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Obama again sends U.S. tax dollars to countries with child soldiers

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 11:28 EDT
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For the second year in a row, the Obama administration has waived financial penalties for countries that enslave children and turn them into soldiers, ensuring that tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars will continue to be used by those who support the brutish practice.

In a Tuesday meeting described by Foreign Policy magazine, White House officials explained that the waivers for the Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2008 were handed out again this year because many of the offending countries did not have enough time to comply with its requirements. Others, they said, were exempt from the law because they were incorporated just recently.

The law was intended to prevent any military aid from going to support the use of child soldiers, yet in South Sudan, over $100 million in military aid will go to support the new nation’s military, which has a long history of conscripting children.

In Yemen, as well, another $35 million will be given to the country’s military, ostensibly to foster continued support of America’s terror war — yet, Foreign Policy notes that the U.S. State Department actually admitted that they don’t know for sure who really controls Yemen’s fighters.

Other countries exempted from the laws include Chad, which the administration said has taken dramatic steps toward eliminating the practice, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which was given a partial waiver that will still allow their soldiers to be trained by the U.S. military — despite the continued presence of child soldiers.

The Child Soldiers Protection Act was a former cause célèbre for Vice President Joe Biden, in his prior role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was part of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

The White House and State Department maintain that they are working with these nations to ensure the practice of enslaving children into the military will eventually cease.

While there is no hard number on how many children are forced to be soldiers, activist group Human Rights Watch claims that children have been used in at least 21 conflict zones all over the world since 2001.

Read the White House waiver memo (PDF), courtesy of Foreign Policy.

Photo: The U.S. Army on Flickr.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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