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War is a women's issue; why do marches not mention it?

Two events this month — International Women’s Day on the 8th and the 2020 Southern Oregon Women’s March and Faire on the 29th — prompted the following thoughts on the first two Women’s Marches held in Ashland (January 2017) and Medford (January 2018). This past January, there were Women’s Marches across the nation, including an estimated turnout of 25,000 in Washington, a huge drop when compared with the turnout there in January 2017 that attracted about 500,000 people, with perhaps 4 million in 650 locations across the nation — the largest single-day turnout for a political event in U.S. history, surpassing the massive demonstrations against the American war in Vietnam.

The first two Ashland and Medford marches were important, powerful and spirited protests against President Trump’s hateful attitudes and actions toward women. Participants carried signs that supported women’s rights and health care, condemned patriarchy and opposed violence against women and girls. Missing, however, were signs that condemned U.S. wars since 2001 that have left at least 2 million people dead from war violence and after-effects, and another 21 million as refugees — many of whom are women.

This omission revealed a profound lack of international political awareness, especially regarding conflicts that affect women. It must also be noted that these U.S. wars have also resulted in large numbers of veterans “returning home injured physically or psychologically.” Mothers, their families, and too many young U.S. soldiers “have been profoundly, permanently and unnecessarily handed a lifetime of pain and sorrow because of the U.S. war machine” (Cindy Sheehan and Rick Sterling, Counterpunch, Jan. 2018)).

Writing just prior to the January 2018 demonstration, Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, and Sterling lauded the fine aspects such as opposition to hate, discrimination and exploitation, and strong support for “equality [and] women’s reproductive choice.” But, they noted, “the urgent need for Peace Not War” was absent from the national March’s publicity and philosophy.

Since U.S. wars kill, maim and displace women, Sheehan and Sterling urged avowedly women’s marches to make it a “priority to change the policies and acts of economic aggression and military intervention that result in violence, war and destruction.” These “Women’s issues,” however, were also prominently absent in the Ashland and Medford marches that were anti-Trump and pro-Democrat events that did not acknowledge and condemn the militarism of both parties.

Regarding women and war: Why were there no large protest marches during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women watched their children perish from what former United Nations humanitarian aid official Denis Halliday called “genocidal” U.S.-led sanctions? Why were there no such marches after Clinton’s 1998 bombing of an alleged weapons factory in Sudan, which was, in fact, a plant that produced 90% of its pharmaceutical products? According to the Boston Globe, the bombing would ultimately cost the lives of thousands of Sudanese, many of whom are children “who have already suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases.”

Why were there no marches when Obama, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Charter, engaged in illegal wars in Libya and in Syria where, allied with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. armed ISIS terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida? We need to know this history; otherwise, we will applaud the 2019 bipartisan congressional condemnation of Trump for withdrawing troops from Syria and abandoning the Kurds, who have been victimized by the U.S. for decades: by Clinton and Gore when the U.S. aided the Turks who destroyed hundreds of Kurdish villages, and by Reagan and GHW Bush who, with Democratic support, aided Saddam Hussein, who gassed the Kurds with Washington’s material and financial aid.

The Clinton-Obama violence against women was supported by powerful female Democrats: U.N. Ambassador/Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter. I’m sure that Arab and Muslim women victims of U.S. violence felt better knowing that these alleged champions of women’s rights supported the wars that left so many of them dead, maimed or displaced.

Why were there no women’s protest marches in Ashland, Medford and the nation against these crimes? Solidarity with women who are violated by U.S. wars should not be a partisan Democratic or Republican cause. Those who rightfully protested Trump but were silent about the Clinton-Obama wars, therefore, have no moral right to condemn this president and his supporters.

John Marciano lives in Talent.

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