Futuwwa, Ashbal and Fedayin: An Assessment of Child Soldiers in Iraq

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Futuwwa, Ashbal and Fedayin: An Assessment of Child Soldiers in Iraq
June 4, 2009
By Mr. David M. McNair

The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in step in two parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing. Shorts, shirts, and different garments they carried in their hands; but each boy wore a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from throat to ankle were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a ham-bone frill.1

Under the auspices of loyalty and patriotism, Saddam Hussein manipulated and invoked the spiritual term futuwwa as the prime impetus to construct his people’s army in Iraq. This paper will examine the historical and psychological context of making child soldiers in Iraq while drawing from similar examples worldwide. It identifies information operations campaigns utilized by Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party to indoctrinate youth throughout Iraq into a system modeled after those of the Nazi and other fascist regimes.

Executive Summary
In the asymmetrical battlefield of Iraq, an overlooked and unconsidered underpinning of resistance to Coalition Forces is a young group of males (and recently females) many of whom are, and were, state and nonstate actors on the military battlefield, which for the purposes of this paper I will refer to as ‘child soldiers.’ This group of male children does not necessarily fit the social, religious, and political paradigm of either radical fundamentalist Islamists congregating in Iraq in order to confront the Infidel, or of nationalists carrying out insurgent attacks on Coalition Forces for the sole sake of ridding Iraq of occupying forces. An IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield) assessment provides tactical and strategic commanders at all levels a bird’s eye view of targets of interest with respect to location, type, activity, and size of the entity they are seeking to detain or destroy. Unfortunately, the evolutionary unconventionality of Operation Iraqi Freedom is highly restrictive and inhibits atypical IPB assessments. Yet IPB assessments are paramount in affording those same commanders the ability to see and more importantly, understand when, where, and why those targeted persons will attack. Equally significant, and also avoided is the painstaking task of understanding, confronting, and reversing the lingering psychological effects of the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein’s information operations and indoctrination campaigns.
The Ba’ath regime spent over three decades indoctrinating its subjects under pain of violence, arrest, depravation, torture, and death. The cultural and historical significance of this indoctrination process however goes much deeper and connects modern Iraq with both a distant and not-too-distant past. This paper will assess two aspects of the factors involved in recruitment and utilization of child soldiers based on the paradigm developed by Michael Wessells in Child Soldiers. This consists of two categories containing a range of factors to include:
1) At-risk youths, pliable youths, exploitable and expendable youths, forced recruitment, abduction, press ganging, recruitment by quota, unforced recruitment, personal and situational influences, family issues, revenge, education, power, and poverty; and
2) Utilization inside armed groups to include subjugation and obedience, training and preparation, roles, and combat.2
The plethora of extant sources available proves that the recruitment of child soldiers in Iraq was a forced operation by the Ba’ath Party. Saddam Hussein chose a clever, albeit deceptive, means of forcing followers into his “People’s Army” by invoking their allegiance and loyalty under the auspices of the term futuwwa. Futuwwa is a Sufi term with an array of meanings or translations amounting to “chivalry,” “exalted one,” or “the ideal Muslim boy,” the latter being the closest and most accurate translation. Abdalqadir as-Sufi defines futuwwa literally as a combination of “youth” and “chivalry” but specifically a youth who achieves the highest capacity or quality possible in service to Allah.3 The etymology of the word is Sufi and practiced by Shi’a Muslims, particularly in Iran, but to some extent in Iraq as well. Sufi is defined as a Muslim who represents the mystical dimension of Islam; a Muslim who seeks direct experience of Allah.4 Many distinct characteristics or virtues accurately reflect the achievement of futuwwa: generosity, munificence, modesty, chastity, trustworthiness, loyalty, mercifulness, knowledge, humility, and piety. Digging further into the history and political use of the word futuwwa, we find that it had two different, albeit complementary, connotations: one for subordination and service; the other for energy and valor. This term evolved during the Ottoman period to refer to bands of young men who formed militias in and around Muslim cities during the Middle Ages.5

Global Statistics
In 2006, the U.S. State Department published its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices which detailed the compulsory recruitment and conscription of individuals under the age of 18. Some of the statistics are as follows:

  • 25 countries were cited where children have been recruited or used as child soldiers.6 7

  • All 25 countries were also cited in the 2004 report for use or recruitment of child soldiers.8

  • Since 2001, the U.S. government has supplied 21 of the 25 countries cited in the State Department report with military assistance.9

  • In 11 of the 25 countries, children were recruited or used as soldiers by government security forces or government-sponsored armed groups.10

  • Of the 11 countries in which children were recruited or used as soldiers by government security forces or government-sponsored armed groups, the U.S. government has supplied 9 with military assistance.11

Historical Snapshot
The recruitment and subsequent use of child soldiers in military operations in Iraq and also on a global scale is neither a recent phenomenon nor indigenous to any particular nation or state. Nor are Western liberal societies innocent of employing children to fight their wars throughout history. If anything, the fact that western nations have legislated the legal age for enlistment or conscription in the military at eighteen years of age is a recent phenomenon in world military history. David Rosen identifies this as the “Straight 18” position.12 This is not to suggest, Rosen adds, that the rest of the contemporary world adheres to this definition.13 Many countries worldwide have, indeed, adopted and subsequently legislated this “Straight 18” position. More importantly, western culture has gone a step further: essentially defining a child as infancy to the age of seventeen and adulthood as eighteen and older. Likewise, the United Nations has subsequently taken on the task of defining the term child soldiers and passing resolutions prohibiting their recruitment and subsequent utilization in armed conflict. In 1989, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which then became legally binding in 1990. These rights include the following:

  • The right to life

  • The right to survival

  • The right to develop to the fullest

  • The right to protection from harmful influences, abuse, and exploitation

  • The right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.14

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted two optional protocols to the Convention in an effort to increase protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and sexual exploitation. One of the Optional Protocols includes establishing 18 as the minimum age for compulsory recruitment and requires States to make all efforts to prevent individuals under the age of 18 from taking direct part in armed conflict.15 16

Historically, however, societies and cultures worldwide have enlisted the help of child soldiers in their militaries and placed high honor on their service: the Dinka of Sudan recruited children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen and rewarded them with specialized weaponry17; the Cheyenne recruited children as early as fourteen years old to fight; the Royal Hiburnium Military School in Great Britain was founded in 1765 originally as an orphanage but evolved into a direct line to military service.18 Children as young as twelve and thirteen years of age enlisted in regiments and even fought to suppress the American Revolution. Children as young as eight years old enlisted in the Union Army of the United States during the Civil War.19 Joseph John Clem (later renamed Joseph Lincoln Clem) enlisted in the Union Army at the age of ten and was awarded field promotions for killing a Confederate colonel who demanded his surrender.20 Clem was promoted to the rank of sergeant and later received a commission from President Grant as a second lieutenant after returning home after the Civil War and completing high school.21
Furthermore, the contemporary view of the innocence and the protectionism surrounding children, Rosen argues, took root in Medieval Europe. “But during the Middle Ages, the germ of a set of new ideas about childhood developed. At its heart are the belief in the innocence of childhood, the practice of segregating children from adults, and the isolation and prolongation of childhood as a special protected state.”22 This concept, indeed, may have taken root in Europe but it is a far cry from explaining why nation states utilize and exploit children during civil wars, ethnic wars, and wars of national liberation. Michael Wessells argues that when children are recruited and trained as soldiers they spend their early years indoctrinated into systems of violence and thus form values and identities aligned with those very systems. He adds that child soldiers often become a means or vehicle of carrying out violence to achieve political ends as opposed to spending their childhood learning to become civil contributing members of society.23 “Children who grow up having learned fighting as their only means of livelihood and survival are likely to continue fighting for more years than adults.”24 Wessells adds that child soldiering subsequently “damages societies and threatens regional stability.” This is the case where tyrannical governments force children into war fighting; however, in the absence of an organized government with an organized military, children may find themselves joining armed groups in order to obtain respect or a sense of family, but in most cases, joining voluntarily gives them access to things they otherwise may not have access to by remaining uninvolved: protection, food, medical care, training.25
Individual accounts of child soldiers epitomize the fealty and honor bestowed on them through the ages. Equally important are the accounts of mass mobilization of children by state and non state actors to fight wars where it was believed that adults had failed. Singer cites the Children’s Crusade of the Middle Ages in Europe and the Janissary Corps of the Ottoman Empire as examples. In the Children’s Crusade, Singer adds, this was not a case where children went to war, but rather they mobilized en masse to free Jerusalem from Muslim control; they did not fight, but they were prepared to do so.26 In 1212, a boy named Stephen in the town of Cloyes presented King Philip of France with a letter which he claimed was from Jesus Christ anointing him to lead a mass mobilization of child believers to the Mediterranean Sea. Once they arrived at the Mediterranean, the sea itself would part enabling all the children to march toward Jerusalem and take it back by force.27 As word of the Children’s Crusade stretched across Europe, news of the event reached parts of Germany. A boy named Nicholas from a village on the Rhine River announced to the Archbishop of Cologne that a similar vision had appeared to him with the same goal in mind: march to the Mediterranean and the sea would open up to provide a path directly to Jerusalem. Unlike Stephen’s vision of taking Jerusalem back by force, Nicholas professed that the German children would take Jerusalem back by converting Muslims to Christianity.28 Both boys succeeded in mobilizing some thirty thousand boys. However, on the way to the Mediterranean, many were robbed and attacked. Once they reached the Mediterranean, the sea did not part which led to mass disappointment and subsequent attacks against both Stephen and Nicholas.29 Many of the children were able to embark on seven boats intending to sail to Marseilles; however, two of them sank, and the other five landed in Algiers where the children were sold into slavery.30
The other well known historic mass mobilization of children for purposes of war fighting was the Janissary Corps of the Ottoman Empire. Captives of the Turks, primarily Greek Christian youths living in western Anatolia, were rounded up by civil authorities as a form of taxation of the non-Muslim families.31 Vryonis details the extent of the methods used by state actors to force children into the military system:
These youths were taken out of their familiar cultural and family environment, converted to Islam, often educated in special institutions, and then enrolled in special military bodies or else employed in the court and bureaucracy. This system of slave administration and slave soldiery apparently experienced an unbroken continuity in Anatolia from the first appearance of the Turks well into the Ottoman period itself.32
The children, however, Singer maintains, were never sent into conflicts until they had gone through “…a strict program of education, religious instruction, and then military training, thus only until they had become adults.”33 In their prime the Janissaries were the most disciplined, well-armed, and feared military force in Europe. But by the nineteenth century the Janissary corps had become a hereditary organization and had lost both its youthful and Christian aspects, becoming ceremonial palace guardians rather than a feared army. Eventually the Turks began to replace fundamental Islamic institutions with reforms under the aegis of the tanzimat. These later reforms brought about significant changes in the military and administration, terminated the Janissary corps, and created troops referred to as the “New Army.”34
Worldwide, the common thread that transcends race and ethnicity, culture and social systems, tribe and clan, and religion and sect is the honor and sacrificial label placed on male children (and more recently female) for enlistment and participating in military operations. This was clearly illustrated during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s where, Singer writes, the first modern use of child soldiers in the Middle East occurred.35 Iranian law with its roots deeply imbedded in shari’a strictly forbade the recruiting and subsequent use of children under the age of sixteen to fight in armed warfare. Several years into the Iran-Iraq war, both sides began to weaken tactically and strategically while suffering significant losses of manpower. Subsequently, both countries ignored their domestic laws governing conscription, particularly Iran in 1984 when then president Ali-Akbar Rafsanjani decreed that “all Iranians from twelve to seventy-two should volunteer for the Holy War.”36 Multitudes of children were pulled out of schools, indoctrinated in the glory of martyrdom, very lightly armed, usually with a gun, one magazine of ammunition, and one or two grenades, and sent to the front lines.37 The child soldiers also wore keys latched around their necks symbolizing their impending earthly doom yet subsequent entrance into heaven after martyring themselves. Iranian commanders sent child soldiers forward in the first waves of attacks to clear paths through minefields and ultimately overwhelm Iraq’s defenses.38 The Ayatollah Khomeini boasted that the sacrifices were helping Iran achieve “a situation which we cannot describe in any other way except to say that it is a divine country.”39 In the latter part of the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan Administration supplied Saddam Hussein with intelligence and tactical equipment to fight against Iranian targets.40 By the end of the war, an estimated 100,000 Iranian boy soldiers were believed to have died. For those Iranian boys who did not die but were captured by Iraqi forces, the Ayatollah Khomeini stated that all Iranian boy soldiers were meant to die in the war and if they did not, they were not Iranian children. This edict rejected a Red Cross initiative to repatriate captured Iranian boys from Iraq.41
According to major Islamic jurisprudences (madhhabs) from both Sunni and Shi’a sects, the maturity age has been 15 for males to reach the age of accountability42 (takleef) and the age of possible involvement in war. Muslim scholars of jurisprudence inferred this legal rule based on the following prophetical traditions (hadiths):
It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Umar who said: The Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) inspected me on the battlefield on the Day of Uhud, and I was fourteen years old. He did not allow me (to take part in the fight). He inspected me on the Day of Khandaq and I was fifteen years old, and he permitted me (to fight), Nafi' said: I came to 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz who was then Caliph, and narrated this tradition to him. He said: Surely, this is the demarcation between a minor and a major. So he wrote to his governors that they should pay subsistence allowance to one who was fifteen years old, but should treat those of lesser age among children.43
In another narrative on the subject of the age of maturity, which enables individual Muslims to be fighters and subjected to “men’s” obligations in fighting rules, a confirmation of the previous rule is as follows:
It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that he was introduced to the Prophet (May peace be upon him) on the Day of ‘Uhud (The battle of ‘Uhud) – when he was 14 years old - and the Prophet did not involve him (in that battle). And he was introduced to the Prophet on the Day of al-Khandaq (The battle of al-Khandaq) - when he was 15 years old - and the Prophet involved him (in the battle). And this is an evidence of determining the age of majority by 15 years old. And this is madhhabs (opinions) of al-Shāfi’ī, al-Awazā’ī, Ibn Wahb, Ahmad (Ibn Hanbal), and others. They all stated that by completing the age of 15, a person should be an accountable (mukallaf) even if he is not pubescent yet. Therefore, he will be subjected to rules such as worship and so forth. And he is entitled of the portion of man from the booty and is killed if he is from the people of war. Here is evidence that al-Khandaq occurred on the fourth year of hijra, and that is right. A few of biographers and historians stated that it occurred on the fifth year, but this tradition (hadith) refutes it because they unanimously agreed that Uhud occurred on the third year of hijra, so al-Khandaq should be on the fourth year because he (Ibn Umar) considered it’s occurrence, in this tradition (hadith), after one year when he said ‘the Prophet did not involve him, the Prophet involved him,’ i.e. he became a man who is subjected to the rules of fighters.44
A more modern viewpoint is that of the International Islamic Council for Women and Children, a part of the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief. They established a pact of protection of children and banned any kind of involvement of children in wars before a certain age.45 On the other hand, it’s not permissible to kill individuals included in non-combatant categories like elders, women, children, monks, laborers, and peaceful farmers according to Abu Hanifa, al-Shāfi’ī, Mālik, and other Imams and scholars. Abu Hanifa stated in this regard that it is prohibited for an infant to be killed or a woman, an elder, a madman, a hunchback, a disabled or a blind person. In general, according to Islamic law (shari’ah), the following are exempt from killing in wars:

  • Women […].

  • Children: what applies to women applies to them as well; in fact they have a better position, for their age will never let them have any involvement in combat. In addition, the Prophet Mohammad remarked: “do not kill children and monks”. There is more than one remark from the prophet that obligates Muslims to respect children even in wartime. During one battle, Muslims went along with their enemies’ fighting style and killed some children but when the Prophet heard about it he stated angrily: “what’s wrong with people that they reached today the killing peak and killed the breed? Do not kill the breed. Do not kill the breed, do not kill the breed. According to al-Aswad Bin Saree’, the Prophet Muhammad said: “Do not kill the breed in wars. They replied to him: but they are the infidels’ sons, aren’t they? He said: your elite are the infidels’ sons, aren’t they?” […].

  • Elders: according to a tradition (hadith), the Prophet said: “Do not kill an elder or an infant or a woman” […].

  • Monks, priests, and Christian religious leaders […].

  • Land slaves, peasants, and farming workers [….].

  • Madmen and idiots […].

  • Blind and disabled people […].

  • Wounded and ill people […].

  • Messengers and musta’mans (those who have entered the Muslim land and have been guaranteed safety, such as those who come to do business, to work, to visit relatives and so on).46

Like the Iranian civil and religious authorities, Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath party also broke their own traditions and laws by utilizing children in armed conflict. Saddam Hussein chose a clever, albeit deceptive, means of forcing followers into his “People’s Army”: by invoking their allegiance and loyalty under the auspices of the term futuwwa. Futuwwa is a Sufic term with an array of meanings or translations amounting to “chivalry,” “exalted one,” or “the ideal Muslim boy,” the latter being the closest and most accurate translation. Abdalqadir as-Sufi defines futuwwa literally as a combination of “youth” and “chivalry” but specifically a youth who achieves the highest capacity or quality possible in service to Allah.47 The etymology of the word is Sufic and practiced by Shi’a Muslims, particularly in Iran, but to some extent in Iraq as well. Sufi is defined as a Muslim who represents the mystical dimension of Islam; a Muslim who seeks direct experience of Allah.48 Many distinct characteristics or virtues accurately reflect the achievement of futuwwa: generosity, munificence, modesty, chastity, trustworthiness, loyalty, mercifulness, knowledge, humility, and piety. Discover Islam goes even further to identify specific characteristics of futuwwa: “…not despising the poor or being deceived by the rich and riches; being fair to everybody without expecting fairness from anyone; living one’s life as a pitiless enemy of one’s carnal self; being ever considerate of others and God Almighty; bearing whatever evil is done to oneself but thundering where the rights of God are violated; feeling remorse for the rest of one’s life for committing even a small sin, but overlooking others’ sins regardless of how large they are; seeing oneself as a poor, lowly servant while considering others as saintly; not resenting others while maintaining relations with those who resent you; being kind to those who hurt you; and serving God and the people more than anyone else, but preferring others to oneself when it is time to receive one’s wages.”49 One can’t help but ponder why Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, would invoke such a word like futuwwa to recruit bodies in building his “People’s Army.” These qualities were hardly characteristic of any youth training and indoctrination programs that Saddam and the Ba’ath Party created three decades ago.

In order to understand this process, it is necessary to examine the Hussein regime in the 1970s. After the Ba’ath Party took control of Iraq in 1968, Vice President Saddam Hussein ordered all youth organizations be reorganized to serve and be controlled by the State. These organizations were subsequently consolidated into age-based organizations known as “Saddam’s Cubs” and “Saddam’s Fidayi” under the auspices of futuwwa. Young Iraqis were indoctrinated at an early age through Ba'ath teaching where they learned to adulate Saddam Hussein as a person. Between the ages of five and seven primary school children were enrolled in "Saddam's Cubs" (Ashbal Saddam) and remained members until the age of fifteen or seventeen when they became Saddam's Fidayi. Schoolboys aged between 12-17 years could attend a month long military training camp for three weeks during the summer holidays. Dubbed the "lion cubs of Saddam", the school boys allegedly received training in small arms at the camp. Saddam's Cubs prepared young volunteers for Saddam's Fedayeen.50 Saddam Hussein held three-week training courses in weapons use, hand-to-hand fighting, rappelling from helicopters, and infantry tactics for children between 10 and 15 years of age. Camps for these "Saddam Cubs" operated throughout the country. The extent of physical and psychological torture was so heavy that senior military officers who supervised the courses noted that the children held up under the "physical and psychological strain" of training that lasted for as long as 14 hours each day. Sources in the opposition reported that the army found it difficult to recruit enough children to fill all of the vacancies in the program. Families reportedly were threatened with the loss of their food ration cards if they refused to enroll their children in the course. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq reported in October 1999 that authorities were denying food ration cards to families that failed to send their young sons to Saddam Cubs compulsory weapons-training camps. Similarly, authorities reportedly withheld school examination results to students unless they registered in the Fedayeen Saddam organization.51 In 1978, Saddam Hussein officially created the “homeland reserve army;” however, it had allegedly been active since 1973.52 In 1982, the youth army numbered approximately 127,000 members, but three years later, it numbered approximately 1.12 million.53 Bengio adds that futuwwa eventually became the primary body for ideological training of youth according to the Ba’ath Party’s doctrine. Saddam Hussein declared that the party would serve as the youth’s “mother and father.” In addition to the information operations, youths received military training, including camp life away from families, arms training, fighting techniques, and learning about the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of their country.54

Psychological Factors
Peter Singer suggests that Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime had a plethora of reasons for training and recruiting children despite these being clear violations of international law. First, militarizing a society is generally the common method for totalitarian regimes to maintain control. This mechanism allows the leadership to control and manipulate hierarchies and divert internal tensions toward external foes.55 Singer notes that approximately half of Iraq’s population of 22 million citizens were under the age of 18 and represented “…a deep pool of potential forces, as well as a potential threat, if not organized toward the regime’s goals. More important, recruiting, training, and indoctrinating children offered the opportunity to deepen the regime’s reach into its society.”56 Wessells argues that this typical totalitarian schema fits the five psychological processes for turning ordinary children into killers. First, Wessells claims, is the will to survive. In a “kill or be killed” environment, child soldiers’ desire to live out trumps all other needs and concerns.57 In Karbala, Iraq, 2003, an American unit entered into a series of gunfights with civilians using RPGs. A boy approximately age 10 ran from an alley to grab an RPG off the streets when U.S. soldiers took him down with a few bursts after he picked up the RPG.58 Singer makes an important point that a bullet from a 14 year-old’s gun can kill just as effectively as one from a 40-year old’s.59 Both Arab and international media outlets seized on this story to portray the American army as heartless aggressors but completely failed to mention the historical context that these fighting children were part of. For all practical purposes they were trained soldiers in Saddam Hussein’s army. This by no means suggests that children should be targets in war; however, given the historical context for Iraq and its militarized society under the Ba’ath regime, it would behoove U.S. forces to treat children with the same scrutiny as they do adults. Furthermore, the Ba’ath regime, Singer states, was not the only state actor within Iraq to use child soldiers. There were roughly 3,000 children serving in the Kurdish PKK. In fact, the PKK even organized a battalion of children called the Tabura Zaroden Sehit Agit.60
The second psychological process Wessells identifies is obedience. After capture and questioning, many children state they participated in killing because they were following orders where disobedience oftentimes could lead to punishment and/or death.61 In many cases, Wessells adds, ‘following orders” enables children to alleviate any feelings of guilt that killing normally evokes. Furthermore, obedience to an adult particularly an authoritarian one may be a fundamental obligation especially considering the adult may be filling the role of a surrogate father.62 Normalization of violence is the third psychological process. Wessells cites that children become desensitized and “numbed” to killing the more they are exposed to it.
Killing produces a host of emotional and cognitive changes that enable additional killing and blunt potentially inhibiting reactions such as disgust and guilt. The first act of killing may mark a turning point, as the child realizes he or she is no longer a person who has never killed and may now be viewed by others as a killer. Furthermore, the upside-down logic and morals of the armed group makes the abnormal seem normal, as killing and worse acts may occur on a daily basis. Having killed, and having seen others kill on a regular basis, children become less responsive to killing and may rationalize their own acts of killing […]. Over time, children learn to regard killing—a capital offense in civilian life—as quite normal.63
Furthermore, the absence of guilt among child soldiers is not a clear indication that it is not there. In armed conflict and armed groups, more often than not, how children deal with the emotional aspects of killing is probably best answered in that they do not.64 That is to say, they choose not to deal with it. Instead, Wessells writes, the armed group comprises a moral space where the rules of war apply only, where killing is acceptable; however, once they return to a civilian moral space, there is a distinct possibility that they may become overwhelmed with guilt.65 Wessells’ fourth psychological factor is the satisfaction derived from killing. Killing, he notes, provides a satisfaction for children who may be seeking revenge for what a real or perceived enemy may have done to them, their families, or friends. Moreover, military commanders oftentimes reward children who have killed by offering promotions, healthcare, food, women, and protection.66 These rewards, he adds, may very well find their ways to the child’s family. This was the case with Joseph Clem mentioned earlier in the article.67 Killing also may command the respect of the child’s peers. In the eyes of a child soldier’s peers, the fact that he or she has killed establishes the child as an effective combatant and an example to follow if other children desire the rewards that others gain from killing.68
Wessells writes that ideology is the fifth psychological factor used in the making of child soldiers. Ideologies, Wessells writes, typically strive to dehumanize an enemy and portray conflicts as heroic contests between good versus evil, i.e., Us versus Them.69 This division, he adds, excludes a real or perceived enemy from having any moral standing or rights. As was the case in Iraq, most of the children recruited into soldiering lack education and obviously life experience. Wessells states that limited life experience and limited exposure to members of other groups on top of political and religious indoctrination make child soldiers more susceptible to a leader’s (in this case, Saddam Hussein’s) ideological manipulation.70 This psychological effect enables children to see the killing of an enemy as necessary and appropriate. A Philippine boy who had joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at age 13 stated to UNICEF:
It feels great to kill your enemy. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front does not initiate attacks. If the military didn’t attack us, there will be no trouble. They are the ones who are really at fault. They deserve to be killed. The other children they are happy too. They are not sad. I really do not regret killing. If they are your enemies, you can kill them. But if they are not your enemies, you shouldn’t kill them.71
As is always the case as in this quote, children take a sense of pride in their ability to kill enemies and are easily manipulated into martyrdom to support what they perceive is a higher purpose.72

Recent GOI Legislation
In 2007, the GOI enacted legislation directly affecting the livelihood and welfare of children in Iraq. Two sections directly affecting children are the prohibition of forced or compulsory labor and prohibition of child labor and minimum age for employment. The Compulsory Labor law prohibits forced labor of Iraqi citizens and the prohibition is extended to children as well. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor found, however, significant abuses of foreign nationals entering Iraq reportedly as induced, tricked and sometimes forced from nearby countries. In some cases they were the “…victims of involuntary servitude involving passport confiscation and virtual imprisonment or fraud.”73 None of the reports obtained via the U.S. State Department involved children. The second set of legislation is the Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment. Specifically, the Iraqi law limits working hours for workers less than 18 years of age and prohibits their employment in dangerous occupations. Military service falls into this category. The minimum age for employment is 15 years, meaning that no one under 15 may be employed for any cause:
The minimum age for employment is 15 years; however employment of anyone less than 16 years in work detrimental to health, safety, or morals is prohibited.”74
Weaknesses in the system have been eked out by various NGOs as well as CF oversight. In many cases, reports found that the GOI did not effectively enforce these laws. Nor did the Child Labor Unit of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) Labor Directorate have enough inspectors to prevent or remove children from labor.75 The U.S. State Department also reports that the Italian NGO Terre des Hommes ran a rehabilitation center in Baghdad where it provided support and counseling to children working in the streets.76

The intent of this paper is certainly not to advocate engaging children who find themselves advertently or inadvertently as pawns on a battlefield or involved in counterinsurgencies; furthermore, it is not the intent of this paper to advocate killing children. However, it has been stated over and over again that a bullet from a child wounds and kills just as easily as a bullet from an adult. What this paper suggests is a robust policy that familiarizes and heightens the awareness of soldiers at all levels of the potential dangers and hazards posed by children in Iraq. These are not just ordinary children; many of these children and to a great extent today as adults spent a great deal of their lives in the indoctrination programs of the Ba’ath regime. Clear and concise policies need to be developed in the areas of:

  • Training and Education – to heighten soldiers’ knowledge and awareness of the histories of training and indoctrination programs in Iraq that children have undergone in the last forty years.

  • Rules of Engagement – to set legal parameters on how and when to deal with children in the public arena.

  • Information Operations Campaign - to sensitize the Iraqi populace and government that recruitment and subsequent use of children in warfare is not acceptable in a civil society.

1 Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Capricorn Books, New York, 1954.

2Wessells, Michael. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006. Pp. 57-84.

3 Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadier as-Sufi. “Discourse on Futuwwa.” http://www.shaykhabdalqadir.com/content/articles/Art009_19022004.html (Accessed , April 22, 2008).

4 The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sufic (Accessed April 21, 2008).

5 Lewis, Bernard. The Political Language of Islam. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988. Pg. 16.

6 Afganistan, Angola, Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Chad, Columbia, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Israel (and the occupied territories), Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Liberia, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda.

7 U.S. Military Assistance to Countries Using Child Soldiers: 1990-2006. U.S. State Department. http://www.cdi.org/PDFs/CSHRUpdateCharts2005.pdf, March 8, 2006 (Accessed, April 20, 2009).

8 U.S. State Department. Ibid. U.S. State Department.

9 Ibid. U.S. State Department.

10 Ibid. U.S. State Department.

11 Ibid, U.S. State Department.

12 Rosen, David M. Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism. Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 2005. Pg. 3

13 Ibid, 3.

14 “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” UNICEF. http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_protocols.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).

15 Ibid. http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_protocols.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).

16 Legally, “optional” translates into an attempt by international governments to institute significant changes in the mandatory age for recruitment. Additionally, it is a strong indicator of world legal opinion shifting to a jus cogen nom (world custom becoming law, e.g., genocide and slavery becoming illegal).

17 Convention on the Rights of the Child.” UNICEF. http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_protocols.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).

 Ibid. UNICEF, 4.

18 Ibid. UNICEF, 5.

19 Ibid. UNICEF, 5.

20 Talmadge, Robert. The Handbook of Texas Online. “John Lincoln Clem.” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/fcl26.html , (Accessed, April 11, 2009).

21Ibid,Talmadge, Robert.

22 Ibid. Talmadge, Robert , 7.

23 Wessells, Michael. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006. Pg. 3.

24 Ibid. Wessells, Michael , 3.

25 Ibid. Wessells, Michael , 4.

26 Singer, P.W. Children at War. Pantheon Books, New York, 2005. pg. 12.

27 Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades. Cambridge, 1951, Vol, III, pp 139-144.

28 Ibid. Runciman, Steven. pp 139-144.

29 Ibid. Singer, P.W., 12.

30 Ibid. Singer, P.W., 12..

31 Ibid. Singer, P.W. 13.

32 Vryonis, Speros. The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor. UC Press, Los Angeles, 1971, pp. 242-243.

33 Ibid. Singer, P.W., 13.

34 Dawn, C. Ernest. From Ottomanism to Arabism: Essays on the Origins of Arab Nationalism. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1973, pp. 72.

35 Ibid. Singer, P.W. , 21.

36 Brown, Ian. Khomeini’s Forgotten Sons: The Story of Iran’s Boy Soldiers. Grey Seal, London, 1990. Pp. 2.

37 Ibid. Singer, P.W. , 22.

38 Ibid. Singer, P.W. , 22.

39 Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God. Knopf, New York, 2000. Pp. 327-328.

40 Hook, Steven and Spanier, John. American Foreign Policy since World War II, 17th Ed. CQ Press, Washington, 2007. Pg. 250.

41 Singer, P.W. Children at War. Pantheon Books, New York, 2005. pg. 22.

42 An accountable person (mukallaf) is the pubescent and sane person who receives the message of Islam. He is obligated to perform all the Islamic obligations such as prayer (salat), fasting (sawm), pilgrimage (hajj) etc.

43 Sahih Muslim. Book 20, Chapter 23: the age of majority. Hadith No 23. http://www.tanzeem.org/resources/hadithonline/Muslim/020_smt.html#023_b20 (Accessed April 28, 2009)

44 Sahih Muslim. Book 20, Chapter 23: the age of majority. Hadith No 23. http://www.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?flag=1&bk_no=53&ID=5661 (Accessed April 28, 2009).

45 The Rights of Children between the International Document and Islamic Document حقوق الطفل بين الوثيقة الدولية والإسلامية. http://www.kenanaonline.com/page/3920 (Accessed April 28, 2009).

46 Al-Hindi, Ihsān. 1993. War and Peace in the State of Islam (Arabic). Damascus: Dar al-Nameer. p.175ff.

47 Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadier as-Sufi. “Discourse on Futuwwa.” http://www.shaykhabdalqadir.com/content/articles/Art009_19022004.html, (Accessed April 6, 2008).

48 The Free Dictionary. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sufic Accessed April 6, 2008.

49 “Futuwwa (Youth and Chivalry).” http://www.dislam.org/content/view/115400/39/ January 9, 2006 (Accessed May 3, 2009).

50 Global Security.org. “Military: People’s Army/Popular Army/People’s Milita.” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/militia.htm Accessed April 6, 2008.

51 Ibid. Global Security.org.

52 Bengio, Ofra. Sadam’s Word: Political Discourse in Iraq. Copyright 1998. Chap. 11: The Ethos of Force pgs. 146-158.

53 Ibid. Bengio, Ofra. Pp. 151-153.

54 Ibid. Bengio, Ofra. Pp.151-153.

55 Singer, Peter W. Military Review. “Fighting Child Soldiers.” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBZ/is_3_83/ai_109268904/ May-June 2003 (Accessed May 4, 2009).

56 Singer, Peter W. Military Review. “Fighting Child Soldiers.” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBZ/is_3_83/ai_109268904/ May-June 2003 (Accessed May 4, 2009).

57 Wessells, Michael. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006. Pg. 79.

58 Cox, Matthew. USA Today. “Confronting Iraq.” http://www.usatoday.com/educate/war35-article.htm April 8, 2003 (Accessed April 28, 2009).

59 Singer, Peter W. Military Review. “Fighting Child Soldiers.” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBZ/is_3_83/ai_109268904/ May-June 2003 (Accessed May 4, 2009).

60 Singer, Peter W. Military Review. “Fighting Child Soldiers.” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBZ/is_3_83/ai_109268904/ May-June 2003 (Accessed May 4, 2009).

61 Wessells, Michael. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006. Pg. 79.

62 Ibid., 79.

63 Ibid., 80.

64 Ibid., 80.

65 Ibid., 80.

66 Ibid., 80.

67 Talmadge, Robert. The Handbook of Texas Online. “John Lincoln Clem.” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/fcl26.html (Accessed April 11, 2009).

68 Ibid. 80.

69 Ibid. 81.

70 Ibid., 81.

71 Ibid., 81.

72 Ibid., 81.

73 “Iraq.” U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2007. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100596.htm (Accessed May 5, 2009).

74 Ibid, U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy.

75 Ibid, U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy.

76Ibid, U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy.

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