Friday, July 5, 2013

Honest Confusion About Interveners' Obligations

The newest story about the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is also an old story: that Afghan government personnel--namely the cops--with whom the CF was working were abusing boys.  Man-boy love Thursdays as I have heard it called was no myth but a harsh reality.  There is now an investigation about whether the CF covered it up.  Apparently, some CF personnel experienced post-traumatic stress after observing this stuff.

One person tweeted about where was the CF's moral courage in confronting this.  My current response to all of this is in two parts: did any other outside country react in any public way since this was not unique to Kandahar?  and what could the Canadians have done differently?  That is, given the role of Canada in Afghanistan, with a supposedly sovereign country governing the place, was the CF supposed to arrest ANP (Afghan National Police) when they saw what was going on?  Were they supposed to report them to the Afghan authorities?  Were they supposed to call the media?

I have long argued that the CF and the rest of NATO should have figured out which forms of corruption were most destructive to the effort and addressed those, letting lesser forms of corruption go.  In my conversations about such stuff, the focus became abuse of power--that it was not so much some money lost here or there via corruption but that those in power abused their authority so much that the people were gravely upset.  And then I think about the abuse of boys--was this the abuse of power that people were talking about? Or is this an accepted part of life in Afghanistan, so fighting it would have been endless, unsuccessful and counter-productive?

I simply do not know, but I do believe that demanding that the CF should have done something is problematic because damned if I know what should have been done.  Again, this was a problem facing the entire international community, but I do not think any of the outsiders really sought to take this on directly.  Perhaps indirectly through greater professionalization of the police--if police stations become serious places of police work, then one would not be abusing kids there.  Probably elsewhere instead.

Anyhow, if anyone knows what other countries did or has clear ideas of how to operate in another country with very different social practices, so abhorrent as to cause PTSD in one's troops, let me know.  I am just honestly very confused about all of this.

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