While Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was the main selling point for the 2003 Iraq war, ending the dictator’s many human rights abuses was another key rationale.
And chief among those abuses was Saddam’s “rape rooms.”
“Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed,” said President George W. Bush in 2004, one year after the U.S. intervention. The president and his administration went on to make this proclamation many times.
Realists and non-interventionists are always hesitant to start new wars based on human rights abuses, even of this degree—because such a threshold would mean committing U.S. troops around the world far more heavily than we already do. Nonetheless, as compassionate human beings, it’s obviously good that such atrocities seem to have ended, despite the tragic cost. (Although it’s worth pointing out that many Iraqi women say their lives are worse now due to the war.)
But while U.S. military inaction to stop sexual abuse abroad would be be one thing, what if America was actively, even if unintentionally, funding rape abroad? And not just rape—what if American tax dollars were enabling the most deplorable sexual abuse imaginable: pedophilia?
“Selling and using young boys (often dressed as girls) for sex—known colloquially as bacha bazi, or ‘boy play’—has deep roots in Afghanistan and has been widely practiced for generations,” the National Interest’s Amitai Etzioni reported in 2017.
“A State Department report in 2010 described the extent of the problem: ‘Child abuse was endemic throughout the country, based on cultural beliefs about child-rearing, and included general neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, and confined forced labor to pay off family debts.’”
Etzioni continued (emphasis added): “It also noted that ‘most child sexual abusers were not arrested.’ American officers, who share quarters with Afghan ones, report boys screaming in agony, which they were instructed to ignore.”
“On 5,753 occasions from 2010 to 2016, the United States military asked to review Afghan military units to see if there were any instances of ‘gross human rights abuses,’” the New York Times reported in January. “If there were, American law required military aid to be cut off to the offending unit.”
“Not once did that happen,” the Times added.
American troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001. According to the State Department, U.S. officials have obviously been aware of this on some level since at least 2010.
Why aren’t we sounding the alarm on this? Why isn’t anyone trying to stop it?
In December, Congressman Walter Jones sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis noting that the report exposes “rampant pedophilia among high-ranking Afghan military and police leaders” and that the “American people must know the entire truth about this horrific issue.”
This abuse “has been going on for years and we’ve been supporting it financially,” Jones told NBC News.
Last week, Senator Rand Paul offered an amendment in committee that would withhold all American funding of Afghan forces until a “U.S government watchdog in Afghanistan could verify those forces were not using children as child soldiers or sex slaves.”
Paul told his fellow members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to a transcript obtained by Breitbart, “I think that the committee is right to be gravely concerned with sexual trafficking and abuse of young people around the world in a variety of countries. I think we shouldn’t turn a blind eye towards when our allies are responsible for this, as well.”
Paul’s amendment was by blocked by Senators Bob Corker and Bob Menendez. Corker said that while he agrees with Paul in spirit, withdrawing U.S. funding of Afghan forces to verify “zero cases of sexual slavery” was impractical from a “broad U.S. national security standpoint.”
In other words, not even rampant pedophilia enabled by U.S. taxpayer dollars is enough to stop funding our unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
Corker was not in Congress in 2003. Menendez voted against the Iraq war as a House member, but has become curiously more hawkish since. Both senators have advocated for intervention in Syria, arguing that it is morally imperative that the U.S. stop human rights abuses.
It’s darkly amusing how abuse is invoked by Washington hawks to get involved in wars, but when it’s pointed out that U.S. military intervention is actually enabling human rights abuses, no argument is strong enough to bring the troops home.
It’s as if war itself is the priority.
“Why are we still shedding our soldiers’ blood for pedophiles?” Congressman Walter Jones asked on the House floor in February.
It was a good question then. It’s a good question today.