Babes in Warland: Photographs of Africa’s child soldiers
President Barack Obama has decided to waive almost all the legally mandated penalties for countries that use child soldiers and provide those countries U.S. military assistance, just like he did last year.
The White House is expected to soon announce its decision to issue a series of waivers for the Child Soldiers Protection Act, a 2008 law that is meant to stop the United States from giving military aid to countries that recruit soldiers under the age of 15 and use them to fight wars. The administration has laid out a range of justifications for waiving penalties on Yemen, South Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all of which amount to a gutting of the law for the second year in a row.
Last year, the White House didn’t even tell Congress or the NGO community when it decided to do away with the Child Soldiers Prevention Act penalties. Most had to read about it first on The Cable. Aid workers, human rights activists, and even congressional offices were shocked that the administration had gutted the law without consulting them.
The White House argued at the time that because the law was new, the offending countries didn’t have time to comply. As part of their damage control effort, they put National Security Council Senior Director Samantha Power on a private conference call with NGO workers (that we eavesdropped on) to explain that these waivers would only be for one year — but that in the second year, the administration was going to enforce the law in full.
“Our judgment was to brand them, name them, shame them, and then try to leverage assistance in a fashion to make this work,” Power said at the time. “Our judgment is we’ll work from inside the tent.”
Apparently that plan was scuttled, because the administration has decided to waive almost all the penalties again, despite the fact that little progress has been made in any of the offender countries.