Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sleeping with the Enemy?

Hillary Clinton, the Taliban and Gender Politics

“You don’t make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies.”, declared Hillary Clinton in a CNN interview, as she justified NATO efforts to bribe Taliban fighters into laying down their arms, with a brazenness that would have made Machiavelli blush. Clinton was referring to the $140 million ‘Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund’ announced at the International Conference on Afghanistan hosted by the British government on January 28 this year.

The fund is supposedly targeted at buying off ‘mid-level leaders’ of the Taliban. What’s actually on the agenda, however, is negotiations with the top Taliban leadership to draw them back into government in a possible ‘power-sharing arrangement’ with the government of Hamid Karzai. The UN Mission head in Afghanistan, for instance, had meetings with the leadership of the Taliban in the days leading up to the Conference and Hillary Clinton had been briefed about these negotiations beforehand.

Attempts by the US and NATO to have negotiations with the Taliban are, of course, not new. The fact that such negotiations have been taking place for several years now, has been an open ‘secret’ in government, NATO and UN circles in Kabul. What should not pass without comment, however, is that Hillary Clinton, who also promotes herself as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, is now leading the implementation of this strategy.

Lest we forget, the symbol of the ‘liberation’ of Afghanistan by US and NATO troops, were happy images of chador-less Afghan women. The NATO invasion was all about getting rid of these ‘women-hating, Al-Qaeda lovers’, was the propaganda. Gender equity was on the banner headline of the UN agencies, UNIFEM, UNDP and others, who poured in on the coat tails of the occupation forces. Hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into thousands of ‘gender and development’ and ‘violence against women’ projects and programs. The NATO occupation was made synonymous with the liberation of Afghan women from the Taliban.

So is Hillary Clinton now really sleeping with the ‘enemy’, as she describes the Taliban? Not really. Given that the US government created the Taliban in the first place, it could be a case of merely patching up a rift between former bedfellows. Whether the Taliban sees this as such, however, is an entirely different matter.

As feminists, we must reaffirm that women’s rights can only be best guaranteed, in a genuinely sovereign Afghanistan and not under the boots of an imperialist occupation force. Hillary Clinton and the US-NATO governments attempts to draw the Taliban back into government is a case in point. This is why we need to expose the hypocrisy of an ‘establishment feminism’ that falsely speaks in our name.