Tuesday, December 16, 2008

War and Terror

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It's not just the wire-tapping and kidnappings and torture that are undermining Bush's War on Terror, but the fact that his target's all wrong. How effective is it really, chasing down the elusive figures of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, or the Lashkar-e-Taiba, presumably responsible for the recent attacks in India? Are they our worst enemy?

Their membership, compared to the global population, is absolutely miniscule. Their tactics are banal, and the body count not as high as what their pursuit has cost. Two hundred dead in Mumbai. 2,752 in New York. There are other groups out there killings millions and frankly, these terrorists can't compare. The residents of Mumbai are already showing their disdain by drinking beer at the Leopold Café next to bullet holes and the crater from a grenade.

New Yorkers likewise were stunned for a while after September 11, fighting off nightmares and holding their breath crossing bridges. Dust and ashes in the air, we avoided subways and buses and talked about where we'd meet after a dirty bomb. But pretty soon the city itself eclipsed our fear. The attacks like the attackers have faded away. They're nothing but a rotten dream like the sicarii zealots, Assassins, or Weathermen who had their day in the sun, but are fading fast.

You want terror, you have to go whole hog, and either knock out city after city, or like snipers and movie serial killers, pick off your victims one by one by one by one with such regularity and persistence you create a terrified sense of inevitability. Numbers, in particular, are essential, so potential victims can't shrug off the odds in a fit of optimism. I'd go for 1:1 or at least 1:10.

Maybe you've guessed what I'm talking about, even if this war hasn't been declared, and acknowledged by the United Nations or anybody's State Department, but gets the job done. One half of the population against the other. Men against women. The Gender War.

I hadn't quite thought of violence against women as terrorism until I read Nicholas D. Kristof's New York Times piece about how Pakistani men target women and girls by tossing acid in their faces. Sometimes the girls have just dared to attend school. Sometimes a woman has just registered for a divorce. The damage is immediate, skin and flesh dropping off revealing bone, noses and ears eaten away. If they aren't killed, these women are left gravely deformed, monstrous object lessons of what happens in the case of even minor revolt.

Since 1994, there are 7,800 documented cases of women "deliberately burned, scalded, or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area."

This violence -- methodical, perpetual, and backed by a shared creed glorifying masculine dominance to the end of female submission, compliance, fear -- is the classic stuff of terrorism without the annoyances of secret meetings and cells groups, surreptitious fundraising, special channels of communication, or international task forces against them.

I only wondered why Mr. Kristof confined his analysis to the east. We have our own terrorists in the U.S. murdering 1,400 women a year, battering between two to four million, raping hundreds of thousands of all races and classes in an endless struggle for power. The only difference between them and traditional terrorists like the Baader-Mienhof Gang killing victims for ideology and spreading fear, is that there's no need for press release. The message is carved in flesh. Submit or disappear.

Writing this, I realized we don't talk much about "violence against women" anymore. Maybe because feminists are so lame, or because it most often happens in the cesspit of women's own homes. Though even violence against LGBT people and people of color has become less visible since young gay Matthew Shepard was left crucified on a Wyoming fence. And James Byrd dragged behind a pickup truck until his head was ripped from his body for being black.

Maybe it's that September 11 and the horror of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have rendered other slaughters irrelevant, though women are still regularly attacked and killed, and violence is actually climbing again against queers despite our progress in areas like gay marriage.

We need a new War on Terror, eradicating the men that kill women, or make it their mission to climb in their SUV and cruise looking for fags or immigrants to kill like the Sucuzhañay brothers beaten with baseball bats and bottles a couple weeks ago in Brooklyn, leaving José Sucuzhañay dead on Sunday.

The only question is how do you fight back against that violence so deeply embedded in gender? (Most hate-crime perps are male). Do we gender-profile, drag young men like off the street like the CIA in random checkpoints? Send them off to Egypt? Or Syria? Indulge in a little waterboarding? After all, this is war.

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