The recent deluge of sexual harassment and assault revelations involving powerful men in politics and the media has revealed several things. Firstly, it has reminded us of an age-old truth. Those who have power will use it to feed their vices and conceal their deviant behavior.
Unfortunately, a second truth has revealed itself. Between Hollywood hypocrisy, partisan “whataboutism” on both sides, and silence by colleagues who have known about these issues for years, it is clear that we, as a nation, do not care about sexual abuse until it is politically or professionally beneficial.
If there were any doubts, one need look no further than a recent report by the Department of Defense Inspector General that found that U.S. troops were instructed to ignore the prevalent child sex abuse by our governmental and military partners in Afghanistan.
Breaking the Rules
The report focusses around the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits the U.S. from “funds for assistance to units or foreign security forces” that commit gross violations of human rights. In 2016, the Department of Defense initiated the investigation after media reports of sex slavery, kidnapping, and rape by Afghan forces prompted Congress to do something.
Congress posed nine questions for the Inspector General ranging from what policies were in place regarding child sexual abuse by Afghan forces to whether or not U.S. personnel received guidance or cultural training regarding the widely known practice of child abuse in Afghanistan. The practice, called “Bacha bazi” or “boy play” is one where powerful figures in society or business sexually abuse young boys, many of whom dance in female clothing or serve tea.
The report found that while there was no official policy or guidance on how to deal with this issue, the Inspector General found that individuals were often given informal guidance that there was “nothing to be done” or that it was “not a priority issue for the command.”
Cultural-awareness training, the IG finds, was provided at the service-specific level. Army and Air Force training make no mention of child sexual abuse in Afghanistan. Navy and Marine Corps training mention pedophilia in Afghanistan and advised Sailors to “overcome any frustration caused by cultural differences” and Marines to “move on.”
In all cases, cultural-awareness training had the intention of preparing service members for the attitudes they may encounter to minimize the effect of culture shock on mission performance.
Liberty Nation sources within the military have confirmed, under a condition of anonymity, that during their time in Afghanistan the abuse of young boys was widely known and that commanders on the ground either dismissed the issue as an “Afghan problem” or had a nihilistic attitude toward the outcome of submitting reports.
The Inspector General’s report also concluded that “the DoD is not applying the DoD Leahy Law in a timely manner” and that before 2015 there was no policy identifying child sexual abuse as a human rights violation that should be reported.
A Chink in the Armor?
Coincidentally enough, 2015 saw a slew of media coverage on the topic after Army Green Beret Sergeant First Class Charles Martland was involuntarily discharged due to black marks on his military record following an incident in 2011 where he and Captain Daniel Quinn roughed up an Afghan police commander. The commander, Abdul Rahman of Kunduz Province had been accused of imprisoning a young boy in his home and raping him repeatedly for several days. Rahman confessed and laughed off the situation.
Quinn and Martland were not amused and proceeded to provide the police commander with what is affectionately known in the military as “wall to wall counseling.” After being picked up, thrown, and body slammed Rahman fled. The two Americans were later reprimanded and sent home. Although Martland’s discharge has been reversed, the IG’s report only confirms the depressing reality that Afghan War Vets already knew: a blind eye was cast on this issue as a matter of unofficial policy.
Official guidelines concerning child sexual abuse were not put in place until public outcry made it an issue. Nothing was done about Hollywood’s culture of sexual abuse until public outcry made it an issue. Congressional sexual harassment went untouched until public outcry has made it an issue. In every one of these cases, members of the organizations in question who knew what was going on did nothing until it was beneficial to or until failure to do so would be professionally damaging.
The time has come to get over our partisan squabbles and address the real moral issues plaguing this country. We can do better. We MUST do better.