In pre-withdrawal Afghanistan, the celebration of International Women's Day took place inside the heavily guarded New Kabul Compound. It was an upbeat event, at least according to a Defense Department report, featuring several laudable and prominent Afghan women doctors, who naturally talked up education and the need to retain post-Taliban gains made on behalf of women in Afghanistan. Tragically, the State Department's most recent report on the shockingly low state of human rights in Afghanistan reveals that such gains for women -- not to mention children, boys and girls alike -- are already mainly on paper only. As the armed utopians withdraw, the dust of tribal Islam settles.
The elites who take International Women's Day seriously, however, probably won't ever notice. Consider the one American woman who spoke at the Kabul event, Rear Adm. Althea H. Coetzee. As director of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, operational contract support, Coetzee has a big job, a hefty salary, status and power that few women -- or men, for that matter -- achieve anywhere in the world. But she, too, the Defense Department report noted, took to the same podium as the Afghan women who preceded her, to speak of her "challenges beginning with her graduating in the sixth class of women at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985."
Poor thing. I wonder what the Afghan women really thought of Coetzee's "challenges" -- being among an early class of women at the elite military academy -- in comparison to the challenges of their countrywomen -- violence and degradation suffered at the hands not only of criminals and outlaws, but, as the State Department report makes plain, policemen and judges and other officials, too. As "international women," they all can relate, right?