Guest columnist Anne-Marie Smith: ‘What about the rights of all women all over?’

  • Afghan people are seen inside a house after U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29. AP

Published: 10/21/2021 10:47:36 AM

I was energized to be among more than 800 people — a rainbow of young, old, all genders and nonbinary — rallying in the streets of Northampton on Oct. 4 (“We won’t go back,” Gazette).

They marched, walked and spoke, chanted and sang; they carried banners and signs in support of a woman’s right to abortion. Yes, I thought, women’s reproductive rights are vital; this is about equality, our right to self-determination, our humanity. My body, keep off of it.

The previous day, I joined about 40 others from a few local anti-war organizations. We gathered in front of L3Harris, the nation’s sixth largest weapons producer, only about a mile down the road from Northampton City Hall.

I stood there on the corner with a poster-sized photo of a chubby cheeked 3-year-old named Malika. I pressed the poster high in the air for passing cars to get a good look. Because the passers-by will never see the baby in real life. Because Malika is dead. She was killed by my country, our country, in a killer drone strike in Afghanistan on Aug. 29. She was bombed to death along with 10 in her family, named Ahmadi.

L3Harris, right in our own neighborhood, supplies parts for MQ-9 reaper drones that rip babies like Malika away from their mothers on the other side of the world. According to “The Cost of War,” a years-long research project at Brown University, more than 386,000 innocent civilians have been killed in U.S.-led endless wars since 2001. An estimated 46%, or about 178,000, of these deaths were women and children.

On that Saturday, I thought about Malika and her mother and then about all the women gathered in the Northampton streets and on the podium, speaking out mostly for reproductive rights hanging in the balance here in the U.S. I wondered if these women thought about women in the Middle East and Africa living amid the terror of U.S- led endless wars. Women who are poor, struggling, scared, losing children, spouses, parents, homes shattered, limbs lost, hungry, perhaps walking miles and days seeking refuge. Women bearing the brunt of war because of our actions: our U.S. military, our weaponized economy, our consumption, our drones, parts of which come right out of western Massachusetts.

Yes, reproductive rights for American women are important, so basic, really, it’s incredible to me they’re still up for discussion. But what about the rights of all women all over: does anything affect the health and well-being of women more than war?

To me, any action in the name of women must be in the name of all women or else its meaning is lost. If we focus on our rights as American women but lose sight of (or don’t care about) how our priveleged lifestyles and tax dollars fund a colossal war machine that so dreadfully impacts women of the global south, can we really call ourselves feminists?

So, yes, let’s gather in large numbers in the name of women’s reproductive rights. But, let’s also come together by the hundreds with peace activists to work for the health and stability all of our sisters worldwide. Let’s push to bring down the U.S. military industrial complex, to get defense contractors’ millions of dollars out of our electoral politics (including L3 Harris’s contributions to local elected officials), end pointless wars, killer drones, and the U.S. acting as the world’s major arms supplier.

Like us American women, all women deserve equality, the right to self-determination and a more human world. And, they deserve to see their children grow into adults.

Anne-Marie Smith, of South Hadley, is a member of the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice in Northampton.

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