Interference by the U.S. in the internal affairs of Afghanistan has been a tragic chapter in our nation’s history.
Over three decades ago, there were social movements in Afghanistan to improve the standard of living of its people, to provide greater equality for women, and there was a functioning, if imperfect, democracy. However the U.S., using subversion, weapons, and money was able, as the leader of coalition of nations, to stop progress in these areas of human welfare.
In fact, the gains that had already been made were actually reversed. By 2010 the economic and social status of Afghans has been set back generations; women’s status has deteriorated to such an extent that the prevalence of self-immolation has increased among discouraged women, and there is no democracy now, with the U.S. making major decisions as an occupying power.
With President Obama’s recently announced military buildup, our nation’s leaders are on the verge of doing the virtually impossible — making the situation even worse. But the most cataclysmic aspect of this chronology of events is that the U.S. and the world are less safe, since the image of the U.S. in the world is that of the leading military power attacking possibly the poorest nation on earth.
Afghanistan in the late 1970s was a predominantly poor, rural, and moderate Muslim nation. Although they were second class citizens, women were allowed to unveil and had the right to vote. From 1933-1978 women started to enter the workforce and become teachers, nurses, and even politicians. They worked to end illiteracy and forced marriages. Most of these advances were in Kabul, the most modern and populous city in Afghanistan, while in most of the rural areas women were treated as property.
In the 1970s Afghanistan also had serious economic problems, one of which the concentration of ownership of most of the land in the hands of tribal and religious leaders (mullahs). Only 3% of the rural population owned 75% of the land.
Labor unions were legalized, a minimum wage and a progressive income tax were established, and a separation of church and state was adopted.
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001