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Created on 3/4/2009

Yesterday many leaders from around the world attended the G20 summit meeting in London.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was roundly praised for his energetic and well-conceived groundwork plus excellent negotiating skills.

President Obama was even more warmly applauded for being President Obama. But there were reservations expressed. Most of these came from the non Anglo Saxon economies that have taken it in turn to fire broadsides of criticism at the USA and UK for their previous financial indiscipline that they state caused the entire global economic problem.

Today President Sarkozy of France is hosting President Obama and the other leaders of NATO in Paris. It will be interesting to see if the French and Germans in particular, can take criticism as well as hand it out.

France recently re-joined NATO as a full member but like the other “allies” in this organization they do more talking than fighting in Afghanistan. While the UK and USA do the hard fighting the majority of the Europeans in the alliance mainly just supply technical and moral support but when it comes to their forces using force, they demonstrate everything that is hypocritical about their countries. They simply don’t and won’t fight.

This is not meant to imply that the servicemen and women from those non-fighting European allies are cowards or are in any way deficient. Their governments have forbidden them to engage the enemy under almost all circumstances.

Despite all of the NATO allies agreeing that they would fight for democracy against the theocracy of the Taliban most of the allies avoid actual fighting.

This is a disgrace and makes you wonder if allies like these are worth having. If push came to shove and we really needed our NATO allies to save our own countries could we rely on them to help?

I think this proves that we could not rely on them for anything other than kind words, if we were lucky.

Even more disgraceful the government of Afghanistan is enacting Taliban inspired laws against the rights of their own women. President Hamid Karzai was roundly condemned by internal and external groups for signing into law legislation that effectively legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband and prevents women from leaving the house without a man's permission.

This law clearly undermines hard-won rights for women enacted after the fall of the Taliban's fanatical Islamist regime. Ask yourself why our soldiers for democracy should potentially risk their lives to enforce laws such as these.

The controversial law _ which many claim was not debated in parliament _ is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan's Shiite community, which makes up about 20 percent of this country of 30 million people. The law does not yet affect Afghan Sunnis.

The law stipulates that the wife "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires."

"As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night," Article 132 of the law says. "Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

One provision of the law does seem to protect the woman's right to sex inside marriage, saying that the "man should not avoid having sexual relations with his wife longer than once every four months."

Critics claim that President Karzai signed the legislation for purely political gain several months before the country's presidential election.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women said the law "legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband."

"The law violates women's rights and human rights in numerous ways," a UNIFEM statement said.

The issue of women's rights is an ongoing fight between the country's conservative establishment and the relatively more liberal members of society. The Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 banned women from appearing in public without a body-covering burqa and a male escort from her family.

There are two big questions that have to be answered.

One is whether we should continue to support a government that seems to be morphing into a pale imitation of the Taliban maniacs it is there to replace.

The second question is what kind of alliance is NATO, and why are there two levels of membership?

These are hard questions that all the members of the organization must answer.

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