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Hillary Clinton: Love, Kindness and Child Soldiers

(Photo: US Embassy Jakarta)

(Photo: US Embassy Jakarta)

One of the darkest stains on President Barack Obama’s record is his active support for enslaved child soldiers in the name of the “national interest,” an abomination which blackens not only the president’s legacy but also that of Hillary Clinton.

As she battles toward the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton has been preaching “love and kindness” to voters who view her as the humane alternative to the walking human rights violations named Trump and Cruz. “I’m going to keep saying it,” she said again during her Super Tuesday victory speech, “I believe what we need in America today is more love and kindness.”

However, too many of Clinton’s actions have demonstrated a glaring absence of love and kindness. First among these is her support for child soldiers. Clinton’s record abroad is quite another. As Obama’s former secretary of state, she signed off on presidential policies that used American taxpayer dollars to provide training and military hardware to armies in which enslaved children are forced to kill, rape, torture, plunder and die, and it seems as if none of the self-proclaimed human rights advocates who support her care. Or maybe they just don’t know. For those who don’t know, here’s a little background info:

In his last year in office, President George W. Bush signed into law the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA), which prohibits US military aid to nations whose armies include child soldiers among their ranks. CSPA contains a “national interest” waiver clause allowing the president to ignore the military aid ban if it is determined that granting such assistance to nations which violate the law serves the national interest.

In 2010, Obama issued a presidential determination granting CSPA waivers to Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and Yemen. The president sent his memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguing that it was “in the national interest” in the war against terrorism to continue providing training and equipment to these countries’ armed forces even though they use child soldiers. He assured that his action was a one-off. Clinton implemented the waivers without any public objection.

The following year, Obama shocked human rights advocates around the world when he once again granted sanctions waivers to the same four countries. There was less surprise in 2012 when Obama granted, and Clinton implemented, waivers for South Sudan, Libya, Yemen and, partially, DRC. This, shortly after Obama delivered a rousing speech to the Clinton Global Initiative—an address attended by Hillary Clinton—in which he condemned the use of child soldiers, saying, “when a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed, that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”

Unless, of course, it is determined that such barbarism is in the “national interest.”

In 2013, Obama granted waivers to Chad, South Sudan, Yemen and, partially, DRC and Somalia. In Chad, US-backed government forces were known to forcibly conscript children as young as 8 years old as recently as 2007. In South Sudan, the United Nations found that more than 9,000 child soldiers, many of them not even teenagers yet, were fighting on both sides of a brutal civil war. In DRC, where a decades-long conflict has claimed millions of lives, widespread child rape is a weapon of war used to terrorize targeted populations into submission. US-backed Congolese armed forces routinely kidnap girls as sex slaves.

By 2014, no one was surprised when Obama again granted CSPA waivers to five countries using child soldiers—Rwanda, Somalia, Yemen, DRC (partial) and Central African Republic (partial). He did so again last year, adding Nigeria and South Sudan to the list of exempted nations. All told, Obama has granted “national interest” waivers to authorize around $1 billion in military aid, including training and arms sales, to countries where child soldiers are exploited.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who authored CSPA and serves vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, has called Obama’s repeated decision to provide taxpayer-funded military aid to countries whose armies enslave children as soldiers “an assault on human dignity.”

“Children belong on playgrounds, not battlegrounds,” asserted Fortenberry. “It is unconscionable that the United States of America continues to facilitate the militarization of children, whose innocence is stripped as they are forced to fight and kill—and are subjected to the real likelihood that they will be killed themselves.”

However, Obama has repeatedly calculated that America’s “national interest” trumps the lives of children forced to kill and die, to rape and be raped and to endure and commit other horrific crimes that no adult, let alone child, should ever have to face. Hillary Clinton, who served as Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, signed off on the president’s first three rounds of CSPA waivers without objection, just as she supported the Bush-Obama war against terrorism—including the disastrous Iraq invasion—that has claimed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Yet Clinton’s support for child soldiers hasn’t even been mentioned in any of the debates, town hall meetings or even by her Republican rivals. Shining light on this most despicable of practices simply does not serve the “national interest,” it seems.

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This article was also published on Daily Kos.

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