How to Discredit Afghan Women, Courtesy of the CIA
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.