The Rape of the Afghan Boys, by Pedro Gonzales

The US looked the other way on a lot of morally reprehensible acts perpetrated by our “allies” in the Afghanistan war. From Pedro Gonzales at


 above: dancing bacha (child) and the men admiring him, drawing by Sedoff from a painting by Vereshchagin from Journey through Central Asia, 1867-1868, by Vasily Vereshchagin (DEA / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / Getty Images)

Ainuddin Khudairaham held down the trigger of his Kalashnikov and kept firing on unarmed U.S. Marines until the rifle’s magazine was empty, murdering three and wounding one. The Americans had been working out at a gym on Forward Operating Base Delhi in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province when the teenaged boy attacked on Aug. 10, 2012. “I just did a jihad,” Khudairaham bragged to Afghan police afterward.

Among those cut down was Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, Jr. In 2015, The New York Times relayed the contents of his final phone call home, in which he told his father that Afghan police officers—those venerable allies of the United States—had been raping little boys on the base. “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine told his father. Buckley, Sr., encouraged his son to report the incidents, but his son demurred. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture,” he told the Times.

This Afghan cultural institution—the rape of young boys by adult men—is known as bacha bazi, or “boy play.”

The U.S. government’s role in enabling Afghan pedophilia quickly lost it even the pretense of moral legitimacy in its delusional nation-building project. It should disabuse Americans of any idea to the contrary, though their government continues to claim it was on the side of good. Good and evil, it turns out, are hard to see clearly in the endless moral midnight that is the Graveyard of Empires.

Due partly to the American military’s doctrine of cultural sensitivity that Buckley mentioned, the U.S. deliberately downplayed, ignored, and effectively subsidized the practice of child sexual abuse with taxpayer dollars. This is all the more ironic since this practice had previously been stamped out by the Taliban. The victims of bacha bazi are plucked from the ranks of Afghan society’s most vulnerable people: destitute, starving children without relatives, or sons of poor families willing or desperate enough to sell or “rent” their children. Usually forced to dress as women and dance for the entertainment of grown men, they often perform for male-only parties where they are sexually exploited, gang-raped, and sometimes killed.

These “tea boys” or “chai boys” are generally considered a perverse luxury of the wealthy and powerful, but the practice is widespread. As many as 50 percent of men in the Pashtun tribal areas of southern Afghanistan engage in the bacha bazi custom. Observers claim that no less than one out of every five Afghan weddings includes “boy play,” according to an article by John Marshall Law School professor Samuel Jones.

During the 1980s, U.S.-backed mujahideen commanders fighting in the Soviet-Afghan war regularly engaged in acts of pedophilia. Indeed, the part that got left out of the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War about the U.S. support for the Afghan insurgents is that our government was arming and training pedophiles—and continued to do so through the present. As Chris Mondloch noted in his 2013 article “Bacha Bazi: An Afghan Tragedy” in the magazine Foreign Policy, mujahideen warlords “fought communism in the name of jihad and mobilized thousands of men by promoting Islam, while sexually abusing boys and remaining relatively secular themselves.”

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