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Questions people prefer not to ask

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According to a previously suppressed report

"Self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances and women constitute the majority of Afghan suicides."

Why, in a country swimming with opium, are suicidal women setting themselves on fire? I don't know about you, but if it was me, I'd want to leave this veil of tears high as a kite and feeling no pain.

Anyone who has witnessed the horror of a charred body and the putrid stench of burned flesh knows how these sights and smells are seared into your psyche. But to witness such horrific injury to the body of a young woman who has purposefully done this to herself - in a desperate attempt to die is almost too much to bear.

This isn't happening in a vacuum. Someone needs to start asking some questions about what the hell we're doing over there. How many more soldiers do we need to kill before we earn the right to ask these questions?

The abuse of women is nothing new in Afghanistan. Burka-clad women were a virtual trademark of the Taliban. But this is a relatively new phenomenon. Apparently, self-immolation as a method of suicide was imported from Iran's countryside.

This abuse is not limited the women. The warlords are equal opportunity oppressors. An Australian team has broken a story about the practice of bacha bazi, "boy play." The boys are sex slaves also known as "dancing boys."

The trade in boys is well known to the United Nations. According to Nazir Alimy, who compiled a report on the issue for the UN, there is no doubt who is funding this practice and why the police refuse to stop it.

"According to our research these dancing boys are used by powerful men for sex," Mr Alimy said.

According to the UN report, there is evidence that the practice of bacha bazi and the sexual abuse of boys is common throughout the north of the country. It confirms that boys, some as young as 10, are lured into life as a sex slave.

If you have been paying attention to the geography of Afghanistan, that should catch your attention because you will know we are fighting the Taliban in the south, in provinces like Helmand, Kandahar and Herat. Even if you haven't followed the geography, those provinces are probably more familiar to you than Jowzjan, Kondoz, Balkh, or Takhar. That's because the latter provinces are in the north, where our "friends" are the warlords who traffic in opium, girls, and young boys. A courageous team of Australians have released a new documentary, called "The Warlord's Tune," that aired last night on Australian TV. It shows how this criminal activity continues with impunity.

The sale of children into sexual slavery is centuries old. It's no surprise the burka was the cultural symbol of Afghanistan, even under the Taliban. But here's the difference and why it's our problem. We're funding it. According to another documentary made at extreme risk by people working for CNN

The abuse stays on the backburner of issues in Afghanistan. People are aware of it, but they don't really talk about it. Almost everyone in the country is coping with some level of injustice, and they are just trying to survive.

It is widely known among the population that, most of the time it is commanders, high-ranking officials and their friends who partake in the abuse of the boys.

"It continues because of the culture of impunity and lack of legal provision against this practice," Mahmodi explained.

This is no surprise when you consider the fact we are propping up a corrupt government that stole the election. Karzhai has more in common with Rafael Trujillo than Badshah Khan. That is no surprise when you consider the president's brother is a drug lord. All this means no one should be surprised when we send more men and women into that tunnel with no end in sight. No one should be surprised when the war expands into Pakistan. No one should be surprised when all we succeed in doing is secure the country for a natural gas pipeline. You can make book on the fact that when they do put that through, Russian criminal cartels will have a piece of that action.

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For starters, I am not the Henry Porter who writes for the Observer in Britain. I'm a native New Yorker living in Maryland. I used to believe knowledge was power. Now I know knowledge translated into action is power.
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