Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Child soldiers and the stupidity of war

From NYT:

It is well known that Somalia’s radical Islamist insurgents are plucking children off soccer fields and turning them into fighters. But Awil is not a rebel. He is working for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, a critical piece of the American counterterrorism strategy in the Horn of Africa.

According to Somali human rights groups and United Nations officials, the Somali government, which relies on assistance from the West to survive, is fielding hundreds of children or more on the front lines, some as young as 9.


And then from Daily Nation (via AllAfrica):

A landmark ceremony took place in Beledweyne town, the capital of Hiran region, 335 km north of Mogadishu yesterday, where the regional authority of Hizbu Islam, one of the Islamist organizations opposing the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, merged with Al-Shabaab, the top militant group in Somalia.

I don't know what to make of this, honestly, and I never know what to say about wars because I'm often so caught up in their stupidity and selfishness. It's true what guns are put in the hands of children, but they're not my children, nor the children of the US, nor those of the Al-Shabaab or Hizbul Islam or TFG leaders who use them. This shouldn't make a difference perhaps, but it does. That's humanity for you. In all its gore and glory. And selfishness. I don't care what some among us tell ourselves about our supposedly lofty ideals. Just like nobody cares when oil spills happen in Nigeria but scream bloody murder when they happen in the US, nobody gives a damn when someone else's kids in some random-ass village in Bumfrak, [insert-random-African-country-here], gets turned into a child soldier. Sorry. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Like all other wars fought in the modern age, the war in Somalia is passive. In addition to the war not actually being fought by the people beat the drums, the war is also not taking a toll on the right people. Yes, Obama may feel bad about Somalia using child soldiers (I refuse to believe that this is news to him), but I doubt he cares a damn when you get right down to it, because it really doesn't affect the equation for him either way. Sheikh Ahmed wants to beat back the influence of Al-Shabaab and take over the country, but it's not like the TFG has it's hands clean. Some of the rapes and murders of civilians were done at their hands, after all. Ahmed is the lesser of two evils who will probably be a tyrant, even if he's not going to be a Siad Barre incarnate, but he's not trying to run drugs and diamonds through Africa like Shabaab and their cronies. Make no mistake: There are no heroes here.

In my own observation, from America to the Middle East, those that clamor loudest for war are often those the least affected by its ramifications because they're not the ones on the battlefield, or their weapons allow them to be passive participants who can use ideology as justifications for their actions. These two stories exemplify the reasons why I stay away from ideology and wars and stick to Political Economy. I'm not afraid of graphs and statistics. People? Not so much.

Going back to Hizbul Islam joining Al-Shabaab (Which is often linked to Al-Qaeda), I'm not yet sure of it's relevance. Militia groups in tumultuous political situations everywhere dissolve and reassemble all the time, and only time will tell if this means anything. One would think I'd be over it by now, but I can't help thinking about all the lives that have to be lost, and all the lives being lost, even among those that are living.


  1. Have you read Allah is not Obliged? A most unusual child soldier story -

    see here http://bit.ly/c2iaEy

  2. Yea, I have! I love Ahmadou Kourouma, and the boy is an excellent, if a little chilling, character.

    And it beats the hell out of Uzodinma Iweala's "Beasts of No Nation."