In a display of mendacity worthy of the days when the late Senator Joseph McCarthy stifled free speech from coast to coast, the United States Department of State has denied a visa to Afghanistan's most internationally recognized activist, Malalai Joya.
Elected to Afghanistan's national assembly in 2005, when she was 27, Joya has been a lonely voice campaigning for women's rights in her country. Joya has been threatened with rape and subject to assaults, and has survived numerous assassination attempts. She is a fierce opponent of the corrupt Karzai regime and believes that American military intervention is about geopolitics, not humanitarianism.
Despite previous successful visits to the United States, Joya's visa application — to promote her just-published book, A Woman Among Warlords — was rejected by the US embassy in Kabul. The reason is Kafka-esque: Joya was found to be "unemployed," with no fixed address, living "underground."
While not yet a household name in America, Joya enjoys a reputation for immense moral authority and is frequently mentioned as potential recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.
Named last year by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Joya has learned to live with the constant threat of death by nightly changing where she sleeps.
The State Department's suggestion that she is an unemployed layabout is obscene.
The perversity of all this is that Joya is an exemplar of the sort of democracy that embodies women's rights. Apologists on the left and the right cite women's struggle for dignity when they seek to justify America's 10-year-old-and-still-going-nowhere intervention.
Of women in Afghanistan, Joya writes: "We remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that 'a woman should be in her house or in the grave.' In most places, it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished."
Is this message too dangerous for Americans to hear?
We call upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to personally intervene and order that Joya be granted an immediate visa.
Did a flash of agonizing reappraisal wash over President Barack Obama when George W. Bush's former henchman, Karl Rove, endorsed American military action in Libya?
Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the champion of the no-fly zone, pause and reflect?
What about Senator John Kerry? Kerry has a history of supporting military engagements he later comes to regret.
And Samantha Power, the Harvard political thinker who called Clinton a "monster" when she campaigned for Obama? Now on the staff of the National Security Council, Power endorsed Clinton's advice to intervene.
War mixes things up, that is for sure.
As of the moment, the situation in Libya is — to say the least — cloudy.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, an early fan of the no-fly gambit, is sending signals that the mission — whatever it was, or is — could be near completion, at least as far as Cameron is concerned.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has in the past pressured Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to account for human-rights violations, wants France to, as Bush might have put it, stay the course.