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Nation building in these two countries has left the women behind.

Afghanistan--Excerpts from NYT, 14 Feb 2004

"'Americans should be proud that we took on that world and ousted the Taliban.' As President Bush declared in his 2002 State of the Union address, 'The mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes. . . . Today women are free.'

But they aren't. More than two years later, many Afghan women are still captives in their homes. Life is better in Kabul than under the Taliban, but in many areas our triumphalism is proving hollow.'" Nicholas Kristof

Iraq--Iraq seems headed down the same road. Women in Baghdad barricade themselves in their homes. Otherwise they become subject to rape and/or kidnapping. In neither country is there sufficient attention to public safety and the women bear the brunt of it.

More from Kristof

A 16-year-old girl fled her 85-year-old husband, who married her when she was 9. She was caught and recently sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment.

The Afghan Supreme Court has recently banned female singers from appearing on Afghan television, barred married women from attending high school classes and ordered restrictions on the hours when women can travel without a male relative.

When a man was accused of murder recently, his relatives were obliged to settle the blood debt by handing over two girls, ages 8 and 15, to marry men in the victim's family.

A woman in Afghanistan now dies in childbirth every 20 minutes, usually without access to even a nurse. A U.N. survey in 2002 found that maternal mortality in the Badakshan region was the highest ever recorded anywhere on earth: a woman there has a 50 percent chance of dying during one of her eight pregnancies.

In Herat, a major city, women who are found with an unrelated man are detained and subjected to a forced gynecological exam. At last count, according to Human Rights Watch, ten of these "virginity tests" were being conducted daily.

I strongly backed the war in Afghanistan. President Bush oversaw a smart and decisive war, and when I strolled through Kabul in those heady days of liberation, I was never more proud to be an American.

Yet now I feel betrayed, as do the Afghans themselves. There was such good will toward us, and such respect for American military power, that with just a hint of follow-through we could have made Afghanistan a shining success and a lever for progress in Pakistan and Central Asia. Instead, we lost interest in Afghanistan and moved on to Iraq.

Mr. Bush has refused to provide security outside Kabul. So banditry and chaos are rampant, longtime warlords control much of the country, the Taliban is having a resurgence in the southeast, and the U.N. warns that "there is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists."

To update the status of women in Iraq -- It has gotten worse; see for yourself:

Baghdad Burning
CBS News
Christian Science Monitor
Climate of Fear
Human Rights Watch
Operation Phoenix in Iraq
Raheem Salman
Taliban Ways

What can we expect from a man who declares on national TV: "I am a war president." This is the man who flew back to Washington to sign emergency legislation to prolong the vegetative state of Terri Schiavo. This is the man who deprives women and girls of their right to know about their bodies and make their own life decisions.


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