Kaeley McEvoy ’14
On Thursday, June 7th I attended an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation and the United States Institute for Peace entitled, “After the 2014 Withdrawal: How to Sustain a Decade of Gains for Afghan Women.” The goal of the panel discussion was to confront the future of Afghan women after the removal of US troops from Afghanistan after 12 years of occupation.
Entering the discussion with a limited background on the war in Afghanistan, there was a vacuum of media and propaganda swirling around me. As an openly passionate humanitarian advocate and person with a personal connection to restoring the vitality of US-Middle East relations, the motive for the US occupation of Afghanistan was and remains to be unclear.
After participating in this discussion with leading congress members and experts from the State Department and the US Institute for Peace, I can reassert that my position on the subject has become deeply entangled in a web of hidden agendas and biased reporting. Leaving the discussion, I was more confused about the reality of the US involvement with Afghanistan than I was before I entered the doors of the Heritage Foundation.
The discussion truly moved me on both a political and emotional level. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) shared her own powerful experiences traveling to Afghanistan and spending time with women from both urban and rural cultures. She stressed that she would fight for the “human faces behind the statistics from Afghanistan.” The most powerful moment of discussion came from an Afghan woman in the audience who wanted to thank members of the congress for supporting her US funded scholarship to study in America. She explained how the opportunity to study in America has changed her life and shared that she intends to return to Afghanistan empowered with intentions of restoring effective policies in her own country. As this audience member spoke, I was able to see the compassionate light in Former State Department’s Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, Charlotte Ponticelli’s eyes as she sat on the panel overjoyed for the strength of this Afghan woman.
As a strong feminist, I felt very much attached to the plight of Afghan women throughout the discussion and proud of the effectiveness of US policy in working to empower these women. At one point during the discussion however, my internal compass began to linger in the direction of fallaciousness.
Where was the true voice of the Afghan women during this discussion? The Heritage Foundation is an openly and strongly conservative organization, who rationally has strong investments in supporting the US involvement with Afghanistan and Iraq. From my viewpoint, the United States has been exercising power over foreign agents under the blanket of spreading democracy for a long unchecked period of time. Therefore, by portraying the women of Afghanistan as desperately in need of the US to “empower and educate” them the panel portrayed an underlying message of support for the US occupation in Afghanistan on the basis of humanitarian responsibility. Panelist Charlotte Ponticelli, remarked that the US support of Afghanistan is “not just a matter of human rights to protect the women of Afghanistan but it is also a matter of national security, development and it is simply the right thing to do.”
I wondered how much of Ponticelli’s “right thing to do” was influenced by alternative motives. What qualifies US policy makers to know what is best for the “rural Afghan woman?”
I found myself caught in a serious moral quandary. Although I was critical of the potential for politically minded bias, I still felt a strong connection to the authenticity of each panel member. I truly left the discussion passionate about the role of the US in supporting Afghan women, who according to Panel member, Ponticelli “are the first at risk for violence and injustice in times of political instability.”
As I exited the discussion, my mind frantically attempted to digest the information I had just gained. I quickly jumped into the massive world of internet search engines in a quest towards finding the truth on the current state of women in Afghanistan. I soon found myself falling into a black hole of bias information.
Where I ask, is the truth on the US policy in Afghanistan, or Iraq? Or in any US policy in general? As an educated and informed American, how can I learn the reality of our government’s agenda when media sources and congress members are funded and supported by strong agendas from both the Left and Right?
During the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius warned his republic to be cautious when investigating the truth: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Centuries later, when news breaks within minutes of reality and dueling political parties constantly skew information as propaganda, one must be wary of the truth. It is a necessity to examine each issue from a multifaceted perspective. It is imperative to rationalize each strand of information that constantly circulates through news sources. Instead of viewing truth as an ultimate destination, one must understand that the journey towards truth is a widening, endless journey.
To view the panel discussion in its entirety visit this link from the Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/events/2013/06/afghan-women. Let Ike’s Anvil know what you think about the truth!