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The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan

Over the past eight years, news reports gradually revealed that Afghan soldiers and police officers allied with US military forces are sexually abusing young boys held against their will—sometimes on US military bases. Last month, Joseph Goldstein (2015) published a front page story in the New York Times under the headline “US Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies,” which opened with the disturbing story of Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr., who was fatally shot along with two other Marines in 2012. Buckley was killed after he raised concerns about the American military’s tolerance of child sexual abuse practiced by Afghan police officers on the base where he was stationed in southern Afghanistan. Buckley’s father told the Times that “my son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

The Times story provides the now standard boilerplate narrative that adult men having sex with young boys--some as young as twelve years old--exemplify a culture complex known as bacha bazi, or “boy play.” But it also includes vignettes of US soldiers walking into rooms of Afghan men bedded with young boys, a young teenage girl raped by a militia commander while working in the fields, and the story of a former Special Forces Captain, Dan Quinn, who was disciplined after beating an Afghan militia commander who was “keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave” (Goldstein 2015). The article recounts a number of harsh disciplinary actions taken against other US soldiers and Marines who attempted to stop such abusive practices. More

Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria

Russia doesn't want to fight a war with Turkey, so Russian generals devised a simple, but effective plan to discourage Turkey from taking any action that could lead to a clash between the two nations.

Last week, Russian warplanes intruded into Turkish airspace twice. Both incidents caused consternation in Ankara and send Turkish leaders into a furor. On both occasions, officials in Moscow politely apologized for the incursions claiming they were unintentional ("navigational errors") and that they would try to avoid similar intrusions in the future. More

The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld

It has been five years since Tilikum attacked and killed his Sea World trainer, and the repercussions are still ongoing. Bad press continues. Profits and stock value drop even further. The park’s image may never fully recover. Yet Tilikum has seemingly disappeared from view. I am not talking about Sea World literally stashing him away. I mean that Tilikum is no longer spoke of in discussions. Pick up any news article or commentary on Sea World written in the past year or two and chances are you’ll find absolutely no mention of him, even though it was his actions that started all of this to begin with. It is as if his history has been slowly erased.

There are several reasons for this. Part of it is Blackfish’s fault. The documentary made the ex-trainers, behaviorists, and biologists into the heroes of the story. Tilikum came off as a victim, an orca with a violent psychosis stemming through years of trauma. There was, for instance, no talk of work. Nothing about all of the training the orcas have to go through or the calendar-long year of shows they have to perform in. Nor was there any discussion of the negotiations that go on between performers and trainers. It may be unspoken but you better believe there is some serious push and pull happening over fish quotas. This is not a one-sided relationship. Indeed, what could have been seen as a grievance on Tilikum’s behalf instead became a tragic accident. The trainer made a mistake and the orca went crazy. When this is the narrative we get, any possibility of agency—that his actions could have a profound historical impact—gets stripped away. What we are left with is a view from the top-down, and Tilikum doesn't figure that important to the story being told, at least not in an active way. He becomes easily forgettable. More

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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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Exclusively in the New Print Issue of CounterPunch


The Populist Violence of Donald Trump:
Joseph Lowndes digs deep into Trump’s nativist rhetoric to disclose a vicious, racially-driven political agenda; Wall Street’s Terrorists Strike Again! Mike Whitney on who made a killing in the latest crash; CNN’s Summer of Lies: Jason Hirthler charts the rightward drift of CNN; Get Up Stand Up: Andrew Smolski documents the legal right to rebel; A New Nepal? Barbara Nimri Aziz reports from Nepal on the prospects for political change in the wake of the earthquakes; Adventures in Xenophobia: David Macaray explores the bitter legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Trump L’Oeil Politics; Kristin Kolb on the Ghosts of Wounded Knee; Chris Floyd on Trump as the new Reagan and Lee Ballinger on the horrors of the clothing industry.