of genocide as a culture, no political-military science of our own (we are in fact still so colonized that many of us deny that women should even dare to have such a science), we are totally unable to deal with violence against women. We accept that as normal. But i say that the science of genocide can only be confronted by the science of war. The women's community has a great social analysis of rape, for instance, but hasn't idea one on what to do about it. No tactics, no strategy, no science.
As i started writing this in the Winter of 2005, every night it was the Asian Tsunami as the big news. Every morning it was the Tsunami somewhere on the front pages. And why not? The king of the child molesters pope and the Swedish royal family and all the imperialist biggies led three minutes of silence worldwide for all the victims. Billions in aid for years was pledged. Even “W” proudly gave some of his lunch money. The u.s. had two aircraft carriers off the coasts and ninety helicopters working sunrise to sunset, thousands of troops and aircraft involved. Equipment and aid teams from all over the world were at work to help the survivors. And why not? Cause the death total announced was 300,000.
But that’s just like the 300,000 killed last year alone in Darfur. This genocide that wasn’t a surprise, that’s now mutated into a war against women & children. Every night the refugee women & children have to go out into the dark and hunt for food and firewood. While the Janjaweed muslim militia who killed their villages & families hunt them in a game. Time after time, women are found & gang-raped. Many were gang-raped and killed in the first “tsunami” when their villages were exterminated by the government and the Janjaweed.
For them there was no support. No aircraft, not a soldier. Not that the u.s. army or the UN dicks in blue berets have ever saved women. Not in Bosnia, not in Guatamala, not in Haiti, not in Rwanda, nowhere on earth. They are just the cover story not the answer. The John-come-lately rapos themselves, too often. It just gets me pissed off that in Darfur they’re hardly even bothering to fake it. It pissed me off to see the big stall go on, all the men’s lying over the dying. Endless months of UN speeches, conferences at this capitol or that, signing of men’s treaties, droning on and on, stalling. On his way out the State Department door, Colin finally admitted that it was “genocide” in Darfur. But back at the women’s front in the desert, there’s just the women & children and the hunting parties of rapos and killers.
The male anti-government “Liberation Front” can’t be the answer because it’s also the problem. They started the present fighting in Darfur even though they had no means (or interest) in shielding the population. Thousands of women & children being butchered and driven & raped on world news--that’s just good public relations for their side in a war that they’re otherwise incompetent to ever finish. And no, there’s no “liberation front” for this war that’s now against women. Because this is all inside men’s worldview.
While women here in the metropolis don’t even see the need to be free. That’s a harsh thing to say, i know. To be able to act for women--or not--that’s not even understood. If you can send someone a check or buy some product they make, that’s what we think is being free. Women in the metropolis are embedded in consumption, just as women in the Third World are embedded in production & reproduction. We are free to have men’s jobs and carry out male plans in male capitalist institutions, just-like-men. Look at the video star of the Abu Gharib prison slipup. Private Lynndie R. England, pictured around the world in her combat camo clothes, holding a naked, badly hurt Iraqi torture victim by a leash around his neck. Getting to do real men’s “Intelligence” work, one of the boys, getting high off it. Slightly dim-witted, now she’s taking the rap. Could be Condi or Hillary we’re talking about.
While the world majority of women, in the periphery, are enslaved to labor and reproduce for individual men in other male capitalist institutions. In both cases our bodies and minds are the property of men. Which is why women don’t like trusting other women.
Our sister Yanar Mohammed doesn’t think she’s defying men’s gravity in Iraq. OWFI’s survival so far is that it’s both in the bubble of unresolved state power between various sides of capitalist men and is a project of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. A small secular left party that Yanar is a member of. That’s where the guards with assault rifles come from. The protective aura of male turf ownership. Yanar herself says that feminist action is impossible in Iraq without an armed male party: “The appearance of a women’s group without the physical support of a political group that is willing to protect or defend us, is a mistake we will not fall into.” To me, this is our same problem, only a different day. This is no criticism on Yanar or other Iraqi radical women. They are risking their lives every day, undoubtedly making the best tactics and moves they can find. But without a women’s political-military ability they are fundamentally powerless against men’s militias and drivebys and checkpoints and gunships. This is a world situation.
Unlike the lowliest animals in nature, we deny ourselves the powers of fight or flight. Hiding in a few women’s shelters while male killers & rapists walk free isn’t our solution. Not in Baghdad, and not in our city either. That’s why we need to explore a different worldview, to create a whole new foundation where women rule.
We’re not talking about another civilian “movement”. To me a movement is a mass of people breaking down the unacceptable present by doing something real. Women in the metropolis have to get away from the little routine of civilian protesting. Rise up above that level.
It’s all well and good to be for a campaign like “Free Mumia” or a movement like ending the death penalty for men on death row. But the next words should be, “and we have to end the larger, more numerous death penalty against women!” You can’t have patriarchy on this earth without you executing lots of women. No different if its done by the State or a militia or a gang. But in men’s protest politics the only death penalty they care about concerns men. Men want to change many things, but not their overall situation over women. Not the larger class struggle of women & children. Women can’t split up our energies running to service men’s campaigns for this and that, but never for women. You may rescue a person, but you aren’t doing anything to end the death penalty for women.
Rape is everyday to women. Not an individual situation, not even a “crime” anymore, but just a daily fact of life for masses of women and children. The mass targeting of women & children is getting worse. As capitalism grows more advanced. The mass killing is worse than it was hundreds of years ago. Demographics also talk about the “silent genocide” of women. Where there’s 100 million less women in the world than there should be. Like China, where in many places the imbalance & absence of women-children is so severe that young men have no marriage partners (and must purchase captured women from China’s flourishing sex slave market). The wholesale looting of women & children’s bodies is like the Afrikan slave trade speeded up on a world scale.
It was telling that one of the first things Asian governments did after the Tsunami was to announce airport checkpoints to stop the export of stolen orphans for the new slave trade. Tells us two things. That before the Tsunami those governments weren’t stopping the slave trade in stolen children. It also tells the world how big a phenomenon this sex slave trade in women & children is. That’s what i need to say. And it’s not going to disappear ever unless women have modern armies & a modern political-military strategy of our own. “Protesting” is way over. Like writing letters to Elvis.
Women in the metropolis now can be individually prosperous and successful just-like-men, but we can’t own our own bodies or act as women to defend women. Example: 5,000 women & children are killed annually in the u.s. in “domestic violence”. That’s almost exactly what the yearly Vietnam War body count was for amerikkkans back then. Only there is no Paris Peace Accord for women. There’s no withdrawal of the occupying male army. It’s like a Vietnam War on us here that never ended. Women who should be in our army are embedded in the enemy’s army. Because male society is the enemy. They are in desert camo in Iraq or in blue driving a police cruiser or in the guerrilla army somewhere of men who are dreaming of someday owning a nation of their own.
Years ago, a Native American militant who was also a decorated u.s. army veteran was speaking to a classroom. One student asked him, if he believed in Indian nations being freed of the oppressing u.s.a., then how come he had fought in the u.s. military? “Because I’m a warrior,” the man replied, “and it was the only army I could find.” Like him, women are volunteering not only for men’s political movements but for men’s armies all over the world. Even Muktada al-Sadr, the holy talking head of the “Mahdi’s Militia” in Iraq, had to accept armed women volunteers. He proclaims that women should be imprisoned in the kitchen and bedroom under Shar’ia law but has a black-robed, black-scarfed women’s unit with AK-47s guarding his streets.
Like, now we should understand the case of the Green River Killer. Who turns out to be a devout Christian assembly line worker at a truck factory. Who confessed to the 48 serial rape-murders the police found bodies and evidence for, but who can’t even remember all the women and children he killed over 20 years. Maybe 60, 70 (he thinks maybe 70), 100? All possible. Many of them were just kids, 15 or 16 years old. Women could have stopped it. But not by staying embedded in men’s laws for women. Like those Iraqi sisters we’re still paralyzed by fear. We have our own Shar’ia law here in the metropolis. That we aren’t allowed to think of or question or even see, since we don’t own our own bodies and minds.
Armed units of women could have surrounded & patrolled Sea-Tac where the Green River Killer got women. Women’s armed checkpoints could have kept track of i.d.s and peoples’ comings & goings. Girl-children could have been taken to women’s schools, where they could have been taught survival sense. Rapists could have been hunted down by teams of women and killed. But all that would be illegal, while being defenseless & isolated are 100% legal and desirable under men’s laws for women. We’ve all had fantasies of girl gangs, of women with guns patrolling streets and making free territory for women, of women running it. “In dreams begin responsibilities.”
It’s an important point to understand that all those revolutionary sisters who went before us weren’t “wrong”. Rebel women didn’t make a stupid move to go along with men’s revolutionary movements for the past 100 years. You get on the train where you can get on. It was reasonable to double the numbers of people fighting together to pull down colonialism and capitalism. Revolutionary men had some impressive thinkers, too. Only it didn’t work out. Now we know how men’s left parties and guerrilla movements end up. It wasn’t stupid to try it, but it’s stupid now not to learn the lessons. Women have to learn to step forward and take the shot.
But how do we get from here to there?
Women need our 40 years in the Wilderness. To change ourselves and leave behind our old selves. Malcolm X always used this parable in his teachings: of how the biblical Jews fleeing captivity in Egypt had to become a new people in the years in the Wilderness. Their god had commanded that no one who had been born into captivity, who still thought as a slave thinks, could enter the Promised Land. Not even their leader, Moses, himself. And perhaps for us as well. But to go into the Wilderness you must start by leaving Egypt.
Any woman’s plan has to begin by withdrawing our energy from men & their culture. Taking back our own identity. It’s a myth that you can do everything. There’s only so many hours, so much reading and moving and changing, so much energy in any woman’s life. To find what works for us, we have to leave the men’s culture that never works for us. To let the new building blocks begin to appear.
It’s not a simple thing, since it’s both a world war and a local war. This new period of capitalism is like the Crusades again, like the colonial wars all over again. Shows the real colonized status of women and children, almost slave-like on a world scale. More women and children are drawn into this war all the time.
To leave our old selves behind and enter the Wilderness for 40 years is not a passive time. To withdraw our energy from men is not to do nothing. It’s a time of initiatives, of trying new forms of fighting our own way. Some will work and some not, but only in the trying will we learn. We will shape & build a point of view that works in the world for us. Like, men see war in the Middle East as about oil, about Western imperialism vs. Muslim nationalism, but we see it as about who shall own women. Of the patriarchy in all its forms and guises vs. Women as a people. Our war starts today. The old ways and whatever scraps of old safety existed are giving way, no matter what anyone thinks. The new World War is against Women as a people, and we will be fighting it out to its finish for generations to come. Here we will win or lose as Women, for the last time.
( the end for now )
The Rape Movement in Iraq & Men's Anti-War Politics
Sister, this discussion is just on time. Because these new men's wars of the 21st century are just starting up. They are different because they take place within the stage of a greater war, the worldwide war against women and children. Increasingly, women are drawn into wars not only meant to reverse our rising but wars that are over which class of men shall own us and how? Rape wars. For war now is above all about gender.
What is the difference now? Women & children have always been property veiled or unveiled since the rise of patriarchy. But men's world is being restructured now, including all the property. If capitalistic men can clash about whether to clearcut or bank their remaining forests, you can bet that they're going to clash over their most important property--women & children. Globalization has forced this. Like, the Bush empire wants to forcibly modernize the Muslim world so it can be safely integrated into Manhattan and Israel and Germany. So who's going to be in control of running & executing women property? Is it to be each man or maybe religious cults or a State? Who's going to control reproduction, define marriage, push the brake or the accelerator on population? UN troops and international bureaucrats for corporate interests? And women are rising, making moves, fighting for survival. One thing for sure, no one's going to come out of this where they started.
This isn't like the guerrilla wars of the last generation by national liberation movements in Vietnams and Cubas. That was then, this is now. Wars of globalization are primarily between different tribes of capitalistic men. These insurgents like in Iraq aren't against Mercedes-Benz or Boeing. They aren't against IBM or Shell. They are killing for their own slice of the capitalist life. To own their own women & territories & markets & cultures (four names for the same thing). Which is why these conflicts are a confusing mix of old and new, feudalistic and post-modern.
Rape is the visible tip of that iceberg, the political terrorism that marks women as the property of any and all men (just as marriage marks women as the property of an individual man or male family). The massive waves of rape and other gender terrorism against Iraqi women have been occasionally mentioned as an unfortunate side effect or collateral damage in the war over the u.s. occupation. i say that it is the other way around.
This is a mark of men's new wars of the 21st century. In their March 7th report on mass atrocities in the Congolese civil war, Human Rights Watch says that new parameters are being established. "Something we are increasingly seeing in conflict zones, in wars, is that rape is being used as a weapon of war," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher on the Demcratic Republic of the Congo for Human Rigjhts Watch. "This isn't just soldiers on occasion wanting a bit of sex. This is becoming part of the conduct of war."
Just as women have no bizniss in the u.s. army, we have no bizniss in men's Anti-War movements. i wanna say to all these young grrrls trying to solve their paycheck problems by signing up to be boots in Iraq, you have no bizniss in these institutions where men are fighting it out to the death with other men. Same message for these young grrrls trying to solve their alienation problems by volunteering to be embedded in men's Anti-War movements. Grrrl, you don't have to look 10,000 miles away to Iraq to find a war to fight. You got your own war at home. Women are our own side. We don't need to support the Mahdi's Militia or the Dick National Guard, when we need to be starting women's insurgencies of our own. It's one way or the other, you know. For war now is above all about gender. Because women's bodies are also the territory that all war is being fought on.
But men's Anti-War movements just can't get it. Because to them the biggest war of all is the one war they don't want to oppose. As long as any Iraqi men of one faction or another end up with the Big Power in Iraq, then men's Anti-War movements are satisfied. And us? From women's viewpoint, what sense is it to help the Iraqi islamic-fascists into power who will 100% kill and enslave women--just so you can say that you helped defeat the u.s. war machine, which is also killing and enslaving women? Yet this is exactly what "anti-imperialist" men are cheerfully doing. And proud as a shiny new penny about their moral superiority, too.
Some "anti-imperialist" voices, not content with agitating for a u.s. withdrawal as the sole political issue for women, are telling us to support the leftover Baath Party regime thugs or the islamic-fascists as the heroic role models for the new 21st century. Such as Naomi Klein's thinking-just-like-men article in the socialist Nation magazine, which used the catchy title "Bring Najaf to New York" ( "W" and his christian-fascist friends are already doing that, thank you. No need to doubleup on the religious fundamentalist gangbang that is already under way in amerikkka).
Jumping off the political cliff in her desperation to find some manly men to punch George W. in the nose for her, Klein wrote:"Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Americans; their opposition to the occupation represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Iraq." That's not only untrue but ridiculously untrue. But when Naomi Klein says these clerical-fascists represent the "the overwhelming mainstream sentiment" that's a revealing slip of slave conditioning--since she really means mainsteam male sentiment. The number of women in Iraq who want a new ayotollah or taliban to conduct men's terrorism in their neighborhood and rule over them is nothing like any majority. Our Iraqi sisters are only occupied by men with guns, they're not crazy.
Same with the even more tragic case of Arundhati Roy, the young Indian novelist who has become a world moral figure for so brilliantly opposing the Hindu fascist BJP movement that vaulted into power using genocidal pogroms against Muslims. But in Iraq, Roy switches sides and writes: "The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the front lines of the battle against Empire. And therefore that battle is our battle..." In India she rightfully fights the clerical-fascist Hindu movement, which among other things would even further reduce Indian women and which freely practices rape, torture and mass murder. But for Iraq she applauds the same type of clerical-fascist movement because on the way to reenslaving Iraq women its men are hitting heads with the u.s. Marines in the NFL. Grrlfriend, if the Hindu fascists suddenly became more anti-Washington (they love patriarchal capitalism but are not enthusiastic about Christian amerikkka), would you change your mind and embrace your own rapists? Do you see how hopeless this whole dimension of men's patriarchal politics is for women?
Or the leftist Asia Times, whose male Middle East correspondent went on and on likening the fighting in Fallujah to martyred Guernica, the Spanish village that was wiped out by Nazi attack during the 1937 Spanish Civil War. That comparison would make the clerical-fascist fighters in Fallujah like the 1930s democratic and socialist and anarchist soldiers who were fighting fascist aggression in Spain. So under this new kind of amoral men's "anti-imperialism", the neo-fascists are supposed to be the same as the real anti-fascists. And they say that women don't understand politics! What's really true is that they're afraid that we are starting to understand men's politics all too well. It really is time to leave Dick behind.
The Anti-War movement has without debate accepted the marginalization of Iraqi women and gone along with the coverup of the war against them. Which means that inescapably it has also gone along with the coverup of the sex crimes by u.s. troops against Iraqi women & children that the Pentagon itself has overseen.
Nothing shows the degeneration of men's Anti-War politics clearer than this.
Let's recognize that women need, as a life and death matter, a foreign policy and a political-military worldview of our own. From us, by us, for us. Does that sound insane or impossible? Why can't half the human race have its own strategy, its own agenda, and its own power to carry these out? It would be more ridiculous to say that half the human race couldn't have its own politics.
So this is real politics, and it is underhanded and tricky and complex. We can hear so much about the rape movement in Iraq because it's the policy of not just the u.s. government but Western capitalism to let us know about that. Just like the u.s. media is always glad to tell us about Saddam's crimes against women. Doesn't mean that it isn't true, it just means that under patriarchal capitalism every piece of news is spun for the sponsor.
It's down in the sleazy character of amerikkkan imperialism to always justify their macho conquests as rescuing helpless women vics. They used that lie when they stole Indian lands. They used that lie when they started lynching Black women & children & men. Now they're using it to make their atrocities in the Muslim world look all Clint Eastwood. (That's why the big u.s. army heroine of the Iraq invasion was a skinny white sister from West Virginia who never fired a shot and was said to be sexually assaulted but can't remember a thing about the many Arab people who saved her life). What i'm saying is that the white men in suits got a rape script. They all got a line on rape, and everyone's been rehearsed on rape like the boys choir. And it's lies. Listen to them sing:
"The Iraqi people are free now. And they do not have to worry about...their wives being taken to rape rooms. Those days are over." Paul Bremer, Chief U.S.Mafia Leader in Iraq (notice the unconscious patriarchal possessive in his language--"Iraqi people" are men, while women are only "their wives"). 9/2/03 "We know about the mass graves and the rape rooms..." Scott McClellan, White House Minister of Propaganda. 12/10/03As my favorite playwright, Bertina Brecht*, said, "When the leaders talk of peace, the people know the war has already begun." When the suits talk now about rescuing women, sisters should know that mass rapes have already started. Go to the u.s. women closest to the scene of the crime--the tens of thousands of servicewomen in khaki and desert camouflage. There they are, with M-16s in hand, in combat boots, young and fit, been through the world's most expensive patriarchal capitalist boot camp. Are they protecting Iraqi women and children from terrorism and rape? No way. Because they're the first line of vics themselves. They're who gets raped first in the warmup before GI rapists even get to the iraqi women and children. How can they protect Iraqi women and children if they can't protect themselves? They're the make-believe "Amazons", who painfully prove the world of difference between real Amazons and naive just-like-men GI Janes. Bear with me, we're going at this from a different direction.Irene Weiser writes about the results of an official u.s. study, which found 112 reported rapes of servicewomen by their fellow GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan in eighteen months of 2002-2003:
"Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed." George W. Bush, Klan Chief of White Men. 3/12/04
"There's still remnants of that regime that would like to take it back. They could torture people and have rape rooms...But they can't do that anymore." Donald Rumsfeld, Minister of Aggression. 3/16/04
"There are no more rape rooms and torture chambers in Iraq." Condoleezza Rice, Chief White House Just-Like-Men. 3/19/04
"Iraq is free of rape rooms." George Bush II, Temporary King of Iraq. 10/8/04
The U.S. serviceman waited outside the latrine and hit the woman on the back of the head as she exited, knocking her unconscious. He tied her hands with cord, blindfolded her, cut her clothes off with a knife, stuffed her underwear in her mouth and proceeded to rape her...When she came to she was transported to another facility where she was interrogated for three hours. She received no medical treatment for her head injuries...Prosecution of these crimes is delayed indefinitely, and servicewomen must often continue to serve in the same unit as their assailant.We know that most u.s. rapes go unreported, and that it is often said that there are at least ten rapes for every one reported (i would say from personal experience that no one knows for sure, but that few rapes are ever reported to the police), meaning that possibly 1,000 u.s. servicewomen have already been raped by their "comrades in arms" even on the Iraq-Afghanistan battlefields. Over 1,000 sexual assaults on u.s. servicewomen were reported in 2003 on bases worldwide. Think on it, rape not in the ones or tens, but by the thousands. Not accident, we say, but policy.Think about the u.s. Air Force Academy scandal in 2003-2004, where rape was found to be so prevalent that it was a part of the training--at freshwoman orientation, the senior cadet speaker bitterly told her sisters that she herself had been raped, that most women cadets were raped, and that they should expect to be raped themselves as cadets. This is not a rape room but a whole rape academy. Even Saddam didn't have that innovation.
No matter how superpower, hightech, or equal opportunity, the u.s. military has an institutional loyalty to rape. They need it and cover for it and promote it and insist on it. We're not talking about semi-literate crimies from poor backgrounds, some marginal privates. It's the activity of the elite. In March 2005 nearly 150 women broke through the male headlines in the news by charging that they had been raped as cadets. The result was a complete hysterical whitewash and near blanket protection for all the rapist future generals and admirals. i mean, the Roamin' Catholic Church of Child Molesters couldn't have done better. Using a survey of all women cadets as a prop, the Pentagon told the nation's press that sexual assault at the service academies was "comparable to civilian schools"--reported by 5% of women cadets--and came from the bad influence of society not from the military. In elite government academies, where doors are without locks and where young people are groomed to lead massive violence, women have a better chance of being raped than being a starter in a varsity sport. The patriarchy says that this is only normal, and who can disagree?
But reading the fine print of the Pentagon report, the horror show of patriarchal capitalist power becomes even more visible. As a tipoff, the word "rape" itself doesn't appear anywhere in the report or, apparently, in the survey of women cadets. How can you explain that? Then, the Pentagon excluded from the survey all the rape and assault victims who had quit or been forced out of the academies (many cadets who reported rapes were then charged themselves for offenses and forced to resign). And yet & again, buried deep in the report, were confirmations of how deeply these women cadets are being brainwashed to be participants in men's ownership of women's bodies. Into rape culture. Half the women cadets said that women were afraid to report sexual assaults for fear of reprisals by higher command. Even more women cadets--63% at West Point and 81% at Annapolis-- said that they personally would NOT report or intervene when other women were sexually harassed or assaulted. They have learned from the system to be obedient "good girls" and not protect women from violent male attacks. This is a core value.
We all need to rethink rape on a deeper level. To rethink the persistence of rape. Not just as a "crime", not just as part of sexism, but as a structural component necessary for even the most modern and cosmopolitan male society. Like, the u.s. military is today's poster boy for "Equal Opportunity". Black men are generals and top sergeants, while women are flying combat missions in fighters and helicopters and commanding MP companies. Yet & again, the Green Machine is wedded to rape. Like it's their institutional need on a cellular level.
What is starting to emerge is a world war 4 over who shall own women. If you haven't understood that, your daughters will. And rape is the visible tip of the iceberg, the political terrorism that marks women as the property of any and all men (just as marriage marks women as the property of an individual man or male family).
We can follow the u.s. rapists' footsteps right to that Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad. After (and only after) the torture scandal broke, congressmen told the press that they'd seen photos of an Iraqi woman prisoner "forced to bare her breasts". Newsweek May 10-17, 2004 reported that unreleased photos "include an American soldier having sex with a female Iraqi detainee and photos of American soldiers watching Iraqis having sex with juveniles." The Pentagons are only admitting what photos don't let them deny, but simple logic tells us that inside those special u.s. "anti-terrorist" prisons and detention camps where "anything goes", rape is widespread, common, and routine for women and children as well as men.
And you didn't learn about it first from Mr. Anti-War, for all his grants and intellectual muscle-building and buzz-sawed forests of manifestoes and articles. Even though long before those sex-tourism snapshots in Abu Gharib were public, Iraqi women were investigating and trying to get the story out. But the Anti-war movement of men and their helpers couldn't hear those women's voices.
Michigan attorney Shereef Akeel, who has interviewed some 50 former detainees in Iraq about their treatment in George & Laura's custody for a class action lawsuit, has recorded sexual attacks as routine treatment. As recently as last Summer, when an Iraqi boy just fifteen years old said his GI guards raped him. "He was told to go on all fours naked and was sodomized from behind...He said they made him dance and he was crying." Another Iraqi woman told Akeel she witnessed another woman and man being raped on her first night in captivity.
Team America has their rape rooms, too, it turns out, just like Saddam did. We as women should be ashamed for not knowing that. We shouldn't need big world media scandals to know that. It should be a given, if we see the world through the eyes of women.
So what else are the patriarchal capitalist media concealing by not asking? Why, what are the Iraqi women doing in the special "anti-terrorist" detention camps in the first place? The whole world knows that women are hardly allowed to be terrorists in Iraq. There's no tv images of Iraqi women in black ski masks trotting down the street with anti-tank missiles on their shoulders. With the exception of two women ex-officials in Saddam's regime (the Iraqi Condoleezza & Hilary), these women are captured (to say they have been "arrested" is to falsely suggest some juridical process other than groups of men with guns doing whatever they want) not as terrorists, but usually as hostages because their husbands or fathers are wanted by the occupation regime. This has been admitted. The threat has been that wanted men should surrender or "their" women property will be damaged. So the GI rapos are really part of the whole program. The other reason Iraqi women are captured is just for rape and to cover up rape. If GI rapos are all comfortable doing u.s. servicewomen in their own units, why wouldn't they be even more out there in attacking Iraqi women? With the men of the family out of the way, fled or tied up, the soldiers take women somewhere for what they call "interrogation". You fill in the blanks.
The British Guardian newspaper's male correspondent in Iraq filed this story about systematic rape and the Abu Gharib prison scandal: "The scandal at Abu Ghraib prison was first exposed not by a digital photograph but by a letter. In December 2003, a woman prisoner inside the jail west of Baghdad managed to smuggle out a note. Its contents were so shocking that, at first, Amal Kadham Swadi and the other Iraqi women lawyers who had been trying to gain access to the US jail found them hard to believe.
The note claimed that US guards had been raping women detainees, who were, and are, in a small minority at Abu Ghraib. Several of the women were now pregnant, it added. The women had been forced to strip naked in front of men, it said....Late last year, Swadi, one of seven female lawyers now representing women detainees in Abu Ghraib, began to piece together a picture of systemic abuse and torture perpetrated by US guards against Iraqi women held in detention without charge. This was not only true of Abu Ghraib, she discovered, but was, as she put it, 'happening all across Iraq'. In November last year, Swadi visited a woman detainee at a US military base at al-Kharkh, a former police compound in Baghdad. 'She was the only woman who would talk about her case. She was crying. She told us she had been raped,' Swadi says. 'Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the stitches. She told us, "We have daughters and husbands. For God's sake don't tell anyone about this.The London Muslim weekly Al-Wasat printed an interview with "Nadia", an Iraqi woman who was gang raped repeatedly in Abu Gharib and who was the subject of some of those GI sex-tourism photos. "Her visit to a relative ended up in her detention by American troops, who stormed the home under the preferable excuse of 'searching for weapons'...five soldiers fondled and raped her one after another..."
Astonishingly, the secret inquiry launched by the US military in January, headed by Major General Antonio Taguba, has confirmed that the letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib by a woman known only as 'Noor' was entirely and devastatingly accurate. While most of the focus since the scandal broke three weeks ago has been on the abuse of men, and on their sexual humilation in front of US women soldiers, there is now incontrovertible proof that women detainees - who form a small but unknown proportion of the 40,000 people in US custody since last year's invasion - have also been abused. Nobody appears to know how many...
Taguba discovered that guards have also videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. The Bush administration has refused to release other photographs of Iraqi women forced at gunpoint to bare their breasts (although it has shown them to Congress) - ostensibly to prevent attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, but in reality, one suspects, to prevent further domestic embarrassment.
Earlier this month it emerged that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention centre after being arrested last July. Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who investigated the case and found it to be true, said, 'She was held for about six weeks without charge. During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey.
Nadia was set free from the US hell in Abu Gharib after spending up to six months there. The American soldiers dumped her along the highway of Abu Gharib and gave her a meager 10,000 dinars to 'start a new life.' Too ashamed to return home, she now works as a housemaid for an Iraqi family.But what does that wornout language mean anyway, "too ashamed to return home"? Here is more patriarchal double-talk. The true term is too terrorized to return home (and "home", that's an unexamined concept we need to get into later). Here is where we cross the lines again from one side of men's battlefield to the other. Many of these women victims of George and Laura's "family values" can't bear witness because they are missing. Because they have been silenced. Many are dead soon after release. Attorney Shereef Akeel couldn't interview one u.s. prison rape victim who became pregnant because she had committed suicide. Or so he was told.The Guardian article says on this point: "Some of the women involved may since have disappeared, according to human rights activists. Professor Huda Shaker al-Nuaimi, a political scientist at Baghdad University who is researching the subject for Amnesty International, says she thinks 'Noor' is now dead. ' We believe she was raped and that she was pregnant by a US guard. After her release from Abu Ghraib, I went to her house. The neighbours said her family had moved away. I believe she has been killed.' Honour killings are not unusual in Islamic society, where rape is often equated with shame and where the stigma of being raped by an American soldier would, according to one Islamic cleric, be 'unbearable'. The prospects for rape victims in Iraq are grave; it is hardly surprising that no women have so far come forward to talk about their experiences...".
Like, i'm certain you know, but for those who don't: so-called honor killings are a big part of life in parts of the capitalist world. If a woman has sexual relations with a man other than her husband, or sometimes just physical contact with a man outside her family--even if it's involuntary, such as rape--then the family is considered "dishonored". The only way to regain their honor is for the men of the family to kill "their" offending women. There are not only thousands and thousands of cases of husbands murdering their wives, but many cases of brothers killing sisters and sons killing mothers. Even if the woman has not had any contact with other men but is suspected or just falsely rumored to have done so, then she must be murdered anyway to preserve the male family honor.
The roots of this rule have to do with our his-story as a unique property of man. A human property that can reproduce and give the patriarchal family new household workers and heirs of the same blood. Which is why it has been so important to these men that "their" women do not have even the appearance of unauthorized sex with others. This terrorism gives those women a big incentive to stay indoors, limit outside relations, not travel outside the family house unescorted, staying within invisible boundaries as the true social prisoners.
Professor Huda al-Nuami, consultant for Amnesty International and the head of Palestinian Studies at Baghdad University, has experienced this trap herself. Where your own family and your own sisters and daughters want to silence you. Stopped at an amerikkkan roadblock in Baghdad, made to leave the car with her family so GIs could search it, Professor Nuami protested and was the target of verbal sexual abuse by one of the u.s. soldiers. He pointed his rifle at her to halt her, then grabbed his crotch and made "a lewd suggestion".
Ms. Nuami says she shook with outrage, but found herself just as infuriated at her own family members, who shoved her in the car and yelled at her all the way home for bringing shame and dishonor upon the family. Later, she says, her own 20-year-old daughter told her, 'I don't want the stigma of a mother who was mistreated by the U.S.'While on their side of the battlefield, the islamic-fascists and their rapo brothers are successfully waging a criminal-guerrilla war against Iraqi women. They are attacking many, many more Iraqi women than they are attacking GIs. So their war against Iraqi women is really the larger war, the greater war in Iraq. Rape is political terrorism. Nowhere is this clearer this moment than in Iraq. The rapist political agendas of menÕs neo-fascist movements, the mass spontaneous woman-hating of individual men, the supporting societal framework of women as a unique type of property under patriarchal capitalism, all mesh together into a "perfect storm" of rape for Iraqi women. Because it is a time of crisis in which the ownership of women is being contested just as the rule over society is up for grabs.
Suzzanne Goldenberg reported in the English Guardian newspaper:
For Asma, an engineer in her twenties, the attack was utterly random. She was abducted on May 18 from a crowded street in a suburb of Baghdad where she was shopping with her mother, younger sister, and an adult male cousin. A pickup truck was parked on the kerb, and six men were investigating car trouble. 'Suddenly something flashed before my eyes, and we were surrounded.They opened fire all around us,' her mother says.Amnesty International quotes Amal Al-Khaderi, formerly an official with the Iraqi Red Crescent aid society, as also afraid to drive her own car or be alone in public: "Do you see the women on the street? There is no one. This country is like a cemetery. You'd be crazy to think we can go on like this, covered and silent?" Men outnumber women in the streets and markets "20-1, remarkable in a nation where the population is 55 percent female."
Asma was bundled inside, where two men pushed her head to her knees, and drove for several hours to a farmhouse on the edge of Baghdad, where she was repeatedly raped. It is unclear why she was targeted, but she was admonished for wearing trousers and for failing to cover her hair. The next day she was encased in hijab - the traditional headscarf - and dropped off near her parents' home. She has barely spoken since, and sits at home playing cards with her mother.
But at least she is alive. In the emergency room of Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital, a forlorn notice begs for information about a schoolgirl who disappeared from her home in May. Another seeks news of a woman of 33 who disappeared from her home in central Baghdad in July.
Fears of a similar fate have driven Baghdad's female population indoors ...Another, Rafel Daniel, says she has stopped driving her own car, and asks her parents to chauffeur her on errands. 'I'm under house arrest,' she says.
This is a well-coordinated, strategic war of terror against Iraqi women. The French newspaper Le Monde interviewed "Nadia Ahmed", the pseudonym of a 49 year-old Iraqi woman who has "no particular political ideology" but is "opposed to both the islamists and the American occupation". She said:
Women are rarer and rare in the street. Kidnappings, hostile men's looks, and insecurity are the main reasons for this. The most courageous women go out and shop as quickly as they can, hurrying home before it gets dark. Gripped with fear, I sometimes go shopping with another neighbor, May, a 50-year-old woman. Each of us is as tense as can be! Once we get back, we can breathe again and praise God that we're safe and sound! Women are kidnapped in broad daylight, others have been killed because they were wearing tight jeans.A month ago, a car full of masked men was stopped in front of the institute where my husband works. The guards who were supposed to protect the place ran away. One of the masked men got out of the car. Addressing himself to the institute's receptionist, he made threats: "Tell all your women students and workers to wear the veil! Beginning tomorrow, if we see a single one without a veil, she'll be dragged by the hair in the mud in front of you!"So isn't this a perfect war for men? Both sides are raping occupied women at will while the families are silencing and killing many of the victims. As Dick likes to say when he's having fun, "It doesn't get any better than this!"The u.s. occupation's Iraqi police have been quoted as saying that they would never arrest a man just for killing a woman relative. One Iraqi police station commander said that they would only hold a man in an honor killing if he came to the police station on his own initiative and voluntarily insisted on being arrested! Even then the sentence, if any , would be less than three months. And this is the George and Laura "democratic" Iraqi police, paid for with our very involuntary tax dollars.
The news spread quickly. Some girls decided to abandon their studies and stay home. Others, already veiled, only showed indifference. And those who wanted to continue studying decided to start wearing the veil against their will. The next day, only a few were still bare-headed. As for me, I'm not veiled and I'm against the wearing of the veil, and this incident was frightening, and fed my fear. What would I do if Iraqi women were forced to wear the veil? I couldn't stand such a requirement, such an annihilation!
Can we figure out yet which side of men is our side, as women?
By the way, this isn't about Arab society or Muslim society only, as we all know but should keep remembering. All male societies do this. Have something like honor killings and rape movements. In Latin America, for example, it has long been customary for capitalist police and courts to excuse men's "crimes of passion" or "crimes of honor" in killing their women property. In the Congo, as that March 7th Human Rights Watch report reminded us, over four million people have been killed since the fighting began in 1998 but the strategy of mass rape is still gathering momentum. Thousands of mass rapes of women and children in untold numbers are used in eliminating entire ethnic communities. Human Rights Watch says, "What's particularly frightening, of course, is the scale of what's happening in the Congo." The U.N. military "peacekeeping" expedition there (known as M.O.N.U.C.) has joined right into the war against women, especially in raping and forced prostitution of children. U.N. official Jane Rasmussen has admitted: "The fact that women are so degraded already that it almost starts to become normal to them. One girl commented to me ruefully that at least MONUC pays."
Nor is it only poor societies in the Third World. Since the basic definition of patriarchal society is the ownership of women's bodies by men, even in the most technologically-developed societies changes in women's bodies such as pregnancy can please or displease men...and cause death. For example, a recent report found that "Murder is a surprisingly common cause of death among pregnant women in the United states, U.S. Government researchers reported..."
'Homicide is a leading cause of pregnancy-associated injury deaths,' Jeani Chang and colleagues wrote in the latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health. They investigated the deaths of women who died while pregnant or within a year of being pregnant between 1991 and 1999 and found... of the injury-related deaths, 617 or 31 percent were ruled homicide, making murder the second most common cause of injury-related death for pregnant women after car accidents.It is just as easy for men to harvest women and children in Denver or Seattle as it is in Baghdad, although amerikkka wants you to believe otherwise. The landmark Jessica Gonzales vs. Castle Rock, Colorado case now before the Supremes is so revealing you almost know that something bad is being arranged to retire her (fatal car accident, arrest for drug possession, or maybe remarriage). That's the case where despite a so-called court order of protection, her estranged husband kidnapped her three young daughters and killed them. The police refused, of course, to do anything in response to her increasingly alarmed reports of the kidnapping. So the husband had plenty of time to kill the girl-children as part of a special day for him (first he took them all to the amusement park). Since it turns out that there is no legal right to police protection from male violence, her lawyer is trying the novel tactic of claiming local government violation of Gonzales' "property rights" in her children. After a surprise victory on the lower court level, hostile questioning by the Big Nine made any reasonable outcome look dim. One Man In Black declared that the fundamental right was of police to do whatever they wanted no matter how many court orders women obtained--he said that police had the right to simply say that they were "too busy" or even "didn't want to" protect a woman & her children.The truth is that u.s. court orders of protection "protect" women in Colorado just like piles of Korans "protect" women in Iraq ( and isn't capitalist men's law only our version of the Koran?). The real meaning is the opposite. A court order of protection for a woman is never enforced against a man because it can't be. Patriarchal law doesn't allow us to do preventative or prophylactic elimination of dangerous men. That's what these court orders really mean, that the capitalist patriarchy has taken over any power of self defense we might have and orders us on pain of imprisonment to remain defenseless. This is in the 21st century!
i said this before, but i want to underline it: Let's recognize that women need, as a life and death matter, a foreign policy and a political-military worldview of our own. Why can't half the human race have its own strategy, its own agenda, and its own power to carry these out? From us, by us, for us.
You know, in Kenya there's a notorious small village called Umoja, the Swahili word for Unity. The women who live there are a self-governing, self-supporting women's community made up of rape victims and other women escaping marriage. Many of them were raped by the visiting British soldiers who train at a neo-colonial military base nearby (yet another modern capitalist rape academy). Running for their lives from murderous husbands who wanted to regain their male honor, they came together into their own tiny outcast community. And found themselves keeping for themselves and their children all their time and energy and income from making handicrafts and herding. Their spokeswoman, Rebecca Lolosoli, says: "We've seen so many changes in these women. They're healthier and happier. They dress well. They used to have to beg. Now, they're the ones giving out food to others."
Unity for women isn't some bland platitude, as in men's political speeches. Unity for us has a dangerous edge, because it means being free to be there for women by leaving the villages of men. By leaving home. That's where unity starts for women. That's why it is so rare still.
( The end for now)
* i used the name "Bertina Brecht" to recognize in my own way that many of the German radical playwright Bertold Brecht's most famous works - like The Three-Penny Opera - were not written by him at all but by his unacknowledged women collaborators. [return to text] Be Sure to Also Read Butch Lee's Women's War Daily #2, The Rape Movement in Iraq and Men's Anti-War Politics.
Butch Lee is a revolutionary Amazon theorist, the author of Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain, Jailbreak out of History: the re-biography of Harriet Tubman, and The Military Strategy of Women and Children.