Usha Zacharias



Legitimizing Empire: Racial and Gender Politics of the War on Terrorism

Zacharias frames her initial reaction to the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in this thoughtful essay. She views the Bush administration’s war as a politically renewed project of global expansion of U.S. military power allied to its capitalist agenda as we move into the resource crunch of the 21st century. Essentially an analysis of the ways in which the media was used to justify an expansive U.S. militarism, it is also a dialogue with Sunera Thobani, and thus an analysis of the post-September 11 masculinist rollback of women’s rights abroad, while proclaiming the opposite. For the author, war is an integral part of capitalist patriarchal culture; it silences and disempowers women, excludes them from decision-making processes, ties their rights to nationalist objectives, and demands a misogynistic, masculinist culture of emotional steel from both men and women. The author details how U.S. policy has undermined the status of women in Afghanistan for at least a quarter century. The Taliban’s repressive gender politics emerged from a decades-long culture of war, just as America’s global military aggression emerged from another type of war culture that capitalism, the media, and the state perpetuate. Refusal by the U.S. to pursue a lengthy process of justice, to avoid dialog, negotiation, and peaceful alternatives come from a culture of hypermasculinity that fears feminine tactics as expressions of weakness. The essay concludes that military intervention will empower fundamentalist forces in the region and in the world; what is needed are anti-fundamentalist, nonmilitary solutions for all conflict.

social movements, politics, terrorism, justice, gender, racism, women’s organizations — India and Near East, Afghanistan

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 2 (2003): 123-132