In several of President Obama’s speeches on Syria, he emphasized the wellbeing of Syrian children.  In his address on Tuesday night, he pleaded specifically with Progressives (contrary to popular belief, conservatives are not the only ones who oppose war with Syria): “I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor.”  In other words, “if nothing else, do it for the sake of the children.”

As emotionally appealing as the president’s speech was, his objective in Syria has absolutely nothing to do with the sake of the children.  It was nothing more than a strategic political ploy.

In October of 2011, President Obama bypassed Congress and signed a Presidential memorandum which waived the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, a bill introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).  It was signed into law by former President George Bush in 2008.  The law penalized countries that recruited children in war and combat, a practice common in African and Middle Eastern countries.  In addition to forbidding military assistance and financial aid of any kind to countries who enlist child soldiers, the law gave the United States the authority to “prosecute, deport or deny entry to individuals who have knowingly recruited children as soldiers.”  The sanctions were first waived in 2010, which, ironically, was the first year the law was to go into effect.

Now, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the Congo was granted a partial waiver), four of six countries on the State Department’s list of countries that recruit child soldiers, are now being advocated for by the United States courtesy of our tax dollars.  President Obama signed these waivers not once, not twice, but three times.

In the memo, President Obama states,

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.

President Obama’s actions blatantly contradict the very act he rightfully labeled “modern slavery” in a thunderous speech he gave at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in 2012: “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.”  The president condemns child slavery while funding it.  A red line was drawn when the bill was introduced by two senators and signed into law by then-President Bush.  President Obama took it upon himself to undo the red line which had already been set in place by enabling the very countries we placed sanctions upon.

Waging war with a country already engaged in a civil war under the guise of concern of innocent women and children is not reconcilable given President Obama’s record.  In addition, the president’s claim that “the world set a red line” is merely histrionics, completely false and a terrible effort to get his way.

President Obama made the claim that “the world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent, and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war.”  Surely, if 98% of the world were in sync with the president’s call to action against Syria, he would not be feeling nearly as much domestic and international solitude as he is now.


Atarah Golden | Cecil College | @AtarahGolden