None So Brave

February 4, 2016
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Lieutenant colonel Jeff Cantor, Civil Affairs Team Chief, 353rd Civil Affairs Command, shakes the hand of an Afghan boy outside Bagram Air Force Base in Janquadam, Afghanistan on Sep. 25. Lt. Col Cantor was assisting the Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team with conducting a quality control inspection of a local vineyard. The Team has been in Afghanistan since July working four providences throughout Afghanistan assisting local governments in agricultural development, animal husbandry and land use. (Photo by U.S. Spc. Matthew McKinny, Task Force Cyclone, 38th Infantry Division)

(Photo by U.S. Spc. Matthew McKinny, Task Force Cyclone, 38th Infantry Division)

“De Oppresso Liber” (To Liberate the Oppressed) ~~Motto of the U.S. Army Special Forces

A poignant Afghan proverb declares, “Cowards cause harm to brave men.”

This ancient Pashtun adage reflects the shocking story of U.S. Special Forces Sgt. Charles Martland; Martland is the brave man, a soldier who saved the life of an Afghan boy who was abducted, held, and abused as a sex slave by an Afghan police chief, Abdul Rahman, the vicious, powerful, and arrogant coward. The incomprehensible harm to Martland resides in the inexplicable action taken by the U.S. Army. The Army disciplined Martland, relieved him from his duty post in Afghanistan, and is now seeking to involuntarily discharge him from military service.

What was the dreadful and dischargeable infraction by the highly decorated Green Beret Charles Martland?

In 2011, Martland and his Special Forces Captain Dan Quinn (who has since resigned from the military) physically assaulted Abdul Rahman, after learning that Rahman had abducted a boy, chained him to a bed, repeatedly abused him as a sex slave and beat up the boy’s mother when she sought to find and rescue her son. The Green Berets intervened when they discovered that the boy was being raped and held as a sex slave. According to the Martland and Quinn, the Afghan villagers were pleading with them to do something about repeated sexual assaults against children by the Afghan police.

Here is the dirty, not so little secret of Afghanistan: The sexual abuse of children is widespread and embedded into the Afghan Pashtun culture. There is scant prosecution of child sex exploitation in Afghanistan. American military have long been saddled with the knowledge of the Afghan practice of “bacha bazi,” translated as dancing boys. Bacha Bazi is the ancient and widespread practice of Afghan men who abduct and lure poor boys into the grisly world of child sex slavery where they are raped and exploited by Afghan men. Frontline exposed this lurid child sex trafficking trade.

U.S. Military stationed in Afghanistan experience the hideous reality that children are expendable in the feckless Afghan criminal justice system. Cultural mores trump human rights among the tribesman of Afghanistan.

This wasn’t the first time that Martland and Quinn experienced inaction from the Afghan government for serious child sexual exploitation crimes committed by the Afghan police force. Martland and Quinn knew that two Afghan commanders were not prosecuted nor punished for the rape of a 15 year old girl and the honor killing of an Afghan commander’s 12 year old daughter who kissed a boy. Martland who was fed up with the ongoing sexual exploitation of children by Afghan officials said, “I felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our Afghan Commanders to commit these atrocities.”

Since when is a highly decorated Green Beret who confronts a violent child sex predator and trafficker and woman beater, punished and involuntarily discharge from the military?

What happened to the greatest military and force for moral good on the face of the planet? Isn’t Martland carrying out the very anti human trafficking policies promulgated by the Obama Administration?

Obama’s administration, including his Pentagon, endlessly promotes and spends millions on sexual assault and human trafficking programs, policies and media messaging. The very human rights violations perpetrated upon innocent Afghan children are the ones which this Administration is demanding action to enforce zero tolerance:

1.U.S. Department of Defense Policy Against Human Trafficking. In the press release praising the ongoing military awareness training of human trafficking, the Army media alert highlights the annual training and progress for DoD’s military as “driving home the department’s ‘zero tolerance’ for slavery and human trafficking.”

Apparently, that DoD zero tolerance policy doesn’t apply to Captain Quinn and Sgt. Martland. Is it simply awareness, but no action to stop human trafficking and sex slavery? Zero tolerance means stopping the cultural and systemic abduction and sex slavery of young Afghan boys. Is the DoD training report mere lip service and media hype to convince Americans that the U.S. military fights human trafficking and sex slavery?

The DoD press release ends with the ironic caveat that “military leadership also plays a critical awareness role in preventing such crimes.” Sgt. Martland and Captain Dan Quinn are military leaders who ‘prevented’ further human trafficking crimes and are now paying for it with their military careers.

2.President Obama’s Speech to the Clinton Global Initiative

President Obama reiterated his administration’s zero tolerance policy for human trafficking during a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. “[i]t ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name–modern slavery…We’re shining a spotlight on the dark corners where it persists…We will have zero tolerance. We mean what we say. We will enforce it….” “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it.”

Contrary to President Obama, ‘we don’t mean what we say’ when it comes to zero tolerance for human trafficking, if the U.S. Military punishes its soldiers for trying to stop modern sex slavery of children and protect them from further abuse.

3.U.S. Department of State Human Trafficking Report on Afghanistan-2013

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Statement about Human Trafficking: “When we bring victims out of exploitation, we are helping to create more stable and productive communities. When we stop this crime from happening in the first place, we are preventing the abuse of those who are victimized as well as the ripple effect that caused damage throughout communities into our broader environment and which corrupt our global supply chains. We all have an interest in stopping this crime. And that’s why, as Secretary of State, I will continue to make the fight against modern-day slavery a priority for this Department and for the country.”

Sgt. Martland confronted a powerful child predator who fostered and perpetuated child sex trafficking. Martland rescued an Afghan child who was abducted and kept as a sex slave. His brave actions saved a life and prevented further child molestation. By exposing the perpetrator, Martland’s heroic action fostered to use Kerry’s words ‘a more stable and productive community and brought a victim out of exploitation.’

4. U.S. State Department’s Afghanistan Country Report: 2013 Tier Two Watch list.

The U.S. State Department highly criticized the cultural practices of child sex slavery and the inability of the Afghan government to prosecute these crimes. It described the lawlessness in Afghanistan and the utter failure to stem human trafficking and the systematic abuse of children. “The Government of Afghanistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Government officials’ complicity in trafficking remained a serious problem. The level of understanding of human trafficking among Afghan government officials remained very low.”

The State Department Trafficking Report condemned in very strong terms the total breakdown of Afghan legal authority to end child sex slavery. Yet, Martland is punished for taking action to protect children from Afghan predators in the police force?

“The majority of Afghan victims are children subjected to human trafficking in carpet-making and brick kiln factories and domestic servitude, and in commercial sexual exploitation, begging, and transnational drug smuggling within Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Some Afghan families knowingly sell their children for forced prostitution, including for bacha bazi— where wealthy or influential men, including government officials and security forces, use young boys for social and sexual entertainment.” “Government officials, including law enforcement and judicial officials, continued to have a limited understanding of human trafficking.”

Despite the State Department’s Afghanistan country report which paints a very dismal and highly dangerous environment for vulnerable children, our military must acquiesce in the face of brutality of women and children, but remain powerless to stop the ongoing exploitation?

Due to the advocacy of Congressmen Mac Thornberry and Duncan Hunter, the Army has delayed the discharge of Special Forces Charles Martland for another 60 days to file an appeal. Representative Hunter wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, “Martland stood up to a child rapist. I trust that you will give this case the attention it demands.”

The dirty secret is now exposed. The widespread abusive pederasty and sex slavery of Afghan boys can no longer be ignored. The motto of the Special Forces is to free the oppressed. None are more oppressed than innocent Afghan boys who are abducted from their homes, chained to beds and sexually brutalized at the cruel hands of powerful Afghan officials. Quinn and Martland freed that little boy from oppressive brutality and a childhood of unspeakable horror.

Captain Quinn and Sgt.Martland should be awarded Army medals commendations, not discharge papers for freeing the oppressed and exhibiting heroism and standing up for zero tolerance for the violation of greatest of human rights, the protection of the innocent.

Please consider signing this Petition in support of Sgt. Martland and send a strong and united message to the U.S. Army that Sgt. Martland is a hero for rescuing children from sex slavery in conformity with international human rights laws and U.S. State Department policy. Here

Elizabeth Yore is an international child rights attorney who rescued missing and abducted children around the world. She has served as General Counsel and Director of the International Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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The Children Left Behind

June 18, 2014

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It always seems to happen. When the powerful assert their influence unlawfully, the truth comes out, but seldom where you expect it.

The shocking release and swap of the Guantanamo 5 for an alleged American soldier deserter brought a firestorm of criticism from the lowly, the unknown, and the powerless. The soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon taught America a lesson in duty, honor and allegiance to truth. Oops, the administration forgot that there were young men on the ground, Bergdahl’s comrades in arms, who were witnesses to his desertion. Bravely and boldly without rancor, but fortified with the truth, these young enlisted men spoke up in the face of a White House Rose Garden hero welcome and Susan Rice’s outrageous comment that Bergdahl served with honor and distinction.

No doubt, the mighty dismissed and discounted Bergdahl’s platoon mates. After all, these are lowly soldiers, enlisted kids, without an Ivy League education. But the truth is a funny thing; It emboldens the weak, empowers the lowly, and exposes the mighty. The administration also forgot about the children of the fallen soldiers from the wars in Afghanistan and Irag. The families whose loved ones were killed by the enemy combatants housed in Guantanamo. These now grown children just might have an opinion about the release of the 5 most dangerous terrorists in Gitmo. Sure enough, along comes Alison Spann.

Her last name might be familiar. Her father, Johnny Micheal Spann, a CIA agent, former Marine was the first casualty of the Afghanistan war. Alison was 9 years old when her father was killed. 33 days later, Alison’s mother died of cancer. Alison was an orphan. Don’t feel sorry for Alison. Her father’s patriotic and fearless blood courses through her veins.

Alison appeared on Fox with Greta Van Susteren this week, and had an important opinion about the release of the terrorists from Gitmo. Alison, like the young men of Bergdahl’s platoon, earned the right to speak the truth to power. What the administration conveniently forgets is that the children of the fallen grow up, and are uniquely entitled to express their opinion. More than most, Alison Spann, as a survivor of the war on terror, brings a powerful and righteous point of view, which should have been heard before making this rash decision. This smart, beautiful, and poised college graduate freely expressed her opinion about the Bergdahl prisoner swap: seen here

SPANN: “I think that two of the prisoners who were just swapped were present when my father was killed. I first heard the news, I had heard about the Bergdahl swap and I immediately called my grandfather and consulted him about current affairs like I usually do, and he said to me I think that two of the prisoners who were just swapped were present when your father was killed. And at first, I was completely shocked and I called my stepmother and she surfed around and she confirmed that was true. So, as a whole, my family and I just had discussions about it and we were all extremely shocked, and saddened that our government would do something like this.”

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think would have been the better idea?

ALISON SPANN: “You know, it’s hard to say because it is a tough situation. But I believe that the Obama administration could have come up with a better solution. I don’t think that Americans negotiating with terrorists should ever happen. You know, it’s being debated right now whether or not Obama consulted with Congress but to me it should never be a question is if the president consulted with congress before making a decision such as this.”

VAN SUSTEREN: As you have seen things sort of a rule unfold in the last couple of nights in Iraq, obviously not where your father died, your thoughts about war and our foreign policy is what?

ALISON SPANN “We are in a crisis situation. I think that Americans have become complacent. I think we need to start becoming aware and updated on current affairs. I think that the American people it need to expect more from their leadership than what we are getting right now. The only way to do that is to stay updated on what’s happening, and you know, put pressure on the government and question the decisions being made.”

The brave comments by Alison Spann and the young soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon remind me of the importance of truth by the great novelist and social critic, George Bernanos.

“Anyone who is indifferently open to truth or falsehood is ripe for any kind of tyranny. The passion for truth goes along with the passion for liberty….Tyranny is not behind us, but in front of us; we must look it in the face, now or never. The world will be saved only by free men. We must make a world for free men.”

The passion for truth is echoed by Alison and the young soldiers. We were denied this truth before the prisoner swap. So, wait, not only were these released terrorists, the most dangerous, but they were present when Johnny Spann was killed? Bowe Bergdahl was not captured and kidnapped by the enemy. Pvt. Bergdahl deserted his post and platoon and soldiers were killed looking for him? Doesn’t sound like this prisoner swap deserved a Rose Garden ceremony. Perhaps, if Congress was properly notified about this pending deal, someone could have checked in with Alison Spann, and Bergdahl’s platoon. They earned the right to weigh in on this decision.

Alison is a brave American, daughter of a fearless and patriotic soldier who, unlike Bergdahl, served his country with “honor and distinction.” She was only 9 years old when her father came home in a flag draped coffin from Afghanistan. Alison learned at a young age the terrible price for freedom, but she also learned that truth matters. So a young girl stood up to power, spoke the truth, and called out the President. The administration forgot about the young men and women who paid a great price for our freedom. These young patriots spoke truth to power, fearlessly and patriotically. Looks like America is still the land of the free and home of the brave.

It reminds us of the final verse of the Marine Hymn which no doubt was sung over Johnny Spann’s flag draped coffin. “In many a strife we’ve fought for life And never lost our nerve. If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven’s scenes, They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines.”


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