The ‘Dirty Secrets’ that Purify a Dirty War: A Colonial Tale of Dancing Boys, a Journalist, and the Human Terrain System in Afghanistan

By M. Jamil Hanifi & Maximilian C. Forte

The Telling of a Tale

There is no “scoop” in Joel Brinkley’s article, “Afghanistan’s dirty little secret” (29 August 2010, San Francisco Chronicle)—just an ugly sensationalist title on a story already abundantly covered by PBS Frontline months ago (see: “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”). What is more distinctive about Brinkley’s piece is the level of demonizing to sell war, and the involvement of AnnaMaria Cardinalli, an employee with the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System—a basic fact which Brinkley smudges out of view for the entire article, where HTS is not mentioned even once. Thanks to Brinkley’s clumsy use of an airbrush, Cardinalli is transformed into a “military investigator,” someone expressly hired by the Defense Department to investigate the “dancing boys” controversy: “the Defense Department hired Cardinalli, a social scientist, to examine this mystery.” The article is about Afghan men who gawk at and take little boys for sex. It mixes a fair amount of pedophilia, homophobia, and Islamophobia, all in a short space. The article even manages three paragraphs casting aspersions on Afghan President Hamid Karzai as someone whose family is likely to have indulged in sex with little boys—not the first time that Americans have thrown mud at their own, presumably trusted, ally.

Brinkley refers to a shocking line in a U.S. State Department report (from 2009)—he focuses on this: “A recent State Department report called ‘dancing boys’ a ‘widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape’.” The actual paragraph—and it is one alone—from the 2009 U.S. State Department report on human rights in Afghanistan (hardly a credible source, given that it is from one of the lead combatants in a war that is the cause of the greatest number of human rights violations), still manages to be a little more nuanced than Brinkley:

“Sexual abuse of children remained pervasive. NGOs noted that most child victims were abused by extended family members. A UNHCR report noted tribal leaders also abused boys. During the year the MOI recorded 17 cases of child rape; the unreported number was believed to be much higher. In January and February, the ANP arrested men in three separate cases of the rape of boys in Jowzjan province. According to the AIHRC, most child sexual abusers were not arrested. Numerous reports alleged that harems of young boys were cloistered for ‘bacha baazi’ (boy-play) for sexual and social entertainment; although credible statistics were difficult to acquire, as the subject was a source of shame and ‘dancing boys’ was a widespread culturally sanctioned form of male rape.”

Widespread, but statistics are difficult to acquire. Shameful, yet culturally sanctioned.

The paradoxes are missed by readers without an eye for subtlety. What is intended is that “we” imagine: that we imagine how much worse it must be, how many more untold cruelties and savage atrocities must be occurring…in lurid little Afghanistan, fatherland of the boy fuckers. It is a warmed over tale of colonial chronicles of “the cannibals”:

“They are a very bellicose people, naked and idolatrous, and they eat human flesh, and beneath these vices one must believe that they have many others”

(Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo. 1959. Historia General y Natural de las Indias, II. Juan Perez de Tudela Bueso, ed. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, Colección Rivadeneira. Madrid: Real Academia Española. P. 387).

“There’s no issue more horrifying and more deserving of our attention than this,” Cardinalli tells Brinkley. “I’m continually haunted by what I saw.” An American employed by the Pentagon tells an American reporter that what is continually haunting are images of dancing boys—because all the warfare is much more palatable, or so “normal” for an American that it’s easy to miss the sounds of gunfire and explosions. But then that’s the point: promoting a war of occupation because of the “horror” of an unstated number of dancing boys.

The State Department’s lack of “credible statistics,” is transformed by Brinkley into an atrocity on a massive scale, with known numbers, numbers that even permit cross national comparison:

“tens of thousands of proud pedophiles, certainly more per capita than any other place on Earth….And how did Afghanistan become the pedophilia capital of Asia?”

Your source? Who cares, this is American war “journalism.” Brinkley can count as his own source, and still win over the public…to war.

As for Cardinalli’s background, it is in theology and Latino studies, focusing on Spanish flamenco and New Mexico. She “identifies herself first as a musician.” No background, in other words, in Islam, Afghanistan, Central Asia, gender and sexuality studies. Her only building blocks for an approach to this issue is that she is an American, employed with the Human Terrain System, in a war zone. Back home she would be on tour, in restaurants, with El Duo Dende. In Afghanistan, thanks to Brinkley, she becomes his sole source, a trusted authority on Afghan culture. How easy it is for the delegates of the motherland to make their reputations in the colonies, on the backs of inferior natives.

AnnaMaria Cardinalli, putting her skills to use for the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, a counterinsurgency program that now fancies itself as a savior of abused children.

Who are these ‘Dancing Boys’?

Bacha bazi (n.v., boy playing) is a Farsi/Dari construct in Afghanistan. There is no counterpart for this construct in Paxtu and Paxtun dominated parts of the country. Likewise, Bacha baz (n.v., boy player) is also a Farsi/Dari construct which does not have a counterpart construct in Paxtu.

The phenomenon is openly marked in the popular culture of non-Paxtun areas in Afghanistan (especially in Kabul [mostly non-Paxtun], northern Afghanistan with a concentration in large urban areas like Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Qunduz, Maimana. The Paxtun dominated city of Qandahar is the exception to this. However, the practice does occur, probably with less proportional frequency, among Paxtuns.

The power relational aspect of this phenomenon should be emphasized. The stigma of having been a “boy” is a lifelong burden to a man. It is a lifelong disadvantage. No one will give a woman in marriage to a person who has once been played with as a “boy.” Thus, Bacha bazi is rarely flaunted; it is kept on a clandestine level.

Media Misrepresentation

The issue here is Joel Brinkley’s violent distortion and misrepresentation of the culture and society of the noble people of Afghanistan. It is about the contamination of the minds of the good and innocent people of the United States with poisonous anecdotal and unfounded claims about a vast and diverse Muslim society in which the American military is spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars every day in the pursuit of a culture cleansing project driven by distorted and stereotypical images of Afghan men, women, and children produced by people like Brinkley.

The professional, educational thing to do would be to have Stanford University and the San Francisco Chronicle jointly organize a public forum in which Brinkely would be required to produce all the evidence on which he based his published writings about social life in Afghanistan and have his descriptions and conclusions confronted with properly produced ethnographic texts and the cultural realities of Afghanistan.

An Anthropologist Confronts a Journalist

Mr. Brinkley:

Your article titled “Afghanistan’s dirty little secret” published in the August 29th, 2010 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle (and circulated by you in numerous other media venues) is a stark and sorry reflection of the poverty of institutional academic and professional journalistic standards in the American media constantly spewing lies, misinformation and distortions about Other cultures and societies. This unfortunate (and dangerous) state of affairs is responsible for the ongoing global insecurity, war, bloodshed, and the massive willful destruction inflicted by the United Sates on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given what is known about your academic and “journalistic” background and that of your partner in ignorance, AnnaMaria Cardinalli (of the HTS), I am not surprised about your flawed and totally baseless commentary and categorical conclusions about complex cultural and social conditions in Afghanistan. Bacha Bazi is indeed practiced in some social locations in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, it is fundamentally a relation of power, an outcome of class and age inequality. The current pattern of this inequality in Afghanistan is exacerbated by heightened poverty and disproportionately high numbers of orphans during the recent decades caused by the destruction of the Afghan state apparatus for which America is chiefly responsible. The regular reports in the United States from former male victims of rape in the Catholic Church are forms of resistance to this structure of inequality. I remember an example from Afghanistan. During 1950-51 I lived in Qandahar for a few months. I vividly remember information being circulated in public about an incident in which a young boy, as a victim of an attempted rape, had severed with a knife the penis of the rapist. The boy became a local hero and I later learned that the rapist had vanished into the status of a despised malang.

Name the sociologists and anthropologists who “say the problem results from perverse interpretations of Islamic law”? Stop spreading untruths about the people of Afghanistan. Stop essentializing all Afghans with anecdotal absurdities from fictive individuals—“Mohammed Daud” and “Enyatullah”—and the confused AnnaMaria Cardinalli who knows virtually nothing about Islam and the ethnography and ethnology of Afghanistan.  Yes, sex before marriage is not allowed in Afghan local culture. But how and why should this be the cause of sexual abuse of boys by men? Women’s faces, chests, arms, and legs are visible (and accessible) in virtually all locations of public culture in the United States. Yet Catholic priests and other American men sexually abuse young boys at probably the same rate as in Afghanistan? Why? Remember all human populations produce about two percent homosexuals. In Islam and Afghan local culture menstruating women incur a state of ritual pollution. Intercourse with such women is considered ritually polluting. This is a cultural construct. You have no business questioning the integrity of this construct. And remember refraining from sexual intercourse with menstruating women is also (for a variety of reasons) installed, in a variety of ways and degrees of emphasis, in Euro-American and other cultures. Take a look at comparative global ethnography.

It is likely that in writing this narrative of distortions, you have been inspired by Frontline’s “Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”. Anyone with basic competence in Afghan local culture can see and hear that the DBA story is scripted and staged and that it lacks local social and cultural validity and integrity.

The abuse of young boys in Afghanistan is, in principle and extent, not different from the sexual abuse of young boys in the Catholic Church and other locations of Euro-American and other cultures. It is not unique to Afghanistan. Your understanding and analysis of perceptions of Afghan women by Afghan men is truly defective. You should learn to frame such complexities in a properly informed local and comparative perspective. As a bonus, such a perspective would also help you acquire a systematic and culturally grounded understanding of the high rate of incest and sexual abuse of young boys and girls in the United States.

You have poisoned the minds of innocent Americans and violently distorted a complex socio-cultural phenomenon in Afghanistan. Stanford University is a reputable institution of higher learning. You have stained that distinguished reputation. And you are not “a professor of journalism at Stanford University.” You are a “professional in residence” at Stanford. Stop manipulating the prestige of academic ranks and institutions in constructing and vending Zionist anti-Islamic propaganda and lies about the good and NORMAL people of Afghanistan. Shame on you and your collaborators for producing such fraudulent and baseless venom. You owe your readers a profound public apology.

M. Jamil Hanifi


Joel Brinkley []

Sent: Sunday, September 05, 2010 1:54 PM

To: M. Jamil Hanifi

Subject: Re: Lies about Afghanistan from Joel Brinkley

Mr. Hanifi,

First, let me inform you that I have not “circulated” my column to “numerous other media venues.” My weekly column is syndicated, which means that a syndication services sells it to whichever newspapers want to buy it. Second, I did a great deal more research for that article than is immediately evident from reading it, including speaking to several Afghans. I am confident of its accuracy. In fact, since its publication, I have heard from several Afghans who say the problem is worse than I have portrayed it.

Joel Brinkley


Mr. Brinkley:

Let us expose to public view your “great deal” of research about this subject. Where, when, and how was this research produced? Identify the “several Afghans who say the problem is worse.” I am prepared to offer a frontal engagement to your baseless claims (and their sources including the “several Afghans”) in a public forum at Stanford University. You arrange for this. I will come there at my own expense. Snippets of gossip and anecdotal information should never be allowed to demonize a vast and diverse socio-cultural system across the board. Essentializing the 30 million people of Afghanistan with a few street corner telltales is the height of moral, political, journalistic, and academic irresponsibility.

Remember Where the Taleban Stood on the Sexual Abuse of Boys?

Ironically, as some online comments note, the tale of the dancing boys would seem to vindicate the Taleban and call for the return of their harsh and systematic justice that severely punished such behaviour. Remember what Ahmed Rashid discovered about the origins of the hero stories surrounding Mullah Omar’s rise to popularity:

“A few months later two commanders confronted each other in Kandahar, in a dispute over a young boy whom both men wanted to sodomise. In the fight that followed civilians were killed. Omar’s group freed the boy and public appeals started coming in for the Taliban to help out in other local disputes. Omar had emerged as a Robin Hood figure, helping the poor against the rapacious commanders. His prestige grew because he asked for no reward or credit from those he helped, only demanding that they follow him to set up a just Islamic system.”

Nonetheless, this does not prevent the subtext from being that which it became through circulation of stories such as that of the dancing boys, or Aisha—that the U.S. must remain in Afghanistan to prevent such abuses from happening when, if anything, such abuses have had a resurgence since the U.S. invaded. More than just one party is guilty of pimping these little boys.

20 thoughts on “The ‘Dirty Secrets’ that Purify a Dirty War: A Colonial Tale of Dancing Boys, a Journalist, and the Human Terrain System in Afghanistan

  1. Conrad Barwa

    not the first time that Americans have thrown mud at their own, presumably trusted, ally.

    Not sure where you are getting your information from here; he is of course an American ally but he is hardly ‘trusted’ by many sections of the US govt. He is also on record as having extremely antagonistic views towards the Americans.

    Also since when has Afghanistan become a ‘vast’ Muslim society? In terms of population it is actually quite small.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      PRESUMABLY trusted, is what the article says, which introduces the necessary note of ambiguity. He remains an ally, and condemnations are usually followed by praises. Criticisms have usually been followed by assertions of the need to work together, and make things work. He is not to the U.S. in 2010 what Saddam Hussein was to the U.S. in 2003, so let’s keep things in perspective.

      Besides, don’t ISAF and U.S. forces routinely refer to themselves as guests, as assistance, as partners? And HTS employees, as guests, working to build an Afghanistan that Karzai leads, isn’t it a bit counter-narrative to then be whispering filth in the media about his family’s personal sexual predilections? Or has this kind of sex scandal smear become so normalized that people hardly stop to blink when they see it?

      1. Conrad Barwa

        I think we are well beyond the realms of ‘ambiguity’ here; we aren’t in 2006 or 2007 anymore. By now it is pretty clear that the regime is in deep trouble with the involvement it has in drug-smuggling and the legitimacy crisis. the breaking point was the last Presidential elections and the electoral rigging that went on. Before that most people who worked in Afghanistan had plenty of evidence in terms of the drug problems and the actions of some of the provincial governors,esp his brother in Kandahara, as Pentagon reports and UNODCC reports have made clear.

        You can’t compare him to Hussein at all, Hussein had his own support base and didn’t come into power or stay in power because of US support. Karzai wouldn’t last a week without it. Which isn’t to say that the US trusts him. Think less Hussein and more Diem – the problem is that we are in 1964 either, so he is pretty much the only game in town. The US can’t really replace him like they would their commanders in the field (and that can only be done a few times as well). Besides who else is there? Abdullah? Ismail Khan? Fahim? All of these guys have their baggage and aren’t attractive to the US for various reasons.

  2. Bedouin

    And where is her Team Leader during all of this? Perhaps, he is one of the Team Leaders that has been dumped and then rehabbed to work at lLeavenworth? Or, he might be one of the reservists that has been hired as a Team Leader, who lack the basic quals to run a team in the first place?

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  4. Maximilian Forte

    Conrad, no disagreement on your individual points, but it hardly demonstrates that Karzai is not an ally to the U.S., and the U.S. is not an ally to Karzai. I wasn’t comparing him to Hussein…in fact, that’s my point: I was contrasting him.

    Incidentally, if any of the accounts of corruption are in any way true, then it would be very wrong to assume that Karzai has no support base. The massive rigging of last year’s elections give us a taste of the social network he has built up. He is Afghanistan’s newest warlord.

    1. Conrad Barwa

      Sorry the ambiguity I referred to was in reference to ‘trust’ I don’t think the Americans do trust him,much the opposite but for various reasons they are stuck with him

      Yeah, he has built up a patronage network – but if it needed widespread rigging and fraud to prevent a second-run off against Abdullah, I don’t think it will last very long beyond which he can access funds from the international community and have ISAF backing.

  5. CM

    Latino studies and theology, eh? Perfect for a HT member in Afghanistan (not).

    I read Joel Brinkley’s piece and thought it was a little breathless and sensational as well as hardly news. I first read about bacha bazi, in an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in 2002.

    The Kandahar frolic, SMH, March 23 2002

    “For here in the spiritual heartland of the vanquished radical Islamists who ruled Afghanistan for six years, the sacred has given way once again to the profane. The city on which Mullah Mohammad Omar and his followers tried to impose a medieval form of Islam is reverting to its boisterous and randy ways.”

    I think they were a little quick off the mark with the “vanquished radical Islamists” line considering the state that poor country is in today. These paragraphs from the article blow the whole “Mullah Omar as hero” thing right out of the water.

    “Kandahar’s return to its iniquitous ways may be fuelled partly by growing evidence of the hypocrisy of Taliban rule.

    For all of the austerity the movement tried to impose on Afghans in the name of Islamic purity, it’s clear Omar didn’t always adhere to his own dictates. The remains of his bombed-out palace on the edge of Kandahar make a Las Vegas hotel seem subdued by comparison.Adorning the driveway leading to the palace is a 12-metre black and green plastic fountain with an incongruous mix of fake palms, trees and boulders. The private suite where Omar lived with his favourite wife features an imitation gold chandelier and faux grey marble countertops.

    In contrast, the rooms 15 metres away across a courtyard where Omar’s three other wives and several children lived are muted and undecorated.

    I will leave it to others who know about the country to judge the accuracy of the report. One thing for sure – I won’t be consulting any “musician first” HT types.

    Canadian soldiers had reported cases of sexual abuse of boys by Afghan soldiers at one of their forward operating bases in 2006 to their superiors and were told not to interfere. It sounded like the upper levels thought it was a national custom or something. A little genuine knowledge or understanding would have helped a lot. I hope they didn’t consult flamenco guitar-playing theology students. (Sorry, I can’t help the sarcasm. It’s just the thought that incompetents are being put in important positions and a horrible war is being treated like a summer camp experience.)

    Sex abuse and silence exposed,
    DND brass told of rape of boys by Afghan allies

    “”Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to the senior army leadership the concerns raised by military police who said they had been told by their commanders not to interfere in incidents in which Afghan forces were having sex with children…[F]ormer Cpl. Travis Schouten told military officials he had witnessed an Afghan boy being sodomized by two Afghan security personnel at Canada’s Forward Operating Base Wilson in Afghanistan in 2006. Another soldier also came forward to a Toronto newspaper to report a similar occurrence at the same base in 2006. A military chaplain talked about the abuse in a report sent up the chain of command at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. Two other chaplains have also come forward to state that soldiers came to them upset about such abuses.”

    The resurrection of this matter does sound like yet another excuse to “stay and finish the job” by the military and their contractors.

    Am I cynical? Noooo…well, actually…yes.

  6. Arthur

    A fully functional institutional review board could help these HTS people temper such stigmatization of social groups in Afghanistan. Also, isn’t HTS about “operationally relevant” research? What is operationally relevant about the dancing boys? Is pointing out this kind of behavior about their Otherness a form of information operations intended for a US audience? If so, is not that against some kind of law? People hired by the military should not even given the appearance of that. Also, why the San Fransisco Chronicle?

  7. Bedouin

    Arthur, good point. This HTS employee is obviously “off the res”, as we say in my home state. You’ll notice the pic of her playing her guitar in the nice ‘B’ Hut, complete with cleaned and pressed ACUs. Not exactly “in the field” doing her job.

  8. Arthur

    Do you mean “off the reservation”? If so, she’s way off. What I like about her clean-pressed ACUs is her non-regulation cover, which appears to be a bandana.

  9. Bedouin

    Yes, I mean off the reservation. She and her team leader should both be disciplined for her failure to stick to her job (whatever that may be) and her team leader for his inability to control his subordinates. But this is typical of the HTS Clown Show. The best comment I heard recently was from a captain who said that HTS was “two steps behind the planning process”. As for her headgear, that just lends itself to the perception by the troops that HTS is a badly run hippie freak show.

  10. Arthur

    I could be wrong but I can’t help but wonder if the Dancing Boys piece might be another production that actually was sanctioned by HTS just like the National Geographic video, except that in this one they tried to disguise the HTS role. As slick works of propaganda about HTS in Afghanistan, they something in common. How people who think they deserve to be thought of as “respectable” persons from the social sciences could lend themselves to these information efforts is beyond my comprehension, whether or not HTS sanctioned the production.

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  13. WTF

    Nice hatchet job. Particularly when the practice is considered well-known and common. Those of us that have spent time in Afghanistan are very well familiar with the bacha bazi phenomenon. For all Dr. Hanifi’s ‘lady-doth-protest-too-much’ rantings, everyone knows about it and considers it an unspoken reality of the social landscape. I quite clearly remember an episode in Zabul several years ago where two groups of ANP actually attacked one another over which police commander was going to get to keep a particular ‘boy’. Your knee-jerk rantings at anything that the Army Human Terrain comes in contact with is really clouding your collective judgment. It seems like you’re missing the forest for the trees.

    I don’t judge you for pointing out that the Cardinalli should not have been considered any type of authority on the sociocultural behavior of Afghans – you’re right in that regard, as you are about the ridiculous ‘tens of thousand of paedophiles’ statistic. But your entire argument seems to be that Cardinalli and the journalist are mis-representing a tiny minority practice in order to justify military occupation. Perhaps I read with a different context, or missed the justification part because I know that this practice occurs and it is not nearly as rare as Hanifi claims (I’ve even heard precisely the same phrase, “Women are for babies, boys are for pleasure” from Afghan men during my time in Afghanistan). I wonder when the last time Dr. Hanifi spent time in Qandahar, since the last mention he makes of it is over 50 years ago. Nowhere in that article did I see the suggestion that the USG should stay in Afghanistan to prevent pedophilia or to radically cleanse the Afghan culture. It’s a hyper-sensitive reaction with no basis in the article.

    Oh, the “vending Zionist anti-Islamic propaganda” slur was particularly effective. It doesn’t undermine your credibility at all.

    For anthropologists, you seem collectively willing to ignore evidence when it contradicts your explicitly anti-war activist agenda.

    There’s plenty more – I encourage you to check them out. I wonder if you pop off at every journalist and Youtube post that shows bacha bazi.

    Oh, sorry – one last question – could you enumerate and describe precisely what state apparatus existed in Afghanistan between 1989 and 2002, again? You know…the state apparatus America is “chiefly responsible” for destroying? According to your esteemed Abdul Rashid, Mullah Omar kept the national treasury in tin boxes under his bed in Kandahar (‘Taliban’ pp124-125), and service delivery was entirely non-existent. So, help me out…who destroyed what state infrastructure when again?

    1. Maximilian Forte

      “WTF” seems to symbolize your entire attitude and mentality in writing this rant, and some of the ridiculous assertions you made. Your first problem, one of the biggest, and what clearly marks you as the one who cannot see the forest for the trees, is the absolute lack of any context to your understanding of the article, which follows along in the most gullible manner with the article itself, which also pushes the context of war out in the background and beyond, and fails to weigh the piece in the light of similar articles on Aisha, and previous articles on the dancing boys. This is an article written from the perspective of a military source, and yet you seem to be entirely oblivious to that fact and what it means. Instead you content yourself with a minor little yeah so Cardinalli is not an expert, ok, and then go back to reinstating what Cardinalli says under a different guise. If you had bothered to read the BBC piece linked to at the bottom, you will see a lot of Jamil’s points being made–I wonder if you will fault the BBC for doing a hatchet job too.

      You yourself seem to admit that this practice has increased in the last 50 years, if you find fault with Jamil for saying he hardly observed anything like this in Qandahar way back. Why? One reason is that the war is creating many more orphans, and more impoverished families whose male heads have died. The other reason is that those feasting on these boys are drug abusing wealthy warlords, who had no such sway under the Taleban. The local authorities quoted by the BBC say it is on the increase, so that settles the issue of why one would have seen less of it in the past. That the increase is directly tied to the war and the funding of warlords thus becomes clearer.

      But then you seem to want evidence FOR an “anti-war activist agenda.” Anti-war is not a theoretical position mounted on the basis of evidence; it is rooted in morality and philosophy, both of which you seem to abundantly lack. One does not provide “evidence” for an anti-war position any more than one provides “evidence” for opposing rape (aside from actually opposing it). What kind of evidence do you want anyway? That war is bad? You mean you actually struggle with that realization? Yes, WTF !!!

      So much for knee-jerk rantings: you have given us an excellent example of what you supposedly complained about.

  14. M. Jamil Hanifi


    I don’t have much to add to Maximillian’s constructive response except to suggest that you read carefully what I have written about bacha bazi on this blog. I have clearly stated that the practice does exist in some social locations in Afghanistan and that it is an expression of relations of power—class and age inequality. These relations have been seriously exacerbated by the recent destabilization of the country for which the American dark minded imperial presence is chiefly responsible. You claim to have seen a tree in Zabul. Assuming your claim has empirical validity, how do you, from this isolated anecdotal incident, generalize about the vast, diverse, and complex social forest of Afghanistan? What is your ethnographic basis for the claim that the practice is “common” and “well-known”? It would be very helpful for the audience if you would kindly share with us information about your professional identity, especially duration, location, and nature of work in Afghanistan. What harm would befall you if you took the mask off?

    However, how much time have you spent in Afghanistan? Where? When? In what way and how are you “very well familiar with the bacha bazi phenomenon”? Do you have some thoughts about its cultural, historical, and social context? Specific to your direct personal experience, how, when, and where did you become “familiar” with this social practice? In exposing what you and your ilk consider the “dirty laundry” of Afghanistan, the phrase “women are for babies, boys are for pleasure” is frequently used as the master narrative of bacha bazi. Let me ask you, with faith in your personal and professional honor and integrity, please share with us your (no one else’s) version of this phrase in two of the major languages of Afghanistan. Transcribe it in English.

    Afghanistan contained a functioning, albeit soft, state format until the US sponsored phony Islamic jehad operated by American subsidized terrorist “freedom fighters” overwhelmed it in 1992. The Taleban are the progeny of American intervention in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s. Mullah Omar collaborated with the CIA and UNOCAL after the Taleban dismantled the “freedom fighter” regime in the fall of 1996. Today Afghanistan is run for the United States by the “freedom fighter” gangs, now called the Northern Alliance. I have written about this on this blog. Please see my chapter in the 2009 Middle East Institute volume on Afghanistan available on Zero Anthropology.

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