Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The USA has a long history of child soldiers.

The Washington Post today has an article about children serving in the Civil War, including the lad pictured above who is believed to have enlisted at age 9. These children apparently played an important role on the battlefield, serving as drummer boys who like buglers to provide communication between officers and their troops and serving as stretcher bearers. One wonders how many were killed in battle, how many were crippled for life, how many were wounded and how many suffered from what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world which has not ratified the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have been told that a major reason for failure to ratify is that the military wants to continue recruiting 17 year olds, and argues that it would be difficult to continue to have an all volunteer army if it was unable to recruit kids as they leave high school. (Apparently we do not send kids we know are less than 18 into combat.)

Given the damage that is showing up in our adult soldiers, sending boys of 18 into battle doesn't seem like a good idea. And indeed, a draft that ensured that all our families would share the cost of war more equally might be a good thing for the country.

We should ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Failing to do so indicates to the rest of the world that we are not serious about protecting human rights.

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