they fight like soldiers, they die like children-romeo dallaire

“I believe we will eventually be able to do what the Lloyd Axworthys of the world did with land mines in the 1990s. There was a day when land mines were part of the inventory of available tools one could use in warfare. the international movement, which roused public and media support around the world, led to a ban that took this weapon completely out of the inventories or arsenals of most nations.
We aim for the day when the use of children provokes the same reaction. If we can do this for a chunk of metal, surely we can do it for living beings who are the most vulnerable in our society.” (231)

this is the first book that i read (intentionally) for the library’s evergreen summer book club-the first was mellissa fung‘s under an afghan sky, a book a read in the spring after seeing her in the red chair. i appreciate romeo dallaire‘s move to drive home a connection between this country and those that we go to on “peacekeeping” missions. his calling out of general apathy and the abandonment of our own poor children and our dismal conduct with our aboriginal populations is necessary, and the discussion of chronological age determining eligibility of rehabilitation programs of people of uncertain chronological age/life experience can be extrapolated to other government funding bodies, like those who decide arts funding in this country and context. the comparison of Hutu and Tutsi violence and attitude to the animosity that has been fueled between the English and French in Quebec is a power-full parallel. finally, the beginning of the discussion of female child soldiers and the nuances of the violence that they experience and perpetrate is long overdue, and i’m curious to see if the first person accounts that he’s suggested will flesh out the story that ismael beah didn’t mention in his memoir, and that emmanuel jal cast off as “not my story to tell”.

“‘Civil’ is ironically what we call a war where civilians are the primary target, and power over them is the principal gain-a war where combatants mingle with civilians and use them as shields, as camouflage, as bait and as recruits for ‘the cause.’ In the failed states and war-plagued regions of the globe, young recruits exists in unlimited numbers, available at will.
It may seem unimaginable to you that child soldiers exist. It seemed impossible to me when I first encountered them that anyone would abuse the state of childhood so ruthlessly. And yet the reality for many rebel and gang leaders, and even state governments, is that there is no more complete end-to-end weapon system in the inventory of war machines than the child soldier. Its negligible technology, simple sustainment requirements, unlimited versatility in all possible facets of low-intensity conflict, and capacity for barbarism has made the child soldier the weapon of choice in over thirty conflicts around the world, for governments and non-state actors alike. Man has created the unlimited cheap, expendable, yet sophisticated human weapon, at the expense of humanity’s own future: its children.
Thanks to a worldwide proliferation of light weapons and ammunition, combined with the limitless resource of children as a result of the overpopulation in developing countries in conflict, such as we see in so many cases in Africa, there is no more readily available, cost-effective and renewable weapon system in existence today. Desperate children, boys and girls, are cheap to sustain, have no real sense of fear, and are limitless in the perverse directions they can be manipulated through drugs and indoctrination since they have not yet developed a concept of justice and have been ripped away from their families to fend in the new perverted family of armed force.” (2-3)


2 thoughts on “they fight like soldiers, they die like children-romeo dallaire

  1. GIRLS-they run the world?

    “Girls represent about 40 per cent of all child soldiers and are often considered a more valuable resource than boys. Boys are generally limited to fighting and some support roles, but in these male-dominated societies where the women do most of the manual work sustaining the ‘home,’ girls have many more useful skills than boys do. Far from being weaker or more passive, girls have proven to be as easily and effectively used in the same psychological, logistical, reconnaissance and combat tasks as boys-for instance, a significant proposition of the volatile and brutal LRA in Uganda is made up of girls. A perceived advantage of girls over boys is that they can be used as sexual rewards for teh soldiers (though boys do not entirely escape that fate). They an be taken as bush wives (monogamous or polygamous sexual companions of a commander or leader) or used as sex slaves by the troops. Rape of girl child soldiers is a matter of course in most of these conflicts, and the resultant psychological damage, physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and childbirth complications are additional abuses the girls suffer.
    And what about the children who are the result of these rapes and sexual abuse? There are reported cases of long-lasting conflicts in which the children of child soldiers have been trained and are now engaged in the fight. I cannot fathom the degree of human abuse and gross destruction implicit in the lives of a girl soldier who is used to produce the next generation of child soldiers.” (129-30)

    “And, in their own right, they can become effective as weapons of terror and as weapons of hesitation, not to mention at honing skills in areas of logistics and reconnaissance. Adults do not usually view children, especially the very young, as a threat. This underestimation can be manipulated by ruthless leaders who will persuade their child troops to sacrifice their lives or use their age to strike blows of terror against their opponents.” (119)

  2. unforgettable:

    “Even now, a sensation, especially a smell, can send me back to scenes from that slaughter. I hear a sticky, tacky sound, and then flash to decaying bodies slithering like fish in a net of an open mass grave, and I am briefly unable to extricate myself from this quicksand of memory.” (5)

    “I will say it again: it’s better to stop the recruitment and use of children within belligerent forces before it happens than to deal with the complexities of reiterating children into their home communities-if they even exist-after the conflict is over.” (152)

    “No, we grow up and are told to put aside childish things, and we largely buy in to that: our education systems, in North America at least, have grown increasingly utilitarian and cost-sensitive, cutting libraries, art programmes, music, any essential that doesn’t fit inside stretched educational budgets. We abandon our poorest children to struggle on their own to lift themselves out of their circumstances; child poverty rates in the United States and in parts of Canada, particularly among aboriginal communities, are shocking in countries of such national wealth and resources. In my own homeland, one in nine children lives below the poverty line.” (153)

    “The age criterion is one of the most challenging aspects in DDRR programming. How does one determine the age of a child who arrives at a disarming post with no identification, a child for whom chronological age probably was never really that important? Chronological age figures in all international standards. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the legal age of majority, but how is the concept of majority measured in reality? These children have often endured experiences that many adults in the developed world fail to cope with, and as a result it is rare that the signpost of chronological age adequately captures their level of maturity. Age is not a universal construct delineating youth and childhood from adulthood. Though agencies are trying to recognize this issue, we still face considerable interpretive problems when we start drawing the age line among groups with respect to who is or isn’t entitled to participate in DDRR programmes.” (158)

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