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This evening's Meet The Author Program features Dr. P.W. Singer, author of Children At War. In this book, Dr. Singer explores the use of children as soldiers in more than 3/4 of the world's conflicts. He calls on Western armies to prepare themselves for facing children in battle, and he makes clear how we can reverse this horrible phenomena. Dr. Singer is the National Security Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, and is the director of the Brookings Project on Foreign Policy to the Islamic World. He has also authored earlier book: Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Prior to his current position, Dr. Singer was a Fellow of the Belford Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, he has also worked for the Balkans Task Force in the U.S. Department of Defense, Duke University, and the International Excuse me, almost done... Dr. Singer has served as an advisor to the U.S. military on child soldiers and his articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Foreign Affairs. Dr. Singer attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Singer. Thank you for having me. For this dark topic, on a dark evening, I thought it might be best to start with a quote. This is from a 16 year old from West Africa. 'I was attending primary school. The rebels came and attacked us. They killed my mother and my father in front of my eyes. I was 10 years old. They took me with them. They trained us to fight. The first time I killed someone I got so sick I thought I was going to die, but I got better. My fighting name was Blood Never Dry." Now, as our moderator mentioned, my research is on changes in warfare, particularly the rise of new conflict groups with the first book looking at the rise of private corporations engaged in warfare, and this book looking at the new rise of child soldier groups. This one in particular is often heartrending, but a necessary work, and I thought Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, put it best, "It is immoral that adults should want their children to fight their wars for them. There is simply no excuse, no acceptable argument for arming children." There may be no moral excuse, but the reality of contemporary warfare is that it's happening and that it's growing. And so what this book attempts to do is take the first comprehensive look at the practice of child soldiers: the causes, the dynamics, the implications, and finally the solutions. And in the book I try to leverage lessons from everything from military history, to neuropsychology, and also carried out a series of interviews for it, interviewing everything from child soldiers in places ranging from Bosnia to Africa to Colombia, to those who had fought child soldiers, including mercenaries who'd been hired to fight them. And I really wanted to accomplish three things with this book. The first was to simply tell a story. This was such a compelling topic that you feel obligated to spread the word, to spread the message about something that isn't all that well known. The second is to do so in a manner that finally lays out the true hows and whys of it with the thinking that if we understand it then we can develop better solutions, more realistic solutions that will be effective. And then finally, I wanted to take this issue beyond just the pure tragedy of the topic and apply a new lens on it, with the idea that if we understand it as more than just a tragedy with something that has real implications for our own security and global security, then it adds to the mandate to take action, particularly in this day and age when the new coin of the realm in political terms is security. And since we haven't seen enough action out of our own obligation, our own sense of reality, then maybe we'll do something more if we understand it as a threat as well. So what I'd like to do today is give you in a sense a short rundown of some of the causes of where this has come from, briefly some of the implications, and then some of the responses we can make for it, and then I'm looking forward to a good conversation with you. Now, one of the things to know about these child soldiers is that throughout the last 4,000 years of human history what we have of recorded warfare, children were, in effect, footnotes in warfare, both as victims and as participants. There simply wasn't a connection there. There were isolated instances, for example, you had the drummer boys who marched in front of Napoleonic armies and civil war regiments. You had the powder monkeys who were basically young boys who ran ammunition back and forth in old sailing ships. Even in our own civil war, you have one battle, the Battle of Newmarket which had a small regimen of 230 cadets from Virginia Military Institute who fought in that battle. But over all, these were footnotes. They weren't a global practice. What we're seeing today though is a shift, a major shift, and we're seeing a global use of child soldiers in a way that we've never seen before, and there's three causes of this, three dynamics that have come together to cause this shift. The first is, in effect, we're experiencing a lost generation right now. On one hand, we're living through the most prosperous generation in human history. On the other hand, we're leaving people behind, and in particular we're leaving many children behind. All the world's troubles fall toughest upon children, and that's everything from the 25 million children that are refugees or internally displaced persons, the more than 250 million children who live in absolute poverty or are homeless, and this new rising generation of orphans that have been created by cycles of conflict, but now also AIDS, and this is something that we're particularly seeing in Africa. By the year 2010, it's estimated that at least 40 million kids will have lost either one or both parents to AIDS. So we're seeing generational disconnections. The second though, and this is the difference maker, is that now because of changes in warfare itself, in particular the technology of warfare, this pool of new potential candidates for war is now accessible. Basically, the technology of war shifted from being just about brute force, or technology that required years of training to become effective, to now we're in a period where, you speak to a ten year old in one of these groups, they learned how to use an AK-47 in under 30 minutes, and more importantly that same 10 year old has the same lethality, has the same power with that AK-47 as a civil war regiment had. So they may not be as effective as the U.S. soldier right now, but they certainly can cause chaos and cause this is one of these shifts. Finally, is the context that's taking place. WE live in an era of failed states. We live in an era of conflict entrepreneurs. WE live in the era of wars that are driven not by politics but by things as minute as a diamond, and so within this context, warlords look at children as a low cost and easy way to generate force and to reach out and get their own goals. And I think there's a good example of this, is that episode of Charles Taylor. Charles Taylor was a Liberian who was an escaped convict from Plymouth Prison in Massachusetts. He went back home and on Christmas Eve 1989, he gathered a small force around him of less than 100 guys and he invaded his home country, crossed the border and invaded it. No one noticed his invasion because it was so small. No one in the capital even knew they were being invaded, but over the next couple years, Charles Taylor's group abducted children and also persuaded children to join them. They targeted places like orphanages and then they also made fantastic promises to children, taking advantage of their gullibility, telling kids, "If you join our war, you'll get a Mercedes-Benz at the end of it, or you'll get a home computer at the end of it." So soon Taylor built out his force into thousands, and in a couple years of his invasion, he was soon at the head of what was known as Taylorland. Taylorland was this warlord enclave where he was pulling in a personal profit of 300 million dollars a year, primarily through the illegal timber trade, and I should add, timber trade with Western states, including many U.S. corporations. One estimate was at the time about 14 percent of the furniture, the wood used in furniture in the U.S., was coming through Taylorland. Within a couple years, Taylorland expanded to the point that he won the war and he became President of Liberia, so through the use of child soldiers, this escaped convict became a king. What we're seeing, therefore, is a global spread of child soldiers. The numbers are damning, there's no other way to put it. There's more than 300,000 juveniles fighting in wars right now. They're fighting in over 40 percent of the world's armed organizations, when you take the list of all the armies, terrorist groups, drug cartels, you name it, 40 percent of them use children under the age of 18. 20 percent of them use children under the age of 12. They fight in over 75 percent of the world's wars. Child soldiers have fought on every single continent but Antarctica. So we have a global practice, something that is not just a footnote of history, but now wars simply have children in them, it's almost an inevitable aspect of it right now. Now, sometimes people tend to focus on the differences in culture ands ay, well, aren't we really talking about kids in our context, but someone that's considered an adult elsewhere? And it's important to say here, no. Clearly, No. The first is international law says that anyone under the age of 18 is a juvenile, and in fact, it's the most widely signed international law. Over 190 different countries have signed onto that. 18 is also the age in which all the different nations of the world decide to award different political rights, for example, free education or free health care, you name it. We treat our prisoners different whether they're under or over 18. One of the important things to note is that it's also been true throughout history. For example going back to ancient Greece, to even tribes like the Zulu, had a cutoff period that ranged between 18 and 20 before someone was allowed to serve as a warrior. The use of someone under that age is new, and more importantly, we're not just talking about 17 1/2 year olds. Two separate surveys found the average ages to be between 12 and 13. The youngest recorded was a five year old in Uganda. The youngest recorded terrorist was a 7 year old in Colombia, so we're talking about juveniles that no one would deny is a child, and no one would deny should not be in warfare. It's also important to note that this is not just something that's taking place in Africa, and not just taking place in areas that we don't care about. Every single site the U.S. forces have deployed to since 9/11, we've not only come in contact with child soldiers, we've fought child soldiers. Little discussed is the fact that the very first U.S. combat casualty in the war on terrorism was a Green Beret sergeant that was killed by a 14-year-old sniper in Afghanistan. More recently, U.S. forces in Afghanistan picked up a twelve-year-old who'd been part of an ambush on U.S. forces there. In Iraq, it's far more significant than the non-coverage that it's gotten so far. During the invasion U.S. forces fought child soldiers in 3 different cities, however during the insurgency it's truly grown, and perhaps the best indicator of that was the very same week that President Bush made his mission accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier, in the city of Mosul, U.S. Marines came under fire from an Iraqi 12 year old who was using an AK-47 on them, and these incidents have proliferated. All three broad insurgent categories in Iraq have used child soldiers and use them today. You have the post-Sadaam Baathist groups that have particularly tapped into an organization known as Ashpal(sp?)-Saddam, or Saddam's Lion Cubs, which was a training program during the regime years that trained young boys between the ages of 10 to 15 in the use of small arms and political indoctrination, but also in the radical Shi'a sectors, we've seen the use of child soldiers, particularly, as well. For example in fighting in Najaf several months ago, the Nati (sp) Army that was organized by Mochtet(sp?) Ar-Sadr not only used child soldiers, but their spokesperson trumpeted their use of them, proudly proclaimed their use of them and said that this was evidence that the fact that they were a popular army, that they had not only old men out there fighting for them but they also had 12 year olds fighting for them. Finally it's also particularly happening in what's known as the Sunni Triangle, and in fighting in Fallujah just a couple months ago the block to block fighting there, the U.S. Marines discussed the unique challenges of fighting against "children armed with assault rifles". So this is something that we have to deal with back home because our soldiers in the field have to deal with it. I should add that there's also a terror side to this as well. Al-Qaeda training videos have shown the training of young boys, at Guantanamo Bay we hold six under-16 year olds in a separate complex from the main campus known as Camp X-Ray, but there's a separate complex known as Camp Iguana, and we've also seen the use of child soldiers in other aspects of terrorism, for example, in Israel-Palestine since 2000, more than 30 children have been used as suicide bombers. Now the implications of this are obviously not good, and there's really four things that come together here. The first is that this new doctrine, this new way of using children in war is not only more tragic but it means that wars are easier to start. It changes the barriers to entry in conflict, and so we're finding organizations that would otherwise wither on the vine able to recruit and pull in children, and this is true in tons of, for example, the Charles Taylor example, but also we're seeing state armies throwing out children on the front lines when they're losing to give their men breathing space, to recruit, that was the case in the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The second thing is it means that wars are harder to end, and so they repeat over and over again, just when you think you have an organization defeated, if a small core of it escapes, the adults escape, then they can regroup in the jungle, recruit, and come back, and so for example in Sierra Leone, the rebel force there was known as the RUF, the Revolutionary United Front, which many people have heard about because of it's particularly cruel tactic of cutting off the hands of civilians in its area. Their group was absolutely trounced twice, the first time by a private military company, and the second time by a peacekeeping force. In both instances, its core adult leaders escaped and regenerated it from a couple hundred back to 10,000. The third thing to worry about is that now we're seeing wars without ideology. We're seeing wars where the followers, the line soldiers, don't have the same intent as the leaders, and in fact, you're seeing wars that are driven by personal profit, or we're seeing wars that don't make any sense at all, and probably the worst example of this is in Northern Uganda. There's an organization known as the Lords Resistance Army, and it's led by a fellow named Joseph Coney. Joseph Coney thinks he's the reincarnation of the Christian Holy Spirit. He has about 200 adult followers, and under his interpretation of Christianity, sex slaves are allowed, but riding bicycles are not. He's taken these two hundred adult followers and through the years abducted more than 14,000 children and fought a 10-year civil war that's left over a half million people homeless and killed between 25-to 100,000 people. So what we're talking about is a cult leader that should have been the equivalent of a David Koresh, instead is a viable conflict actor, someone who has operated in a civil war, caused civil war that goes on today. The final thing is that these wars are now more tragic, and not just in terms of the fact that children are involved, but the fact that the casualties in these wars, and the atrocities in these wars are much higher than in other wars. One of the disturbing statistics that comes out oft his, for example, is that in Sierra Leone, more than 50, actually the exact number was 53 percent of the women that came into contact with the rebel force that used child soldiers, 53 percent of them experienced rape or some form of sexual abuse. Now not even the Bosnian-Serb rape camps achieved that level of efficiency, that dark level of efficiency. And so you can obviously see the consequences for a society when this is happening, but then the other thing to remember is that children are not just perpetrators of violence, but at the same time they're victims of violence, and so beyond just the numbers, what you're seeing is in effect a destruction of childhood itself. You're taking someone in the period where their identity is being formed, where they're developing their own codes of morality and putting them into an environment where it turns that on its head, where killing is not only sanctioned, in fact, it's enforced. And so that obviously causes long- term effects. The best parallel is that these children are suffering from the worst form, or the political form of child abuse, much like other forms of child abuse, it will affect them for the rest of their lives, and more importantly affect the rest of their society as well. And if they don't get the support they need, we see a conflict merry-go-round; we see cycles of violence happening over and over again, like we've seen in West Africa, for example. So, what do we do? How do we deal with this? Well, the take that I have on it is that so far we haven't been all that effective. For all the good intent in dealing with this issue over the last decade, it's only grown. It's only gotten worse, and that's because we haven't dealt with the underlying causes, and we haven't dealt with the way that it really works out, and what I think we need to do is understand it as a process and deal with it at each stage of the process. So the first is we need to develop a system of prevention and deterrence, and what we've done so far is taken the strategy of trying to shame the shameless. Basically, we've tried to reach out to conflict group leaders and tell them, "Did you know that using children is wrong?" Well, they know it's wrong, and they try and hide it, and in fact, the best example is the way they try and deal with not just hiding it currently, but the way that history looks at it, for example, in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers there, the cemeteries don't have the birth date of the children that are killed, because they know history will look back on them and judge them fort his, so we can't try and just shame these groups into doing it. First we have to deal with the underlying causes, so for example, the things that are causing global poverty, the spread of AIDS that's leading to this generation of orphans. The spread of light weapons around the world, the proliferation, we have to do something about these and be more effective, and unfortunately in many cases the U.S. has been in many cases on the wrong side of this as an example, when we tried to have an international treaty to prevent the spread of light weapons, the illegal spread of light weapons to warlord groups, the U.S. and in this instance our allies of communist China and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, tried to block it. I think we know by the fact that if those groups were allies, we were on the wrong side. Secondly, though, we need to shift the advantages and disadvantages of this program. Basically, conflict group leaders have only seen the good side of it to them, they've only seen that this is a way of them to gain power. We have to start exacting some cost from it, we have to go out there and prosecute these leaders, including indicting them even when we don't have them to let them know that we're watching and ultimately they will be prosecuted, butt here's some situation where we might not be able to get our hands on these leaders themselves, so we have to go after their enablers, the people that support them ant put them in a position for them to profit from this misuse, and that includes companies that are doing so, and I think the best model here is the way we dealt with the apartheid regime. We didn't just go after apartheid in South Africa in terms of the government. We went after the companies that supported it. Secondly, we have to deal with the consequences within war itself. We can't continue to look at war as something in the way that we wish it was, we have to face up to what the reality is, and we're not doing that for our troops right now. They're not getting the type of equipment, the type of training, and the type of intelligence support that they deserve, and I'll give you two examples of that, the first was last year, U.S. Marines were ready to go into Liberia. I got an e-mail from one of them, an officer onboard one of the ships offshore, and he said, "We've heard, we've seen on the news, that there's a lot of child soldiers in Liberia. Can you tell us something about them?" And I emailed him back and said, "It's not just a lot, 60 percent of the soldiers on the ground are children, in fact, the one that I covered there is from Liberia. So if 60 percent of the soldiers had blue skin it would be important to prepare for them." And he replied that they'd gotten nothing from D.C. on what to do, where they were coming from, et cetera... So I sent him a copy of the book, that's obviously not the way they're supposed to work, now. Another example in terms of not giving them the equipment they need, U.S. soldiers in Iraq have talked about the dilemmas about being fired upon by child soldiers and not having any other options except for them to call out to them to stop, and if that doesn't work, to shoot to kill, and what they would like is to have non-lethal weapons, to give them an added tool in their kit, doesn't mean take away their rifles but gives them a choice of something to use. Unfortunately, the armchair generals back in D.C. haven't chosen to support them in this way, and out of the entire U.S. military we only have 60 non-lethal weapons sets. We sent 6 to Iraq. That's not the kind of support that our troops deserve. Finally, we have to deal with the consequences of this. We have to help turn child soldiers back into children. And this really comes down to resourcing. We're not giving the kind of aid and support to this issue, and we're not paying enough attention to this issue to end it, and the result is that we're seeing conflict cycles, and you see this and when you visit the camps, it's kids sleeping 20 to a room, but also kids sleeping in the hallways, and the peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone, where you had something like 15,000 child soldiers, the U.N. sent one child psychologist for the U.S. in Afghanistan, where we've not only been fighting child soldiers but capturing child soldiers, there is an estimated 8,000 child soldiers that were fighting for the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. At the end of that war it took us two years before we even thought about funding a rehabilitation program, so two years in which we allowed warlords to tap into those 8,000 kids. That's not the way it's supposed to be, and again, we don't have to act just on moral values alone, which should be enough, but unfortunately it hasn't been, but also, these are very real security issues. So, I'm going to end here, and really, thank you for coming out on this rainy evening to hear about a pretty dark topic, but obviously I think it's a topic that is compelling, and it's something we have to deal with, and the take away for me is that throughout human history, there's been many practices in warfare that we look back on and can't even understand how they were used, they were so evil. For example, it was once considered totally acceptable for the prisoners that you capture to become your personal slave, or just 100 years ago, it was considered an obligation for states to go out and invade other nations to lift them up, it was white man's burden to carry out this kind of imperialism. Now, these practices have gone by the wayside of history, so hopefully one day we'll look back at this period as a blip on history, a period when the morality and the codes of warfare broke down, but we restored them. But that won't happen until we match the will of those who recruit children to do their evil deeds with our own will to do good. Thank you.