THE SPINE JULY 22, 2010
The Kabul conference has come and gone, a half day fest which put the finishing touches on the plans for Afghani security and how it can be helped by fully 70 governments, all in attendance, and, of course, with the United Nations represented by its secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. On Monday, Mrs. Clinton was in Pakistan; on Tuesday, Kabul; on Wednesday, South Korea, right onto the edge of its demilitarized zone with North Korea. Today, she is in Hanoi and, of course, she has reproached the government of Vietnam for its well-documented contempt for human rights. So we know she travels well. And we know she has to sleep. But when does she think? One point on which we can all agree is that she is not her daughter's wedding planner.
But back to the Kabul conference. Unreality suffused the event as the following photos will testify:
The gilded surroundings speak to the fiction of the political situation, like the Czar's chambers while the Petrograd revolt was on fire.
President Karzai announced that his government would take over in 2014. In the meantime, President Obama wants American troops to begin
withdrawal exactly a year from now. Britain is committed to 2014. But, surely, it won't overstay the U.S. In any case, Karzai's regime is a fraud: corrupt, inefficient, unprincipled, disloyal, not brave. The tribes and armed gangs for whose fidelity he is straining are by very nature not trustworthy. Most important, Afghanistan is actually not a country, let alone a nation.
In this morning's Times--actually I read it in the International Herald Tribune--David Sanger fleshes out the "double-edged sword" character of the president's begin-withdrawal deadline of July 2012. His Democratic majority in the House has fallen to the "weariness factor," making the policy more and more dependent on the responsibility (and patriotism!) of the Republicans. Lurking in the Obama West Point speech was a mission, as Sanger quotes Senator Richard Lugar, the statesmanlike ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, that is "proceeding without a clear definition of success." Or "we could make progress for decades on security, on employment, good government, women's rights" without ever reaching "a satisfactory conclusion."
Ah, yes, women's rights. Hillary's theme. During the conference In Kabul she assured the assembly that women's rights are "a personal commitment of mine" and that they "would not be sacrificed" in any peace deal with the Taliban. This, if you will excuse me, is nothing but bullshit. Like the bloated address she gave at another United Nations jamboree, in Beijing in 1995.
Those of us who have the opportunity to be here have the responsibility to speak for those who could not. As an American, I want to speak for those women in my own country, women who are raising children on the minimum wage, women who can’t afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence, including violence in their own homes.
I want to speak up for mothers who are fighting for good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean air, and clean airwaves; for older women, some of them widows, who find that, after raising their families, their skills and life experiences are not valued in the marketplace; for women who are working all night as nurses, hotel clerks, or fast food chefs so that they can be at home during the day with their children; and for women everywhere who simply don’t have time to do everything they are called upon to do each and every day.
But these were all vapors. The Kabul speech deals with the rights and sufferings of real women. If the Taliban are re-established nothing will help anybody, least of all women whose degraded status is a basic principle of the Islamic warriors against whom we are enlisted. From the Guardian's coverage:
The US secretary of state told a conference of the world's foreign ministers that women in the country "will not be sacrificed" and announced a number of initiatives to improve their situation.
Her intervention came when many diplomats assume that any deal with hardline insurgents will inevitably involve compromises that would have been unthinkable nine years ago, when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was in part justified by the desire to emancipate Afghan women.
But in a meeting with leading Afghan women today Clinton told them that any deal "can't come at the cost of women and women's lives"...
Earlier this month, a report by Human Rights Watch said the Afghan government was already doing little to protect women and that their rights should be a priority in any political agreement with the Taliban.
The organisation said in areas under the control of militants, women suffer from violence and intimidation while girls' schools and female activists are attacked. The report identified one case where a female civil servant had to quit her job after receiving a "night letter" from insurgents threatening to kill her.