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Terrorists or Victims?


Double standards when it comes to children are pretty appalling—especially when it comes to “our” kids vs. “their” kids, but here in America they aren’t limited to just right-wingers.

Take reaction to the US Supreme Court’s latest ruling that you cannot execute rapists—even those who rape children—on the theory that only killing someone justifies execution.

Politicians who make their careers by promoting state sponsored murder have been quick to condemn this latest “liberal outrage” by calling for more laws that would make execution the punishment for raping a child (admittedly a monstrous crime).

“Anybody in the country who cares about children should be outraged that we have a Supreme Court that would issue a decision like this,” says Republican Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who said the court’s 5-4 decision makes America “a less safe place to grow up.”

Even Barack Obama has weighed in, along with John McCain, in condemning the court’s decision, saying that states should be free to pass death statutes for child rape.

Texas Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, supporting death for “repeat child molesters, says, “Our top priority remains protecting our most precious resource — our children.” (Huh? I thought in Texas it was oil.)

Then there’s the FBI’s latest sweeping busts of child prostitution rings, which rescued 21 juveniles from sex-selling rings. In announcing the arrests of some 300 people, FBI Director Robert Mueller said, “Our top priority in these cases has always been to identify children victims and move swiftly to remove them from these dangerous environments.”

“These kids are victims,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “They lack the ability to walk away. This is the 21st-century slavery.”

The question is, where are Mueller and Allen and these allegedly concerned politicians when it comes to children who are forced or lured into fighting against the US, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq? Where are they when those children are captured by US military forces and incarcerated with adult captives in hell-holes like Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, or Guantanamo, where there was a special children’s section called Camp Iguana? I certainly haven’t heard a word from either Obama or that famous POW McCain in defense of America’s child war prisoners.

Take Omar Khadr, shot and then captured and tortured by US forces at the tender age of 15 in 2002 in Afghanistan and held for six years in Guantanamo. Last week, I reported on his story and on plans to try him by military tribunal as a terrorist because he had dared, allegedly, to toss a grenade at US Special Forces troops who had called in an air strike on him and several adult fighters, killing one US soldier (at least one witness to the incident, a US soldier, says it was not Khadr who three the grenade). Nobody’s saying that Khadr was a victim. Nobody’s saying that he “lacked the ability to walk away” from the Taliban forces that his father and older brothers had him join at the age of 14 a year before. Nobody’s saying he should be “identified” and “removed from these dangerous environments.”

Nobody in government or in child protection organizations is even investigating to see if Khadr, as a 15-year-old captive, was tortured!  Indeed, the US has been blocking both Khadr’s military defense attorney and his Canadian lawyer (Khadr is a Canadian citizen) from getting military records giving the details of his capture and subsequent treatment.

Canadian journalist Chris Cook reports that the Canadian government actually argued in Canadian court against releasing the US reports in its possession on the case might “upset relations” between Canadian and the United States. (The Canadian Supreme Court in May rejected that pathetically subservient claim by a 9-0 vote, ordering full disclosure.)

The thing is, Khadr is just one of at least 2500 children who have been captured and held as “enemy combatants” by the US in the Bush/Cheney so-called “War” on Terror.

Like child prostitutes, these captives, if they were even actually involved in operations against the US (who would know, since they’ve never been given hearings in court, and since in many cases the evidence, such as it is, against them is the result of torture, either of the children themselves, or of others), are at worst child soldiers, who cannot be held responsible for their actions. Indeed, under the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention, as amended by a protocol signed by the US in 2002, any of them who, at the time of their capture, were under 18, as was Khadr, are to be considered not POWs or “enemy combatants,” but rather victims, who need care and treatment.

Aside from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has filed an article of impeachment against President Bush, charging him with a war crime for holding these children, and for authorizing rules of engagement that have encouraged the killing of children as young as 14, who are “presumed” to be combatants, and for the four other members of the House who have co-signed his impeachment bill (Rep. Robert Wexler, D-FL, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-CA, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, and Rep. Sam Farr, D-CA), no members of Congress have called for the protection of children  captured or held by US military forces.

Their, and the American public’s “concern” for the welfare of children is narrowly limited to those who are lured or forced into prostitution. That’s it.

Of course, we should not be surprised at this double standard. Most of these same politicians are also quick to support laws that take young children from poor (and usually minority) urban backgrounds who commit violent crimes and have them tried, and punished, as adults. Again, these children are as much victims as the kids who become child prostitutes, but there’s no love lost on them by these “child welfare” charlatans.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now in paperback edition). His work is available at






Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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