International Politics


Final Blog: Top 5 Posts of Semester

The first of the top 5 blogs that I have written this semester was done way back at the begining of the project.  This blog, titled “Child Soldiers, Something to Think About” gives general, background information on the lives of Child Soldiers.  I like this blog because anyone, even a person who is unaware of what the life of a child in combat consists of can learn all about it in this blog.   Also, I like this blog because I was able to add in actual cases of child soldiers, making it so much more real and personal for the reader.  Because this blog does a good job of giving the basic background information that is needed to fully understand the rest of my blogging assignment, I believe that it is one of my top 5 this semester.

The second of my top 5 blogs is the blog titled “Human Rights: Three Basic Ideas & Child Soldiers”, posted April 12th.  I believe this is one of my best blogs because I incorporated the idea of the basic ideas in human rights that we discussed in class, along with my blog topic of child soldiers.  In class we learned about these three basic ideas of human rights, and I used these ideas basically to break down all of the human rights violations that are brought up with the issue of child soldiers.  Also, another reason I believe that this blog is good is because it allowed for some discussion from others as well.

The third blog that I am adding to this list is the blog titled ” NGO’s Raises Awareness on Child Soldiers”.  Once again, I like this blog because not only does it incorporate the topic of my blog roll, but also because it brings up an idea that we learned in class.  Before I wrote this blog, we had learned that because NGO’s are not as powerful as IGO’s, that they are basically there to provide support for a cause.  Not too long after discussing this I ran across an article that discussed an NGO that does this exact thing for the prevention of child soldiers.  I feel that is one of my best blogs because not only does it incorporate ideas learned in class and my blog assignment but it also describes the role of one of the NGO’s today’s world and how influential those may be.

The fourth blog entry that I consider to be my best is my blog “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier”.  I like this blog espically because I was able to do something a little bit more creative than grabbing a newspaper article.  I acutally saw this book while I was in line at Starbucks, and I like that something outside of the classroom and “reserved blog time” inspired me to blog.  Outside of the inspiration, I also like this blog because it gives a real-life example of a boy who survived the horrors of being a child soldier.  It is a good case study and the blog gives a lot of information about the lives of child soldiers.  Finally, I think that one of the other reasons I personally enjoy this blog is because of that fact that it is one of the only blogs on my entire blog role that has a happy ending.  All the rest talk about the destruction and horrors that are lived through because of the use of child soldiers, and this blog acutally gives the reader an insight at a happy ending that occured from this.  I believe that stories like this are important to share because they give hope in a time where there seems like there isn’t any.

Finally, the fifth and final post of the semester that I would call my best, is not a blog, but actually a response to a comment that was made on one of my blogs.  The original blog was titled “Sri Lanka draws flack from HRW over child soldiers”.  The question that was posed in the first comment was about the idea of “bad publicity” and if in a case like child soldiers, if there is so such thing.  I like my comment because it was directly answering the question that had been brought up, and I feel that I gave a lot of good examples as to why my position was justified.  Also, I like this comment on my blog because it helped to stir up a lot more conversation and debate about the issue.

I feel that these five posts are a good sample of the blog work that I have done this semester.  Some of these gave good background information, others talked about ideas in class, and some were just controversial enough to simulate discussion for other students to comment on.  I choose these because I honestly believe they show my best work and show how much I have learned through this project.


Child Soldiers: A Conclusion

As the end of the semester comes to an end, along with this blog project I would like to end my blogging on child soldiers with a conclusion on what I have learned over the past semester on this topic.

First and foremost, I learned about the definate horrors that exist for children who are put under these circumstances.  My first few blogs were all about these specific horrors that these children went through, mainly because I was so appalled by what I was finding.  When you use the word “child” to describe “soldier” you of course assume that these children are being forced to kill, but I had no idea of the other terrible things that these kids go through.  Being forced from their homes and families, along with being drugged, brainwashed, and turned into sexual and military slaves.  I did not realize all the things that went on with these children before this project.

Second, and probably most important to our class, I learned about the tactics that the International Community is trying in order to prevent this from continuing.  Early in the semester I read and blogged about the confrence held in Paris, France which set some of the guidelines for countries to abide by.  This determined that not only will countries discontinue using child soldiers in their own countries, but will try to influence other countries as well.  Throughout the semester I have learned that there are some countries who are doing this well, and are trying to decrease the number of child soldiers that are being used around the world, however at the same time, I have learned that many smaller, and more corupt countries have still continued using child soldiers in combat and don’t show many signs of stopping.  The role of the international community on child soldiers is another one of the things that I have learned while doing this blog project.

Finally, I have seen the role of IGO’s and NGO’s on the topic as well.  I have seen how certain IGO’s such as the United Nations have worked hard to try to combat this problem in many countries.  Their hope is that a neutral party will make a difference.  Also, I have blogged on the roles of NGO’s, as they are rallying and making money for the cause as well.  the roles of IGO’s and NGO’s were espically interesting as they are both topics that we covered during our class as well.

I think that it is safe to say that over the course of the last semester, this blog project has done it’s job in teaching me about my proposed topic.  Not only did I learn about what children in combat consists of, but I also had the oppertunity to learn about the steps that are being taken by the International Community to combat the issue, and finally the support that is being provided by the individual IGO’s and NGO’s.  These are all things that I would not have learned on my own, and I am glad that this blogging project has taught me these things.  It has opened my eyes a little bit more to the world of international politics in today’s world.


U.S. Military Bars 17-Year-Olds from Combat

In the fight against child soldiers, even big players like the United States are learning that they not only stop other countries from using them, but stop themselves from using them as well.  Previously, the United States Marines would allow their soldiers to be deployed into combat zones before their 18th birthday.  This is no longer the case.  The Marine Corps just implemented a policy which would take all measures to ensure that no serviceman or woman woman would be deployed into any combat area before the age of 18.  The Marines reported that this policy is in response to the “Free Children From War” conference held serveral months ago in Paris.

The new policy however, says nothing about forbiding 17-year-olds in non-combat areas.

I like that the United States is taking initiative and following by the same rules that they expect everyone else to abide by.  I believe that the fact that a powerful country like the U.S. is begining this policy, that they may be the foundation for other countries to follow behind as well.


Child Soldiers: “A Four-Foot-Tall Killing Machine”

Child soldier walks past street kiosk on the way to a U.N. disarmament camp in Liberian city of Tubmanburg. Photo by REUTERS\Emmanuel Tobey

I found this picture on a newspaper article titled “Child soldiers: ‘A four-foot-tall killing machine”.  The most striking thing, to me, about this photograph is that fact that the child in this picture is smiling.  He is holding hundreds of pieces of amnition, and is looking at the camera like a small child posing for a school picture.  What this tells me is that these children don’t even understand how completely unnatural it is for them to be taking part in such a violent part of life.

This same article quotes a hip-hop artist named Emmanueal Jal, who was once a child soldier in Sudan.  He says “When most kids where playing soccer, watching cartoons and learning how to read and write, I was learning how to fight. I left my home when I was seven after I saw a close relative raped and people’s heads cut off by the government bombers… For years I was wielding an AK47, taller than myself.”  Comments like this, are enough to make me want to stop all child soldiers from being used around the world, and I’m still trying to comprehend why others around the world don’t feel the same.


War Child

We all know the dangers that occur for children while they are forced into combat as a child soldier.  We are aware of the horrors that these children face while being trained, and while they are in combat.  Many of these children are drugged, brainwashed, and have to suffer drastic changes to their own personalities.  While reading over these articles that describe these problems, and blogging about what should be done, I have often wondered if there is any kind of organization that provides help for those fortunate few who survive the horror of being a child soldier, in order to help them to get back on their own feet, and to lead a “normal” life once escaping combat.  Today, I have finally found one such organization.  War Child.

War Child is the name of a British Charity that provides aid to children who have just been realsed from combat and need some help starting over.  Because so many children are hurt not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well while in combat, many don’t have the ability to start their lives over again once they have either escaped, or been released from combat.  This organization does things such as giving small “livlihood grants” to former child soldiers so that they are able to build up small businesses in order to provide for themselves, along with any dependents they many have.  War Child has been espically helpful in the Democratic Repulic of Congo where many of these grants have been given out.  They have also been able to provide help in other countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and soon Uganda, as well.

I am glad to see that an organization such as War Child does in fact exist.  It’s comforting to know that while many children don’t survive the tortures that they are put through as a child soldier, those that are fortunate enough to survive do have the chance to lead a normal life, and be able to move on in their lives.


Child Soldiers and the Law

A new bill that was introduced to the United States senate just a few days ago would “put restrictions on U.S. military assistance for governments that use child soldiers”.  According to News-Medical.net (who is in great support of this bill) “Introduced yesterday by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), S.1175 would curtail U.S. military assistance to governments that fail to take steps to demobilize and stop recruiting children into the armed forces or government-supported militias. Countries that take steps to demobilize child soldiers would be eligible for certain forms of assistance in that process for up to two years, to help professionalize their forces and ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars are not used to finance the exploitation of children in armed conflict.”

 I think that this is a very interesting idea.  The United States, being one of the strongest military powers in the world gives aid to many countires.  If this bill passed, U.S. Miliatary forces would no longer be supporting child soldiers in any way.  I think that this is a good idea because there are countries that do greatly depend on military aid and assitance from the U.S. Military.  If the U.S. military were to no longer give those services to countries who are allowing child soldiers, it would set a prescedent that countries would need to abide by. 

If this law passes, I think that it is safe to say that there are some places around the world that would think twice about their child soldier policies.  I only hope that there are other countries around the world who look into a bill like this as well.


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Recently while standing in line at Starbucks, I was looking at the shelves that they have full of different books and items that you can buy.  The book that was being displayed, and given a lot of publicity that week was a book by Ishmael Beah titled “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier”.  While I didn’t spend the twenty dollars to purchase the entire book, I did pick up the small bookmark with a description of the story.

In the book Beah describes the horrors that he lived through while he forced to be a boy soldier at the age of 13 in his village Sierra Leone.  The story starts out describing the fairly typical “young boy” childhood that Beah had.  He grew up among friends and family, playing sports, and listening to rap music.  However, after a rampage of his village on his village at the age of 12, Beah was taken from his parents (whom he never saw again) and was forced into a life of a soldier.  He was a soldier for a government that had young boys popping pills, smoking marijuana, and snort “brown brown” (cocaine and gunpowder).  He spent the next three years drugged up, sleep deprived, and on a killing spree.  At one point in the story Beah states “I shot them on their feet and watched them suffer for an entire day before finally shooting them in the head so that they would stop crying.”  These are just some of the horrors that this young boy (and many others around the world) went through, without really even being aware of what he was doing.

Beah was one of the fortunate few that was rescued after 3 years, and put in a rehabilitation center.  Afterwards he lived with his uncle and eventually moved to the United States where he finished high school in New York, and went onto college to earn a Bachelor’s degree.  He is noew 26 and is hoping to eventually get a law degree.  As for now, Beah is on tour in the U.S. and Canada promoting his story.

Beah’s story is just one thousands. I think that it’s amazing that he is being given the oppertunity to show what is really happening in these places, and the damage that it occuring to the youth in these areas as well.  Hopefully his story will raise awareness of the severity of this issue and make others out there realize that more needs to happen in order to prevent these horrors from continuing.


NGO Raises Awareness on Child Soldiers

In class on Friday we were discussin the roles that IGO’s and NGO’S can play when it comes to the issue of human rights.  What we learned is that one of the major roles that an NGO has is to promote awareness of human rights violations.  Because we had just gone over this in class recenlty, I found this article interesting:http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=81402

This article is from the Lebanon Daily Star and it discusses how an NGO named “The Permanent Peace Movement” held a workshop on Thursday to try to promote the violation of the UN efforts to combat child soldiers.  The event lasted all day and included speakers, films, and workshops.  The speakers were individuals from different organizations such as the EU, Higher Council for Childhood, and the Lebanese Coalition for the Child’s Rights.  The largest portion of the day revolved around a film titled “Stop Child Soldiers” which showed the stories of two fathers: one who was trying to prevent his son from entering war, and the other who was trying to get his son to fight.  The Permanent Peace Movement was satisified with the outcome of the event, however are still going to continue to promote awareness on the issue.

I found this article very interesting, espically since we had just talked about the roles of NGO’s surrounding human rights. I think that days like the one in this article, are a good way to go about that promotion because it starts at a smaller level first, and then allows those at the smaller level to help them promote the issue.  There is no reason to start up too high if those towards the bottom don’t even understand what’s going on. 


Human Rights: Three Basic Ideas & Child Soldiers

Today in class we were discussing the issue of human rights.  During this discussion we learned about the three basic ideas surrounding the human rights.  These issues are:

1. Human Right are “natural”: We have human rights because we are human.  We do not have human rights because of a specific region we live in, religion we uphold or ethnicity we share.

2. Human Rights are equal: Everyone is entitled to the same rights.  Men don’t get more than women, white don’t get more than blacks, and a Christian does not get more than a Muslim.

3. Human Rights are universal: They apply to everyone, regardless of their age, sex, gender, race, religious affiliation etc.

Now, looking at these three basic issues got me to thinking about the problems surrounding child soldiers in today’s world.  Obviously because of the fact that child soldiers exist, these three basic ideas are not being upheld.  Children are humans and thus should be given the same rights as other human beings because it is “natural”.  However, instead, these children are stripped from their homes and forced into environments that adults (generally speaking) get to choose for themselves.  Also, in regards to the second basic issue here children should be among the “equal” as well.  While in many countries children are not seen as equals to when standing next to an adult, they are still entitled to the same basic human rights as an adult under this idea.  They are the same as the adults and there is no reason why an adult should have more rights as a human being than a child.  Finally, under the idea of human rights being “universal” and applying to all.  The important word here is all.  It doesn’t say “adults” or even “some” the word is “all”.  Because of this it is evident that children need to be given the same freedoms and ability to make choices as not only those adults near them, but as those children in other countries as well.  There is no reason, under these three basic ideas, that a child in DRC should have a lesser amount of right to an education than a child in the U.S.

Looking at the three basic ideas of human rights, it’s really a shame to have such a great set of ideas that aren’t followed.  What is the point of having these ideas and standards if they are only upheld by a portion of the human population.


Uganda

The residents of Uganda are still waiting for their children to return home.  A truce signed last August between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) stated that the LRA was required to free all of the child soldiers and sex slaves the army has been holding for for years.  The LRA has yet to comply to this part of the truce.  Commandors have stated that the women and children that were stripped from their homes and forced into a life of torture and combat are now “part of their families”.

The fortunate few that have managed to escape the LRA remember the days they encountered as “part of their families”.  These days include: farming, child rearing, and combat.  This included heavy labor and continuous training to ensure perfection.  These children in the LRA go through many of the same horrors of typical child soldiers: brainwashing, torture, abuse, and being forced to shoot from the combat lines.  One of those children fortunate enough to escape have claimed he “doesn’t know – and doesn’t want to know – whether the bullets he blindly fired ever killed anyone”.

The date that had been agreed upon as the deadline for the return of those children held until the LRA has passed, and many are worried if the officials in the army have any plans of releasing these children in the future.  Even the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs has travled to Uganda to try to persuade LRA officials to realse the children with no success.

Internviews of children who have managed to escape this imprisonment can be found at the following link: http://peacejournalism.com/ReadArticle.asp?ArticleID=18677