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Real Women's Liberation

From the October 25, 2004 issue: It's happening in Afghanistan, and U.S. feminists don't care.

Oct 25, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 07 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
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In the last two months, Human Rights Watch has issued two comprehensive reports, one entirely about the challenges facing women in Afghanistan's emerging democracy. Both reports open with praise for the recent "notable improvements for women and girls" in Afghanistan. And the one on democracy avoids the temptation to blame the United States alone for Afghanistan's continuing problems, though it finds plenty to complain of. "In 2001," it says, "improving the rights of Afghan women was at the top of the international agenda; in 2004, despite many well-intentioned programs for women, women's human rights appear to be more of an afterthought." The report concludes with recommendations for Afghan president Hamid Karzai, NATO, the U.N., the United States, and international donors.

It is true, of course, that women are still suffering in many parts of Afghanistan under the rule of religiously conservative warlords with whom the United States teamed up to defeat the Taliban. As the report notes, "Whatever the motives or aspirations of the international community, these men did not fight the Taliban over women's rights." Neither, when it comes right down to it, did George Bush. But the president is committed to seeing the democracy experiment in Afghanistan through. He held his nose and made common cause with some unsavory characters in order to do what he thought justice demanded; and he's affected innumerable Afghan women's lives for the good.

Too bad those who profess to care most about the rights of women can't bring themselves to follow his example.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.