CHILDREN IN WAR

By William Markiewicz

gun with child stick figure An article from the Toronto Sun was recently faxed to me. It is titled: "Too young to read; old enough to die (Murderers who deliberately target children are not freedom fighters}" by J. Bushinsky. The text was practically illegible but the title inspired me to ponder about the children who fight and those who are sucked into the turmoil, targeted or not.

Victor Hugo wrote about Gavroche who died on the Paris barricades. The Dutch immortalized the story of a boy who died of cold while stopping a leaking dike with his finger. War is war, whether against humans or the elements. I don't remember if I reported in Vagabond about a young girl, perhaps 13 years old, in girl-scout uniform, who shot at the Germans during the Warsaw uprising. The shrapnel tore one arm away, and she continued to shoot WITH ONE HAND until death came. To say that parents send their children to death is slander. For instance, those who fought as children in the Warsaw Uprising told me that they escaped the vigilance of their parents.

One Uzbek (then anti-Taliban) warlord, 14 years old and married already (!!!) told Western journalists that he was hereditary chief, though accepting advice from his more experienced uncles. He said that children much younger than he participate in battles. In his view, children are valuable warriors, smart, courageous, and faster than the adults. So, whether we like it or not, child fighters were, are, and probably will continue to exist.

Now, regarding the children, passive victims of war: we know the barbarian stories of (probably drunk) soldiers enclosing babies in a bag with a cat to be thrown in the river. We know of impaled babies. But most of the victim children in war are coincidental. Certain child casualties are more avoidable than others; let's take as an example the settlers' children. The settlers are not civilians but paramilitaries conquering new Palestinian grounds in defiance of the Oslo accord for which Begin got the Nobel Peace Prize. This colonization is an act of war, and each house is a battlefield. To bring children or to raise families in such circumstances is a flagrant act of parental irresponsibility.

There are situations where children have no choice because they are drafted into the army alongside adults, as in some places in Africa. The situation discussed up to now concerns exclusively child volunteers. We can't overlook the fact that practically all situations where child volunteers occur are outside the regular army's framework. The Nazis called 'bandits' those insurgents, guerrillas, partisans, resistants ... Today they are called 'terrorists.' So, the child warriors are mostly "terrorists. "For me, the ad hoc fighting groups are freedom fighters when defending themselves and their society and they are terrorists when they are a tool of aggression. Those who attack civilians are always terrorists. We can dismiss the difference between irregulars and the regular pilots who pound civilians from a safe distance.

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