"We Didn’t Know How Bad It Was."

There are days when I’m embarrassed to be an American. Days when Americans with all of the best intentions don’t do their homework, and end up looking like idiots. Why do we keep doing this? Why do we keep going into places to “fix” things without doing our homework?

I was asked in a previous comment about whether or not “democratic” elections would improve the situation of women in Iraq. Women can vote in Zimbabwe: I don’t know that things are exactly fun and games over there. Women can vote in this country: have been able to do so for just over 80 years, but “getting the vote” didn’t immediately translate into more women’s rights. It’s taken 80 years just to get to where we are now, and we’ve gotten this far because we fought our fucking asses off tooth and nail every inch of the way, and continue to do so. Sure, things are better for women than in the 50s, but we’ve got a long bit of trucking to do, because we’re still trying to work in a system that says “men” and “male” are the norm, are equality, are what we’re striving for, and “men” and “masculinity” are just as fucked up and socially constructed as “woman” and “femininity.”

So “equality” is a lackluster goal, when what you’re comparing yourself to is just as socially constructed as you are. Not that I’ve got any sort of Grand Feminist Overthrow of the System Plan or anything. That’s why I write fiction.

In any case, “voting” doesn’t equal equality. Look at the civil rights campaign in this country. It took African Americans a hundred years to get anything like the right to vote – a hundred years after it was legally guaranteed. The people you want to control are the people you don’t let vote.

You can say a lot of bullshit in sound bites, on paper, but at the end of the day, it’s Iraqi women, not clueless Americans, who are going to have to stand up, run, fight, and come to grips with what they want. Yes, we should provide them support, open up dialogue, but you can’t tell women how to do it. You can’t tell them what they want. You go there to listen to them, not to preach. They’re likely going to be a fuck of a lot stronger than you know.

The huge Iraq problem is that it’s an occupied country. You can’t force democracy on an occupied country. This entire campaign has been so fucked from the beginning that I honestly find the idea of equality in Iraq as imposed by the US laughable.

It’s the Iraqi women who are going to do it. But don’t think for a minute that this administration gives a fuck about Iraqi women. The cluelessness of these legislators speaks volumes about what a Grand Fucking Priority the state of women in Iraq is to the United States.

The United States could give a fuck.

WASHINGTON — It was billed as a trip to teach Iraqi women who are running for office the rudiments of campaigning. But for the members of Congress who traveled to the Middle East over the weekend, it turned out to be a harrowing lesson on the sometimes painfully high price of democracy.

The U.S. lawmakers brought with them banners, bumper stickers and T-shirts to share with their Iraqi counterparts at a two-day retreat with 20 aspiring female legislators. They quickly set aside the campaign paraphernalia when the Iraqis disclosed the grim facts of their political lives.

The biggest challenge Iraqi candidates face: how to avoid getting killed.

No shit. Who briefed these Congress members on the situation in Iraq? “Embedded” reporters working for CNN?

“In eight years as a member of Congress, I’ve never had an experience like this,” said Rep. Kay Granger, a Texas Republican who led the congressional delegation. “These are some of the bravest women I have ever met.”

Never been to an occupied country? Do you read the newspaper? Do you keep informed of how the hell the policies you’re voting on effect real people? Do you have any idea how women live in this country, let alone the one you’re cavorting around in? No? Then you should be fired. This is your fucking job.

The four House members who made the trip — three Republicans and one Democrat — came prepared to discuss the practicalities of political life: campaign tactics, and techniques for getting publicity and for getting out the vote.

They quickly realized that much of what they planned to tell the Iraqi women “didn’t pertain to them,” Granger said. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., who brought along her favorite campaign giveaway — a sponge bearing her name — added that after hearing the women’s stories, “it seemed kind of frivolous.”

Yea. Frivolous. Who briefed you on this trip? Sweet fuck, and she’s from a goddamn blue state.

Under the law setting up the Jan. 30 elections for a national assembly, which was written under American supervision, at least one-third of the candidates on the ballot must be women. That provision has provoked bloody opposition. One female candidate, Wijdan al-Khuzai, was found murdered near her Baghdad home in December.

The one-third provision is a cool one, actually. They did this in South Africa. With a national assembly, you’re voting on a party, not a candidate, so the actual party has to then fill the seats with 1/3 women. South African women fought like hell for this provision – they originally wanted ½ of all seats reserved for women (makes sense to me…), and shut down talks by stubbornly singing freedom songs and refusing to move onto another item until they got what they wanted. In the end, they got 1/3 of the seats reserved for female candidates.

They’re tough fuckin’ cookies, those South African women.

Not unlike these tough fucking Iraqi women.

As Election Day approaches, many female candidates are sending their families out of the country, said Manal Omar, who directs a program in Iraq on behalf of Women for Women International, a non-profit organization established to provide financial and other support for women in war zones. Omar said she spoke to some of the Iraqi women who attended the meetings with House members and that they were “frustrated” by the American politicians’ apparent naiveté. “They were amazed (the Americans) didn’t know how bad Iraq was,” Omar said.

Americans are uninformed. We listen to CNN, that feeds us bullshit in short sound bites, and are far more interested in our waistlines than foreign policy (I’m not any better, you understand – how many posts do I write about weight, and how many about bombing foreign countries? Yea). But you know what, these are members of the United States fucking Congress. It’s their goddamn job to know what the hell they’re walking into. I’m pissed off at their cluelessness. The media fucking sucks.

The only soundbite from this encounter I won’t snark about:

For the Americans, it was an emotional encounter… Said Granger: “We went over there to encourage them. I think they ended up encouraging us.”

As well they should.

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