|October 1, 2013
Former child soldiers in the Congo
Ask any policymaker in the White House or Congress, what’s more important than human rights? Their response: “Our government, of course.”
The Obama administration yesterday issued blanket waivers exempting three countries from a federal law banning U.S. military aid to countries that use child soldiers. Think Progress:
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CPSA) is meant to bar the United States from providing military assistance to countries who have “governmental armed forces or government- supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers.” As per the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, “child soldiers” include children under 18 who have been forced into service, those under 15 who have volunteered to fight, and and those under 18 who have joined up with any force aside from an army. It also includes those who serve in a “support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”
A national security interest waiver was built into the law, however, giving the President the authority to override the law should he deem it necessary to do so. That’s precisely what the Obama administration did on Monday, issuing blanket waivers to three countries known to use child soldiers: Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan. Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received partial waivers as well; this means that they’ll be granted lethal aid only in support of the peacekeeping missions currently ongoing in the country.
This year, the State Department issued a list of ten countries that had been found to be using child soldiers: Burma (Myanmar), the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Of those, seven were due to receive military aid from the United States, an action which the CPSA barred — for the most part.
President Obama has refined the practice of issuing waivers to human rights laws to a high art. He issued a waiver to get around a legal ban on lethal aid to terrorist groups, giving him legal cover for sending weapons to Syrian rebels. With Egypt, Obama didn’t issue a waiver but vacillated and refused to comment on whether the military coup in July in fact was a military coup, thus evading a federal law prohibiting U.S. military aid to countries that experience military coups.
Michael J. Mazarr of CSIS has written that “the very definition of grand strategy is holding ends and means in balance to promote the security and interests of the state.” Keep that in mind when you contemplate how Obama had the conscience to deliberately waive federal laws banning U.S. military aid to countries in which children are forced into warfare. Washington compromises rhetorical commitments to freedom and human rights “to promote the security and interests of the state.” In other words, to make the government bigger and more powerful.
Hey, anything for the government.
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