During the mid-term election debate we barely heard a discussion about Afghanistan. Why is that? It's a war that's costing us $30 billion dollars a year, the lives of nearly 1,400 brave American soldiers (so far) and as I've learned it's making America complicit in one of the most heinous crimes known to mankind.
I had the opportunity to hear Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent Joel Brinkley give a speech recently to a conference I attended in Chicago and it rattled me to my core.
I had addressed the Inland Press Association a day earlier (my topic: Journalistic ethics) and when I was introduced to Brinkley before his speech I asked the veteran journalist about his chosen topic. When he said, "Afghanistan" I admit I thought to myself, "Maybe I can duck out early -- I do have a plane to catch." Instead, I sat transfixed by his words.
Brinkley has traveled the world several times and ventured deep into dangerous places the rest of us only read about. He's been a respected journalist for more than three decades and is now attached to Stanford University's Department of Communications. He's considered an expert on foreign affairs and how America relates to the rest of the world.
"We will never reach our stated objective in Afghanistan," he told the audience, "So what are we doing there?" A provocative question. Brinkley reminded us that America's goals are to obliterate Al Qaeda and to make it possible for the Afghan government to "serve and protect its people" once American troops pull out next year.
The harsh reality? Al Qaeda has already moved on to bivouac in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. And worse yet, according to Brinkley, the government of Afghanistan has never -- ever -- served its own population so why would we expect them to start after we pull out? Even after years of American lessons in democracy and billions in financial assistance a huge majority of the population has never had a minute of electricity or clean water in their homes. Basic sanitation and medical systems don't exist, the infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world. There is no such thing as local government where one could complain or get some public assistance. It remains a largely lawless land and nothing is apt to change by President Obama's July, 2011 deadline for U.S. withdrawal.
So indeed -- what are we doing there?
But what struck me most profoundly was Brinkley's description of one particular custom openly practiced by a large part of the Afghan ruling Pashtun population. They are unrepentant pedophiles.
Denied the pleasure of looking at and keeping company with cloaked Muslim women it's an open dirty secret that men turn to little boys for sexual satisfaction. There's even a name for those adults who take an impoverished boy lover: Bacha Baz. Brinkley says the adults like to boast about having their own boy, sometimes called "dancing boys," according to a State Department Human Rights report from 2009. They take them everywhere, showing them off, holding hands and unabashedly expressing inappropriate affection for the 9- to 15-year-olds. It's a status thing. To me it's nothing less than state sanctioned rape of children.
Washington officials have long known about this rampant pedophilia. I found newspaper articles about it dating back to 2002. In last year's State Department report entitled, "Pashtun Sexuality," U.S. soldiers on patrol for terrorists revealed how impoverished young boys in Afghanistan have literally pawed and propositioned them to take them in as sex slaves. The report also tells the story of one married man who approached Americans to ask how his wife could have a baby. When they explained the man reacted with shock that he would have to be intimate with what his Muslim faith referred to as an "unclean woman." Sex with a male child is fine by their standards -- but not with one's own wife.
If any American politician recently running for election mentioned this heinous Pashtun practice and our financing of the lifestyle I missed it during all the media hoopla over whether the candidate in Delaware practiced witchcraft or if Sarah Palin was positioning herself for a future presidential run.
The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is a member of the Pashtun tribe and he has family in America. He clearly knows that the Bacha Baz among his fellow tribesmen would be considered felons in the U.S.. Conversely, as America continues to spend billions of dollars on Afghanistan, knowing what we know, aren't we benignly condoning this crime against humanity?
Joel Brinkley told the audience that day in Chicago that foreign correspondents have an unwritten rule: not to impose American standards and customs on the countries they visit to report on. But in the next breath he said, "But some things are just wrong." Bacha Baz is one of those things. I don't want my tax dollars going to bolster men who engage in that kind of behavior. You?
Diane Dimond can be reached through her official web site: www.DianeDimond.com
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