They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers

eBook - 2010
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"The ultimate focus of the rest of my life is to eradicate the use of child soldiers and to eliminate even the thought of the use of children as instruments of war." --Roméo Dallaire

In conflicts around the world, there is an increasingly popular weapon system that requires negligible technology, is simple to sustain, has unlimited versatility and incredible capacity for both loyalty and barbarism. In fact, there is no more complete end-to-end weapon system in the inventory of war-machines. What are these cheap, renewable, plentiful, sophisticated and expendable weapons? Children.

Roméo Dallaire was first confronted with child soldiers in unnamed villages on the tops of the thousand hills of Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The dilemma of the adult soldier who faced them is beautifully expressed in his book's title: when children are shooting at you, they are soldiers, but as soon as they are wounded or killed they are children once again.

Believing that not one of us should tolerate a child being used in this fashion, Dallaire has made it his mission to end the use of child soldiers. In this book, he provides an intellectually daring and enlightening introduction to the child soldier phenomenon, as well as inspiring and concrete solutions to eradicate it.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, c2010
ISBN: 9780307366375
Characteristics: 1 online resource (307 p.)


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Khru_JoAnne Apr 07, 2012

When a writer chooses a subject he or she often has personal reasons for doing so. Dallaire writes that he was introduced to the culture of the military as a young boy. He claims there is no similarity between his own experience and that of the brutalization of the children in conflict zones, for he says _he_ was not robbed of his childhood. He fails to see that indoctrination can take many forms. As part of the military establishment it is difficult for him to question its values and how military training requires a hierarchy of unquestioning obedience. I imagine it might be a structure that children intuitively understand. An ex-soldier like Dallaire might explore the dark side of the warrior. But he doesn't. Instead I get the impression from him that war should only be fought among adults. What is also missing from this book are the voices of real child soldiers. Instead he presents fictional children who have lost their "Kidom." They are portrayed as helpless victims while the adults whi should protect them are either demonized or ineffectual. Having created such either/or choices Dallaire writes to an audience who already agrees with him that using children in war is indefensible, yet he doesn't push us beyond the bounds of moral outrage to give us a more nuanced view of the tragedy.

Jun 30, 2011

This is a powerful book. I defy anyone to read the first four pages of the introduction without feeling compelled to read the whole book and do something about this horrible problem in the world.

The author is a senator in the legislature of Canada and, as a general in the Canadian armed forces, served in Rwanda for the UN peacekeeping force during the time of the genocide. He writes with a great deal of knowledge, passion and pain.

He details the problem and its causes and also talks about ways to change the problem by preventing children from being forced into soldiering. He discusses various strategies to allow them to recover from their horrible experiences and live a worthwhile life. He speaks honestly of the problems the young soldiers have in going back to “normal” life as well as the problems the villages have in accepting young people who had previously brutally killed their families and neighbors. Many adult villagers now have an instant feeling of distrust when they see a child they don’t know in their village. They forget that the children were forced into fighting, given drugs to make them crazy, and indoctrinated into killing. The children also need to learn to forgive the communities for not protecting them and learn to trust adults again. Roughly 40% of the child soldiers were girls and the programs for rehabilitating child soldiers often neglects the girls. Many, if not most, of the girls were raped by other rebel soldiers and may have children as a result. Their reintegration into village life is thus even more difficult – they have killed and they have also been raped so the scorn heaped on them is immense.

Dallaire speaks of how too often funding sources think of child soldiers as a social problem better left to NGOs but he disagrees. He maintains there can be no lasting peace until these child soldiers are rehabilitated so attending to them should be a very high priority. Another complication is that even among those who share the goal of ending child soldiering, there are often passionate disagreements on the methods and even the terminology. He writes candidly of the abundant frustrations of meetings between NGO staff and the military. He also has several chapters where he writes alternately from the perspectives of a child soldier and a professional UN peacekeeper force soldier. It’s a powerful book about a very very important issue that we should all care about and work to resolve.

debwalker May 13, 2011

A profoundly important survey of efforts to eradicate the use of children as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Being released in the U.S. May 2011.

csbryant Apr 17, 2011

I picked up this book on a whim while I was at the library one day. It was an amazing book that packed such a powerful message. You can tell that Dallaire has been quite affected by what he witnessed in Rwanda. Unlike so many others, Dallaire uses his anguish for the better and has begun a campaign to eradicate the use of child soldiers. He introduces the reader to the methods used by armies and militias to collect children and indoctrinate them into a combat role. While society normally views child soldiers as only those who are actually trained in combat, Dallaire argues that this is not the case, and that child soldiers are “…any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking, or has taken a direct part in hostilities.”

While the book is a non-fiction piece, Dallaire incorporates some fictional imaginings in three of his chapters, which proves to be very effective. Dallaire imagines what it would be like for a girl-child to be kidnapped and forced into combat. He speaks of her abduction, integration into combat life and eventual death at the hands of a UN peacekeeper. He then switches to the peacekeeper’s point of view. I can only imagine what it must be like to kill a child. Clearly, it is a matter of life and death, and that child is aiming to kill you and if you don’t strike first, you will perish. It just seems so unnecessary.

Dallaire criticizes the international community for failing to come to the aid of these children and for persecuting them as if they had a choice in the matter. He also offers tactics for the demobilization and reintegration of the ex-child soldiers into community life. A very difficult situation, as most of their homes have been destroyed and they are heavily stigmatized if their community still exists. Dallaire urges the reader to take an active role in helping eradicate the use of child soldiers world-wide and offers solutions for this. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone regardless of whether they are concerned with the plight of war-affected children or not.

Feb 23, 2011

A must read that makes us aware of the tragedies in Africa.

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