CIA Uses Viagra as Bribing Tactic in Afghanistan

Yesterday, the Washington Post had an article about how the CIA is now bribing warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan with Viagra, as opposed to say, money or guns.  My first concern was about the health consequences of unlicensed U.S. government officials just handing out prescription medication to men for whom the potential effects could be grave.  Having seen the Viagra commercials a million times, always explaining all of the risks associated with the drug (like any), that’s plain irresponsible.

But then this quote scared the fuck out of me and turned my attention elsewhere:

“You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones,” said one retired operative familiar with the drug’s use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could “put them back in an authoritative position,” the official said.

A few paragraphs prior in the article, it’s discussed how “sex” has been a popular bribing tactic by the CIA and other intelligence agencies throughout history.  The problem is that “sex” in this context, what with their mention of using attractive women as “bait,” very clearly means women’s bodies.  And the same thing seems to be absolutely true here.

What does that mean?  An authoritative position?  Because to me, when I hear that the ability of a man to get an erection around his wife puts him back in an authoritative position, my mind screams rape rape rape rape rape.  What else could one possibly mean by equating a man’s capacity for intercourse so closely with authority over a woman?  (And any other possible explanation must by its very nature still be deeply misogynistic.)

Now, I’m not going to make a call as to whether any of the chieftains or warlords in question are actually using the drugs to commit rape, marital or otherwise.  Putting aside for a moment the question of whether meaningful consent is possible under the circumstances of a polygamous marriage that the wives quite likely had little to no choice in, I haven’t spoken to the women to know.  And I’m not going to just assume that anyone is a rapist, especially not solely on their belonging to a certain group.  Further, as too many of us have learned personally, there is more than one way to commit rape, and an erection isn’t necessary, anyway.

What I’m concerned about is that regardless of any actual enabling of rape — which would of course make the situation far worse — the CIA seems completely aware of and okay with the prospect of their enabling rape.  In fact, they’re the ones who seem to have first jumped to the conclusion, even if they likely wouldn’t use the word “rape” themselves, what with it making their actions seem much too icky.

All of this talk about passing out necessary tools for marital rape and allowing men to regain an authoritative position over their wives also strikes me as particularly ironic seeing as how a major method used to justify this war — other than repeating “9/11” over and over again — was by promising the “liberation” of Afghan women.

Seems like women’s bodies and autonomy are just an all-around popular tool of war for the U.S. government, no matter what stage of the deadly game they’re in.

h/t BFP‘s twitter feed


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20 comments for “CIA Uses Viagra as Bribing Tactic in Afghanistan

  1. evil_fizz
    December 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Nice to see that the US promotes family values as effectively abroad as we do at home.

    Because to me, when I hear that the ability of a man to get an erection around his wife puts him back in an authoritative position, my mind screams rape rape rape rape rape.

    Mine doesn’t immediately go directly to rape, but rather to the idea that male potency and virility are essential to manhood and power isn’t uncommon. Which is a precursor to rape in a lot of settings, but I’m not sure it’s a direct correlation.

  2. SoE
    December 27, 2008 at 11:43 am

    “put them back in an authoritative position,”

    *puke*

    This totally struck me like somewhere along the lines”hmmmmm, what could we give them that doesn’t cost too much and makes them happy without giving us much hassle?? hey, viagra, every dude likes it and they’ll probably like to put the bitches back into place now that we started this war to ’empower and free the Afghan women from their oppression’ haha, empower them, that was a good one!”

    Real authority comes from sticking your boner into a woman. I’m glad they made that clear, I’ll try and remember it from now on…

  3. Abby
    December 27, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    You hit the nail on the head. I read this yesterday and all I could think of was “hmm, I wonder if anyone asked the wives how they feel about this…probably not.” Followed by nausea.

  4. December 27, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Suitcases full of cash didn’t work as bribes. Viagra is going to yield the same results. The Afghan people are highly xenophobic and don’t trust Westerners. The Soviet war only hardened that viewpoint.

    Viagra is going to win the war of terra?!? Can anyone say that last sentence with a straight face? Does anyone believe drug gangs or mobsters will give information for viagra? Why should tribal chiefs and warlords being more open with information.

  5. lilacsigil
    December 27, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I’ll be very interested to see who takes responsibility when one of the precious warlords dies, or loses his penis to gangrene, or goes blind – Viagra is a prescription drug for a reason!

  6. Henry
    December 28, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I don’t think it’s a rape issue at all. These people come from a ancient honor culture, and their attitudes are somewhat less than enlightened. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not intending to be racist, just to say that cultures are not the same, and I’ve seen how these folks live. Their attitudes regarding a man’s virility being linked to his worthiness for respect (hence the “authoritative position” remark) are not going to be changed any time soon, and any gift that an asset on the ground can use to help build a personal relationship with a tribal leader is invaluable. Really, that’s what it comes down to. It’s not a straight-up, “I’ll give you some boner pills for info” kind of trade. It’s an attempt to relate to these men in an area of perceived commonality to build trust.

  7. December 28, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Their attitudes regarding a man’s virility being linked to his worthiness for respect (hence the “authoritative position” remark) are not going to be changed any time soon

    Yeah, cause you know who doesn’t have those views??? Americans! Nope, not at all. No way. Good thing we found a way to relate to those totally foreign and backwards versions of masculinity that we’re way past in civilized land!

  8. Bushfire
    December 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    This news is so repulsive there are really no words strong enough to describe it.

    “Their attitudes regarding a man’s virility being linked to his worthiness for respect (hence the “authoritative position” remark) are not going to be changed any time soon, and any gift that an asset on the ground can use to help build a personal relationship with a tribal leader is invaluable.”

    So, if a sexist viewpoint is hard to change, then it’s ok to just leave it! Yay sexism!

  9. December 29, 2008 at 12:51 am

    I don’t think that the quote implied rape because it was provided in the context that the men’s need for Viagra was related to the fact that they have mutliple wives. This would lead me to believe that the Viagra is for the married people to have sex with each other, which is generally not rape. (A person can rape a spouse, but sex between spouses is generally consensual.)

    Perhaps the most important aspect about the CIA’s use of Viagra is that Viagra, unlike other gifts to informants (guns, money, etc.) isn’t the kind of thing that can be used either in terrorist attacks or to obtain weaponry.

  10. Henry
    December 29, 2008 at 1:26 am

    “So, if a sexist viewpoint is hard to change, then it’s ok to just leave it! Yay sexism!”

    If it’s counterproductive to try and change it currently, yes. There has to be some rational prioritization of goals when you’re engaged in what we’re engaged in. We’re fighting a war. If giving some old dudes some pills gets us info down the road that keeps some of our guys from getting killed, overlooking the sexism here isn’t nearly as hard to swallow. We’re not telling anyone to rape anybody or beat women or condoning any of that.

    “Yeah, cause you know who doesn’t have those views??? Americans! Nope, not at all. No way. Good thing we found a way to relate to those totally foreign and backwards versions of masculinity that we’re way past in civilized land!”

    This is a little ridiculous. Americans by and large do not have the same view here that the Afghans do. If it was revealed that a mayor was impotent, that wouldn’t necessarily tank his reelection (although I’ll admit it would probably become campaign fodder in a roundabout way). There would be plenty of jokes, sure, but it wouldn’t be a legitimate issue. If a candidate tried to make it an issue they would be a joke themselves. Impotence would be much more problematic for a tribal leader.

    Also, not every observation on a foreign culture has to be a referendum on whether we’re just as bad. It is a simple fact that Afghans come from a traditional tribal honor culture. That’s not even a value judgment, it’s just the way it is.

  11. scootermom
    December 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Why am I not surprised?

    “Fighting terrorism” in Afghanistan is done on the backs of Afghan women. The oppression of their own culture isn’t bad enough. Now America considers them a useful tool in restoring the authority of tribal leaders.

    Jesus Christ, this is disgusting.

  12. Ali
    December 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    So, the American government is fine with giving Viagra to Afghani men, for our safety of course, but would rather see African women die of AIDS than let other people give them condoms.

    I’m going to go puke now.

  13. Saira
    December 30, 2008 at 11:39 am

    What disturbs me is, and maybe I’m wrong about this, but aren’t these the same areas where child brides are… well… not precisely uncommon?

  14. Bushfire
    December 31, 2008 at 12:18 am

    “If giving some old dudes some pills gets us info down the road that keeps some of our guys from getting killed, overlooking the sexism here isn’t nearly as hard to swallow. We’re not telling anyone to rape anybody or beat women or condoning any of that. ”

    Overlooking the sexism is definitely not hard for a guy to swallow. Giving patriarchs viagara is not directly telling them to rape women, but it is indirectly encouraging them. That is hard to swallow for people who are against rape.

    Ali: that’s a really good point. Why is it immoral to give people condoms but not to give people viagara? That really proves that it’s not about sexual morality at all, it’s just about keeping men in charge and punishing sexually active women (and rape survivors).

  15. moejo
    January 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I have lived here for almost 4 years now working side by side with Afghani men and have to tell ya…I am more concerned for the boys than the girls or woman when it comes to rape. It is a real problem. In many of the mens views the boys are for pleasure and the woman are for offspring and all the work, It all makes me sick. It is so ingrained into their world.
    The woman here are so restricted by the men, and the men are so brainwashed into believing that they are correct in all their actions and are convinced that they do not have to change their ways. The repression of their whole society is such that I wonder if there is any real hope left for a more equal and peaceful existance for them all. You can hope though.

  16. March 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Working here in Afghanistan for over a year with the Afghan Army and on occasion, dealing with rape of men (young men) by older men in “authority” I kind of like the idea of a man having sex with his wife. Further more, if we can make some small steps in the right direction (ie. more secure, more schools for both boys and girls, and an over all equal rights for all) with some little blue pills as a small part of that I say go for it.

  17. Jennifer P
    March 31, 2009 at 8:55 am

    My mind went to rape too, at first. But then I thought, the Viagra will also be used to keep his wives pregnant. Maybe that’s the authority they speak of; the ability to sire babies? Perhaps a family patriarch that can’t get his young wives pregnant loses respect? Either way, it relies on using women in deplorable ways, like brood stock. *shudder*

    And Henry, speaking of deplorable, do you honestly believe what you are saying? Because it’s just sad. As if we just have NO CHOICE but to give Viagra to violent misogynists and perpetuate the subjugation of women. Nope, there’s just no other way to keep “our boys” safe over there! (Newsflash: there are “our women” over there too.)

  18. May 17, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    This is disgusting!
    I don’t know who is more to blame the Allies who should know better or the uneducated peasants. Hmm is this a case of “first you create thieves and then punish them”? This is just giving more power to men and more means to suppress the poor women.

    I don’t get the authority part that much- maybe it is lost in translation? what authority? rape? But if some sick desperados want authority they might unfortunately resort to physical abuse, emotional rape…does it need to involve sex and viagra??

    hmm..

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