[guest post by Dana]
Last week, the NYT published a very disturbing story about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan being told to look the other way while powerful Afghan men- and U.S. allies-took part in the common cultural practice of raping young boys:
In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”
Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.
Also discussed in the story was Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, who, when in Afghanistan, flat out refused to look the other way, and as a result of that decision, is being involuntarily discharged from the Army. Martland “body-slammed” an Afghan police commander who kept a little boy tied to a pole in his house where he raped him repeatedly from 10 days to two weeks.
Defending his actions in a statement released today, Martland said:
While I understand that a military lawyer can say that I was legally wrong, we felt a moral obligation to act.
And about the decision to discharge him, Martland maintains:
Kicking me out of the Army is morally wrong and the entire country knows it.
The day after the NYT story was published, the White House was pressured to respond. They “looked the other way”:
“For the rules of engagement and the kind of structure that’s in place to guide the relationship between the United States and Afghan members of the military, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense for that,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Earnest was pressed further to say whether President Obama is looking to review that policy in light of a New York Times story outlining how soldiers were powerless to help child rape victims in Afghanistan, and got in trouble with their superiors if they tried. To that, Earnest said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
When asked why questions about preventing child abuse and protecting human rights was being punted to the Pentagon, Earnest said, “Because … you’re asking about a policy that governs the conduct of U.S. military personnel in a dangerous place.”
“We continue to urge the Afghan and civil society to protect and support victims and their families, while also strongly encouraging justice and accountability under Afghan law for offenders,” Earnest said.
In a fierce piece of writing, Kurt Schlichter considers today’s socially-aware military and explains how officers were able to look the other way in the face of child rape:
The revelation that our generals expect Americans solders to allow screaming young boys to be sodomized and not stop it is simply the latest manifestation of the utter moral bankruptcy infecting the senior ranks of the U.S. military.
The problems with America’s military—which has now failed to win three wars in a row against backward fanatics whom the nineteenth-century Brits would have handily dispatched to hell in time for tea—are not merely budgetary. You can’t buy real leaders, leaders with strategic competence and moral courage. Aging equipment, while a problem, is nothing compared to the incompetence and moral cowardice of our military’s senior leaders.
Note the term “moral cowardice.” Many of these generals are decorated combat veterans who would gleefully charge an enemy machine-gun nest. But that physical courage in the face of the enemy does not translate into moral courage in the face of politicians and social justice warriors. It’s disheartening to see officers with Combat Infantryman badges and silver stars sheepishly nodding along with the lies of the coddled liberal elite.
There are fine generals—I served under many. But enough are not that the ranks are demoralized and the best and brightest future leaders are abandoning military careers, not because they don’t want to serve, but because they know it will be difficult to succeed unless they likewise abandon the principles that propelled them toward service in the first place.
While acknowledging President Obama’s role as commander in chief, Schlichter cautions that the president’s ineptitude and disregard for the military is not an excuse for those who know better:
It would be too easy to blame Barack Obama. As commander in chief, he is responsible for everything those under his command do or fail to do, and his political agendas and bizarre social engineering priorities, enacted by the eager band of loyalists he has promoted into the senior ranks over more capable warriors, have little to do with fighting and winning. Without a media interested in holding him to account for the dreadful performance of the military since his inauguration, Obama has a free ride.
Yet focusing on the feckless community organizer in the Oval Office just serves to let the generals off the hook. Obama cares nothing for the military, and no one expects him to. But it is not too much to expect our generals to care about their organizations, to care about winning wars and protecting their soldiers more than about getting that additional star.
Read the entire piece. It is a gut-wrenching look at the horrible positions soldiers find themselves in when under the leadership of those too weak to stand up for what is morally right and instead seek to further their own personal interests and ambitions above all else.
We have the greatest troops in the world, probably in all of human history. Fighting with old, worn equipment is a challenge, but that can be overcome. The lack of competent, morally courageous senior leaders can’t be.
Obama bears some of the blame because he could fix this with a few select firings and unequivocal guidance that values come first. But no one expects that of him, and there is no excuse why the generals have not done it themselves. They could demand competence. They could demand moral courage. They could resign rather than play along with misguided politics. But they have chosen their stars and positions and perks instead. It’s a disgrace, and our troops and little Afghan kids are paying the price.