Tacitus points to this article examining one of the more interesting cultural problems confronting our military in this war of East meets West.

Ample amounts of outrage have rippled throughout Pakistan over a photograph of a US soldier searching a Muslim woman in Afghanistan, a practice prompted by the fact that those burkhas have been known to occasionally hide more than modesty, such as the odd grenade or rocket. The picture set off a generous compliment of indignation, seeming to perfectly capture the arrogant Americans’ violation of traditional Muslim values.

The only problem is that the soldier in the picture is very obviously a woman . It’s just that no one in Pakistan seems to be able to comprehend this.


“Impossible,” all the Muslim men in the room say in unison. The masculine ambience of this frontier city near the Khyber Pass is so pervasive that, at least in a warlord’s antechamber, a female soldier is utterly inconceivable, even if you have a picture of her in front of you. 

“Look again,” I insist . “Under the helmet, her hair is bunched at the neck. The US army has plenty of women soldiers, just like this one.”

In fact, I later learnt that the original caption, never used in Pakistan, identified her as Sergeant Nicola Hall. The bearded men are unconvinced .


The solution? Go Brandi Chastain:


Now American female soldiers start gun raids in Afghanistan by bounding out of helicopters and stripping down to their sports bras. Only then do they take village women aside to be searched. It is a quick way to prove their femininity to Afghan elders unaccustomed to seeing women in trousers.


Even though the common immediate reaction for an American (well, at least this American) to the kind of blinding cultural ignorance exemplified by the Pakistani men in the article is to write off their criticisms as sufficiently backward to the point that no reasonable compromise is able to be reached (the amount of sheer denial shown in the Independent piece is really shocking, although perhaps it shouldn’t be at this point), still I don’t really have a problem with the effort to accomodate their backwardness (yes, backwardness . Not “cultural uniquness” or “diversity.” I don’t like to mince words when the spades are staring me in the face), as long as it doesn’t compromise the effectiveness of the operation or the safety of the troops involved (do they typically wear flak jackets?).

However, frankly I’m a little surprised that this isn’t cause for just as much outrage as the news photo. I mean, come on . Women revealing most of their upper body in public? American or not, in a fundamentalist Islamic culture you can get yourself in an assload of trouble real quick for something like that.

Now, granted, the public outcry actually happened in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. The former is much more fundamentalist than the latter, so you have to wonder whether such news photos appearing in Pakistan of our scantily clad commandas have already appeared, and what kind of reaction they’ve recieved.

last update : 23-5-2018

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