by Travis Mateer
Since our new liberal president has a fresh war hard-on for Afghanistan, I thought it might be helpful to take a trip down memory lane to recall how a REPUBLICAN president used some of the EXACT SAME justifications for war two decades ago, and how a feminist by the name of Mary Stranahan wasn’t buying it in 2004.
I came across this feminist oral history project yesterday as I was researching Mary Stranahan’s Goodworks Ventures, and reading the back and forth between Stranahan and her interviewer, Diane Sands, was pretty interesting.
For the historical framing of this interview, here is Sands explaining the intent:
DS: So, I wanted to talk to you for the Feminist History Project for two reasons. But first I want to remind you that I think to me the long term value of this is we’re really speaking to women of another generation and another time. So it isn’t as though this information is necessarily a great deal of use today or tomorrow, but for women 50 years from now or even 100 years from now who want to know who we are as feminists, what work we’ve done, what importance it’s had in our own lives, what change we’ve seen happen. I think to me that’s the real value of this. It’s not so much about dates and places, as how it’s changed how we think about the world, and how we think we’ve changed the world. Which are of course our own opinions but as valid as anything else.
In the year 2054 my little girl will be 38 years old, so I guess Mary and Diane are speaking to her and other women like her about this distant time of 2004 when a Republican president was using the concept of protecting women to justify launching violent wars.
How did the justification go over 17 years ago with these two feminists?
DS: I do think probably the public is not aware, and even sometimes we are not aware, that it really is a worldwide, that feminism, this wave of feminism or empowerment of women, is a worldwide revolution that has touched every corner of the world. As a paradigm shift, even if the reality of women’s equality has not happened, the expectation of women’s equality has happened.
MS: Absolutely. There’s people (women) walking around in Iran and Iraq without their chadors (veils).
DS: Yeah, and hearing even George Bush talk about going into Iraq for women’s freedom, which I don’t believe for a second. But that’s important to think that he thinks somehow that that’s of enough value to somebody as an explanation, a partial explanation, for what he’d doing, that he would use it.
While these American women seem really excited about their nation’s cultural imperialism imposing behavior changes around the world, they don’t seem to believe a Republican president like George Bush is being genuine when he references women’s freedoms as a justification for war.
One of the confounding realties for these two women is the fact that American women are not all homogenous liberals behaving the way Diane and Mary think they should behave. Some of these women–GASP!–even VOTED FOR BUSH! How can that be?
MS: I just, in all of this conspiracy stuff going on around the election, one of the analysis of the election was that he got the women’s vote. He raised his percent of women’s vote by 11% between 2000 and 2004.
DS: And you’re saying you don’t believe that?
MS: I don’t know, I can’t argue statistics, I’m not that sophisticated. But if it’s true, it’s scary.
The idea that some American women would exercise their right to vote by darkening the bubble for George seems pretty disturbing to Mary Stranahan. Those women must all be under the spell of their patriarchal husbands, or else it’s a CONSPIRACY!
At the end of the interview, Mary describes how progressives are learning from the right to be more effective with their methods of brainwashing their base, like funding think tanks and stuff, because the future is all about capturing the minds of the youth:
DS: Well, I know you need to be at another appointment but I want to ask one last question. So what gives you hope for the future?
MS: Well, I have a 13 year-old daughter so I’m vested in youth.
DS: Vested in the future.
MS: And that’s vested into the future. I am watching progressives start to make plans like the Newt Gingriches did in the 1980s about investing money into think tanks and investing money into infrastructure. Actually following in the footsteps of the rightwing and investing in infrastructure that will support a much more progressive agenda than what we have now. I think we’re learning from the rightwing. I have hope on that basis. I think we have to go… you have to give a lot of credit to the rightwing for being a hell of a lot smarter than we are about getting down to the grassroots and funding it well, so that they now have a juggernaut of an infrastructure that’s gonna take a long time to come back. But I have hope that we will. We cannot as a world live with a perspective that the rightwing has. It’s, you know, Armageddon’s coming so what the hell, is their attitude.
DS: And our perspective is?
MS: That Armageddon is not coming and that we need to build for the future and do the seventh generation thinking that’s required for us to survive. Because we’re, I think we’re on the cusp environmentally and economically and politically (inaudible).
DS: Well the doorbell’s ringing, sounds like its time to end. Thank you Mary Stranahan.
MS: Thank you Diane Sands.
I think this time-capsule peek into the minds of two liberal feminists from 2004 is pretty interesting, especially considering Joe Biden will be using the EXACT SAME justification for keeping troops in Afghanistan that George Bush did 17 years ago. The only difference is Joe has a “D” next to his name. From the link:
In another break with the former administration, Biden’s team also has made a point of underscoring the importance of human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban, known for their draconian rule and repression of Afghan women during their reign from 1996-2001, made no pledges on the status of women in their agreement with the United States.
In his call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Biden’s top diplomat, Antony Blinken, said any peace settlement needed to preserve “the progress made over the last 20 years with regard to human rights, civil liberties, and the role of women in Afghan society.”
Will American feminists like Mary Stranahan express skepticism toward Biden’s stated goals in Afghanistan, or are American feminists only capable of criticism when it’s a Republican doing the US imperialist two-step?