“The Essence of War”

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Dr. Violet Socks reminds us that soldiers are not the main casualties of war. Innocent civilians are. In part she cites to this article, which observes:

Feminist anthropologists such as Cynthia Enloe have documented how the U.S. military perpetuates the sexual commodification of women around military bases to manage and motivate its largely male workforce.

Following a pattern observed across different conflict regions by feminist scholars, Iraqi women face increasing pressures to earn their subsistence from men by bartering their sexuality. This is due to a lack of other economic options under both military attack and oppressive gender relations. In Baghdad prostitution reportedly became widespread between the fall of the Hussein administration in April 2003 and November 2003, as women disproportionately suffered growing poverty. Today, reports have surfaced of Iraqi teens working in Syrian brothels after being displaced from Fallujah, where U.S. forces launched brutal offensives and chemical weapons attacks on civilians. Sexual violence, as well as the trafficking of Iraqi women and girls, showed huge rises almost immediately after the invasion and continue. While initially perpetrated largely by Iraqi men, these rapes and abductions were exacerbated by the occupation force’s negligence and inability to establish security.

Sectors of the U.S. anti-war left have been unsure how to address such violence, let alone suggest an adequate remedy to the problem, besides calls for resistance. But an understanding of the gender dynamics typical of wartime economies would press the need to provide solidarity for Iraqi anti-occupation movements for women’s rights and freedom from sexual violence as a human right equal to Iraqi struggles for food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Meanwhile, as the occupation persists, with growing contact between military forces and Iraqi civilians, sexual brutality by both U.S. troops and Iraqi police under occupation authority has increased.

–Ann Bartow

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