KONY 2012: nearly ninety million YouTube hits and counting.

Rarely has something been injected so rapidly into the public consciousness of America. 

The beautiful cinematography and horrifying images have created an unprecedented reaction, reverberating all the way to Capitol Hill, where competing House and Senate resolutions were introduced condemning Joseph Kony, leader of the child-soldier-Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and calling for his delivery to the International Criminal Court.

There is a shiny new bandwagon for politicians to stand on while getting their pictures taken–more than 75 so far, including all the usual camera-loving suspects–and the line is growing.  

Unfortunately, Kony is not alone, and the United States already has some recent experience concerning child soldier proliferation.  

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, there are currently some 300,000 children serving in over thirty conflicts around the world, and 40 percent of the world’s armed military organizations have child soldiers currently serving in their ranks. To put that number in perspective, it is about equal to the entire US Navy.

Why use children as soldiers?  They are more easily intimidated and manipulated.  Because they do not understand mortality, they are ferocious on the battlefield, made more so by the application of drugs and brainwashing.  Brainwashing often includes being forced to murder, mutilate and torture and the subjects of these forced atrocities are often the families and friends of these children. Yes–the first victims of these children are often those closest to them, cutting the ties to their former lives and morality forever. They are also a strong tool against western forces, whose troops are reticent to engage child soldiers, creating hesitation and confusion on the battlefield.

This hits us as Americans particularly hard–because if there is one thing we all agree on it is the sanctity of children and their innocence, and that protecting them from the horrors of the world is a national duty. 

For many Americans, hunger and slave labor are at the fore when we think of child suffering. We have programs, both here and abroad, to feed hungry or starving children; we put pressure on countries to amend child labor laws; and we eschew American corporations who outsource labor to countries that allow child labor.  

President Obama has pledged that America will work with partners worldwide to create policy to stop child hunger and slavery anywhere it exists. And rightly so…

(to be continued in Part II)


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