Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
~ Matthew 18:2—6
My brain did not begin the day thinking about war, the base activity which Lew Rockwell once termed "the murder end of the state." (Rockwell, Jr, Llewellyn H. Speaking of Liberty. Auburn, AL, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2003, p.139) It was thinking about the beach, a far more pleasant activity. This being modern America, though, it wasn't long, not even five minutes after our arrival, when my wife exclaimed an "Oh…my…God." That's when I noticed she'd bought along The New York Times and the war crawled onto the beach with us.
She handed the paper to me in disgust, as if it were covered in filth. Shielding my eyes from the sun to read the article I see we've been arming and training Somalia's army, at least the one we favor, and they in turn are using that money to arm children (some as young as nine) to fight our War of Terror. As I read further into it I am, needless to say, dripping in proud patriotism. What fresh hell is this? We're back in Somalia?
I have vague memories of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, a nice tale of our last disastrous fool's errand into Somalia. Granted, we left once but an empire never truly leaves anywhere forever. Now, not wanting to put our own soldiers at risk this go round we are instead using locals as armed proxies to do our bidding. In this case, that means fighting whomever we've designated as the enemy for this month and, to make the American flag unfurl even more proudly in the sun, we're arming and training child soldiers to do it.
All these little boy soldiers are funded and armed by a tentacle of the Pentagon called AFRICON, which was created in 2008 to make certain that no matter where in Africa mayhem may erupt an American weapons dealer will be there to cash in. Some of the latest entries onto the list of our "allies in the War of Terror" include Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda, and now Somalia's "Transitional Government." To the informed, that reads as if the local police department has been funding and arming the local pimps, drug dealers, Mafia dons, and cutthroats, but our War of Terror requires these types of compromises, so I am told.
The more historical minded could sit back and wonder what all the (little bit of an) uproar was about, and would point to the ubiquitous drummer boys used by both sides during America's Civil War. The American use of children in battle is nothing new; it merely faded as we climbed up the ladder of civilization. Over the past decades we've come tumbling back down that ladder and here we are, 2010, knowingly arming children to fight on the empire's behalf. What we are seeing is what one always sees in a militarized society — the slow devolution away from civilized behavior and towards what the soldier-scholars call "total war," sparing no woman or child. It is the American Way.
Of course, all the guilty parties are just shocked to the very core of their shrunken, shriveled souls that American taxpayers have been (and are) arming children. "Now, now," the U.S. State Department says to the Somalia faction that we back, "Don't you go using children as soldiers, you hear?" The head master of our Somalia proxy, a Fagin-like thug named Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, has ordered his army chief to conduct a "full review" to get to the bottom of things. The United Nations estimates that up to 25% of our allied army in Somalia consists of child soldiers, so it shouldn't be too tough a task for him to find one of our little armed urchins.
While our political masters are upset, no doubt, over the embarrassment this caused them (for a few moments, until the story quickly faded) don't think for a moment that this has made them cut off the flow of money, weapons, and ammo to these child soldiers. Our army of little African boys is "a critical piece" of our War of Terror in the Horn of Africa, say the experts. Plus, consider the cost savings, as doubtless Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has. Not too long ago he whined that an all-volunteer force was getting awful expensive, and according to The New York Times our little boy soldiers are getting paid, if at all, only $1.50 per day, and that's quite a bargain by any measure.
So as not to appear too one-sided, it must be admitted that AFRICON has provided (and is providing) these children with certain job skills that they can fall back on until the end of their days. For instance little Ahmed, all of 15-years-old, was sent to Uganda at the age of 12 and taught by American trainers "how to kill with a knife." His fellow soldier Awil, now 12-years-old, says he "loves the gun."
And to be fair, while the political grandees around the globe have laws (specifically the Convention on the Rights of the Child) that prohibit the use of children in combat, neither the United States or Somalia ever signed it, so it's a bit of a stretch to expect us to adhere to something we are not signatories on.
Enough. I stop reading the paper and watch my son running the length of the shoreline with the ocean waves his backdrop, and I think of all the children, barely older than he, that part of my every workday is spent to supply with weapons. I gag on a surge of patriotism.
There are many predictions on this site for the coming demise of the American empire, and with God's mercy that blessed day can't come soon enough.
CJ Maloney [send him mail] lives and works in New York City. He blogs for Liberty & Power on the History News Network website and the DailyKos. His first book Back to the Land (Arthurdale, FDR’s New Deal, and the Costs of Economic Planning) is to be released by John Wiley and Sons in February 2011.
This column first appeared on LewRockwell.com