This is one of our twice monthly free ZNet Updates. You can change or
remove addresses at the ZNet top page (www.zmag.org/weluser.htm) In
these updates we provide a little news of recent ZNet activity and an
essay, as well. This time we do that, and also include an entreaty.


As usual, there is an awful lot of new posting to ZNet. 

There is a whole new Watch site, Information Technology Watch. There are
new pieces on the Mideast from Fisk, Hass, Lowenstein, Shalom, and

There is new general content from Chomsky on the terror war, Albert on
dealing with movement differences, Ramirez on Mexico, Shepard with a
conference report, Weisbrot on Brazil's coming election, and more. We
have a new Wilpert and Petras too, on Venezuela. And of course there is
new content in the cartoons section, quotes, interactive user updates,

In short, ZNet is busy, all accessible via www.zmag.org/weluser.htm.


Not often, but sometimes, I take the liberty of using this update for
promotion. This time, two requests. 

First, on the top page of ZNet there is a link to a plea on behalf of
Common Courage Press. You can directly access it at
http://www.zmag.org/ccpfunds.htm Please consider CCP's situation and

Second, ZNet has a Sustainer Program. Users donate to our work, paying
all the bills and more. In return, we provide as a premium a daily
Sustainer Commentary, plus our Sustainer forum system in which various
authors, including Chomsky, participate, plus an online zine of now
nearly 1500 accumluated commentaries. So (a) please take a look at
http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm to find out more about
the program. And (b) please be aware that beginning in about a week or
so I am going to send the Sustainer Commentaries to all Free Update
recipients as a kind of inducement to consider joining. I will do it for
ten days, or so. 


I thought for this message, to offset having taken your time with two
entreaties, I would also include two essays. 

The first is "celebration" of Thomas Freidman, Globalization apostle,
and his newest Pulitzer prize victory. It is by Anthony Arnove of South
End Press. The second is a critical piece with lessons for activism
titled Saving Afghan Women. It is by Sonali Kolhatkar, Vice President of
the Afghan Women's Mission.


Friedman: Head Cheerleader for the Boss's Team
By Anthony Arnove

It's hard to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or go into a
bookstore without seeing Thomas Friedman blaring at you.

Friedman writes a nationally syndicated column for the New York Times.
His books on globalization and the Middle East are bestsellers--and are
often praised by politicians and scholars. "Nobody understands the world
the way he does," NBC's Tim Russert recently said of Friedman.

In April, Friedman won his third Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious
award in journalism, "for his clarity of vision, based on extensive
reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat
[after September 11]." He shared a Pulitzer in 1983 for the New York
Times' international reporting and won another in 1988 for his coverage
of Israel.

So you might think that the much-praised Friedman had something
interesting or challenging to say--or that he was an exceptional

You would be wrong. In truth, Friedman is a hack--who specializes in
popularizing a set of ideas that have destroyed the lives of millions of
people around the world.

Over the past few years, he's become the main establishment apostle of
"globalization"--the spread of the unhindered free market and
pro-business government policies around the globe. What Friedman calls
the "golden straightjacket" of U.S.-style capitalism may be restraining
for countries that put it on.

But for him, there's no alternative to adopting neoliberalism and
letting the free market rip. Like the "hired prize fighters" of
capitalism that Karl Marx wrote about in 1873, for Friedman, the
devastation of workers, peasants and the environment by global
capitalism is so much "collateral damage" in the necessary pursuit of
high productivity rates and profit.

His book The Lexus and the Olive Tree reads like a love letter to
corporate power--which is why it's no surprise that Friedman has cozied
up to businesspeople and politicians around the world in pursuit of his

But Friedman is at his worst when writing about U.S.
imperialism--especially in the Middle East. Serving as both an armchair
general and a cheerleader urging on more destruction, he routinely
advocates committing war crimes--as long as the U.S. or its allies are
pulling the trigger.

In 1998, Friedman advocated "bombing Iraq, over and over and over
again." In an article titled "Craziness pays," Friedman explained that
"the U.S. has to make clear to Iraq and U.S. allies that.America will
use force, without negotiation, hesitation, or UN approval." He went on
to add, "We have to be ready to live with our own contradictory policy.
Sure, it doesn't make perfect sense."

Friedman never tires of using "we" when describing the actions of the
U.S. military. In 1997, he wrote: "[I]f and when Saddam pushes beyond
the brink, and we get that one good shot, let's make sure it's a head
shot." Two years later, Friedman suggested that the U.S. should "[b]low
up a different power station in Iraq every week, so no one knows when
the lights will go off or who's in charge."

Friedman couldn't care less that every power station targeted in Iraq
means more food and medicine that will spoil without refrigeration, more
hospitals that will lack electricity, more water that will be
contaminated--and more people who will die.

The U.S.-led NATO war on Yugoslavia found Friedman repeating himself:
"It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe,
bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted.You want 1950?
We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too."

Friedman has never tried to camouflage his strong support for
Israel--even when he feels that he sometimes has to criticize the
"excesses" of settlers or the Israeli right wing to defend Israel's best

And he was an unabashed supporter as the Pentagon crushed
Afghanistan--at the cost of thousands of civilian lives--in
"self-defense." "My motto is simple," he wrote. "Give war a chance."

But because of his proximity to power, Friedman sometimes tells the
truth. In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he gives one of the most honest
descriptions of the relationship between the U.S. military and corporate

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,"
he wrote. "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas.And the
hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies
to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Of course, Thomas Friedman sees nothing wrong with the U.S. military
making the world safe for U.S. capitalism--and destroying everything in
its wake. In his tiny corner of the world, Friedman has been amply
rewarded for aligning himself with that kind of power.


"Saving" Afghan Women
by Sonali Kolhatkar 
As I got ready to be interviewed by Helen Caldicott, the famous Helen
Caldicott, activist and feminist, I remarked to my fellow interviewee
how exited I was to be speaking with one of my heroes. I had heard Helen
on the radio and read articles about her and her brave campaigns to
fight nuclear weapons and environmental degradation. Helen was late but
it didn't matter - I was elated about being interviewed by her. About
forty five minutes after we were suppose to begin, we finally did. She
began by asking me about my work with the Afghan Women's Mission and
Afghan women's rights. Despite my nervousness, I answered calmly, but
Helen wouldn't let me finish my sentences. She kept asking me to talk
about why Afghan men treated women in the way they did. I tried to talk
about the US empowerment of misogynist fundamentalists in Afghanistan
and how US support had raised a generation of men who abused the power
of their guns on women. But she angled for another answer and kept
pushing me to try to read her mind and tell her what she wanted to hear.
Thrown off balance by her aggressive questioning, I finally gave up and
she proceeded to tell me all about female genital mutilation which the
Feminist Majority had apparently told her, took place among Afghan
women. Aghast at this information, which in my years of carefully
studying the issue of Afghan women's rights, I had never come across, I
mumbled that it was not something I was aware of. The interview ended as
I took the headphones off and walked out, angry and frustrated with
Helen ranting about the barbarity of women's vaginas being sewn up and
that Afghan men did not want women to be able to have orgasms. 

I raced over to my computer to do some research. Could I have been
wrong? Was FGM really prevalent among Afghan women? I couldn't imagine
it. I had known of it happening to women in some African countries.
Surely I would have heard of it happening in a country geographically
and culturally close to my home country of India, a country I had
studied closely? 

Well it turns out Ms. Caldicott was wrong. Female Genital Mutilation is
not practiced in Afghanistan. I learned two lessons from my experience:
1) No pedestal is well deserved - greatness is an overrated perception,
and, 2) Feminists like Helen Caldicott and the Feminist Majority,
approach the women of the Global South with short sighted preconceptions
of feminism and their superiority. Helen Caldicott, was more interested
in exploring the fascinating desire of Afghan men to treat women like
dirt, than in examining those forces (most often Western male dominated
governments) that have fostered misogynist religious extremism at the
expense of women's rights. 

It is easy to condemn the "barbaric" men of Afghanistan and pity the
helpless women of Afghanistan. It is this very logic that drives the
Feminist Majority's "Gender Apartheid" campaign for Afghan women. Far
more interested in portraying Afghan women as mute creatures covered
from head to toe, the Feminist Majority aggressively promotes itself and
it's campaign by selling small squares of mesh cloth, similar to the
mesh through which Afghan women can look outside when wearing the
traditional Afghan burqa. The post card on which the .swatch of mesh is
sold says, "Wear a symbol of remembrance for Afghan women", as if they
are already extinct. An alternative could have been "Celebrate the
Resistance of Afghan Women" with a pin of a hand folded into a fist, to
acknowledge the very real struggle that Afghan women wage every day,
particularly the women of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan (RAWA), who are at the forefront of that struggle.
Interestingly enough, 50% of all proceeds go toward helping Feminist
Majority in promoting their campaign on "Gender Apartheid" in

On almost every image of Afghan women in the Western mainstream and even
alternative media, images of shapeless blue clad forms of Afghan women
covered with the burqa, dominate (Amnesty International's poster of
Afghan women, the cover of Cheryl Bernard's new book on RAWA, etc.). We
all know and understand the reactions which the image of the burqa
brings, particularly to Western women and feminists. That horror mixed
with fear and ugly fascination like knowing the site of a bloody car
wreck will make you want to retch but you do it anyway. Whose purpose
does this serve? How "effective" would the Feminist Majority's campaign
be if they made it known that Afghan women were actively fighting back
and simply needed money and moral support, not instructions? It if for
this reason, I have gathered, that the Feminist Majority is not
interested in working with RAWA - RAWA is too independent and
politicized. What good is it to flaunt images of Afghan women marching
militantly with fists in the air, carrying banners about freedom,
democracy and secular government? Those women wouldn't need saving as
much as the burqa clad women seem to. We may realize that groups such as
the Feminist Majority are not necessary to tell Afghan women how to help
themselves from their oppression. We may gather that Afghan women are
perfectly capable of helping themselves if only our governments would
stop arming and empowering the most violent sections of society. After
all, it was the US CIA which armed and trained the likes of Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar in the 1970s, even back then famous for mutilating women with
acid for failing to cover themselves up. Hekmatyar was known by the CIA
for being a "fascist". Where is the criticism of the CIA's barbarity in
Helen Caldicott's remarks on Afghan women? 

It is not just white women feminists in the US who seek to control the
message of women's movements in the Global South. This March, I
excitedly obtained the endorsement of the board of the Afghan Women's
Mission for the Global Women's Strike which happens each year on
International Women's Day. This was a three-year movement spanning tens
of countries where women walked out of their homes and jobs to demand
equal pay and compensation for child rearing among other things. This
year's theme was "Invest in Caring, not Killing" and, appropriately, the
strike was dedicated to condemning the US War in Afghanistan. The local
organizer, Margaret Prescod, was initially pleased that the Afghan
Women's Mission was signing on. However, Prescod and the main organizers
of the strike who resided in England, objected to the language of our
flyer only two days before the planned march in downtown Los Angeles.
The main message on the front of the flyer was a condemnation of
fundamentalism and an indictment of the US support for it, embedded in a
quote by a RAWA member. It included the following sentence: "We welcome
the combat against terrorism. In fact, this combat should have started
years ago in terms of preventing incidents like September 11. But this
combat against terrorism cannot be won by bombing this or that country.
It should be a campaign to stop any country that sells arms or supports
financially the fundamentalists' movements or fundamentalist regimes".
Undoubtedly the bombing of Afghanistan was and is a large concern to the
Afghan Women' Mission and RAWA in whose support we work (AWM and RAWA
have both released public statements condemning the bombing), but
fundamentalism and the very real terrorism of the Taliban and Northern
Alliance is a large part of the on-going problem that Afghan women live
with every day, that kills them every day, before and after the bombing.
Perturbed that our anti-war message was not clear enough, the organizers
of the strike threatened to not allow AWM's endorsement. This coalition
of women was condemning the bombing while demanding equal pay and
compensation for child rearing but could not fathom or appreciate that
some women on the other side of the world had slightly different
problems. Afghan Women's Mission ultimately participated in the march
while leaving our flyer largely intact.

RAWA has also faced some consternation from the progressive left. Upset
at RAWA's criticism of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in
1979, groups like the International Action Center, a.k.a. the Workers
World Party, have silently ignored RAWA's contribution. A friend at the
Worker's World Party claimed some years ago how she had seen pictures of
Afghan women being beaten by Afghan fundamentalists in the 1970s and was
so relieved when the Soviet Union went in to save them. Sounds similar
to George Bush's claim to have "saved Afghan women". If one examines the
various propaganda methods used to justify invasion of Afghanistan in
past decades, a similar pattern emerges: saving Afghan women has been
cited by the Russian, the US backed Mujahadeen fundamentalist war lords
as well as the Taliban (!). In fact, the entire US war against Afghans
has been made more palatable to Americans who were told by the President
that it was those Afghan women we were going to be saving by bombing.
First Lady Laura Bush developed a sudden interest in Afghan women's
rights and began spouting Feminist Majority-like rhetoric. George Bush
claimed that we had saved Afghan women from oppression as he showed off
his poster child, Sima Samar, the new head of the Women's Affairs
Department in Afghanistan. And the US State Department used RAWA's
images from their website without their permission, in their
propagandist leaflets that were scattered over Afghanistan, to justify
the bombing. 

Of course, it's not just women in the US who have exploited or
misunderstood RAWA's message. At a recent anti-war forum, I spoke
alongside well known activist and writer Michael Parenti, who claimed
that the Soviet Union was invited into Afghanistan in 1979, that it
didn't really invade. After I contradicted him in my speech, citing that
the vast majority of the Afghan population were fairly united against
the foreign domination and imperialist motives of the Soviet Union,
Michael angrily asked me after the talk why RAWA does not concede to
some of the good that the Russians did in Afghanistan. Wow. Do we ever
dwell on the good that the US may have done in Vietnam? How could he ask
this of a group whose leader was brutally assassinated by a Russian KGB
operative in collaboration with an Afghan Mujahadeen, for being
outspoken against the occupation and fighting for women's rights? 

Today, as the US sponsored government in Afghanistan which legitimizes
the same Afghan fundamentalist war lords supported by the US throughout
the 1980s, gets ready to convene a government, over a thousand Afghan
refugee women have applied for a scant number of seats reserved for them
in the Afghan grand assembly! Clearly Afghan women are tirelessly
struggling. in the face of a fundamentalist tilted government which has
already promised Islamic Sharia law, misogynist in its formulation, even
before the assembly has met. 

>From Helen Caldicott to Michael Parenti, isn't it imperative and a
little bit obvious that when we speak of Afghan women and their rights,
we must listen carefully to what they themselves have to say about it?
As the admirable struggles of women of color, particularly in the Global
South, come to the knowledge of the West, we must remind ourselves of
the validity of their views and hopes, over our perceptions of what they
should say and do, how they should dress and whether or not their
oppression stems from being able to have an orgasm.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the Vice President of the Afghan Women's Mission.
She has spoken out about Afghan women's rights at college campuses and
community forums all over the country and her latest paper, "The Impact
of US Intervention on Afghan Women's Rights" is in publication with the
Berkeley Women's Law Journal. Sonali is also the host and co-producer of
a daily two hour drive time Morning Show on politics and public affairs
at KPFK Radio in Los Angeles, part of the Pacifica Network. She has a
Master of Science in Astrophysics from the University of Hawaii at


Michael Albert
Z Magazine / ZNet

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