Their Custom, Our Complicity

Child Abuse in Afghanistan

Children are being sexually abused in Afghanistan, and our soldiers are being told to turn a blind eye. That’s got to stop.

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Eric Metaxas

The New York Times recently ran a disturbing story with a disturbing headline that said it all: “U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies.”

What follows is unsettling, but what’s going on is so horrific that not paying attention is a kind of complicity.

The article featured quotes from two men: Gregory Buckley, Sr. whose son died in Afghanistan in 2012, and Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces Captain.

Buckley quoted his son, a Marine Lance Corporal, as saying that from his bunk he could hear Afghan police sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base. Buckley recalled his son telling him that “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it . . . My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

daily_commentary_09_29_15“Their culture” refers to what is known as “bacha bazi,” literally, “boy play.” It was the subject of a 2010 PBS documentary, “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan.” According to Wikipedia, bacha bazi “has been prevalent in Central Asia since antiquity.” Not surprisingly, the perpetrators are powerful men while their victims are powerless boys.

Since the early 20th century there have been several attempts to outlaw the practice, but with one notable exception, these have met with limited success. The exception was the Islamist Taliban, which made the practice punishable by death. Their success in eradicating the practice was part of the reason that ordinary Afghans supported, at least initially, the Taliban’s coming to power.

Now, the Taliban is out of power, and the U.S., out of fear of offending Afghan allies, is turning a blind eye to the re-emergence of this hideous practice. This is not only morally reprehensible, it’s counterproductive: it gives ordinary Afghans a reason to view Taliban rule as “the good old days.”

Making matters even worse, servicemen like Quinn, who refuse to go along, are punished.

The Times story brings to mind another shameful chapter. In the first century or so of British rule in India, British officials turned a similarly blind eye to the practice known as sati, wherein a widow was burned alive on her dead husband’s funeral pyre.

Like today, their reasons for going along with barbarity were political: they needed the cooperation of Indian elites to rule India and didn’t want to risk alienating them. Also like today, they justified their complicity by saying “it’s their culture.”

This only changed when William Wilberforce, after a twenty-year campaign, got Parliament to condition the renewal of the East India Company’s charter on the provision that teachers and chaplains be able to promote the “religious improvement” of Indians.

Missionaries and other evangelicals, along with Indian reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, succeeded in getting a ban on sati enacted in 1829. Even then, there was resistance to the ban. In the 1840s, Hindu officials complained to General Charles Napier that the ban violated their customs.

Napier replied, “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pyre. But my nation also has a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property . . . Let us all act according to national customs.”

The Pentagon claims that there is no official policy of toleration towards bacha bazi. There was no official policy towards sati, either. Looking the other way was, and is, convenient.

Which leaves us with the question: is there a contemporary Wilberforce, Roy, or Napier among us? Americans can and must demand better from those who purport to act in our name. To not do so makes us all complicit.

Further Reading and Information

Their Custom, Our Complicity: Child Abuse in Afghanistan
Read the New York Times article, linked below. Then contact your senators and representatives in Washington, DC--Senate members' link here and Representatives members' link here. Your voice needs to be heard on this issue. Most importantly, pray that God would move our national leaders and our military personnel to stand for what is right.


U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies
Joseph Goldstein | New York Times | September 20, 2015


Yes, but .....
Actually, the Taliban turned a blind eye to this practice too, just as long as the perpetrators kept it secret. Many of the Taliban did these same things themselves within the confines of their madrassas. There is a lot of documentation to support this; especially from the early stages of this conflict. They turned a blind eye to anything so long as it was kept secret or if they could plausibly deny it. They did this with the heroine trade - they outlawed it at first but then found a way to tolerate it. Just as long as there was some sort of plausible deniability. And, later on, they did the same thing with the use of suicide bombers.

But this brings me to another question: What are our objectives in this conflict? The British colonized India, are we attempting to colonize Afghanistan? What are we fighting for over there? What are we wagering their lives and limbs for (and a military person doesn't have to be a Christian)? I want to entreat a word of caution for Christians here: military force cannot solve every problem in this fallen and broken world. I don't think that Mr Metaxas intends to say or imply that mil force can solve everything but it is an easy way-of-thinking for Christians to unintentionally drift into. Especially Christians in the U.S. for various reasons. We need to be careful to not threat the military as God's crusading force (or ours).

I submit that we should demand that our leaders provide clear reasons and objectives for our military conflicts. And I submit that we as a nation do some hard soul-searching as to what we're fighting for in Afghanistan. I recommend the excellent BP article, "Afghanistan and Euphemisms" from September 12th, 2012 as a starting point.
What is being done for these children after they are discarded by these animals? (I pray that they are given a good dose of guilt by the LORD! That they are convicted of their gross sin and see themselves standing before GOD!)