Sunday, September 20, 2009

When Soldiers Try to Do the Right Thing

Less than a month ago, William L. Calley apologized for his role in the My Lai massacre.  For those who don't know, the My Lai massacre was the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed South Vietnamese people on March 16, 1968 by U.S. soldiers.  It's pretty much the iconic representation of military abuse of civilians.

In 1993, the Canadian Airborne Regiment was struck with scandal when we learned of the torture and murder of a Somali teenager (you can read about it here, but there are graphic photos).  It took a while, but eventually the soldiers involved were brought to justice.  The Airborne Regiment was soon disbanded, but the shame lingered.

We know of the Moscow theatre hostage crisis, Abu Ghraid prisoner abuse, the Katyn massacre, and comfort women.  Military scandal and abuse is nothing new.  However, the impression of the general public can be that the military generally (or regularly) tries to hide these scandals.  Soldiers circle the wagons, and there's a code that precludes them from talking.  It's not necessarily fair, but it is what it is.

So, what do we do when soldiers come forward and tell us that innocent boys are being raped?  Why, we spend a few months investigating and decide that there's nothing to worry about:
Although it was acknowledged among Canadian troops and some military police that Afghan security personnel were sexually abusing children, investigators took just 11 weeks to determine there was nothing to the concerns raised by a soldier who said he witnessed such an incident, according to Defence Department records.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service decided not to send any of its investigative team to Afghanistan but came to an initial determination in October 2008 that there was little to a soldier’s claim he had seen two Afghans sodomizing a young boy at a Canadian installation outside Kandahar.
Why are we in Afghanistan if we're just going to be complicit in child rape?  If investigators are going to be so dismissive, we may as well just get out now.  We obviously don't have the best interests of the Afghani people in mind.  Let's pull out and investigate these investigators.

And good for the NDP and Liberals for holding the Tories' feet to the fire.

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