The UN just released its annual report on “Children and Armed Conflict.” A number of states, as well as non-state actors, are highlighted in this report as engaged in the serious abuse of children in the course of an armed conflict.
Some of the conflicts resulting in the worst abuse of children were in fact unleashed by military interventions of the United States.
In the Western media, headline about this report focuses upon Syria, such as CNN’s headline, “UN report: Syrian children tortured, used as human shields.” Of course, the details in the UN Report are shocking and quite worthy of press coverage and condemnation.
At the same time, the systematic abuse of children by forces the US is funding would seem even more relevant to the citizens of the US who should know how their tax dollars are being used.
However, if any lesson is to be drawn from the UN Report, it is that the suffering and abuse of children is only increased by armed conflict. Two cases illustrating this conclusion are those of Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DNC).
Let’s start with Somalia which is now steeped in a civil conflict. This conflict was created by the US’s full backing and financing of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 – an invasion ostensibly supported to fight terrorism, but which has in fact led to more terrorism and human devastation in the form of ongoing armed conflict and mass famine.
According to the UN Report, children are being victimised by all sides of the ensuing armed conflict which continues to this day. Amongst the multitude of harms listed, the UN Report documents “[a] total of 252 cases of rape and sexual violence” committed against children in 2011, mostly at the hands of the Transnational Federal Government “and allied militia.”
Quite disturbingly, in August and September 2011, the United Nations noted a trend emerging where multiple perpetrators raped the same victims in a group setting.
Such facts being inconvenient to the media narrative of the US as a positive, moral force needed to protect civilians throughout the world, they are simply left unreported.
Similarly, in the DNC, the US backed and financed an invasion of that country by Rwanda in 1996, again leading to a violent armed conflict which continues to this day and which has claimed the lives of around 6 million civilians.
Rwanda’s proxy war in the DNC is leading to the forced recruitment of child soldiers, the killing and maiming of children, as well as “[s]exual violence against children” by all parties to this conflict, including those being sponsored by Rwanda and the United States.
Finally, while the UN Report did not mention it, one should also consider the disastrous effects of the US’s campaign against the town of Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
As famed reporter Robert Fisk explains in graphic detail in his 3-part series, the US’s use of white phosphorous in this campaign has led to horrifying birth defects to which children are still being born, just as the children of Vietnam continue to be born to birth defects due to the US’s use of Agent Orange in that country three decades ago.
The point of all of this, missed by the press in their coverage of the UN Report, is that war puts children in the way of such harms as killings, maimings, detention, displacement and sexual violence.
So, while the US and the corporate media contemplate but another intervention in Syria and/or Iran in the name of the “responsibility to protect” civilians, one should contemplate the reality of such interventions on those civilians we claim to protect.
Excerpted from the article ‘Children and US Warzones’ that appeared on www.counterpunch.com