Afghan Sanduskys: Pentagon sees no evil?

by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET) October 31, 2012

In 2011, the United States was shocked to learn of the Penn State University child molestation case involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. How could a serial child sex offender function for so long under the umbrella of one of the most storied college football programs in the country?

An independent investigation provided the answer: People in positions of authority at Penn State valued that program more than they valued the lives of the young boys being abused by Sandusky. In June 2012, Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges and sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.

The extent of the negative psychological effects Sandusky has had on the lives of the boys he encountered since he started coaching at Penn State in 1969 will never fully be known. If anything came to light from the fallout of his actions, however, it was the failure of the system to safeguard the safety and well-being of children. The case only surfaced because parents of one of the boys reported the crime to police.

A 3-year investigation into alleged sex crimes by Sandusky led to a grand jury indictment. Yet, in the aftermath of Sandusky's conviction, a U.S. Department of Defense report's recommendations -- made before the Penn State investigation but applied after its publication -- run contrary to lessons learned at Penn State.

The Defense Department report focuses on what motivates Afghan forces to conduct "green-on-blue" or "insider" attacks on coalition personnel and what can be done to prevent such attacks.

It explains there are various cultural issues that exist between U.S. and Afghan personnel that make it difficult for the former to remain silent as the latter engages in these practices. Even though such practices, by their very nature, cry out for action -- practices such as sex crimes against children --- it is recommended U.S. forces do nothing so as not to incite a violent response by an Afghan ally.

The Department of Defense report, as cited in an Aug. 26 article on the American Thinker website by Andrew Bostom, indicated many insider attacks result from arguments. Therefore, U.S. personnel are encouraged to remain silent, simply accepting, or ignoring, a range of unpalatable Afghan cultural practices.

While some recommendations are reasonable -- respecting Islam, avoiding arrogance toward Afghans, counseling Afghans in private but with a senior Afghan representative present, etc. -- others aren't. Despite the fact these others have developed within the "totalitarian nature of the extreme theology practiced among the Afghans," they are difficult to accept based on the anti-social or deviant behavior they represent in the West.

Requiring one not to act or comment about such behavior runs against one's moral grain, even if the rationalization is to avoid endangering fellow coalition warriors from psychotic Afghan allies exercising what they believe to be their God-given right to abuse another human or living creature. Such cultural acts include: torturing -- just for mere entertainment purposes -- dogs (probably due to the stigma arising from Muslims calling Jews "dogs"); the physical and sexual abuse of children (including the practice of bacha bazi -- i.e., men taking fatherless "dancing" boys for their personal pleasure); the enslavement and other poor treatment of Muslim women; etc.

While protecting U.S. forces from insider attacks is of paramount importance, should it come at the price of subverting our own morality to it? By doing so, do we not devalue human life? Do we not suggest an inequality exists as we seek to preserve an American life by ignoring injury to an Afghan one -- especially in the case of an innocent child incapable of defending himself?

The Pentagon's reluctance to do the right thing, even if it endangers U.S. forces, is an embarrassment, especially in the face of the recent courageous act of a 15-year-old Pakistani girl.

Malala Yousafzai made headlines in Pakistan by pressing hard for a woman's right to pursue an education -- despite threats of violence by the Taliban for promoting a Western belief. While riding home from school, her vehicle was stopped and she was shot in the head and neck. With the aid of Western medical care, she miraculously survived the assassination attempt and is ready to return home to continue her mission.

Unlike U.S. military leaders, Yousafzai understands one cannot submit to fears of danger if one seeks to do what is morally right.

Sadly, at the same time an innocent Pakistani child's life is viewed as a threat to the Taliban, the United States views an Afghan child's life as unworthy of protection.

When two diverse cultures collide, something has to give. It is the weaker culture that usually submits to the stronger. It was on the strength of the sword that Islam forced itself upon other cultures in the early days of its existence. While some might argue, while in Afghanistan, the United States need accept what Islam accepts, it must be understood a similar effort is under way to subordinate U.S. culture -- at home -- to Islamic culture. Due to U.S. political correctness, the effort is meeting with early success.

The act of tacit acceptance by the West is taken by those pushing distasteful practices both in the United States and abroad as an indication of the strength and righteousness of their efforts. It becomes an endorsement of those practices -- regardless of how perverse they are.

It undoubtedly was the tacit acceptance by others of Sandusky's deviant behavior that empowered him to impose his will upon others as those responsible for stopping him said nothing.

Sadly, our senior military leadership lacks the courage of a 15-year old child willing to take on the Pakistani Taliban.

In view of what Yousafzai courageously demonstrated she understands, one wonders if the Pentagon is as smart as a ninth grader?


© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.


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