Cultural Relativism in Afghanistan

As the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, there’s much hand-wringing about multiple issues. So, worth remembering a few things, like this from DailyCaller, Nov 2017:

U.S. troops deploying to Afghanistan were taught for years that child sex abuse is a “culturally accepted practice” in the country, and were provided no guidance that it constituted a violation of the law and human rights until late 2015. A new Pentagon inspector general report reveals that although troops weren’t explicitly discouraged from reporting cases of child sex abuse, the issue was not discussed until numerous media outlets reported that troops were encouraged to ignore local Afghan officials abusing little boys. Interviews of troops from the report suggest that military officials didn’t really care much about stopping child sex abuse… The cultural presentation sailors had to undergo stated that pedophilia is an issue in Afghanistan, but added that readers should “control and overcome any frustration caused by cultural differences that they may experience during their deployments.” Additionally, the presentation advised sailors that they should ask their chains of command what to do in specific circumstances. Marine Corps cultural training told Marines that they “need to understand the culture, accept it without making judgments, and figure out how to work with it or around it to accomplish your mission.” The training also said that sometimes Afghan men joke about pedophilia, but Marines should just ignore it and “move on.” Marines were not given any guidance about what they should do if they ever encounter instances of pedophilia.The inspector general’s finding was damning. Effectively, the military only started to care about the problem of pedophilia and abuse after media outlets started reporting on the issue… The first explicit guidance to report child sex abuse only came about in September 2015, following a report from The New York Times, which interviewed former soldiers. They stated they were told to ignore child sex abuse, despite hearing the screams of boys being sexually abused by high-level Afghan officials on U.S. military installations.

About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
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1 Response to Cultural Relativism in Afghanistan

  1. landzek says:

    So. There’s culture. And then there is human decency. That is a striking post for sure. I think it’s good for a historical awareness. Not sure if an ethical judgement is necessarily in play beyond that. As a white man and not a kid anymore, postmodern ideals ultimately moved consideration of human beings to that level. Namely, that culture trunks ethics. But it seems now that ethics trumps culture.

    I’m not sure if personally I could have stood for abuse of any kind regardless of culture. But then your example just goes to the stupidity of human beings in general. 👽


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