War is a dirty business and United States States warriors are taught to do whatever it takes to prevail. That is especially true of SOCOM units, Special Forces, SEALs and all those other denizens of the night who train for and thrive on special situations and tactics. But, even for Green Berets and SEALs there are lines to be crossed.
Such lines have been crossed many times in Afghanistan over the past thirteen or so years as U.S. Army Special Operators, in particular Army Special Forces soldiers, have witnessed and been ordered to ignore certain behaviors by their Afghan counterparts that caused dramatic personal and organizational moral and ethical dilemmas, particularly in regards to the rape of children, girls and boys.
SFC Charles Martland is being put out of the Army for crossing such a line. That line was an event in 2011 wherein Martland, according to his next NCO Efficiency Report, assaulted an ANA, Afghan National Army, officer. The other side of the story is that Martland was intervening to stop the raping of a child, a boy.
Pedophilia is common in Afghanistan. “Bacha baz,” which means “boy player,” and involves boys, between the ages of 9 and 15, are kept as sex slaves and is a common practice among rich and powerful Pashtun men. Having a boy toy shows that a man is prosperous and successful. The burkha is also most common amongst Pashtuns.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland earlier this year was ordered discharged by Nov. 1. He has been fighting to stay in, but in an initial decision, the U.S. Army Human Resources Command told Martland that his appeal “does not meet the criteria” for an appeal.
“Consequently, your request for an appeal and continued service is disapproved,” the office wrote in a memo to Martland.
The memo was shared with FoxNews.com by the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who has advocated for Martland’s case. According to Hunter’s office, Martland learned of the decision Tuesday.
The memo, dated Sept. 14, comes as the Defense Department comes under criticism amid reports that U.S. soldiers were instructed to look the other way when Afghan troops and officers were sexually abusing boys.
Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement Tuesday that he is “absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander. -Fox News
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It is common knowledge amongst Special Forces soldiers who have served in Afghanistan that many ANA commanders practiced this barbarity. Many SF men have stories of being ordered to ignore the cries of children, even within their FOBs. But, they were told not to get involved, that child abuse was a matter for Afghan law enforcement, not the U.S. military.
The United States has a history of supporting corrupt regimes. Recent examples are South Vietnam, which was infamous for its corrupt regimes, such as Diem, who was so corrupt that the U.S. backed his coup in 1963, and Thieu, whose regime was more like a cancer on the country than a government.
The Shah or Iran was a barbaric despot, but he was our guy, and did whatever we told him, for the most part. The problem was that he raped his country and his people and their hatred of him led to our old buddy, the Ayatollah Kohmeini.
Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, whose kleptocracy was infamous for its corruption, extravagance, and brutality, escaped the country with extorted billions.
The reasons we supported such bastards are that they were our bastards, and such men often make good puppets, good at following instructions. U.S. leaders and diplomats reasoned that containing Communism, and later Terrorism, requires pragmatic, even Machiavellian methods. It is often not in our national interest to intervene and upset our friends in the pursuits of their own cultural norms, goes the logic.
But, non-Interference logic and practice has its limitations. The Prime Directive, the Star Trek protocol that comes up in so many episodes and movies, prohibits any Federation crewman from interfering in the culture or history of a less developed planet or peoples. But, to the best of my knowledge, neither Kirk nor Piccard ever came into contact with a planet of child rapists. I’m pretty sure that if they had that Prime Directive would have been kicked to the curb.
Winning Hearts and Minds is essential for Asymmetrical, Unconventional and Guerrilla Warfare, for gathering HUMNT (Human Intelligence), organizing and leading friendly forces and for nation building in general. But, here again, we have lines that can be crossed. We constantly seek to win hearts and minds. But, do we even want the hearts and minds of a people who rape their children?
One of the key debates of morality is the discussion about Relativism and Absolutism. Absolutism asserts that there are absolute, universal morals and laws. Relativism asserts that all morals and ethics are relative to the individual, his culture, that his concept of right and wrong depend on his life experience. This is the reason for the Prime Directive, and for the logic non-interference. People cannot be forced to believe in a certain way goes the logic.
But, are there exceptions?
Example: Cannibalism. If you went to a friend’s house for dinner and found that they were cannibals, what would you do (provided you were not dinner that night)? You would (I hope) report them to the police. You would do this because somethings are just too obviously “over the line.” Likewise, the U.S. would never support a country that practiced widespread cannibalism. This does not even need to be explained why. Pedophilia is the same, nearly on par with cannibalism. Fewer things can erode and the destroy the foundation and fabric of a country or culture.
Morality is, indeed, a slippery slope. But, some things are so glaringly obvious that they do not require much debate or dialogue. In that way, child abuse cannot be defended, not within any cultural context, and should not be supported in any context, nor should any culture or regime that tries to justify it.
So, winning hearts and minds seems to be our mission, at all costs. But, at what costs. In winning hearts and minds, should we not also educate and liberate minds? Does that not include some sort of liberation of mind that eradicates the rape of children (in such cultures)? Or does effectively prosecuting warfare require ignoring foreign cultural practices that disgust us and violate the very codes and attitudes upon which our culture stands? Just what are we willing to do to win wars, and hearts and minds?