Yesterday, the local paper ran a front page Associated Press story about the end of the official US war in Iraq. The pictures accompanying the story showed the following narrative: we invaded, Saddam Hussein was toppled, women got to vote, we now go home.
When the war was gearing up in the spring of 2003, I started collecting war propaganda articles about Iraqi women. It was clear that the US military machine, and the mainstream media which aids in disseminating military agitprop, was starting to explore how it would use Iraqi women in its game.
One article I saved is titled, Waiting to Kill Americans. Two veiled Iraqi women, a mother and a daughter, sit in an apartment with AK-47s. The title is ominous. Dark women waiting to kill. But in truth they are simply preparing to defend themselves and their country.
Another article I saved was about prostitutes in Iraq, who were brutally treated under Hussein’s rule. The article focused on how the American liberation of Iraq would supposedly create a better world for Iraq’s prostituted women.
In Western culture, our vision of women is still focused through the Christian dichotomy of the madonna and the whore. And through that lens, we found both in Iraq: the darkly shrouded, innocent mother/madonna manipulated in her loyalties by her father/sons, and the whore. With this vision, American men and women quickly rallied to save the women of Iraq. Racism, sexism, and stereotypes born of Christian ideology were wrapped up together to sustain the assault on Iraq long after the original impetus for the war faded from memory.
The majority of Americans have never imagined that their image of Iraqi women is a politicized fiction written up by the war propaganda machine. This is our narrative: we invaded, tyranny was toppled, women were liberated, we now go home.
Now, some truth: