January 11, 2003
War is a Feminist Issue
by Helen Gilbert
As Bush's war drive against Iraq intensifies, so does the propaganda blitz for the hearts and minds (or, at minimum, the intimidated silence) of the U.S. people. Women can expect to be a key target of this battle of words. The sacrificing mother, the grieving widow, the courageous female soldier, the gutsy munitions worker, the ravaged rape victim awaiting vengeful justice—these manipulative images are used over and over to gain women's complicity. For this reason, feminists must speak out against military conquest and expose the real truth that imperialist war is no damn good for women.
The antiwar movement has come a long way since the 1960s, when war and peace were seen as "men's business." Today, women are strong and visible leaders in the movement but their issues are still seen as peripheral.
The facts belie this view. In today's conflicts, 90% of the casualties are civilians. 90%! And the vast majority of those civilian casualties are women and children. Women and children are the vast majority of war refugees. They are the vast majority of those who die of hunger and disease brought about by war. War's economic upheaval drives women and children into the global sex trade.
In war, the incidence of rape escalates beyond belief. Rape is used to conquer and to torture and as a form of genocide. Military training encourages racism, homophobia and hatred of women in order to dehumanize the enemy--and it also dehumanizes the troops. And when the soldiers are discharged that training doesn't disappear. Women and children bear the brunt of post-combat stress that produces domestic violence and murder. Already three wives of soldiers returned from Afghanistan have died at the hands of their husbands.
Here at home, the military economy is destroying social services, educational funding, welfare relief, housing programs, and other human services. Everything is funneled into the defense effort, and again those most in need pay the price. We have entered a period of continuous, non-stop war waged by our own government. U.S. capitalism is addicted to militarism, an addiction that is destroying humanity and ravaging this planet. The people of this country must say, no more! No more crusades to preserve the obscene wealth of corporate America. No more interventions by tinhorn dictators to "save" the women of another country.
We must demand that Bush pull U.S. troops out from every place they're stationed around the world--starting right now with the Middle East. We must call for an end to U.S. imperialism--the economic warfare that is devastating the globe. This country needs a revolution in priorities, a revolution in policies, and a revolution in human relations. Working women and men need a revolution that replaces global aggression with global cooperation and a world economy that is run by the people who do the work--not those who steal the profits. Capitalism has nearly destroyed this planet. It's time to start fresh with a socialist system that promotes, life, justice and freedom.
Helen Gilbert has been protesting U.S. military aggression since the 1970s. She is Managing Editor of Red Letter Press which recently published the anthology, The New War Order: Notes from the Front Lines of Resistance.