If the President of the United States stood at a podium and said the following, hopefully we’d tell him to go to Hell:
We must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.*
That’s why I have decided it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 additional troops to prop up a government with a record of extrajudicial killings, torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, restrictions on freedom of the press, restrictions on freedom of religion, violence and societal discrimination against women, restrictions on religious conversions, abuses against minorities, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, and abuse of worker rights.
Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.**
This is, however, exactly what he’s saying to the American people, according to the State Department’s newly released human rights report on Afghanistan. The bold portion above is excerpted from the description of Afghanistan’s human rights record under the Karzai administration, the government for which the U.S. government is charging American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of almost a thousand personnel. According to President Obama’s own administration, the government we’re propping up in Afghanistan is a human rights nightmare.
State’s report tells the story of a predator government degrading and abusing its subjects in an atmosphere of impunity. It tells of torture used by government officials, local prison bosses, polices chiefs and tribal leaders, torture that included, but was not limited to:
- beating by stick, scorching bar, or iron bar;
- flogging by cable;
- battering by rod;
- electric shock;
- deprivation of sleep, water, and food;
- abusive language;
- sexual humiliation; and
These methods are “commonplace among the majority of law enforcement institutions, especially the police.” Torture was used when victims would not confess to a crime, when a bribe was sought, or simply because the torturer held a grudge.
Let us reach for the world that ought to be…
The report depicts an Afghan government preserving a hell for women where police frequently rape female prisoners and do not respond to or prevent violence against them, where the charge of “zina,” the crime of heterosexual sex between unmarried persons, is invoked to arrest women who flee their families, who won’t marry the spouse chosen for them, who report their own rape. Sometimes, these wretched women are even imprisoned as proxies for the males in their families who commit crimes, or, if they are young, given to be married “to a man whose family [a] defendant had wronged.”
…all of our might and moral suasion…
Children also fall into the hands of Afghanistan’s predator government. State reports that children in detention centers are physically abused, threatened, and generally mistreated. They are often sexually assaulted at police checkpoints–the offense that, in the mythology of the Taliban, once led a one-eyed mullah named Omar to begin the march to Kabul.
State’s report is a litany of horrors undertaken largely by the Afghan government, the government on whose behalf American forces are killing and dying today in Afghanistan. This is what we’re purchasing with our trillion dollars and our thousand dead soldiers and with our many thousands of dead Afghans: a festering sore of corruption, predation and abuse, the impunity of men who know they are backed by a massive opium trade and the guns and treasure of the United States of America.
President Obama campaigned on hope and rode a wave of optimism about the future into the White House. Partnering with this government in Afghanistan, though, shows the worst kind of cynicism.
*From President Obama’s West Point Address.
**From President Obama’s Nobel Prize Lecture.