“We hear them scream at night, but we are not authorized to intervene’. The last words with which Gregory Buckley Jr., the USMC corporal stationed in Afghanistan, address his father. The young military man tells he is troubled: he was ordered to ignore the many cases of child abuse that are committed by police officers and the Afghan army, their allies. The order comes from above and cannot be discussed: if you see a “bacha bazi“, that is, someone “playing with the kids”, what you have to do is look away.
The New York Times reveals in a reportage one of the darkest sides of the war in Afghanistan: those who did not comply with the directives were forced to leave the army. The order not to stop episodes of this kind when they occur in front of the US troops is justified by the marines as “a way not to interfere with local culture” which considers those horrible actions legitimate, especially if committed by rich and powerful men. A slap in the face of the principles expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
“Charges with sexual abuse of minors by the staff of the army and Afghan police concern local justice – says the colonel Brian Tribus, the spokesman of the US command in Afghanistan -. It is not compulsory for the US military personnel to denounce”. Except the cases in which rape is used as a weapon of war.
The Americans preferred to look away, because it was necessary to maintain good relations between the US army and Afghan police, trained by the Nato allies to fight the Taliban. This attitude helped, however, to increase mistrust toward the marines among the inhabitants of the villages from which those children were taken away.
The rule “I cannot wait, I cannot hear and speak no evil”, was applied also when the officers brought Afghan children to the bases they shared with the Americans. Possibly, this is what happened in the barracks of the corporal Buckley Jr. who was killed in 2012 together with two other marines in a military camp in the south of the country; fire was opened by a local boy who was part of a group of teenagers who were living on the territory of the base together with a master of the Afghan police, Sarwar Jan. The father of the corporal, Gregory Buckley senior, believed that his son’s death was connected to those events, and took legal action to ask the Pentagon to make things clear.
The forces of order were familiar with Jan: five years earlier, two officers of the marines had managed to have him arrested by the authorities for corruption and pedophilia. But in 2012 he made return as the commander of another police unit which operated from the Delhi Base where was in service also the corporal Buckley. According to the accusations made against him, when Jan had moved to the camp, he had brought along a handful of Afghan boys, officially employed as domestic laborers called “tea boys”, but in truth exploited as sex slaves. The young soldier was killed two weeks after having told his father on the phone about what he had seen.
“We gave power to people who did worse things than the Taliban. This is what I was being told by the elderly of the village”, recalls with tears in his eyes Dan Quinn, a former US Special Forces commander. Four years ago, he beat up an Afghan official, Abdul Rahman, who kept a boy chained to the bed of his accommodation to satisfy his instincts. The army constrained him to leave the armed forces. Together with him there was another soldier, Charles Martland, whom the marines are still trying to make abandon the military uniform. A similar case happened during the summer of 2011, when Quinn and Martland found out there was a girl of about 14 or 15 years, who had been raped: they decided to inform the local police chief, but justice was not made. The man spent one day in prison, then the young woman was forced to marry her rapist. For him a sentence of twenty-four hours, for her a lifetime condemnation.
Despite the numerous testimonies, the Nato still denies officially that the United States’ mission has been covering repeated sexual abuse of children at the hands of the Afghan forces.