Showcasing the honor of American soldiers in what is otherwise a harrowing report issued by The New York Times, U.S. military members are facing discipline for refusing to obey orders of turning a blind eye to Afghan "allies" who are keeping young boys as sex slaves.
Bacha bazi, translated literally as "boy play," is considered the norm among Afghan police officers in the region. The practice has even been brazenly carried out on military bases. These "allies," Afghani militia men organized to fight the Taliban, are armed and set in charge as commanders in villages and remain unfettered in their pursuits. But because bacha bazi is a cultural staple, Marines and other American soldiers "have been instructed not to intervene," according to the NYT.
Dan Quinn is one of those featured in the report. He left the military after being "relieved of his command" as Army captain in Afghanistan for beating down "an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave" in 2011. He told the paper:
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 the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.
Other soldiers have faced similar outcomes. In fact, assisting Quinn in the physical altercation meant to protect the young boy was Sgt. First Class Charles Martland. Because he also ignored orders to look the other way, the Army opened a court case to force his retirement.
But for one, the outcome was much worse.
Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, Jr., along with two other Marines, was shot and killed at his base in 2012 by a 17-year-old boy brought in as a slave of an abusive Afghan commander. Repeated warnings of what was happening over several weeks, along with the knowledge of this commander's past grievances, were ignored by officials. As a result, the boy grabbed a rifle and killed three American soldiers.
During his last call home, Buckley told his father, "At night we can hear [the boys] screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it."
Buckley's father believes his son was executed because the boy viewed the Marines as guilty by association. “They don’t know our Marines are sick to their stomachs,” the father added. "My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it's their culture."
A former Marine speaking on condition of anonymity told the NYT, "The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban. It wasn't to stop molestation."
Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, is quoted in the report giving a defense of the military's official position:
“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.
The American policy of nonintervention is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units the United States has trained to fight the Taliban. It also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.
Read the full report here.