At night, the UN soldiers took turns at sentry duty, and between shifts, they huddled under mosquito nets until a quick downpour sent some scurrying for protection inside Jeeps. But when morning came there arose the sounds of gunfire and soon the rebels in wet, green camouflage ran screaming and firing weapons toward the centre of the village. Turning the corner, Dallaire came face to face with a rebel aiming and firing an AK-47. Dallaire returned the fire instantly. The rebel was hit and his body was flung backward. Dallaire wrote: "The glance downward was surreal. The rebel with his blazing gun, who had raced around the corner of the building firing away at anyone and everything, including me, now lay face up and dying in the mud, twisted, bleeding and barely able to breathe,. Lying there was a young teenager, at most thirteen or fourteen years old. A child. A girl. ...I was witnessing the grossest of human indecencies, I was, for probably only a few seconds, but for what felt as long as my whole life to that point, observing the transformation of a warrior back into a child and that child was now dying--of wounds I had inflicted on her child body." (Dallaire - 196, 197) Dallaire has been haunted by this deed, and like others who abhor the use of child soldiers, has taken on the task of curtailing the use of children in conflicts.
The United Nations peacekeeping commander sent twelve blue helmeted soldieries to offer some protection. During the evening those peacekeepers met with the village elders trying to persuade them to vacate that area, and finally the elders agreed to consider the option and meet again in the morning. Believing that displaying the presence of the UN would deter raids by both the government troops and the rebels, Jeeps hoisting blue UN flags were dispersed and the peacekeepers were deployed in strategic positions. The rules of engagement for the UN Peacekeepers were clear. "...we were to use deadly force if necessary to protect the population from any group that endangered them by the use of deadly force." (Dallaire - 190)
I have endeavoured to call your attention to reasons why children are enlisted as child soldiers, to some of the measures, which are being taken to eradicate the use of child warriors and to list some of the problems of rehabilitation. More needs to be done to arouse public action to stop the atrocity of depriving children of the right to grow up with healthy minds by turning them into child soldiers. If you aren't convinced that there is a problem, you can read the gory details of mutilation and forced addiction in the referenced books. Hate, prejudice and selfish drives for power over other people and resources seem to be forces that drive people to action, but I agree with Dallaire who wrote that it is possible to be energized by empathy, compassion, courage, determination and altruism. (Dallaire - 248) Dallaire believes that public sentiment can move governments to make the changes we seek. I hope that this essay will motivate you to teach others about the atrocity of employing child soldiers and will motivate you to act. Action to stop the recruitment of child soldiers can be a measure toward establishing peace in our world.
(5) Re-education. Children who were child soldiers can't remember what life was like before they enlisted. Their moral judgement is corrupted since they had to focus on ways to survive at any cost. Their conscience is destroyed; they have no compassion or capacity to empathize. Many are addictive to drugs. Communities ostracize girls who have been raped, and many girls have children to support. Former child soldiers often say that they miss the security of serving a leader and the fellowship of belonging to a group. Most have little formal education or skills to make a living. Having experienced power over others these child soldieries challenge us to interest them in ways to use their leadership qualities toward beneficial ends.
Therefore, in the “Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress,” in addition to the issue of taxes, “The act passed… for the better providing of suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty’s service, in North-America” would not be tolerated (Declaration...
(a) They don't have an ideology or firm goals, and they can readily be coerced by propaganda and drugs and are easily indoctrinated. They are apt to quickly transfer loyalty to an adult, especially a superior with the power to reward or punish. Girls are sought since they can become sex slaves or because they can manage the cooking and other care-giving needs of their group.
(b) In many instances the child has been separated from the rest of the family, is desperate, totally alone and seeks security. Child soldier Ishmael Beah of Sierra Leone, described how he was lost at age twelve, joined a group of thirty children age seven to sixteen to plunder villagers for food and finally was picked up by the government army. Under the influence of drugs which gave him energy, he witnessed children made to kill their own parents, won a contest for slitting the throat of a comrade and participated in other grave atrocities. (Beah - 72, 111, 121-124)
(c) In other cases the family is destitute and unable to care for their children. This scenario is described in the biography of H.K. Shin, who was sixteen years old when North Korea invaded South Korea.
(d)Brown describes how children were sent to blow up mines to clear the way for tanks and quotes reasons children gave for joining the fight: They wanted to show that they were grow up, they wanted to fight for their country or were willing to be martyred for Islam.
good and evil (like ying and yang), greed and power, guilt and conscience, fear, ambition – this leads to the murder of other people illustrating to the reader that even the most sane of people can result to character diminishing methods to get what they want....
Dallaire wrote, "I'm a passionate humanist, and while I long for and strive for universal peace, as ex-military I understand that my resolve to protect and preserve human rights must be tempered by the sad reality that lethal force is sometimes necessary." (Dallaire - 224) "Our peacekeepers and peacemakers believe that they will use their training, their power, their expertise and their weapons to protect life, not to take it." (Dallaire - 186) Yet there is a contradiction. During training the recruits are taught how they are expected to bypass this instinct to preserve and protect the lives. Peacekeepers believe that they are in combat with equals, and they respond when they are given the order to kill those who threaten the vulnerable people in foreign lands. (Dallaire - 188) Still every peacekeeping soldier has to deal with the actual killing of other human beings, which can create "the most heinous of consequences on your mind, soul, moral fibre and humanity." (Dallaire - 186)
Our ethical obligation to advance peace:
Although many believe that it is the natural state of humans to be combative for survival, many archaeologists have found evidence showing that our primitive hunter/gatherer ancestors depended on each other for survival. They distributed the work so that all members of the community benefitted through greater food supply, security and must have reaped serenity of mind. Leaders like Desmond Tutu, Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that we have an ethical obligation for the larger social good, to advance the quest for peace. We cannot survive in isolation. Dallaire refers to Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said that it is the essence of being human that you cannot diminish the worth of others without diminishing yourself. (Dallaire - 242) We are interdependent on this earth. If you think that the drug dealer employing child soldiers in Latin America is far removed from influence in your life, think again. When you travel, you will be searched for the drugs this child helped to produce or distribute; you will pay highly for the police forces in your country who track down illegal drug imports; you may even experience murder in your community where gangs fight over control of drug money. We live in one world and our lives interconnect. The problems of far-away people impact on our everyday lives. Can't we drop the thought of "them" versus "us" and find ways to be friends, friends who see the needs of others and strive to fulfill those needs?
(1) Ensure that your priorities are known to your government and are passed on to other agencies such as the UN. The UN can only act according to the mandates of its membership. Some progress has been made. In 1989 the UN passed The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Graca Machel prepared and presented her report "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children" to the UN General Assembly in 1996. It called upon the international community to note and respond. The UN appointed a special representative for children regarding armed conflict and passed "An optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which) pledged signatories to limit the military use of children." Are these pledges being met? In September 2000, Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Maria Minna, the Canadian Minister in Charge of Canadian International Development, convened a conference in Winnipeg calling attention to the "gaps in the international efforts to protect children affected by war." (Dallaire - 217-219) Representatives from 132 countries as well as from the corporate sector, academic circles and former child soldiers attended. What are you doing to urge that your country act? Voters can ensure that their priorities are supported by their elected representatives, yet voters are often lax. I In Canada during the May 2, 2011 Federal election almost 40% of eligible voters failed to turn out to vote for a representative.
Jerry Fowler, Staff Director of the Committee on Conscience for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum addressed an annual meeting of the Association of Holocaust Organizations on June 8, 2004. His inspiration for Holocaust education is that “What I believe, with all my heart and soul, is that in that space between what can happen and what will happen is where we stand. And what we do, what we choose, quite simply, whether we stand by or stand up, can make all the difference in the world. And learning about the Holocaust makes crystal clear the consequences of standing in that space, the consequences of choices that are made.”