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On Afghanistan, We Need a Policy, Not a Macho Hissy-Fit

A small delegation from the women's peace group CODEPINK spent last week in Kabul, on a kind of listening tour, to refine their understanding of what women in Afghanistan want to see from the US.

They've returned saying just what MADRE has been saying since 2001: that the US needs to withdraw its military from Afghanistan and do so in a way that addresses the needs of people there. For MADRE, US obligations stem from the fact that Afghanistan's poverty, violence against women, and political corruption are, in part, results of US policy over the past 30 years.

So why is CODEPINK's co-founder Medea Benjamin being raked over the coals for allegedly "defecting" from the peace movement? The catalyst was a snarky article in the Christian Science Monitor that characterized Medea as "disappointed" when some of the women she met with in Kabul didn't support CODEPINK's call for a US troop withdrawal.  (Remind me again why all women are supposed to have the same political views?)

After the CSM falsely asserted that CODEPINK is "rethinking their position" on Afghanistan, Scott Horton posted a piece on called, "Is Medea Benjamin Naïve or Just Confused?" From there, things got really nasty. Justin Raimondo writing on had a macho hissy-fit, calling CODEPINK "a gaggle of political whores."  The next day, blogger John Walsh tried to one-up Justin, suggesting that CODEPINK be renamed "Whores for Wars."

These sexist rants do nothing to address the substance of CODEPINK's question: what does a responsible exit strategy look like?

If you listen to what the CODEPINK delegates are actually saying, it's clear they're not naïve or confused; they're just saying something that doesn't fit on a bumper-sticker. 

Here's Medea summing up CODEPINK's position after their visit to Kabul: "we [also] heard a lot of people [in Afghanistan] say they didn't want more troops to be sent in and they wanted the U.S. to have a responsible exit strategy that included the training of Afghan troops, included being part of promoting a real reconciliation process and included economic development; that the United States shouldn't be allowed to just walk away from the problem. So that's really our position."

"Bring the Troops Home" is a bumper sticker, not a policy. We need a policy. And holding the US accountable for its actions in Afghanistan is a good place to start.

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Yifat Susskind

Yifat Susskind is the Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. She has worked with women’s human rights activists from Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa to create programs in their communities to address women's health, violence against women, economic and environmental justice and peace building. She has also written extensively on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and her critical analysis has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy in Focus and elsewehere.

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