Brian Cloughley — Strategic Culture May 30, 2018
After over sixteen years of foreign military occupation, Afghanistan, the fourth most corrupt country in the world, continues to be battered and blasted by war. Its citizens are victims of suicide attacks by insane savages and, according to the magazine Stars and Stripes, the number of US bombs dropped on Afghanistan in March 2018 “was the highest for that month in five years. While ISIS is being pushed underground in Iraq and Syria, the number of fighters pledging loyalty to the group appears to be growing in Afghanistan.”
But it isn’t only the ravages of war that are destroying the country. The social fabric is being terminally torn asunder by human rights violations that are either ignored or condoned by both the government and the US-NATO military alliance amongst whose “key functions” is “Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance.”
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Mr John Sopko, has for eight years carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion, being responsible for “independent and objective oversight of the $117.26 billion the US has provided to implement reconstruction programs in Afghanistan,” but has been frequently deflected and misled by the US Department of Defence and the Afghan government.
SIGAR’s Report of July 2017 recorded that “Afghan officials remain complicit… in the sexual exploitation of children by Afghan security forces,” but as noted by the Washington Post, “the Pentagon tried to block an independent assessment of child sex abuse crimes committed by Afghan soldiers and police, instead insisting on the creation of its own report offering a far less authoritative review of human rights violations perpetrated by US allies.”
It is now public knowledge that there is a culture of sodomy in Afghanistan and that Afghan men in positions of power at all levels enjoy immunity from prosecution for abusing young boys. The practice of bacha bazi, or “boy play” is revolting, and the word “play” is entirely inappropriate. Foreign Policy magazine states that “Demeaning and damaging, the widespread subculture of paedophilia in Afghanistan constitutes one of the most egregious ongoing violations of human rights in the world. The adolescent boys who are groomed for sexual relationships with older men are bought — or, in some instances, kidnapped — from their families and thrust into a world which strips them of their masculine identity. These boys are often made to dress as females, wear makeup, and dance for parties of men. They are expected to engage in sexual acts with much older suitors, often remaining a man’s or group’s sexual underling for a protracted period.”
But the Pentagon doesn’t want us to know anything about this and has in the past actually punished US soldiers for taking action against bullying perverts. The New York Times reported in 2015 that after special forces Captain Dan Quinn “beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave” he was relieved of his command. He said later that “We were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did,” which is absolutely correct because even the barbaric Taliban did not permit such criminal obscenity to go unpunished.
Sexual abuse of boys in Afghanistan continues unchecked in spite of the SIGAR’s criticisms and regardless of the international “Convention on the Rights of the Child” which requires nations who ratify the agreement to “undertake to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”
The United States, however, has not ratified the Convention, which means that it is not legally bound by any of its requirements. As The Economist observes, the US lawmakers who oppose the treaty “say it would usurp American sovereignty, a long-standing fear about the UN among some conservative Republicans. There is a fear that the social and economic rights established by the treaty could provoke lawsuits demanding that the government pay for these things.” It is not surprising that the Pentagon has done nothing at all to oppose gross abuse of children in Afghanistan.
Then there is the scandalous treatment of women in that corrupt and shattered country, where in 2009 a law was passed permitting men to starve their wives to death if they deny them sex. In 2014, after another five years of US-NATO support of “adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance” the Kabul parliament approved a law which allows men “to attack their wives, children and sisters without fear of judicial punishment, undoing years of slow progress in tackling violence in a country blighted by so-called ‘honour’ killings, forced marriage and vicious domestic abuse.”
Amnesty International’s 2017-2018 Report informs us that “In the first half of  the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported thousands of cases of violence against women and girls across the country, including beatings, killings and acid attacks. Against the backdrop of impunity for such crimes and a failure to investigate, cases of violence against women remained grossly under-reported due to traditional practices, stigmatization and fear of the consequences for the victims.”
There is no sign whatever that women in Afghanistan are being treated better than before the US invaded in late 2001. In all its years of operations and “Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance” in Afghanistan the US-NATO military alliance has not made the slightest difference to the appalling way in which Afghan males conduct themselves towards females.
Since 1979 there has been an international ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,’ which has been ratified by 187 of the UN’s 194 nations (including Afghanistan). It specifies that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations” and the countries refusing to agree to its enforcement are Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga — and the United States of America.
Afghanistan’s Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) was passed by presidential decree in 2009. It laid down “criminal penalties for various abuses including rape, child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, sale of women and girls, and baad, the giving of girls to resolve disputes between families,” and seemed to be a major step forward in attempts to improve the way in which women are treated.
Human Rights Watch notes that in March 2017 a revised penal code was adopted by presidential decree. “It incorporated all the provisions of the EVAW law while strengthening the definition of rape. However, because a number of conservative members of parliament have opposed the EVAW law, some activists campaigned to preserve the law in its stand-alone form decreed in 2009. In response to their efforts, in August President Ghani ordered the Ministry of Justice to remove the EVAW chapter from the new penal code. The controversial reversal has left the status of the law in limbo.” In other words, women in Afghanistan are back where they started: without rights, without protection, without hope.
The Afghan government and the US-NATO military alliance disregard or even condone some of the most horrendous human rights’ violations in the world. The people of Afghanistan are suffering from a combination of the civil war’s devastation and the mediaeval mindset of many of its primitive legislators and officials. Yet foreign money continues to pour in, while the suicide detonations are echoed by B-52 bombs all over the country.
The human rights calamity in Afghanistan will not be alleviated while the US-NATO “adviser” nations continue their present policy.
They shouldn’t have been in Afghanistan in the first place, but it is now time that the foreigners who have contributed to the catastrophe in Afghanistan brought pressure to bear on the Kabul government to pass and enforce legislature that enforces penalties for abuse of human rights, especially those of women and children. That would be one modest step towards bring the place into the 21st Century.
Brian Cloughley is a British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan.