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Flashback: In 2007, NYT Published Op-Ed Saying Afghan Child Rape Was No Big Deal


Now they’re horrified by U.S. military turning a blind eye to it. That wasn’t the tune a few years ago.

“U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies,” blares the headline at The New York Times. The story is horrifying:

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.

Gregory Buckley Sr. believes the policy of looking the other way was a factor in his son’s killing. Credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children.

“The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,” said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.”

It’s somewhat odd for The New York Times to publish this expose of our toleration of the practice considering that in 2007 they published an op-ed critical of the military for not being more culturally relativist. As the 2007 op-ed notes, approvingly, if you can believe it, we turn a blind eye to child rape because our military bought into ideas from academic elites that it would be the right thing to do.

The point of the piece by Richard A. Shweder, an anthropologist and professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago, was that we weren’t going far enough. The piece criticizes one anthropologist for wearing a uniform and being armed and worries about anthropologists being co-opted by the military to advance military missions. Note this part:


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