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Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse
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American soldiers and Marines have reported that they have been asked to look the other way while sexual abuse occurs in Afghanistan.

Summary: American soldiers and Marines have reported that they have been asked to look the other way while sexual abuse occurs in Afghanistan.

According to The New York Times, Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father in a phone call that he could hear Afghan law enforcement officers sexually abusing boys who had been brought to the base.


Gregory Buckley, Sr. remembers that his son told him, “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.” When asked why the behavior had not been reported, Buckley, Sr. said his son responded that officers “told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

Sadly, Buckley Jr. was shot to death at the base shortly thereafter. His phone call about the sexual abuse was the last one he made home.

Apparently the sexual abuse of children is not a new problem in Afghanistan. Armed commanders especially have a reputation for the practice, which is called bacha bazi, or “boy play.” American soldiers and Marines have been told to stay out of it, even if the abuse is occurring on military bases.

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As American forces have joined with Afghan militias to fight the Taliban, the hands-off policy has remained in effect. However, many were concerned that instead of getting rid of pedophiles, the military was actually arming them in some instances, giving them power over local villages. When the abuse began, there was little that could be done.

Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who attacked a commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed, said, “The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights. But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than what the Taliban did—that was something village elders voiced to me.”

The war formally ended in 2014.

The practice of telling U.S. soldiers to ignore child sexual abuse is coming under scrutiny, especially since word has spread that officers like Dan Quinn are being punished for speaking up. After being pulled from Afghanistan, Quinn quit the military.

Allegedly the Army is also trying to force St. First Class Charles Martland, a Special Forces member who helped Captain Quinn rough up the commander, to retire.

Representative Duncan Hunter, (R-CA) says, “The Army contends that Martland and others should have looked the other way (a contention that I believe is nonsense).” A well-known Congressional publication, The Hill, also states Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has called for an end to punishing soldiers who report the abuse.

When asked about the policy, Colonel Brian Tribus, the spokesman for the command in Afghanistan, said, “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law….there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he noted, would be if rape was used as a weapon of war. However, in a separate New York Times article, many say that Colonel Tribus is wrong. Sexual abuse appears to violate the Geneva Conventions, and rape is outlawed by international human rights law.

MSNBC’s Harold Ford, Jr. adds, “The allegation that it’s happening on a U.S. base…would suggest that [the] question not only deserves an answer but obviously there could be legal implications here for allowing this to happen on U.S. property.”

Should the American soldiers and Marines be able to stop this behavior in Afghanistan?

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The act of nonintervention is supposed to keep a good relationship between the United States and Afghan forces. But many U.S. military members are uncomfortable maintaining silence in the face of pedastry, a practice where powerful men often keep young teenagers with them to demonstrate social status.

One former Marine lance corporal says, “The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban. It wasn’t to stop molestation.” The lance corporal, who requested that his identity be kept private, said he felt sick when he walked into a room on base where a few men were on the floor with children between them. He said, “I’m not a hundred percent sure what was happening under the sheet, but I have a pretty good idea of what was going on.”

The hands-off approach of the U.S. has isolated the villages where some of the victims hail from. In 2010 and 2011, villages that had been taken from the Taliban were protected by Afghan Local Police militias. The locals were happy at first; but by the summer of 2011, complaints were circulating about their conduct.

For example, one militia commander allegedly raped a teenage girl he noticed working in the fields. The provincial police chief ordered the man to serve one day in jail—and then the girl was forced to marry him.

When Captain Quinn asked what he could do, he was told that he could bring it up with local officials, but that was about it. Captain Quinn commented, “We’re being praised for doing the right thing, and a guy just got away with raping a 14-year-old girl.”

Village elders became upset at the commanders’ actions. Captain Quinn says he gathered the commanders and lectured them on human rights after each incident occurred.

One commander then fled with his workers’ wages. Captain Quinn later found out that the commander used the money to pay for dancing boys. Another commander killed his daughter, a 12-year-old, because she kissed a boy. Captain Quinn said, “There were no repercussions.”

In September of 2011, an Afghan woman arrived at an American base with her son. The woman had bruises all over her body and her son was limping. One of the police commanders, Abdul Rahman, allegedly abducted the boy and ordered him to be a sex slave. The boy was chained to Rahman’s bed. When his mother tried to get him back, she was beaten up. The son was eventually freed, but his mother was scared he would be taken again.

She said her son was “such a good-looking kid” that he was a “status symbol” desired by local commanders.

Captain Quinn approached Rahman about what happened. Rahman acted like the incident was no big deal, and actually started laughing when Captain Quinn told him “you are held to a higher standard if you are working with U.S. forces, and people expect more of you.”

Enraged, Captain Quinn said, “I picked him up and threw him onto the ground. I did this to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy, that it was not going to be tolerated.” Sergeant Martland joined Captain Quinn in punching and hitting Rahman.

Captain Quinn maintains that Rahman’s injuries were not severe. Rahman has since been killed in a Taliban ambush. Rahman’s brother insists that the boy was never raped.

Referring to the Afghan Local Police, Sergeant Martland wrote a letter to the Army, stating that he and Captain Quinn “felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our A.L.P. to commit atrocities.”

Lance Corporal Buckley’s father believes that his son was killed in connection to the sexual abuse. He has filed a lawsuit to find out more information about his son’s death. Buckley and two other marines were killed in 2012 by one boy who was with a group  living at base with Sarwar Jan, an Afghan police commander.

Jan had a bad reputation, and in 2010, Marine officers convinced Afghan law enforcement to arrest him after he committed a series of crimes supporting the Taliban and child abduction. Two years later, Jan returned with a different unit.

Lance Corporal Buckley noticed that a group of “tea boys,” or domestic servants who may be pressured into sexual slavery, arrived with Jan and lived in the same barracks right under the Marines.

Though Marine officers were warned about Jan, no one acted on the warnings. Two weeks later, a 17-year-old boy with Jan shot and killed Lance Corporal Buckley and two other Marines with a rifle.

Lance Corporal Buckley’s father still wonders whether the shooting occurred because of the abuse. He says, “As far as the young boys are concerned, the Marines are allowing it to happen and so they’re guilty by association. They don’t know our Marines are sick to their stomachs.”

The sole American who was punished in the subsequent investigation was Major Brezler, the individual who emailed warnings about Jan. The Marine Corps has started proceedings to discharge him.

Jan has moved to a higher-ranking command in the same province. He has denied having sex slaves or personally knowing the boy who shot the Marines. “No, it’s all untrue,” he insists.

However, may say that he has a “toothache problem,” a euphemism for the sexual abuse of children.

Source: New York Times

Additional source: MSNBC

Photo credit: New York Times



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