As the US departs Afghanistan, cries will be heard about abandoning Afghan women to the Taliban. While not a justification for the war and occupation, the question exposes a double standard in America’s national security policy. The spiral of killing and abuse of women is not a “security” threat by current definitions, and the slaughter of those innocent women by America’s enemies is said to be far worse than the same killings by America’s strategic allies.
In Afghanistan, the test will be whether future US/NATO assistance will be conditioned on preserving the meager gains for women and education. The broader question is why the Taliban is demonized for barbarism while neighboring India is upheld as a bright example of democratic globalization. Before today’s sensational gang rape cases in New Delhi fade from the headlines, consider a report this week that 100,000 women in India are burned to death yearly, and another 125,000 die from acid attacks, domestic violence and other injuries; tens of thousands die simply due to dowry disputes. It is a “violent epidemic…that leads to the deaths of almost two million women a year,” according to Indian researchers. (New York Times, January 13, 2013)
The link to free-market globalization is that such women, according to the Times, are “vulnerable to attack from a vast and growing sea of unattached and unemployed young men who view women’s success as the reason for their failure.” Sound familiar?
Here at home there is ample evidence that the “gun culture” rests on deeper historical, gender, racial and economic grounds. The unprecedented suicide rate among US military personnel shows that the violence is not always directed at women. Six of the 12 greatest mass shootings in American history have occurred since 2007 against boys, girls and students. (New York Times, December 19, 2012) Since the election of an African-American president, the percentage of Americans harboring anti-black sentiments has risen to 56% compared to 49% in 2008. (New York Times, January 5, 2013) Thirty-eight percent of white southerners still remain more openly sympathetic to the Confederacy than the Union, according to a 2011 CNN poll. Since Obama’s election and re-election, violent threats and runs on gun stores have shot upwards. The complex of video game and firearms companies are making fortunes off Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 or Black Ops II, and using their technology “for recruitment and to train soldiers,” ignoring evidence that the shooters from Columbine to Newtown were addicted to violent games. (International Herald Tribune, December 26, 2012)
The differences are being entrenched politically as Republicans, led by the Tea Party, hold power across the entire 11-state Old Confederacy. Second only to the white South as a GOP stronghold is the belt of states where the Indian and Mexican wars were fought in the nineteenth century. It is not a blue-red divide; it is the divide of ancient battlefields with unhealed wounds.
In 2009, the federal Homeland Security agency released a report warning of rising threats of domestic violence due to the election of an African American president combined with an economic recession, which struck heavily at rural and working class white people. Republicans in the House revolted in rage against the report, which was then withdrawn.
The rising threat of violence by disaffected white males is not caused by the Tea Party alone, but has bipartisan roots in the failure to raise working class living standards since the 1970s. According to Pew Research, the percentage of middle-class income earners has declined for four consecutive decades: 61% in 1971, 59% in 1981, 56% in 1991, 54% in 2001, and 51% in 2011. (Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2012) That is for the United States. The same gap is emerging globally. For more, please see the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The ominous pattern of violence against women and people of color, even against elected leaders, is rooted in austerity policies at home and corporate globalization abroad. There has been little change under Republicans or Democrats, for example, in the outsourcing to brutal sweatshops, which employ mostly women at sub-poverty wages to manufacture iPhones and the fashions favored by American consumers. Only greater economic equality – the alternative to the austerity policies being pushed increasingly by the One Percent since the disappearance of the Soviet Union – will lessen the slide toward the hell of greater mass violence.