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Is This Really What We Want to Fight for in Afghanistan?

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Nadia McCaffrey, who lives in Tracy, CA, knows the pain that most parents can only think of in fleeting terms. The magnitude of the loss is too great to even contemplate.

Six years ago, Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey, Nadia's only child, was killed in Iraq. Tracy also possesses the highest per capita number of Iraq and Afghanistan war deaths in California.

It was reported this week that McCaffrey welcomed President Obama's address formally announcing combat troop drawdown in Iraq. She has started a non-profit in her son's name taking in vets suffering from post-traumatic stress and other injuries.

I wonder how McCaffrey feels about the piece recently written by Stanford professor and former New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent, Joel Brinkley, about Pashtun sexuality, which takes its name from a social science report sponsored by the Defense Department.

Brinkley wrote:

"For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means "boy player." The men like to boast about it.

'Having a boy has become a custom for us,' Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. 'Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.'"

In Kandahar, weekly dance parties are a popular pastime. According Brinkley, "Young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home." A recent State Department report called "dancing boys" a "widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape."

Brinkley's article was difficult to read in a single sitting. He writes of a phenomenon in Afghanistan that is much older than American democracy, and much more entrenched in the largest sector of the country's population.

Is this why we're sending men and women to Afghanistan?

Moreover, the Defense Department reported many of the Pashtun men who have young boys as sexual partner continue this practice after the men marry.

Politically speaking, the Pashtun are key to any of the United States' preferred outcomes. The leadership of the Afghanistan government is Pashtun, including President Hamid Karzai. It is likely that whoever succeeds Karzai would also be Pashtun.

Pashtun pedophilia is only one problem among many for the United States in Afghanistan. Karzai is, at best, a quasi ally, more reminiscent of former South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem than Nelson Mandela.

The Afghan president recently fired a senior prosecutor because he failed to block corruption investigations of the Karzai government.

The initial reason for the invasion -- al-Qaeda -- no longer exists. CIA Director Leon Panetta issued a report in June stating that there were no more than 50-100 members of al-Qaeda within Afghanistan.

Somewhere the Afghanistan mission changed. Winning in Afghanistan is not among the options available; and the preferred outcomes all include Pashtun involvement.

President Obama has already decided to double down on this effort, which looks more like the United States' perennial addictive behavior to commit militarily to nations that it knows very little about culturally.

And now there is the revelation that the population that we've hung our democratic hopes in Afghanistan -- assuming those hopes can be articulated -- is also engaged in systematic pedophilia. How can the president face a family whose son or daughter has made the ultimate sacrifice under such conditions?

I can accept different countries observe different customs. But I cannot accept that we must put our men and women in harm's way for those customs generally considered deplorable by the American people.

Who, why and what are we fighting in Afghanistan? Surely, this requires a presidential address from the Oval Office to the American people sooner rather than later.

Is this why we've asked our soldiers to shed blood? Is Pashtun liberation the reason we're demanding that our future generations sacrifice their treasure?

I'm sure that's not what Nadia McCaffrey has in mind when she's comes to the aid of veterans in the name of her fallen son.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at or visit his Web site