This is easily one of the more disturbing instances of military bureaucracy that has occurred in recent times. Apparently the Canadian military intentionally ignored the rape of boys by Afghan forces in order to prevent the stories from reaching media. Several Canadian soldiers heard about and witnessed the rape, but nothing was done by their commanders and nothing was done about by the Canadian military brass. As one former soldier recounts:
“It’s disgusting,” said Schouten, now retired after eight years in the military. “We’re telling people that we’re trying to build a nation there and we let this happen?”
“We allow rampant abuse of young boys at the hands of what is supposed to be their finest police officers and army officers, then what does that say?”
Schouten’s allegations that Afghans were sexually abusing children at a Canadian base near Kandahar made headlines in 2008 but earlier this year, military investigators dismissed the claims as unfounded.
He is, however, not alone in voicing his concerns. Defence Department records show military police were upset about such incidents but were told not to interfere. Army officers also met in 2007 to discuss the issue of Afghan security personnel “having anal sex with young boys” but their main concern was the media would somehow find out.
Others in the military note they were told such practices were an age-old part of Afghan culture. One soldier who e-mailed Canwest News Service stated he served at the same base at another time and troops had orders to stop any rapes. But he also noted they were told the practise of “Man Love Thursdays,” as it was called, involved consenting Afghans and no one was raped by older men. The children involved were given small gifts or money in return for sex, soldiers said.
Cultural norm or not, it is a disgusting practice. The article goes on to mention cases in which villagers complained of Afghan forces kidnapping boys and one instance in which an Afghan interpreter with some five-year-old boys in tow approached the former soldier and told the soldier that he liked raping little boys at knife point.
Apparently the UN is aware of this “cultural practice,” but nothing has been done about it. That is hardly surprising given that the victims are male. The UN frequently mentions sexual violence against women, so it is not a matter of the UN having no real knowledge of or desire to change cultural attitudes in that part of the world. Most likely the issue is simply that the victims are male and the UN cannot be bothered to consider male rape a valid problem to address, even when the victims are as young as five-years-old. It would appear this also applies to the international media, as the only reports about this situation appear to come from Canadian news outlets.
What is truly amazing is the extent to which the Canadian military washed its hands of this. They received several reports and complaints, yet simply ignored them. Not only did they ignore them, but they apparently told the troops to do the same, that is they apparently told Canadian forces not to report instances of rape that were witnessed. The Canadian military eventually concluded that the claims of rape were completely unfounded — a conclusion reached after an 11-week investigation. The complaints about the rapes apparently occurred over the course of several years, yet the Canadian military devoted only two and a half months to investigate.
In addition, Bolduc said the NIS could find no reports about sexual abuse complaints in the military police system and that allegations of abuse were never reported to the chain of command. “We put a high priority on this investigation,” he noted. “We interviewed all persons who could have information.”
The Ottawa Citizen, however, has obtained a Defence Department e-mail noting that one military police officer in 2005-06 complained about a sexual abuse incident involving Afghans to his chain of command. In that case, the Canadian commander complained to an Afghan officer who put a stop to the abuse. All the documents were obtained through the Access to Information law.
The NIS said it interviewed close to 40 people for its investigation. Bolduc said investigators weren’t sent to Afghanistan because most of the people needed to be interviewed were in Canada.
The latter comment is stunning. The crimes occurred and may still be occurring in Afghanistan, but only 40 people living in Canada were interviewed? That almost appears like a deliberate attempt to avoid coming across information that proves the chain of command did nothing to prevent or stop the rapes.
One would expect to see a greater fallout from this sort of thing. One would expect to read about it in international news outlets or hear about it on cable news channels. Yet, as was mentioned before, no one seems to be talking about this other than the Canadians. It would be very difficult to believe that if there was evidence that the Canadian military deliberately turned a blind eye to the relentless rape of girls that this story would be ignored to this extent.