Afghanistan’s girls show the dark side of America’s influence on the world

Summary: Trump is committing America to the overthrow of a 4th secular regime in the Middle East, probably to be replaced (like the others) by a fundamentalist Islamic government (or chaos). Amidst the cheering for Trump, let’s look at what we have done for the women in Afghanistan. Let’s remember that before we wreck another country.

People say “you can’t turn back the clock.”
Islamic Fundamentalists have proven that you can do so.
You just can’t care if others see you as evil.

Afghanistan Women in the Burka

America has helped overthrow three secular regimes — Afghanistan in the 1980s (Operation Cyclone, “Charlie Wilson’s War”), Operation Iraq Freedom in 2003, and Libya (Operation Unified Protector in 2011). Fundamentalist Islamic regimes replaced them all (in Libya, with along chaos).

Now we are doing it again in Syria (Operation Inherent ResolveTimber Sycamore, etc.). See this mind-blowing ignorant advocacy at National Review by influential Middle East expert Matthew Brodsky. As with our first three interventions, we ignore the likely Islamic government that will replace Assad. We ignore the likely effects of this regime change on Syria’s people, as we have ignored our responsibility for the horrific effects of our past revolutions.

As a reminder, consider Afghanistan. It made great progress in the 1950s and 1960s. This continued in the turbulent 1970s, with a quiet coup in 1973 against the monarchy, the communist revolution in 1978. The communists accelerated the pace of modernization, with more rights for women.

The Mujahideen, largely fundamentalist Islamic warriors, rebelled. US propaganda told Americans they were secular western-loving rebels (we love being lied to). The Soviets sent troops to help the government fight the insurgents, as America has done so many times. We intervened to help the Islamic rebels (Operation Cyclone) — who won. (See details about our role at the end of the post.)

Afghanistan was not heaven before our intervention, or even Buffalo. For details see “Women in Afghanistan” by Amnesty International, October 2013.

“Afghan women were first eligible to vote in 1919 – only a year after women in the UK were given voting rights, and a year before the women in the United States were allowed to vote. In the 1950s purdah (gendered separation) was abolished; in the 1960s a new constitution brought equality to many areas of life, including political participation.”

We helped end that. The following photos show a nation working to join the world’s civilization. The first photo shows the fantastic change from then to now, with women’s role in society rolled back several centuries. At the College of Medicine in Kabul two Afghan medical students listen to their professor as they examine a plaster cast from a human body. Photo from The Atlantic: “Afghanistan in the 1950s and 60s“.

Women at the Kabul Medical School in 1962 - Afghanistan
AFP/Getty Photo.

A scene in a Kabul record store, date unknown (probably late 1950s or early 1960s). From a photo essay by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy.

Women at a record store in Kabul, Afghanistan

A photo from Kabul in 1967 by Dr. Bill Podlich published in the Daily Mail: “Life before the Taliban“. Back then girls attended high school (shown here in their uniforms). See women at the park — in western clothes, with no male escort.

Kabul - 1967 - High School girls - Afghanistan

Women at a park in Kabul, Afghanistan - 1967

Here are photos of Kabul in the 1970s (validity, sources and dates are unknown).

Women of Kabul in 1970s - Afghanistan

Women at a Kabul Park - Afghanistan

For more of photos of this troubled country see the “Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan” page at Facebook.

Afghanistan today

Women in Afghanistan-Reuters

The Taliban enforce their version of Islamic Sharia law. Women and girls are tightly regulated. See some of the details in “Women in Afghanistan” by Amnesty International, October 2013.

  • Banned from going to school or studying.
  • Banned from working.
  • Banned from leaving the house without a male chaperone.
  • Banned from showing their skin in public.
  • Banned from accessing healthcare delivered by men (with women forbidden from working, healthcare was virtually inaccessible).
  • Banned from being involved in politics or speaking publicly.

“There were many other ways their rights were denied to them. Women were essentially invisible in public life, imprisoned in their home. In Kabul, residents were ordered to cover their ground and first-floor windows so women inside could not be seen from the street. If a woman left the house, it was in a full body veil (burqa), accompanied by a male relative: she had no independence.

“If she disobeyed these discriminatory laws, punishments were harsh. A woman could be flogged for showing an inch or two of skin under her full-body burqa, beaten for attempting to study, stoned to death if she was found guilty of adultery.”

For a more vivid picture see this photo of Bibi Aisha, punished for fleeing her husband’s house in Kabul, Afghanistan. From TIME: “Women of Afghanistan“. Forcibly married at 14. Fled at 18 after years of abuse. She was caught and mutilated by her family as punishment. This is the Afghanistan we helped build.

Bibi Aisha - TIME
Bibi Aisha. Photo by Jodi Bieber/TIME.


Afghanistan has been had civil wars running since 1978. We did not start these wars, and they would have run without us. But our years of interference have contributed to Afghanistan’s problems, not helped them. Nor can we claim bad luck, after making similar mistakes in Iraq and Libya. Interventionists talk about our Responsibility to Protect. If that is a valid reason for our help overthrowing those government, we should be prosecuted for malpractice.

Now we are doing so again in Syria. When will we learn to do better? How do the women of the Middle East see America’s interventions?

“Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.”
— James Bond in Goldfinger (1959). What is the fourth time?

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about our war in Afghanistan, about women and gender roles, especially these…

  1. We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights. Welcome to the American Empire.
  2. Today’s propaganda: we must fight in Afghanistan to help its women.
  3. About our sudden concern for Afghanistan’s women (& the desperate search for a reason to fight).
  4. A non-violent crusade giving rights to the world’s women!
  5. Subjugation of women anywhere threatens US national security!
  6. Rambo & James Bond taught us about Afghanistan’s mujahideen.

Long afterwards we learn the truth about our role in Afghanistan.

But we don’t mind! That’s why our elites lie to us so often.

Some revelations from the book, by the publisher.

“By the latter years of the 1980s the CIA was not just providing arms to a half million Afghans, it had taken 150,000 of them and transformed them into what it called a force of “techno holy warriors.” “From today’s perspective,” Crile observes, “that may seem more than a bit ill advised-particularly when you factor in the specialized training in urban warfare that the Agency sponsored to include the use of pipe bombs, bicycle bombs, car bombs, camel bombs, along with a host of other tactics to wreak havoc with the army of a modern superpower.”

“The United States continued to fund the Afghan rebels long after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union. Incredibly, the subsidies continued despite the fact that one of the most important mujahid leaders sided with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.

“In addition to $200 million in aid from the U.S. and $200 million from Saudi Arabia, in 1991 and 1992 the rebels received Iraqi weapons captured by U.S. forces during the Gulf War. At the same time, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Cold War was effectively over but what began as a war against Communism was continuing to be funded.”

Trailer to “Charlie Wilson’s War”.

The book and the film.

Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times
The book: available at Amazon.
Charlie Wilson's War
The film: available at Amazon.


4 thoughts on “Afghanistan’s girls show the dark side of America’s influence on the world”

  1. The Photos are shocking. How can I say such a thing when I am more than familiar with the history of this country is boggling to my own self. The Lives ruined as evidenced by the history here. Recall the ravages of buried mines in the fields on the legs of people. This is even worse if possible.
    Then recall how some
    Femininists here simply turned away when asked and confronted by these Issues of the women in these turbulent fundamentalist countries. When you read the history of female empowerment in Afghan….I’m sorry this is sickening and embarrassing to any American I would suggest. And it just goes on and on with our silence and complicity.

  2. Very interesting article that I hope lots of people read. Living and working in the Middle East opens one’s eyes to this type of history which is similar for Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries.

    Also, as you said, the US didn’t start the wars. I also don’t think the US helped much.

    It is a very difficult decision to make- as to whether to get involved, and when to leave. It is a no-win situation. If (when) the US walks away from these places, chaos will ensue. The rest of the world will have to stand back and watch seemingly incessant atrocities unfold.

  3. The Man Who Laughs

    I saw “Charlie Wilson’s War”, and the trailer doesn’t really give a sense of the fact that the movie had a real sense of awareness of how it all really turned out. This clip from near the end, is worth watching, just for the sake of fairness.


    1. Man who laughs,

      Thanks for that interesting clip! Good to know that by 2007 some in Hollywood had some understanding about the effects of Wilson’s War. I wonder if that was in the 2003 book.

      I wonder how many Americans have this insight today?

      I have a sketch of a post about how our generals (some of them) understood the lessons of Vietnam as the war ended. But the US military quickly forgot them, constructing an alternate history in their minds in which they were the blameless victims of politicians.

      Having insights is nice. Remembering them when needed is good. Applying them is great.

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