Two horrible, yet altogether unsurprising stories released this week.
The first is sadly one more notch on a string of Bush Administration armchair-medical-politicking. Now, everyone knows that the Bushies like to block stem-cell research, propel far-right abstinence only sex ed programs into the mainstream, and appoint evil supreme court dictators in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade--but this story on blocking mere information takes the big-brother-is watching-and-restricting cake. Popline, a search engine of articles and research findings on reproductive health, is run by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the United States Agency for International Development. At the height of concealment, the database decided to block over 25,000 scholarly articles on abortion. The search engine has been unblocked following the uproar, but as of last Thursday, "a search on "abortion" was producing only the message "No records found by latest query." Just completing a search, here are the results you can now receive, 26,383 records on abortion. What still strikes the viewer are the chosen headliners--mostly reports of the ills of abortion in certain countries, or the apparent negative effects. Something tells us that these reports, though organized by "most viewed" are not as innocently placed as might be hoped.
It is shocking that a country supposedly committed to freedom and most especially freedom of information would block such a benign query. Anyone can go on the internet and run a quick search, and PoP! you now know exactly how to construct a pipe bomb. But you want learn about abortion? Well, that's too bad--you can't even get the science behind it. Some behind the Popline search restriction said they had to restrict the search because it was government funded, and is part of the Bush Administration's implemented policy that mirrors Regan's crazy politics:
"On January 22, 2001, President George W. Bush announced reinstatement of the so-called Mexico City policy that required non-governmental organizations to "agree as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." The President is committed to maintaining the $425 million funding level provided for in the FY 2001 appropriation because he knows that one of the best ways to prevent abortion is by providing quality voluntary family planning services."
It's another case of "do what we say but not what we do"--apparently, like Geneva Rules, we can tell others what is restricted and yet go against our own practices. Roe v. Wade upholds abortion rights, and yet we tell other nations not to abort, or even promote abortion. International wartime rules say that American troops cannot be tortured overseas (and that goes for everyone), but the US has no trouble disregarding that policy against foreigners when it sees fit. Instead of, oh, maybe watching out for people building bombs from internet-gained advice, or stopping people for forming internet alliances to terrorize the US, Bush and his cronies were too busy thinking about the best ways to make sure women would stay barefoot and pregnant. Because we all know that a women in charge of her own reproductive destiny, and who can read up on all the information she needs, is much more fearsome a creature to behold than Al Qaeda. But we digress.
Speaking of the war, Newsweek has an altogether equally unsurprising article on the toll US alliances with Iraqi tribal fighters has taken on Iraqi women. In order to be fair, this first comment must be made: women don't get a fair shake in Iraq, regardless of who is ruling them, but this turn of events is definitely not granting Iraqi women any favors.
This is a representative quote that is worth dissecting:
"But at present, U.S. forces are too pleased by the sharp drop in jihadist attacks to lose sleep over things like gender issues."
Yes, ending violence is key--but at what price? Gender issues aren't the only ones that sit serenely below the mini-totalitarian regimes the US is quietly allowing to rule in exchange for relative (0r rather assumed) "peace." We entered under the pretenses (false or no) of getting rid of Saddam, and yet, we are perfectly complacent about birthing hundreds, if not thousands of "mini-Saddams" that rule like feudal lords across the country in return for simulated peace--when all we are really receiving is quiet revolutions and secret mass graves, extremely similar to Hussein's rule a few years ago. Each area varies in it's brutalization of women, but even in the years before the war, women were allowed to attend university and hold a few more jobs than they do now. Now, the universities are barring women, and the rules on head covering and females in public spaces are being enforced to a much greater degree. Even women who would like to practice mourning by wearing black are not allowed to wear certain colors at certain times. Granted, Western views on gender equality will probably never fully take root in Iraq, and it's unfair to judge by Western values--but this is a backwards turn, and is just one aspect of Iraqi life that is suffering because of alliances that seem to benefit people now, but must be analyzed as to what the effects might be years down the road. Sometimes, the most noble and effective methods of attacking violence is with non-violence. The anniversary of MLK Jr's assassination should leave us in a reflective mood. Violence begets more, and ignorance breeds the same.