There are two scandals here. The first is that President Obama has reversed a Bush-era ban on military aid to countries that use child soldiers, so now your tax dollars can now be used to pay for guns for enslaved children. The second is that the major news outlets have been silent about it.
In a memo issued by the president, he says:
“Pursuant to section 404 of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) (title IV, Public Law 110-457), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.
You are authorized and directed to submit this determination to the Congress, along with the accompanying Memorandum of Justification, and to publish the determination in the Federal Register.”
In English, this means that South Sudan, Yemen, and Libya get a free pass, and the Congo gets… half of a free pass. They don’t have to play by the rules of the international community (rule number one is “respect basic human rights”) in order to reap the benefits (millions of dollars in aid). Ethics are the same no matter how poor a country is; what’s wrong in the First World does not become magically moral in the Third. These “free passes” are questionable for that reason.
It is concerning that a president can send a memo saying “ignore this part of the law,” and hardly anyone questions him. This law “was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress unanimously.” When it seems like Congress can’t agree on anything, they agree on this law. Perhaps we should all be concerned with how that law is used or misused.
Also confusing is that this memo was issued on the very same week that the President issued an executive order to fight human trafficking. The order looks like a step in the right direction. Still, the hypocrisy is hard to ignore. If President Obama was serious about fighting human trafficking, he would stop directly funding it. As fellow TCC contributor Bryana Johnson notes: “this is in fact the third year straight that President Obama has granted waivers to countries using child soldiers.” The U.S. gives over $200 million in aid every year to the DRC alone. We give Yemen around $20 million annually. And while those numbers may seem small, in government spending terms, they’re gigantic in places where people live on just a few dollars a day. And can we really be certain that their governments make stipulations on who receives the aid and for what purpose?
Of the four countries mentioned in the President’s memo, one should get special attention. Libya -yes, the same Libya in which our consulate was torched and our Ambassador murdered- now is a lucky recipient of American weapons and money. What a terrible disrespect to the memory of the four American diplomats killed there just a few weeks ago. Why is this not on every major news station? A Nobel peace prize winner allowing weapons from our country to be placed in the hands of children; the American people need to see that this is a scandal.
I am not saying that America should abandon the very people who need her freedom and prosperity the most. I don’t know what the solution to the child soldier crisis is. Maybe we could send aid in the form of food or medical supplies instead of military aid. I do know that selling or giving weapons to people who use child soldiers is a step in the wrong direction.
This is the year of Kony 2012, when we are all supposed to join together to stop human trafficking. This is also the year that one of our ambassadors was killed by militants, and our embassies around the world saw chaos outside their front doors. This is the year our president said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.” What about these other kids, Mr. President, walking around with guns because you won’t stand up to foreign governments? Every human life matters, even the ones we don’t see on television.