Skip to comments.Is America ready for child enemy soldiers? They're on the way
Posted on 06/13/2002 5:50:36 AM PDT by SJackson
QUANTICO, Va A British military officer who became a psychological casualty after witnessing horrors involving child soldiers in West Africa warned his American counterparts that they had to prepare their troops for the worst and to ensure that they receive proper post-deployment care.
Mastering fear "is the easy bit," Royal Marine Major Jim Gray said at the U.S. Marine base Tuesday. "Eventually, you've got to come home. ... You have the duty to care for your guys, because it will destroy them if you don't."
Gray spoke at a seminar titled "Child Soldiers -- Implications for U.S. Forces," which was sponsored by the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, a partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. In anarchic corners of the post-Cold War world, hundreds of thousands of children have been recruited or forced to fight in many open-ended wars.
The first American to die in Afghanistan was killed by a 14-year-old boy, and "shooters" in some conflicts are as young as 6 or 7. Even younger children carry ammunition, act as spies and serve as human shields. Many are sexually abused. In such places as Sierra Leone they are drugged, and part of their initiation is to be forced to kill or mutilate the helpless.
Peter W. Singer, a post-doctoral fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned that U.S. forces inevitably will have to engage child soldiers and of the psychological damage this will entail. He said that in 1945 U.S. soldiers with no doubt about the rightness of their cause, and on the brink of victory, nonetheless were severely affected by fighting the Hitler Youth.
Gray came under fire in West Africa, but he was not a combatant. For the first half of 1999, he was with the U.N. observer mission to Sierra Leone, where he saw child soldiers in action.
"I've seen them kill (civilians). I've seen them kill each other. I've seen reasonably normal (Nigerian) troops killing them. I've seen the aftermath," he said. "Heartbreaking stuff."
Gray made three points, and saved the most dramatic one for last. The first was that in some parts of the world, ethnocentric moral exhortation won't work. The attitude he encountered in Sierra Leone "is something we in the West can't really comprehend." He thinks that "preaching" to the leaders of child soldiers, and telling them that what they are doing is wrong, is ineffective. "You might as well be speaking Chinese."
The second point was that despite the brutality of their lives, it is a mistake to think that child soldiers are eager to escape. Child soldiers are effectively alienated from their home environment, he said. "Their ability to go home is completely removed by the fact that they're forced to commit atrocious and appalling acts."
Gray said he never met a child soldier who wanted to go home. In their environment someone who was fed, had a pair of boots and a gun was king. "They become hooked on the power to some extent." That coupled with the fact that almost no one was left alive between 18 and 40 meant that no child soldier was trying to escape. "They become a very useful commodity, and they are used extensively. There are an awful lot of them, and to some extent they are pretty effective."
They don't maneuver or provide supporting fire but fight in a disjointed way, he said. Gray cited the work of the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, who wrote that children are egocentric and develop morality in stages. Gray observed the amorality of child soldiers. Recalling his own playground experiences, he said children are harsh to each other. They have no mercy, he said, but follow their own needs. "If you give them an AK-47, the results are gruesome."
The major said on numerous occasions he entered situations where children on drugs had weapons and used them, "and it is terrifying. ... They operate as if they were in a playground.
"When I saw them attacked with any sort of consolidated effort by Nigerian troops, they fragment very, very quickly. They don't stick together," he said.
"I saw lots of bad stuff when I was in Sierra Leone," Gray said, "and literally six hours after I left Freetown I sat in my wife's car on the way back from Heathrow toward Somerset (County). Within 10 (hours), I sat in my little cottage in Southwest England with my cat and my wife having literally come out of the most appalling set of circumstances I can possibly imagine.
"But I was also sick and clearly quite stressed."
Gray's wife said: "Jim, I'm glad you're home because we need to get that spare room decorated, and we need to go shopping this afternoon."
"And I couldn't cope," the major said.
He started "feeling slightly strange about things." Then he went 13 days without sleeping for more than five minutes at a time. "And my ability to cope with normal stuff just broke down. I went into a pretty acute post-traumatic stress-type thing."
A bad case of malaria might have aggravated his condition. But he became deeply affected by things that didn't bother him much when they had occurred.
"It's like watching an eyeball operation on Discovery Channel. It's gruesome and it's horrible, but somehow you can't bring yourself to reach for that remote control." He found himself standing next to people saying, "Bloody hell. That guy just cut that girl's arm off. Did you see?"
Gray said to the military leaders gathered for the seminar, "We have a responsibility to our people in terms of preparing them for this kind of environment. ... But the real responsibility is the duty of care to guys when they come back from it." He said he was cared for very well by the British system.
Gray attributed the relatively few psychological casualties after the 1982 Falklands War to troops having two weeks to thrash things out among themselves aboard ship on the way back to England. "By the time they got home to their families, they'd been through the process of understanding what they had been exposed to."
Based on his experience, Gray said that a soldier -- after his initial shock of being fired upon by a child -- will pull the trigger. "They will do what they've got to do." The hard part is living with oneself afterward.
Peter Singer said that sooner or later, U.S. troops will be put into the position of having to fire upon a child for their own protection.
"Military leaders must anticipate this terrible dilemma and prepare their soldiers not only by providing strict guidelines for when to take this decision, but they also must be ready to deal with its psychological aftermath," he said.
"For this is an added way that child soldiers put professional forces at a disadvantage. Units that have been engaged in these encounters may require special post-conflict treatment akin to what many police organizations provide their own personnel after a shooting incident. Otherwise, the consequence of being forced to kill children may ultimately undermine the unit's cohesion and combat effectiveness.
"Engagement with child soldiers also has an important public affairs side," he said. "Images of children killed by American or allied forces will certainly be heartrending to the public. The added misfortune would be if these ex post media images were to undermine domestic or international support. If not carefully managed, this aspect of information warfare will be an easily lost one.
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All the children of the world.....
How ya doin' Race? Stand by for a Freepmail.
"Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."--Jesus
"Let the little children suffer, and come unto me. Nothing's more important than establishing and fortifying somekind of Islamic Kingdom."--"Allah"
I would have more confidence in this article, had the writer been American. The Brits are notorious for their over-sensitivity to this whole "combat is damaging to the survivors" thing. This is the same mindset being displayed by the Canadians hesitation over our awarding medals to their snipers who served so effectively in the Afgan war.
I was just wondering, is this the Peter Singer, Bioethics Chair of Princeton University?
You know, the guy who rationalizes infanticide as just being a late-late term abortion?
The guy who thinks it should be A-OK to snuff your own kiddies up until their second birthday?
Koran, 6:151Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Psalm 137:9We could play this all day.
Precisely. The VC would remove the weapons, leave the bodies, and you'd have an instant atrocity on your hands. People who cannot comprehend what sent Lt. William Calley over the edge probably don't understand this.
I heard this on NPR, I don't like NPR, but listen to it while getting ready for work. I have sent them nasty emails more than once on their biased reporting all to no avail I presume.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
We could play this all day.
That is the post that you Quila sent to Savage Beast.
Hmmmm! After reading yor post i had to go and take a look for myself (i have copies of both the Bible and the Koran). Actually the main impetus was to see whether the verse you 'quoted' from the bible was actually there.
And the interesting thing was this: It was there!
However, i went ONE STEP FURTHER than you did and read the WHOLE of chapter 137!
And the thing is that what you posted was entirery out of context. You just selected one choice verse, and without posting the 8 verses before verse 9 just went ahead and posted it, in such a manner as to insinuate the book of Psalms was advocating 'dashing your little kids against the stones!' (And even if you were not trying to imply that the way the post was construed pointed towards that implication in a rather overt manner).
Anyway i rarely get into religious threads because it is my experience that the two opposing groups have set up their minds on the matter, and trying to convince them otherwise will only lead to acerbic language and brusque posts! However i just could not let this one pass since what i saw in your post was someone taking a choice verse, and applying it in his (or her) post in such a manner that at first glance it seems to imply something totally nefarious.
If you really wanted to 'read' something from any book,whether it be the Bhavad Gita, the Bible, the Koran, or maybe even a Nancy Drew paperback or Harry Potter; it is really simple to come up with your own meaning. All you need to do is take one morsel from the text, and then apply it to a particular situation in the way you want it to be read! I could take my WallStreet Journal, and give you the same copy....and we could both read the same article on Negotiable Securities; and YET come up with two totally different interpretations based on how 'we want to see things!'
However the most important test is to look at how the adherents of the two faiths act!
In Christianity today you can find groups of horrible people trying to use the word of God to make people do bad things,and you can also find some atrocities done against children (eg the pedophile priests) and women! In Islam you can also find groups of demagogic leaders who have their adherents commit bad stuff, and are bad against their women and stuff!
However this is the difference: In CHRISTIANITY it is a FRINGE effect, relatively few people do this, very very few!
In ISLAM however it is not a fringe effect but is actually rather WIDESPREAD!
Whether you claim the religion has been 'hijacked' or not the fact still remains that Islam causes a lot of pain and hurt, going as far as death even, around the world. The suicide killers who go and blow up semtex with imbedded 6 inch nails in an area filled with little kids are not Buddhist...they are Moslem! The people in Pakistan and Bangladesh who set up laws that punish women for being raped (as if its their fault) are not members of the Tendikyo cult.....they are Moslems! The sharia laws of countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria that are totally atrocious, banning everything from women driving (why?) to travelling without a male companion were not established by Baptist Christians.....they were set by Moslems! The Afghani dictums during the time of the Taliban that prohibited things like females laughing (because it was unclean in the eys of some 'prophet') were not Hindus....they were Moslem! During the Iran revolution, as well as in Lebanon, the Imams who were giving children plastic keys and telling them to go on suicide missions with the keys being to 'grant passage to heaven' were not Jewish....they were moslem! And the faith of Osama, who in 1998 said that killing innocent Kenyans (over 200 Kenyans were killed and thousands injured in the Nairobi Embassy bombings...which by the way killed 9 Americans) was alright just to get that Embassy was not Sikh, nor Hindu, nor Christian, nor Taoist.....it was MOSLEM!
Hence based on its acts and behaviors (and you could even remove the more 'extreme' characters like UBL and the results would still be the same) you cannot compare Islam with Christianity! I have been in several nations, and have been acquanted with several Islamic families. In one men would walk from street into the houses of complete strangers, and demand food from the women who were there (and toss the food on the floor when they were finished, and the women had no choice but to comply). Another case was when a dad wanted to slaughter his daughter because she had not wanted to marry the man of his choice (his words was 'he would skin her like a goat!). Yet another case was when this lady, who had been independent and carefree, now had to drop out of school(college), dress conservatively (by force), and stop working. Another case is this girl who had just converted (why i do not know) had to marry somene she had not known longer than a week (she had to marry him because he told her too.
By the way the last two happened in the US.
Anyway the fundamental core of the post was just to say that if one is going to quote from the Bible (or any other manuscript, book or tome) one has to ensure he(she) quotes the whole passage, or doesn't quote it at all (especially if the intention is to 'spin' the meaning).