October 17, 2013
Remember “Kony 2012?”
Some trends are more memorable than others, but for many people, the power of social media and the role of celebrities made the anti-child soldier campaign and 30-minute YouTube video, detailing his brutal paramilitary campaign, instantly famous.
Today’s youth — with their world-famous short attention spans — have long forgotten “Kony 2012.”
Alas, the plight of child soldiers is still very real.
The catch? This time it’s President Barack Obama who’s promoting the use of child soldiers.
Last week, Hayes Brown of the blog ThinkProgress, reported that the White House had issued waivers to Chad, Somalia and Yemen, allowing them to receive military aid from the U.S. even though those three countries are known to use child soldiers in their national armed forces.
Although the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 prevents this in most cases, it also gives the president the authority to issue waivers for a specific country when he deems it to be in the “national interest.”
This is unconscionable. Especially coming from a president who proclaimed his support for the Invisible Children organization and the “Kony 2012” campaign.
Unlike the government shutdown, apologists for Obama cannot blame the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for this. The decision came from Obama and Obama alone.
I don’t expect much from the president. In the more than four years he has been in office, he has presided over the expansion of illegal drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, kept Guantanamo Bay open and refused to restore habeas corpus.
And last year, he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, giving him the power to indefinitely detain anyone, even an American citizen, without a warrant.
Again, he did so without making a statement. Only a few blogs and news outlets ever picked up the story. It has been all but ignored.
Despite all of this, I still thought that he would never think of funding armies that use child soldiers.
Clearly, I thought too highly of him.
The physical and emotional trauma that child soldiers go through is well documented, and notable organizations like Amnesty International have raised plenty of awareness about the plight of child soldiers. Why aren’t we listening to them?
Amnesty International recently condemned the president’s decision, and quoted him referring to those who recruit child soldiers as “evil.”
Does this make the president evil? Does it make him a sponsor of evil? By the president’s own admission, the answer is yes.
The world needs to make up its mind about how the “leader of the free world” is handling one of the most important human rights issues of our time.
This decision reflects badly not only on the president but on his staff. Samantha Power, Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, made a name for herself as a human rights activist criticizing the United States’ failure to prevent genocide. Power cannot be taken seriously while she is silent on her president’s sponsorship of child soldiers.
Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a constitutional law professor who ran on a platform of hope and change. It is not only hypocritical but deeply upsetting that he decided to support the use of child soldiers, without any democratic debate or major announcement.
The “Kony 2012” video has almost 100 million views on YouTube. Imagine what could happen if just a fraction of those people stood up to Obama and told him not to look the other way when it comes to child soldiers.
After all, only 66 million voted him back into office.
Moshe Wander is an undeclared freshman.