Monday, August 22, 2005

"'Tis certain there's not a boy left alive"

No lyric that, but a line from Shakespeare's Henry V about the killing of the luggage boys at Agincourt. We are to be horrified that children would be targetted and killed by the enemy. But children have been a part of war from the beginning of time. Children have even decided to go to war for themselves. The Children's Crusades of the 13th century ended in the disappearance or death of thousands of children, although it is unlikely that any of them ever saw a battlefield.

But this morning, on KPFA a guest was talking about the growing number of children that are being recruited, or forced, to fight in this world's wars. Of particular concern are the fact that our troops are facing children, often snipers of 12 or 14, in Iraq.

I love history and so the idea of children on the battlefield did not shock me. But I suddenly had a flash of what it must be like to be a newly-made officer (maybe out of West Point)...21...who realizes that the sniper that has pinned his/her soldiers is the age of their youngest sibling.

And if you don't think this is serious...the guest pointed out that a 14 year old can be taught to use an AK-47 in a couple of days (if that), and suddenly has at his disposal, the firepower equal to that of an entire Civil War regiment.

This has sat in my mind all day. I'm not entirely a pacifist (which may come as a suprise to some of you)...I actually do believe that there is a point at which violence may become necessary for your own protection (I'm just going to try to avoid such situations as much as possible), but how do you deal with inflicting violence against an "enemy" that is a child?

Then I remember that my great-uncle was a child in the navy...He lied to the recruitment office and enrolled at 16.

I don't have any coherent answers or even good wrap-ups...I just have horror.

10 comments:

Moose said...

Sometimes it's sick what people do in the name of God, Country, or pride.

Aravis said...

No easy answers from me either. It's not shocking, just terribly, terribly sad that we all find ourselves in this place.

LavaLady said...

wow wow wow

I try not to think about this kind of stuff most of the time, because when I let it into my heart and mind it makes me crazy. But, wow. I always thought of myself as a pacifist because I couldn't handle the idea of violence, but now, like you, I think there are certain situations in which I could act violently.

For that reason I have empathy for people who fight back, although I don't think I would be violent in most circumstances, I imagine myself in the place of a mother who has lost her family to an occupying army and I wonder what I would do - that is, if the grief didn't eat me alive.

I hate this, warfare of any kind. I hate that we (Americans) are so removed from the results of "our" policy, our bombs.

One thing is certain. I did not bear my children to be fodder for a war machine, and I will do whatever it takes to protect them.

the urban fox said...

I've heard that so many times (about someone lying to the recruitment office & enlisting underage)... I really can't see any member of our generation or the ones after us lying to get INTO service. Patriotism and war had a different hold on popular consciousness back then, I suppose.

Mark said...

there's children in guatanemo bay, apparently.

spinsterwitch said...

Mark...yep, and in Abu Ghraib and several of the other prisons as well.

AJ said...

I would be a dead duck because there is NO WAY I could shoot a child I don't care WHAT the circumstances.

Obviously that's the idea.

sunshine said...

To answer your ?.....29

Don't ask how much I weigh. HEHE

Hyde said...

I'm with AJ. It's all too sad. But as a student (and teacher) of history, you come to realize that people have been doing this to each other for as long as we have records and it will probably continue long after we're all gone. Depressing...

Fred said...

Ditto what Hyde said. Every generation says they'll learn from the previous mistakes, but history shows us otherwise.