A failure of Objectivity


Writing this week in his TDB article, “The Failure of the West,” Chris Trotter asserted that, whatever else the ignominious US retreat from Afghanistan might mean for the country, after twenty years there, it constitutes an even greater catastrophe for its betrayal of Afghanistan’s women. 

And, “Before the Western Left breaks out the champagne,” as if to imply being “Left” is synonymous with supporting the Taliban’s “medieval theocracy”, Chris went on to trot out the age-old Imperialist trope; “The Defence of Women” as being a prime motive behind the 2001 US invasion, on which it is now reneging. 

Cautioning “the Western Left” to, “pause for a few moments to consider that, for Afghan women” the US withdrawal “….represents an historic betrayal and abandonment.” Trotter claimed that; “For 20 years, the emancipation of the women and girls of Afghanistan was held up to the world as the single greatest achievement of Western intervention,” and that “billions of dollars were spent to lift Afghan women from sexual abjection to full personhood and independence” 

“And it worked,” Trotter wrote. “Women and girls were uplifted. They thrived in the classrooms, filled the lecture theatres, took charge in shops, offices and factories, as, like proud parents, the Western Occupiers looked on.”

Well, actually, no, it didn’t work!

At least, that is, not according to an April 2021 report in FAIR, Support the Tropes – FAIR an independent media watchdog that has been “challenging media bias since 1986.”

FAIR reports that, in reality, nearly 20 years of US occupation of Afghanistan has led to a situation where today zero percent of Afghans consider themselves to be “thriving” while 85% are “suffering,” according to a Gallup poll. And only one in three girls goes to school, let alone to university.

All of which, FAIR goes on, ignores the fact that the US supported the radical Islamist groups in their takeover of the country from the ousted Soviets, and so is directly responsible for the policies that crushed the hopes and dreams of Afghani women in the first place. 

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Pre-Taliban, half of university students were women, as were 40% of the country’s doctors, 70% of its teachers and 30% of its civil servants —reflecting the reforms of the Soviet-backed government, that the US dedicated massive resources to destroying.

Today, FAIR reports, in half of the country’s provinces, fewer than 20% of teachers are female (and in many, fewer than 10% are). Only 37% of adolescent girls can read (compared to 66% of boys). Meanwhile, being a female gynecologist is now considered “one of the most dangerous jobs in the world” (New Statesman, 9/24/14)

So much for a new golden age.

Far from being unique to Afghanistan, the “Defence of Women” trope was used by 19th century British propagandists as a pretext to justify Imperial conquest. In the name of rescuing Hindu women in India, and Muslim women in Egypt Britain justified its invasion of both countries.  And the US used it as part of its pretext to justify the Spanish American war!

 And the tactic’s longevity is perhaps testament to its effectiveness.

That said, if the US and its NATO allies had the slightest concern for the emancipation of Muslim women, it’s reasonable to suppose it might have had a word with its great Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabe brand of Islam is every bit as archaic as that practiced by the Taliban.

But, with a deadline looming, maybe Chris was just interviewing his word processor, or just taking the opportunity to show “his feminine side,” and we should cut him some slack.  Because if he had “paused to consider” as he asked “The Western Left” to do, in addition to Afghanistan’s women, he might have considered what the US capitulation means for the boys of that country.

The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan

Bacha bāzī is a slang term in Afghanistan for a custom involving child sexual abuse of young adolescent males or boys, by older men, and is widely practiced in Afghanistan.  The custom is connected to sexual slavery and child prostitution, which Afghani officials say they are unable to stop because many of the men involved are powerful and well-armed warlords. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacha_bazi

And yes, dear reader, despite what our media might tell you, that’s also what our presence in Afghanistan has been supporting.

Under Taliban rule Bacha bazi carried the death penalty and will likely do so again. But during the course of the last 20 years, under the US installed Afghan government, the practice, though still illegal, was seldom policed, with the authorities themselves often complicit in the crime. 

And when controversy erupted after allegations surfaced that US. government forces in Afghanistan deliberately ignored bacha bazi, the US command responded by claiming the abuse was the responsibility of the “local Afghan government”. 

Well, if that’s the case, maybe Afghanistan should have been left to be responsible for the welfare of its women too.

The fact is we are putty in the hands of the propagandists, who, in the case of Muslim women, can swing from excusing Islam’s subjugation of women, as in a 30 page article on Saudi Arabia in National Geographic, to damning it in the name of US imperialism, in all US newspapers, without batting an eyelid. 

Either way, when, in closing, Trotter reminds us that “The only lesson of history is that men never learn the lessons of history,” he should ponder that that includes commentators who continue to fall for the old “Defence of Women” trope.








  1. I said in one of Chris columns that the Empire never gqve a flying proverbial for the rights of Afghan women.

    To be even more brutally honest take a look at the status of Islamic women in communities across Europe and how those on the Left and Right conveniently mouth off platitudes about multiculturalism. Meanwhile the sharia practices, the childbrides, the female circumcision carries on.

    Im convinced that we don’t really care about the standards we set for human rights when it crosses over some ideological barrier such as political correctness to ther cultures.

  2. When I first read Chris Trotter on TDB, I wasn’t all that impressed by his Rambo like shenanigans. Meaning Chris is to soft spoken for leadership positions. But after carefully reading Chris Trotter, I began to realise what his talents actually are. While each contribution to TDB. While each individual contribution to the TFB may have its role in crafting the narrative, as one of TDB blogs and the left’s most viewed if not the most viewed, Chris Trotter caters to many views from vegan left wing to carnivorous rightwing while having to make terrible compromises and concessions to either of, each time. In other words big tent shit.

    Where all the king’s horses and all the kings men fail to put Afghanistan back together again, Chris Trotter makes the tough decisions in bringing vegans and meat eaters back together again.

    Somehow in all this the contributors of TDB has managed to make it through everything while maintaining the moral high ground. And given the amount of danger that the people of Afghanistan has and still face, it’s very shocking that progress was able to proceed as far as 30% of Afghani woman in schools or what ever.

    This is why I rate Chris Trotter higher than than leftwing opinions like Bomber or those morons at The Standard and a little bit everyone else, and that is Chris’s ability to connect with people and properly motivate them.

    Where as Chris Trotter has his admirer’s, he can never truly understand the social and political ramifications of each political view which so there fore he Chris Trotter always needs his people to continue the causes and movements of the left so that Chris Trotter (and Bomber) can continue making his / there calculations behind the scenes, and deliver electoral victory, after victory.

  3. “Chris went on to trot out …”

    I saw what you did there ; )

    Interesting article, and yes it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the West’s hypocrisy about Saudi Arabia.

    If Taliban 2.0 are genuinely interested in bettering the lot of the Afghan people they will need to avoid the fanatical excesses of version 1.0. Harbouring Bin Laden was about as smart as shooting Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas showed them to be cultural vandals of the highest order.

    • repeating a pro war lie from 20 years ago does not make it true now ,,, Pope Punctilious II

      ‘Even after the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden if evidence was provided of his involvement in the twin towers attack the US was not interested.’

      Former usa soldiers who did long tours in Afghanistan back up everything Malcolm Evans writes ,,, including the fact treatment of women and females under the corrupt usa proxy govt was materialistically little different than the Taliban ,,,,

      ,,, Anti-war veterans explain how US lost Afghanistan while leaders lied, profited https://youtu.be/_bo7P_podIk

  4. Objectivity? That was some serious straw-manning there Malcolm. The rescuing of Afghan womanhood from oppression wasn’t the main thrust of Chris’s essay, or of the occupation forces, come to that.
    BTW, I was looking at the pictures of the would-be refugees/escapees in Kabul, almost all were young men. Not much concern for the plight of their wives, sisters, mothers or girlfriends from that quarter. Obviously hadn’t heard of “women and children first”.

  5. “maybe Afghanistan should have been left to be responsible for the welfare of its women too”

    “In the last period of Taliban rule, which ended with the invasion of 2001, women were forced to wear the burka when outside, if they were allowed to leave the house at all. They were not educated in any meaningful sense (other than, in some cases, the most basic religious education). They were forced into marriages (often as young girls) with men who used them as chattels. Brutal punishments for small transgressions made women little better than slaves.

    We must not forget Bibi Aisha, who was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in 2010. As a young woman, she attempted to escape from her abusive husband (whom she had been forced to marry), but when the Taliban caught her, they had her ears and nose chopped off. Or Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in 2012 by a Taliban fighter because she dared to advocate for girl’s education.”
    A (former) Muslim woman speaks up unequivocally on this betrayal – she endured at least some of this hideous oppression, including genital mutilation and forced marriage, as a girl and young woman in another Islamic utopia, Somalia. https://unherd.com/2021/08/bidens-most-heartless-betrayal/

  6. Bacha bāzī is just the Afghani form of pederasty, which is no different to the “Greek Love” practiced in ancient Greece. The existence of this “Greek Love” is “celebrated” in modern Western countries as pre-Christian Western tolerance of homosexuality.

    While pederasty is massively problematic, and as a gay man I find its inclusion in gay history by lifestyle leftists to be absolutely disgusting because there is no connection, it should not be seen as being worse than the heterosexual equivalent.

    Yes the Taliban are going to crack down on Bacha bāzī, but this will not result in a net decrease of the sexual abuse of children (far from it) as the Taliban will unravel all the efforts to stop child marriage that has happened in the last 20 years by NGOs. They have already asked village elders to start creating lists of 12 year old girls to marry off to adult men.

    A person who focuses on the limited same-sex child abuse happening in the country and completely glosses over the much more widespread opposite-sex child abuse in the country (which is only going to increase), is doing so because of their underlying distaste for the same sex element.

  7. The Taliban are reactionaries, based on ancient patriarchal tribal economics and politics, but the imperialist serial invaders of Afghanistan are far worse having created ‘democracy’ out of the blood and bones of ancient civilizations, the ongoing oppression of women and the systematic exploitation of the global working masses.
    We will not get rid of all this old shit until the working masses take power and build a world fit for humans.

  8. So at what point do the cultural practices of a particular group become unacceptable to the cultural practices of another group?
    Which group determines what is acceptable to all?
    Middle class wankery should be the last standard to judge by.
    Let Afghanis be Afghanis. If you don’t like their cultural practices don’t fucking go there.

    • Why let the bully of women do what they want in Afghanistan, but not if the West (family home by family home…? Why oppose racism in white ruled South Africa, but not elsewhere?

      Why criticise China for what happens in its NW, if you would abandon women of Afghanistan to worse, when you could have done something about that with a force much smaller than the ones in South Korea and Europe – why is that forever war still going on, and why does NATO still exist decades after the Warsaw Pact ended.

      • That could have been written better.

        Does the their nation their rules, extend to their culture their ways, their home their relationship to sort out? When is a crime against humanity just that?

        And is Biden departing forever war while US forces remain in Europe and South Korea? Why does NATO exist post the Warsaw Pact, which ended decades ago? Why is there no peace in the Korean peninsular?

    • Wish it were so – but economic systems want to assimilate resources and populations and religious doctrines want people’s minds and their bodies as well.
      Neither forces respect borders, in either direction.

  9. Does ‘Sovereignty’ mean anything anymore these days? Because everyone should shut the fuck up with their opinions about what other countries should do for their population.

    And fuck the UN! The credibility has been in the toilet since the Kosova-Serbian-Yugoslavian Wars of the 90’s. The fuck’d that up good and proper.

  10. I thought Trotter’s column was bizarre because Afghanistan is a male dominated culture no matter if you’re Taliban or just the average citizen.

    Just look at all the people trying to escape and clinging to planes : they were all men and boys, no women to be seen. In fact no women really to be seen anywhere and that’s without the Taliban being nowhere to be seen.

    And you know what, maybe the role women have in Afghanistan is the one they are ok with. Who are we to say that women should be able to run around in bikini’s, attend Pride Parades and eat ice cream while watching netflix.

    Maybe Afghan women look at the west and think we are the ones who have gone off the rails by abandoning the traditional family roles in favour of “I want what I want and I want it now”.

  11. I used to think it a tragedy that the Alliance smashed itself to pieces on the rocks of Afghanistan.

    Malcolm’s post has, however, reminded me of just how blind some left-wingers can be – and how disingenuous.

    Having helped to destroy the secular, Soviet-supported left-wing government of Afghanistan, the Americans promptly turned their backs of the Afghan people and allowed their country to be torn apart by a succession of brutal warlords. The Taliban “rescued” Afghanistan from this anarchic war of “all against all” – but only at the cost of imposing a fanatical theocracy.

    No group suffered more at the hands of these religious reactionaries than Afghan women and girls. That Malcolm seems to have forgotten their torment is, well, instructive.

    Of course women fared better under the secular, Soviet-supported left-wing governments of the 1970s and 80s. (It was the same story in Baathist-ruled Iraq and Syria.) What Malcolm conveniently omits from his narrative, however, is the fact that the post-2001 Western-supported Afghan governments were building-back on the ruins of nearly 20 years of war and devastation. They were also building-back under constant attack from the Taliban – which made a point of attacking institutions dedicated to educating and employing women and girls.

    With the Taliban once again in control of Afghanistan, all of this painful progress towards female equality will come to an abrupt halt.

    I am, however, confident that Malcolm is correct when he writes of the Taliban’s determination to stamp out the practice of Bacha bāzī – along with everything else it associates with male homosexuality. What I’m not quite so sure about is whether this represents an altogether “progressive” development!

    Having waded through all of Malcolm’s disturbing mixture of defensiveness and offensiveness, the indisputable fact remains that, under the Taliban women and girls fared terribly, and under the Western-supported governments of the past 20 years they made huge strides towards full personhood and independence.

    That this all-important fact does not appear to have made any discernable impression on Malcolm’s thinking about the rights and wrongs of Western intervention in Afghanistan speaks volumes. It also prompts the reflection that, if he in any way represents the “Left” that broke the Alliance, then perhaps it’s just as well that they did.

    • I have a sympathy for a human rights friendly imperial polity, UN or otherwise – government, or NGO led.

      Nation state sovereignty is sort of sacrosanct, but hosting “international” terrorists crosses a line and in that “barbarians” become fair game.

      In simple realpolitic terms leaving Afghanistan while Islamic State militants reside there is a retreat from the war against terrorism that sane people warned the US about when they invaded Iraq (Iraq Libya and Syria represented the Cold War era of removing socialist regimes – war for global capitalism).

      Now we have the UK and US silent on the murder of women in south Iraq because Biden wants a return to a nuclear deal with Iran (yeah Shia militias have kill lists authorised in Teheran).

      If his VP was a militant feminist, he would have been garotted in his sleep.

    • Hi Chris. Malcolm makes some serious points that are not so easily waved away. Afghanistan is a seriously poor country that has always struggled to produce enough surplus to sustain any sort of national government. This poverty has always meant that the requirement under Islamic law to seclude women has never been obeyed in the rural community. All hands have been needed simply to survive. Only the better off in the cities have ever been able to afford to seclude their women. Your focus on the story in Kabul is not the story of Afghanistan. Communism in Afghanistan was always an imposition from the top down rather than the necessary bottom up. This was most clearly demonstrated in the coup of officers rather than soldiers that led to a communist governmentthat quickly became brutal in its imposition of national control. That the liberal left and feminists joined in support of this regime and in support of the brutal Soviet invasion that used the same sort of helicopter gunship enforcement and indiscriminate bombing of villages that has been repeated by the USA means that they brought on their own demise in the eyes of ordinary Afghans. The only resistance to these horrors was from the Taliban who resisted the Soviets from the beginning. Afghanistan has been weary of war for some time now. You say that the West built back but this is a fallicy. The US doesnt do build back. Look at their own country. I reccomend The Wire as a tv series. The US sends its troops in the same way as they approach their own ghettos as somewhere foreign and dangerous where everyone is out to get them. After the US invasion the Taliban accepted defeat and waited for the benevolent West to rebuild. But it didnt and instead western troops went into the countryside looking for “terrorists” in the same agressive way they look for drug dealers only in ghettos. Kicking down doors and dragging away innocent family members to be tortured for names of terrorists. Eventually some took potshots at the night raids and that brought in the bombs that fed more resistance. Liberals and feminists ignored this dynamic. The Taliban picked up their guns again and again were the only resistance to the new horror. Liberalism and feminism that ignores bombs and midnight raids has nowhere to go. If the only resistance comes from conservative sexist Islam, can you really sit in your safe place and snipe at them. This linked article is rather long but well worth a read. It was written in 2008 but the author was already clear that the Taliban would win.
      This link is a very recent post by the same authors. They come from an anthropological background which looks from the bottom up rather than your top down approach.

    • Oh yes, and to associate Bacha bāzī in the same sentence with “other male homosexuality” really is a bit weird. Would you even think to associate rape of little girls with “other heterosexual activity”? Stamping out sexual exploitation of young boys was absolutely apreciated by Afghani peasants who’s children bore the whole burden of this terrible practice.

      “When the Americans invaded in 2001, the Taliban had held Kabul for four years. A lot of people had some good things to say about the Taliban. Unlike all previous governments, they were reasonably honest. Justice was fair. The roads and streets were safe. The Taliban had ended the custom of bache bazi, child prostitution at weddings – indeed, opposition to the sexual abuse of children was central to Taliban politics.[24] All those things many people respected. But the Taliban hard-line imitation of puritanical Saudi Islam, their dictatorship, and their sexual politics did not sit well with most Afghans. In 2001 almost no one in Afghanistan was ready to fight for the Taliban against American invasion.”


    • From that link:
      In 2010, WikiLeaks published 76,000 previously classified documents about the war, containing references to hundreds of other war crimes. But instead of investigating these cases and bringing the guilty to justice, the messenger, Julian Assange, was pursued.

      Today he is sitting, critically ill, in a British high-security prison and has to fear being extradited to the USA, where he is threatened with life imprisonment under inhumane conditions. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, came to the conclusion, after an in-depth investigation of the case, that Assange had been and is systematically tortured by Western authorities.

      Most of the big media, which got a lot of attention and made money with the leaks of their journalist colleague, have now largely dropped him. And with it the defense of the freedom of the press, which is especially crucial when it comes to questions of war and peace. So Assange is on trial—and not the war criminals.’

      Again, “So Assange is on trial—and not the war criminals.”

  12. What utter crap of Chris to elevate human rights as the raison detre for America’s invasion of Afghanistan and/ or anywhere else on the planet.

    Its OIL mate.

    Then its ARROGANCE
    “Uncle Sam is the chief monkey – get that into ya mate.

    Delivering democracy to the Middle East via the ARAB SPRING was an absolute crock of crap.

    What the Arab Spring did is manifest in the thousands of misplace refuges now trying to swim the English channel.

    Pity America wasn’t closer so they got the influx. But Uncle Sam had already calibrated that.

      • So who is stealing oil from Libya and Syria at the moment, both from the land and on the high seas? Also consider, “The Afghanistan Oil Pipeline was a project proposed by several oil companies to transport oil from the Caspian region and Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan.” Who was likely to benefit from this? No doubt the Afghanis would miss out.

      • SPC

        The answer is here https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2021/08/19/guest-blog-ross-meurant-from-saladin-1187-to-taliban-2021/

        America were taking oil from Syria unfettered until Russia intervened and it was Russia intervention to assist its long term ally Syria – which changed the fortunes of ISIS.

        This is all well documented factual history.
        Until that time USA was taking oil from ISIS in north east syria and transporting it to Ukraine.
        Then the NATO ally Turkey got upset with the Yanks neutering the Kurds – arch sworn enemies who still lurk in North East Syria and are the undoing of Turkey US relations
        these combinations stopped ISIS

        America did not withdraw from a territory it was never invited to attend – ie Syria and America still sits in North East Syria – where the major Syria oil resources are.

        Libya! Dont tell me you have no idea what going on there?
        Libya was and is OIL

        Afghanistan was not for oil. Afghanistan was REVENGE – chief monkey.
        I never said OIL in Afghanistan. I said ARROGANCE.

        Finally. Arab Spring to deliver democracy to the Middle East?
        and where is there ANY SIGN of that promise?


        • I guess I took the wrong way

          “What utter crap of Chris to elevate human rights as the raison detre for America’s invasion of Afghanistan and/ or anywhere else on the planet.

          Its OIL mate.”

          As Richard Christie put it above August 20, 2021 at 2:53 pm

          “economic systems want to assimilate resources and populations and religious doctrines want people’s minds and their bodies as well. Neither forces respect borders, in either direction.”

          Overall use of USA power is about the global capitalist regime vs socialist regime (as per Cold War), thus Mossadeq in the 50’s and the Kabul regime (because it had Soviet backing) in the 80’s. Not Afghanistan in 2001 however, rogue because it hosted international terrorists (the new force confronting western imperial capitalism, albeit with a ME focus).

          BUT because of the PNAC agenda to bring back in Iraq oil onto the market (end sanctions) without it being a socialist state, Afghanistan was the prototype for democratic regime change – Arab spring/Iraq. Libya was Arab Spring hubris on Obama’s part (NATO should never have used air force against Libyan ground forces) which encouraged the Sunni Islamists of the Gulf and Turkey into their Syria too lobbying (failure of which led to his Asia Pacific tilt).

          The US forces were only in Syria to fight Islamic State – al Qaeda in Iraq used NE Syria as a base to invade north Iraq), and remain to protect Kurds from Turkey.

          Russia intervened in Syria to aid the regime a long time client. Russia bombed the forces of al Qaeda in Syria – al Nusra and other Islamists backed by Turkey and the Gulf and the FSA/original democratic resistance. Russia/Syria and Islamic State were rarely in conflict. Each had other priorities.

    • I don’t recall Mr Trotter saying that the reason for the US invasion was to save the women, just that their lot was better for it.
      As someone says above, to attack Mr Trotter as the Op does for saying so is disingenuous and a straw man.

  13. Yes, the decline for women was greater when the Islamists backed by Americans like Biden supported action to remove the old Soviet backed regime.

    So the harm being done now, in leaving, is less than then.

    It is still harm, and leaves the US (under Biden) with no credible capacity for leadership on human rights.

  14. Also, lest we fall in to a gendered identity politics view of everything, remember the highest casualties were amongst afghan security forces -almost exclusively male- and tens of thousands of male civilians and taliban fighters died too.

    “ The number of coalition casualties is much better recorded than Taliban and Afghan civilians.
    Research by Brown University estimates losses in the Afghan security forces at 69,000. It puts the number of civilians and militants killed at about 51,000 each.”

    War creates shitty outcomes for everyone, if you are a man you are more likely to be killed.

  15. The Taliban Surrendered in 2001

    From that link:
    At a U.S. Special Forces camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on December 5, 2001, the Taliban offered an unconditional surrender. Furthermore, they would disband and disarm: a military force would no longer exist.

    George W. Bush ignored the offer and continued attacking the Taliban until the end of his term. If only in self-defense the Taliban fought back, eventually regaining the battlefield initiative. Barack Obama fought the Taliban for eight years more. Donald Trump did so for the next four.

    Twenty years later, after the squandering of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, President Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan—and drew angry criticism for the chaotic exit that followed.

    How perverse we have become. We chastise President Biden for a messy ending of the war in Afghanistan and fail to indict George Bush for its illegal beginning.

    George Bush launched a war for oil and empire, invading two sovereign nations without provocation. He violated international law.

    Within ten days of taking office the Bush Administration formalized a decision to invade Iraq. Long before 9/11 the attack on Afghanistan was scheduled. Neither proposed incursion had the slightest thing to do with terrorism: the objectives were preemptive access to Iraqi oil and a pipeline right-of-way across Afghanistan for the Unocal Corporation. 9/11 offered a spectacular and fortuitous covering alibi; President Bush declared a “war on terrorism” and launched his premeditated wars.
    Full article at the link

    • In retrospect a blunder by Bush not to accept the Taleban offer – one made presumably so the Americans would go.

      I’d quibble about the original reason for going into Afghanistan, but choosing to reject the Taleban offer – because of “regime change” design on Iraq and onwards in the ME/continuation of a war against terror via fake WMD, is the major story.

  16. Malcom, you have spirit! Keep talking.

    Talkers are foundational to our right response to challenges in the age of comfort. See the ridiculous Right re talkers. Snort on forever, guarded by the ‘god’ of reason. Truth is a complete defence.

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