Ben Anderson’s This is What Winning Looks Like, is an utterly disturbing 90 minute documentary that came out over a year ago. In it, Mr. Anderson highlights the “ineptitude, drug abuse, sexual misconduct, and corruption of the Afghan security forces.” After watching, I was horrified by the apparent policy of doing nothing even as Afghan commanders kept child sex slaves. Despite foot soldiers flagging problems, American commanders largely shrugged their shoulders. This week, we’re learning that it was American Military policy to look the other way, and that policy persists to this day.
US policy largely came down to:
“Not My Problem” and “It’s their culture, don’t judge”
Not Our Problem
“When asked about American military policy, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, wrote in an email: “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.” He added that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he said, is when rape is being used as a weapon”of war. – from NY Time Article
No, Really, It’s Their Problem…
“If the abuse involves Afghans, a report shall be forwarded to Gen. Campbell through operations channels, [and] copied to the staff judge advocate so that the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can be advised and requested to take action.” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook – Daily Beast Article
It’s their Culture, Don’t Judge
From training materials: “As the Marine Corps, we can do our best to prevent our own Marines from sexually assaulting not only other Marines, but local nationals,” the script states. Marines are encouraged to “observe cultural and religious briefs(sic?)” – Daily Beast Article
Okay, I can follow the logic, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. How is it possibly in our interest to allow child rape to happen? What’s the long game here? Do our civilian and military leaders not comprehend that the people whose human rights are being violated daily will do nothing but HATE America their entire lives? Do they not recognize crimes against humanity when they see them? Problem is, that yes, the foot soldiers DO recognize these crimes, but they’re told to raise the issue with the Afghan government, a government that is incapable of doing anything about it. They’re told the only recourse they have is ineffective. The real message is, “look the other way.”
And that’s how we get to a point where the US government’s official policy is to tolerate child rape. It’s not right, and it needs to change now.
Our commanders are akin to a principal at a underperforming school who has given up hope. This principal believes (wrongly) that his students are doing poorly because they come from poor families who take little interest in their academics. As a result, he offers little more than baby sitting service.
That’s apparently the attitude of our civilian and military leaders when it comes to Afghan children. Shrugging shoulders
Just as effective teachers want to scream at inept power structures*, US Military foot soldiers must emotionally deal with the real face to face results of a policy that, for all intents and purposes, commands them not to act. How do they live their lives after that? How is that not going to cause PTSD?
This policy of go along to get along is not only morally wrong, but short sighted in that it will cause immeasurable harm to the Afghan people as well as our soldiers – for the rest of their lives.
It leads me to wonder, what exactly is it we’re fighting for? If we don’t have policies in place to deal with allies committing crimes against humanity, who are we? We can’t claim to be for freedom and justice. Because by turning away from these crimes, we are denying both to everyone involved.
*power structures which include wrong-headed teacher’s unions which short-sightedly do not allow poor performing teachers to be fired nor high performing teachers to be rewarded… but that’s a whole other issue.