How to Discredit Afghan Women, Courtesy of the CIA

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Friday, March 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Wikileaks obtained and published (PDF) a CIA “Red Cell” analysis — that’s what the agency presents either to counter received wisdom or to be deliberately provocative — on bolstering support for the Afghanistan war among skeptical European publics. (Hat tip to Jeremy Scahill.) Among the strategies employed: a cynical manipulation of the horror faced by Afghan women under the Taliban:

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.

There is a general sense of unease among human rights activists about the future of Afghanistan if there’s a negotiated settlement of the war with Taliban elements, even despite the women’s rights abuses perpetrated by the Karzai government and its allies. It’ll be the subject of what might be a fraught conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace next week. For anyone concerned about human rights, it’s a vexing, haunting question, and one that creates an increased need to listen to the voices of Afghan women as they try to consolidate what gains they have made in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

This analysis, however, outlines a surefire way to cynically discredit those voices precisely when they’re needed most. The easiest recourse to marginalization is to portray someone as a CIA stooge. “Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences,” the Red Cell analysis advises. What a disservice that would be to some of the bravest people on the planet, who’ve had to endure so much, to be used as a sales pitch for a war.

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jamesscaminaciiiiphd
Comment posted March 28, 2010 @ 8:04 am

Spencer, as a former intelligence analyst, I can tell you that a “Red Cell” is not about “countering received wisdom” or to be “deliberately provocative.”

We divide a conflict or contest into a Blue side (that is us) and the Red side (the opponent).

A Red Cell consists of US analysts playing the Red side and coming up with strategies to defeat the Red side.

Western public opinion is a crucial aspect of ANY Western security policy. It is in many ways the strategic center of gravity in a contest. Lose public opinion and you have essentially lost public support for a security policy.

We have played this contest throughout the Cold War. Does anyone really believe the Christian Democratic parties in post-war Europe would have maintained themselves in power against Communist parties without the US overtly and covertly providing such assistance as publishing journals, holding conferences, and radio broadcasts, and providing funds to trade unions and political parties to compete in elections? The AFL-CIO was one of the great bulwarks against communist trade unions in support of social democratic unions during the Cold War.

Winning public opinion is a crucial battle. It does not make Afghan women stooges. They either have a message that resonates in the West or it does not. If the USG is helping them have a voice in Western European media is that so terrible? Should they be struggling to have their voices heard or shut up/out completely?


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louiskjarvis
Comment posted March 28, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

As a Peace Corps volunteer who arrived in Afghanistan in December 1973 (assigned after training to Bamiyan, where the two giant Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001), you could say that I have a dog in this fight. Allow me to offer an anecdote concerning the on-going nightmare in the homeland of Zarathustra and the Magi. One day in July 1975, I went to visit my friends Ambassador Ted Eliot and his wife at their residence in Kabul. As it happened, the U.S. ambassador to Iran and his wife were also visiting that day; this was none other than the Man Who Kept the Secrets, former CIA director Richard Helms (his wife, Cynthia, offered me a job teaching English to the Shah's air force officers in Teheran). I suppose Ambassador Helms had good reason to remain quiet and let his wife do the talking; the dirty tricks and covert operations that led to the CIA-induced horror in Afghanistan were already under way. Brzezinski may deserve the lion's share of the “credit,” luring the Soviets to invade in 1979 just as April Glaspie would lure Saddam into Kuwait in 1990, but Zbig didn't begin the American treachery in Afghanistan, he inherited it. The lamentable truth my Afghan sisters need to understand and accept is that the U.S. didn't invade their country in 2001 in order to help them–we occupied their bleeding nation for purposes of empire. The only way for the ever-increasing bloodshed to end is for all foreign troops to return home. That is not only possible, it will soon happen. There is a God, and He is indeed merciful. Keep praying, sisters, you will be heard.


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[...] in these foreign countries.  It explains that French sympathy for Afghan refugees means that exploiting Afghan women as pro-war messengers would be effective, while Germans would be more vulnerable to a fear-mongering campaign (failure in Afghanistan means [...]


geniebottle
Comment posted March 28, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

I do not believe truth is relative, I do believe white eurocentric male imperialism has been a negative aspect of civilization long enough.


kmansfield
Comment posted March 29, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Leah Farrell has had an ongoing dialong with Abu Walid al Masri, and he says the same thing.
http://allthingsct.wordpress.com/my-dialogue-wi…
3/5 pages have been translated. They are fascinating.

Americans offered the Afghanis a one time only – 5 million payment to lay the pipeline, they would use to rebuild their country and reimburse people for their displacement, the only other choice was at the end of a gun. This took place long a year before 9/11 and according to him the timing had everything to do with stopping the planting of poppy seed, which they would use to sell to pharmaceutical companies on the side of the law, much like india.


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anon
Comment posted March 30, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

I don't really understand the problem here. This strikes me as a PR memo, nothing more – is the US no allowed to engage in PR anymore?

The memo does not contain any sort of false information – what it is saying is true. It also is not saying that women from Afghanistan should be manipulated or somehow tricked into speaking out in support of US policy in Afghanistan, so this idea that the CIA will discredit them somehow doesn't make sense. Women are not passive things, after all – they can make their own decisions. The women of Afghanistan are, I suspect, a diverse bunch, reflecting a variety of opinions on US policy in the country and perfectly able to decide for themselves whether or not they'd like to voice their opinions one way or the other. If the US State Dept were to follow the advice of this memo and reach out to women about doing some PR work for them in France and Germany….so what?


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louiskjarvis
Comment posted April 1, 2010 @ 3:15 am

Actually, no, the U.S. never was, is or will be allowed to engaged in public manipulation: not, that is, if it wants to avoid being destroyed by God. “Sell the sizzle and not the steak”–the modus operandi of all empires, including the one you live in, aid and abet–is an abomination in the eyes of God, I think. And so you, your family, your country and your so-called civilization is at high risk. Isn't that the meaning of Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of the Lord of Truth?


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