This editorial appeared in The Dallas Morning News:
A sex slave by any other name is still a sex slave, and it is an abomination that U.S. troops allow it to happen with impunity on military bases in Afghanistan.
According to a New York Times report, U.S soldiers, as a matter of military policy, are barred from intervening when Afghan military commanders sexually abuse young boys. U.S. soldiers say they are under orders to ignore the abuse, even if it takes place on U.S. bases, in order to maintain good relations with the Afghan military units and not to impose cultural values on a country. U.S. soldiers who have objected or intervened have had their careers destroyed.
“The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban,” said a former Marine lance corporal. “It wasn’t to stop molestation.”
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This is sickening, and our lawmakers should demand better. Such acts would be punished as crimes against human rights and personal dignity under other circumstances. Condoning this behavior in Afghanistan puts the United States on the wrong side of a human rights issue that the U.S. has fought to eliminate or prosecute elsewhere in the world.
Three years ago, the United Nations signed an agreement with Afghanistan to ban bacha bazi, or “boy play,” the practice of military commanders and other powerful Afghan men using boys as young as 9 as sex slaves. Human Rights Watch also has condemned the practice. Yet the U.S. military is under orders to ignore it.
Incredibly, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan defended the nonintervention policy, saying, “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.”
It is a horrible standard, and the military must stop aiding and abetting such heinous acts, which are as much an affront to Afghan culture as they are to the U.S. Any soldier who stands up to stop such behavior should be praised, not disciplined. When soldiers are ordered to abandon core moral and legal principles that separate civilization from barbarity, then what is victory worth?
The Taliban came to power in part because they banned such depraved behavior. Now U.S. policy requires soldiers fighting the Taliban to pretend such gut-wrenching abuses aren’t occurring under their noses.
The Afghan military is supposed to play a major role in defending the country against the resurgence of the Taliban. But why should villagers trust the Afghan military, when some of its leaders inflict this upon their sons, or the United States, who is supporting them?
Sexual abuse is ugly and brutal, and U.S. soldiers should not be forced to stand down and allow it to happen.
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