“Notwithstanding”: How Congress Enabled Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter to Keep Child Rape and Torture from Disrupting Forever War

Back in September of 2015, the New York Times published sickening details on widespread child rape in the Afghan military. The Times’ investigation was centered in part on a victim of child rape who had served as a “tea boy” to Afghan officers and subsequently acquired a weapon. He opened fire inside a base, killing three US Marines.

I had noted at the time that one of the victims, Gregory Buckley, Jr. had told his father just before he was killed that reporting Afghan soldiers for child rape was discouraged because “it’s their culture”. This stood out to me because I had been reporting on the retroactive classification of a DoD report that stated many green on blue killings could be explained by cultural incompatibilities between US troops and the Afghans they were training.

The reports of child rape were so disgusting that Congress commissioned a study by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Recontruction to look into how such widespread abuses were allowed to happen. After all, the “Leahy laws” were aimed at preventing funding of foreign entities known to be committing gross violations of human rights. SIGAR finished their report in June of 2017, but it has only now been declassified and released.

While the report “found no evidence that US forces were told to ignore human rights abuses or child sexual assault”, the end result of actions by Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter leading up to the September 2015 incident are damning in how they result in just that outcome, at least when it comes to using funding that Congress provided.

Here is how SIGAR places the investigation into perspective:

You are excused if, like me, you need to go off and curse a while over the outrageous sums of money we have “invested” in a security force that is failing at this very moment.

But now we have yet another outrage. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided in 2005 that no other law could be used to get in the way of the funding of our sacred war in Afghanistan. Recall that the torture memos were released in late 2004, so Congress rightly feared that much of what we were funding in Afghanistan was illegal and they didn’t want to let those measly laws get in the way of their war.

Just look what DoD had to go through to ignore what the Afghans were doing. Here is Chuck Hagel trying to provide cover in 2014:

This of course looks just fine. We all need a written protocol on how to report human rights abuses. But what happens when abuses are found? Oh, that’s bad. And even though DoD still redacts much of Hagel’s action, it’s clear he was told of abuses but he freed up funds anyway by relying on the “notwithstanding” clause:

It gets even worse. Ash Carter did the same thing, just a few short months before the tea boy attack that killed Buckley and two others:

Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter were fully aware of gross human rights abuses, including both child rape and torture, but elected to use the blunt tool that Congress had given them to ignore these human rights abuses and continue funding the same units within the Afghan military that carried out the abuses. So while official policy was that abuses are to be reported, they then are completely ignored at the Congressional and Cabinet level in order to continue a forever war that is forever failing.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

6 replies
  1. Christopher OLoughlin says:

    Jim White/EW thank you for posting “Notwithstanding” horrendous overreach from a rhetorically small adverb.
    Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex demands hegemony. POTUS defines hegemony. (Elect a clown-grow a circus notwithstanding). The all volunteer armed forces, JSOC supremacy, unleashed from meaningful oversight, defines might makes right. So back at home on the federal level lets support CA 13th Congressional Representative Barbra Lee and CA Senator Kamala Harris two women of color in favor of defense oversight in this era of Women’s march to the Polls. If you don’t live in CA remember the CA saying “Stay High and keep your priorities straight”. Vote for a representative that will decrease defense spending in favor of human rights and dignity and respect spending also known as Swords to Plowshares.

  2. GKJames says:

    Grim stuff, this grubby work of empire. And when one asks, What, exactly, are we still doing in Afghanistan, it’s all crickets … from every part of the political spectrum. Am grateful you have the stomach to wade into this cesspool to keep us informed. Whatever else Americans will tell themselves years from now, We didn’t know cannot be one of them.

  3. Trip says:

    In light of the recent silence on, or outright promotion of Roy Moore, ends justifying whatever means is more blatant and in your face. You can’t let human beings get in the way of your green, even if it is red, because it’s blood money. No one even pretends they care about human rights anymore.

  4. Corbeau says:

    Great article on a horrid subject. It reminds me of Defense of Children International and their work fighting the acceptance and coverup of child torture, imprisonment, kidnapping and murder by the Israelis. There were Israeli advisors sent to Iraq to help train interrogators, such as the ones who worked in the Abu Grahib prison. No doubt, there was plenty of “Nevertheless” B.S. going on there at that time, just as it continues in the funding of Israel, as if it needed any military funding whatsoever! Nevertheless… I have often wondered if it might not be a good tactic to openly defend Israel’s right to kidnap and murder children; strip their vital organs out for sale; press the need for torture to stop a future Holocaust ™, etc. Anyone criticizing Israeli child rape, torture and murder is inherently anti-semite and a Holocaust denier. Just remember that! Taking a “tongue-in-cheek” defense position for the unthinkable, might be a great way to make it better known to the beleaguered public.

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