On a fairly regular basis, we hear Republican leaders like Bush and Cheney defend the war in Iraq on the basis of the benefits to women there. I've posted on this before, noting that I don't buy their convenient embrace of women's rights. Well I was right to be suspicious. Just read the following statement made by a loyal member of the neocon movement.
I mean, one hopes that the Iraqis protect women's social rights as much as possible. It certainly seems clear that in protecting the political rights, there's no discussion of women not having the right to vote. I think it's important to remember that in the year 1900, for example, in the United States, it was a democracy then. In 1900, women did not have the right to vote. If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there. I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.
Former Middle East specialist for the CIA, Reuel Marc Gerecht (Meet the Press, 8/21/05)
Hmm. I wonder what kind of outcry there would be if he said "Kurds social rights aren't critical to the evolution of democracy"? Quite a loud one, I think. But here we see that the equality of women in society is seen not as a central component of democracy but as a nice add-on. Screw him and those who would comfortably allow half the population to be excluded from participating in democracy. Screw him and those who would abandon Iraqi women to the oppressive male rule of Sharia, to the loss of such fundamental rights that they can't protect themselves, own their own property, escape an abusive husband, avoid physical harm and even death for behaviors we take for granted.
Girls going to school doesn't count for much if they are subordinate citizens without the protections and rights afforded men. If women in Iraq aren't given equal rights in Iraq then any claim that we've brought democracy there is an empty one.
These guys don't value women as equal citizens, as equal human beings with the same self-evident right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that men have.
They see the rights of women as good propaganda and a negotiating point to be abandoned as necessary. Crap like this, dished out on one of the top cable news shows and minimally challenged by the other men on the show, reminds me that there's a reason the ERA never passed here, that the ERA was the incentive that brought together the social and religious conservatives. Bush can campaign with a "W is for Women" theme, but it's really for war. Not just war against terrorists - but in some ways, war against women.
As an FYI, Reuel Marc Gerecht has his conservative credentials in order. He's a neocon, serving as the Director of the Middle East Initiative at the Project for the New American Century -- PNAC is the heart of the neocon ideological movement. He's also a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute - a leading conservative think tank. He's a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. And he's a regular talking head on cable news shows. He's got hefty academic credentials and was a CIA analyst for nine years (left in 94). And he letting us know what the neocons really think.