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Redstockings Comments on Corporate Media and Women in Gulf States During Gulf War, 1991

In 1991, with the U.S. bombing of Iraq underway, Redstockings assembled a photo exhibit in New York City to show that women in Iraq were much freer than their counterparts in neighboring Gulf states, U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, whose regimes receive massive U.S. military and political support.
The "10 on 8" exhibit consisted of ten display windows on 8th Avenue, a collaboration of individual artists and groups responding to the Gulf War. In the Redstockings window, the photos of Iraqi women marching in the militia while women in Saudi Arabia wore burkahs at the beach were unfortunately a surprise to many of us, so propagandized are we by the corporate-owned media.

Still, the quotes and photos assembled there, like those here, are largely from corporate news sources, and they show that contradictory images do sneak through. If we're paying close attention, they can give us a glimpse of just how distorted the general picture is.

As the U.S. prepared to attack Iraq again, and is now occupying that country for the foreseeable future, we wanted to again show the achievements of Iraqi women, and destroy the myth that the U.S. is in any way liberating the women of Iraq by bombing, invading, and occupying their country.

We also know first-hand that the unelected George W. Bush has no interest in liberating women anywhere, because we are fighting his anti-woman policies here at home. In the interests of women's liberation, join us in opposing Bush's occupation of the White House and the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"No sooner did Bush hit the White House, after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively installed him as president, than he began attacking women's rights, reinstating the 'global gag rule' [cutting off U.S. funding to international family planning organizations that disseminate information about abortion], yanking $34 million from the UN population fund, equating abortion with terrorism--the list goes on and on. NOW created a new campaign, "The Truth About George" to shine a spotlight on the damage Bush and his buddies are doing to our nation. The project's website, www.thetruthaboutgeorge.com, documents the whole picture of the Bush juggernaut and tells you what he's done … on the issues you care most about."

—National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy.
Some have argued that Saddam Hussein maintained what support he had from Iraqis because many saw his strongarm tactics as protection against a takeover by an even more despotic Islamic fundamentalism (see article by Mani Shankar Aiyar). The U.S. has long funded this kind of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, sometimes openly, more often covertly. This is part of the evidence for what many contend are the real goals for U.S. power in the Middle East: to prevent the kind of independent progress and modernization required to make a country powerful enough to challenge U.S. and British corporate profit-taking and military control of the region's oil.

This would explain what otherwise seems to be a contradiction: that the U.S. has allied itself and financed the more reactionary, anti-women's rights regimes and mujahedeen movements such as the one that actually attacked the U.S., while targeting for destruction the more pro-women's rights governments and political movements in the region.

In keeping with this dangerous pattern-which is so contrary to the interests of women's liberation--it was the CIA which helped Saddam Hussein into power in Iraq, as an alternative to the more progressive, radical democrats and socialists in the Baath and other Iraqi parties.
Egyptian feminist Nawal el Saadawi wrote in 1990: "U.S. governments since Ronald Reagan have subscribed fully to the fundamentalist world view. ...Fundamentalists enjoy support throughout the U.S.A. Some groups own their own TV stations. They have a clear political agenda.... One of the major issues for fundamentalists now in the USA is the repeal of US laws legalizing abortion... fundamentalists-whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise-are partners in the attempt to breed division, strife, racism and sexism; they help international imperialism to maintain its control and to overcome popular resistance to policies that lead to war and increased exploitation." ("Islamic Fundamentalism and Women," in North/South: The Nawal el Saadawi Reader Zed, London: 1997.)