The Same Day US Gets Guilty Plea from Child Soldier, It Exempts Yemen and Others from Restrictions on Using Child Soldiers

The asshole in charge of shredding our Constitution has a really sick sense of humor. Yesterday, the same day the government got Omar Khadr to plead guilty to crimes that aren’t crimes that occurred when he was a child, Obama issued this memorandum.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, pursuant to section 404(c) of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA), title IV of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110 457), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA.

This memo appears to waive the following restriction, thereby allowing the US to fund operations with or make weapons sales to Chad, DRC, Sudan, and Yemen, even though the State Department has reason to believe they use child soldiers.

(a) In General- Subject to subsections (c), (d), and (e), none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available for international military education and training, foreign military financing, or the transfer of excess defense articles under section 116 or 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n(f) and 2304(h)), the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751), the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (division J of Public Law 110-161) or under any other Act making appropriations for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs may be obligated or otherwise made available, and no licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment may be issued to the government of a country that is clearly identified, in the Department of State’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for the most recent year preceding the fiscal year in which the appropriated funds, transfer, or license, would have been used or issued in the absence of a violation of this title, as having governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers.

So, one of the side benefits of Yemen’s cooperation with us on the war on terror is that it can conscript those under 18 and accept as volunteers those under 16 in its military.

This hopey changey thing is really beginning to overwhelm me.

Update: the State Department Report on Yemen last year described this use of child soldiers:

Reports of child soldiers increased in a number of armed conflicts across the country. According to the NGO Small Arms Survey, direct involvement in combat killed or injured hundreds of children annually.

The intermittent conflict in Saada, which began again in August, reportedly drew underage soldiers fighting for the government and the rebel Houthis (see section 1.g.). The Houthis reportedly used children as runners in between groups of fighters as well as to carry supplies and explosives, according to local children’s rights NGO Seyaj. Tribes the government armed and financed to fight alongside the regular army used children younger than 18 in combat, according to reports by international NGOs such as Save the Children.

Married boys, ages 12 to 15 years, were reportedly involved in armed conflict beginning in November 2008 in Amran governorate between the Harf Sufian and al-Osaimat tribes. According to tribal custom, boys who married were considered adults who owed allegiance to the tribe. As a result, half of the tribal fighters in such conflicts were children who had volunteered to demonstrate their tribal allegiance.

It also described the sex trafficking in girls.

There were reports of underage internal sex trafficking during the year. According to a local human rights NGO, an unknown number of women were trafficked from their homes to other regions within the country for the purposes of prostitution.

Though the report says most sex slaves worked in hotels, casinos, and nightclubs, if any of them were used by the armed forces, they would also count as child soldiers.

Update: See this exchange between harpie and powwow, who were discussing this earlier this month.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. skdadl says:

    But EW, it’s perfectly logical. Some child soldiers are child soldiers, and some are not. Khadr isn’t; Obama has already established that fact. So some others may not be as well, although we reserve the right to prosecute people we don’t like who might be using child soldiers. Got it?

    Och, I hear the anger in what you’ve written, EW. I feel it too. Thank you for staying strong. You help others.

  2. emptywheel says:

    I should say, I’m somewhat less troubled by the waiver for DRC, Chad, and Sudan. It appears that if any child soldiers are used in a country–even by rebel groups we’re opposing–the regulation would go into effect.

    But Yemen?

    • harpie says:

      This is what powwow had to say at the time…but I hope s/he chimes in here as well:

      We now have a Congress that passes “laws” containing within them exceptions in the name of “national interest” or “national security” that swallow the law whole – exceptions that are exercised at the sole, unchecked whim of the President. Laws whose titles deliberately take in vain the name of men of integrity, or proclaim themselves to be in furtherance of laudable principles or objectives, so that their enactors can preen before television cameras in pursuit of re-election, safe in the knowledge that the American media will never report, and their own constituents will never learn or understand, that the legislation in question – the unexamined substantive details hiding behind the self-glorying title – was carefully designed by all involved to be easily dishonored, and to be unenforceable, before the President ever signed it into “law.”

  3. bmaz says:

    The asshole in charge of shredding our Constitution has a really sick sense of humor.

    Oh, my my; you are starting to sound like that intemperate cad bmaz.

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    Just came here from Michael Moore’s site, which has a front page story about the kids of Collateral Murder: Iraq war logs: Apache attack’s child victims speak out, which links to the full story at the UK Guardian:

    “I remember them carrying me,” said Duah, who was aged 4 that day and is now 7. “I was very scared and my stomach hurt a lot.”

    Her brother Sajad, 12, lifted up his shirt to reveal his scars. “They carried me away as well. I was terrified to be in the arms of an American soldier. But I didn’t know what had just happened. And I didn’t know where my sister was.”


    “It was shocking to see,” says Sabah. “Shocking to see how violent they were and the lack of understanding they showed. My brother arrived to help them. Anyone in this culture would have done the same.”


    “My brother was only trying to help and they shot at him. They killed him. His children are almost orphans to this day, because their mother is still too [traumatised] to care for them. All day she is either in her room, or in the hospital.”

    That last? I imagine their mother rocking herself as she listens to Obama’s Nobel speech over and over, about “just war.”

    US PRESIDENT TO NOBEL PEACE PRIZE COMMITTEE: The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

    Straight face?

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    This hopey changey thing is really beginning to overwhelm me.

    Karl Denninger’s term: “hopium”

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    Naomi Klein (April 2009!) has A Lexicon of Disappointment including definitions for

    – Hopeover
    – Hoper coaster
    – Hopesick
    – Hope fiend
    – Hopebreak
    – Hopelash
    – Hoperoots

    That last:

    Sample sentence: “It’s time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots.”

    Thanks, Marcy, for all you do.

  7. lysias says:

    What does the fact that they’re exempting the Sudan tell us about the administration’s policy on Darfur? I wonder how many of the troops carrying out genocide there are child soldiers.

  8. Mary says:

    So what happened – did Burma and Somalia not cough up big enough campaign contributions to get waivers too?

    Harpie, thy name is hereforward Cassandra.

    @3 – I think it has to be government supported use of child soldiers (“as having governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers”)

    In any event, there’s nothing that will turn the tide of anti-American extremism more better than funding child soldiers, is there?

    There was a guy with the word “Hope” tattooed on his neck who looked dead ahead with flat eyes

      • Mary says:


        NOt sure I understand. I read it as if a government recruits/uses child soldiers, or supports militias etc. that recruit/use child soldiers, then (absent Obama’s Seal of Approval) $$ appropriated for military training for that government (even its regular troops) aren’t supposed to be released to it. So we could supposedly only be using $$ for “real” army, but as long as that government also supplies weapons or food etc. to militias that use child soliders, it’s a violation. But if the use of child soldiers isn’t government supported (only the “other” side) then there’s no prohibition.

        Non-sequitor, but I hope Jeff Kay can show up and explain this technical lingo to me. From Carol Rosenberg’s GITMO tweets, “… #Guantanamo prosecution psychiatrist is back testifying that Khadr has “stardust” of proximity to Osama bin Laden. ”

        This from a guy who supposedly has spent 600 hours on Khadr’s case? Stardust? Is Hoagy Carmichael being held at GITMO?

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          The only “stardust” in this case comes from the mega-moola Dr. Welner anticipates from his participation in this case, and the publicity for his dubious “Depravity Scale”.

          As I already tweeted to Carol Rosenberg, Welner has no expertise on “radical jihadism”, which he calls a “passion”, not a “mental disorder”. On only the latter is he an ostensible authority or expert. I guess this means he has no expertise as regards “stardust” either.

          For Marcy, and the news re waivers on child soldiers, WTF! Thanks so much for pointing this out, like a poisoned man needs a Ipecac.

          The rulers of this country do have a predilection for rubbing salt in the wounds. You just know Rummy is laughing his ass off. “Play the tape again for me, would you David? My goodness…”

    • thatvisionthing says:

      In any event, there’s nothing that will turn the tide of anti-American extremism more better than funding child soldiers, is there?

      Bombing kids. Mr. Fish:

      Contrary to the pacifying jingoism currently ping-ponging through this nation’s most patriotic sectors, the following sentence can be translated into every language on the planet without losing any of its meaning:


      Of course, corporations don’t have kids.

  9. harpie says:

    [email protected]! :-)

    [email protected] just posted a comment on the other thread.