White House on Afghan child rape cases: We dunno

Yesterday we talked about the breaking (and heartbreaking) story of the pedophile child rapes which are common practice among Afghan military leaders and how American forces were allegedly forbidden to stop them. At that time I pointed out that the immediate questions to be answered were who instituted the policy, how long has it been going on and who knew about it? Reporters brought the issue to Josh Earnest at the White House presser and the answers they got were less than satisfying. (Washington Examiner)

The White House dodged questions Monday about allegations that U.S. military officials are ordering U.S. soldiers to ignore child abuse in Afghanistan committed by Afghan militia, military and police, and instead indicated that those orders reflect Defense Department policy that the White House is not reviewing.

“For the rules of engagement and the kind of structure that’s in place to guide the relationship between the United States and Afghan members of the military, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense for that,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Earnest was pressed further to say whether President Obama is looking to review that policy in light of a New York Times story outlining how soldiers were powerless to help child rape victims in Afghanistan, and got in trouble with their superiors if they tried. To that, Earnest said, “Not that I’m aware of.”

This isn’t some question of fast response decisions by ground forces to an immediate crisis. It’s a question of policy. Given that as the backdrop, why is this inquiry being referred to the DoD? Surely by this time Mr. Earnest is aware that the President is the head of the military and all policy exists only with his approval, whether tacit or explicit. To be clear, I don’t expect the President of the United States to have every single rule in place within the military memorized to the point where the amount of dishwasher detergent issued to each mess hall requires a memo with his signature on it. But by the same token, when a “policy” of such a provocative nature is brought to his attention we expect him to either act on it or defend it.

Also, there seems to be a clear effort here to wipe away any sense of accountability by essentially saying, this is a local issue. From a more sterile, legalistic approach, anything that takes place on a United States military facility – even one in a foreign nation – is not a strictly local issue. We are responsible for and in control of what happens on our bases. When you add in the outrage factor which arises from our own alleged allies raping children and bragging about it, the sin is compounded to the Nth degree.

Then we come to the question of what will happen to Sergeant First Class Charles Martland. He is the second soldier who assisted in beating up one of the child rapists and is scheduled to be drummed out of the service in November. When reporters took the question to the Department of Defense they were pretty much stonewalled.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said there is no policy that prohibits U.S. troops from reporting human rights violations like the ones described in the New York Times article to their chain of command, but that any allegations would be dealt with by local Afghan officials.

“What’s talked about in this, while abhorrent, is fundamentally an Afghan law enforcement matter and those are reports that are given to the Afghan government,” Davis said.

Davis had no information on the specific case mentioned in the article of a U.S. service member being reprimanded for beating up an Afghan commander who had a child sex slave chained to his bed.

That’s just a dodge. There may not be a policy against “reporting a human rights violation” but if those reports are immediately filed in the trash bin there isn’t much point to doing it. The real question is whether or not we have a “policy” of punishing our own troops when they intervene in a ghastly crime. Does the Pentagon really think that saying they have no information on Marland’s case is going to hold? The clock is ticking and the Sergeant already has a lawyer who is willing to talk to the press. This sounds like on of those cases where we’re simply going to have to rely on the mainstream media reporters to ferret out some folks who are willing to talk and spread some sunshine on this situation.

I may be getting old, but it seems to me that there was a time when we would pin a medal on somebody who beat up a child rapist and saved the kid. Heck.. we’d probably throw him a parade. If we’ve reached the point where we instead wind up terminating his career then the cart has surely gone off the rails.

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