Child Casualties of Conflicts
"The most important
meaning of this Nobel award is the solemn recognition that the welfare
of today's children is inseparably linked with the peace of tomorrow's
- Henry R. Labouisse, Executive Director of UNICEF (1965-1979), in his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 for UNICEF.
For over half a century armed conflicts have been tearing whole countries apart. Sucked into the spiral of violence and conflict have been ever-increasing numbers of civilians, especially children. The number of civilian casualties, dismissed as 'collateral damage' by sick militarists, has increased dramatically in recent decades to a point where it is now estimated to be around 90%. I'll repeat that, according to official research sources over 90% of casualties in armed conflicts are civilians. Half of those are children.
Children are always casualties of war, both directly and indirectly. It's children who suffer most when food supplies run short. They also have the least resistance to disease from contaminated water and the conditions that plague the refugee such as cholera, dysentery, malaria, and malnutrition.
Developing technology and a thriving global arms trade has resulted in the increased use of bombs and missiles in conflicts. Ariel bombardment and missile attacks deliberately target electrical grids, health-care facilities, roads, and sewage systems. The destruction of buildings – homes, schools, hospitals, and shops creates large amounts of refugees. (See A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting (revised) and William Blum's 'United States bombing of other countries – The Master List'), Israel being America's client state (effectively it's 51st) adds to that list.
A 2006 UNICEF report stated that:
- An estimated 20 million children have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict and human rights violations and are living as refugees in neighbouring countries or are internally displaced within their own national borders.
- More than 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict over the last decade.
- More than three times that number, at least 6 million children, have been permanently disabled or seriously injured.
- More than 1 million have been orphaned or separated from their families.
- Between 8,000 and 10,000 children are killed or maimed by landmines every year.
The same report goes on to say:
'Children in armed conflict also routinely experience emotionally and psychologically painful events such as the violent death of a parent or close relative; separation from family; witnessing loved ones being killed or tortured; displacement from home and community; exposure to combat, shelling and other life-threatening situations; acts of abuse such as being abducted, arrested, held in detention, raped, tortured; disruption of school routines and community life; destitution and an uncertain future…Children of all ages are also strongly affected by the stress levels and situation of their adult caregivers.'
Three studies in the British Medical Journal found a high percentage of children in conflict zones have post traumatic stress as a consequence of witnessing or experiencing parental loss in war. One study of internally displaced children from the war in Bosnia showed that 94% had features of post-traumatic stress. Another survey on the effect of war on children aged 8-18 in Kabul indicated that 41% had lost one or more parents because of the conflict, and over half had witnessed torture of violent death. Over 90% of the children interviewed expressed the fear of dying in the conflict. Over 80% of the children interviewed felt they could not cope with events and that life was not worth living. (The Kabul study was carried out over ten years ago. Conditions have worsened considerably since then.)
The Guardian's award-winning foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and ITV News produced a video titled Iraq's lost generation. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad travelled to an orphanage in Sadr city where he found a generation of Iraqi children. Click here to view the video.
Sanctions enforced by the UN on Iraq since the Gulf War have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, including over half a million children - many of whom weren't even born when the Gulf War began, as the documentary film by John Pilger Paying The Price: Killing The Children Of Iraq reveals.
The following are images of just a few of the thousands of child casualties that are happening in the Middle East as a result of cluster bombs (taken from the website of the Cluster Munitions Coalition).
(IRAQ) Iraqi woman Mona Hassan, 37, cries as she comforts her five year old son Ali Mustafa in her arms at Baghdad's Saddam hospital, Thursday April 17, 2003. Ali and his four brothers were wounded by an unexploded cluster bomb they found in the garden of their home. The others suffered facial and hand injuries. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus/SCANPIX)
(LEBANON) Lebanese Sobhi Abbas, top, comforts his son Abbas Abbas, 6 years-old, who was injured while playing with a cluster bomb in Blida, on Saturday Aug. 26, 2006 at Al Najda Hospital in Nabatyye, south Lebanon, Sunday Aug. 27, 2006. (Photo: AP/Mohamed Zaatari/SCANPIX)
(LEBANON) Ali Oussama Joumaa' is 11 years old. On 4 September, two weeks into the ceasefire, he was in the streets near his family's house in Houmin El, Fawka, when he and his three cousins found many unexploded cluster submunitions. "They were everywhere around us. We knew that they were dangerous and we went to report them, but I fell and my hand hit one. It exploded and my hand was badly injured," says Oussama. He was lucky not to have been more seriously injured, as cluster submunitions are designed to kill. When we met him at the Ragheb Harb Hospital on 6 September 2006, his mother Samia Alloush sat at his bed side, watching, fretting and wondering how she will get all of her kids to the other end of this nightmare in one piece. (Photo: John Rodsted/Norwegian People's Aid)
(LEBANON) Hassan Tahini (R), who was injured by a cluster bomb in the southern village of Aita Chaab, looks at his grandmother as she visits him at the Jabal Amer hospital in the southern city of Tyre (soure), Lebanon August 22, 2006. (Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
Butler Schaffer’s commentary The Deaths of Children puts it plainly and simply. Below is a quote from the article, which is worth reading in its entirety:
‘When societies organize themselves into war systems – which is the nature of all political entities – and purposefully destroy each other's children – be they soldiers or non-combatants contemptuously dismissed as "collateral damage" – they are placing themselves in a state of war with the very future of mankind. The casualties of such a war are not to be measured just in the calculus of young persons destroyed in the process, but in the general diminution of respect for life itself; for the sense of truth and reality upon which life depends; and for the value that is fundamental to any vibrant and decent social system, namely, that neither the dignity nor the will of harmless people shall be violated.’
The decrease in the ‘the value that is fundamental to any vibrant and decent social system, namely, that neither the dignity nor the will of harmless people shall be violated’ is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the statement by US presidential advisor and author of the Patriot Act, John Yoo. Yoo authored a number of legal memos arguing for unlimited presidential powers to order torture of captive suspects, and to declare war anytime, anywhere, and on anyone the President deemed a threat. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole wrote, “Few lawyers have had more influence on President Bush’s legal policies in the 'war on terror’ than John Yoo.”
When questioned in debate by Notre Dame professor and international human rights scholar Doug Cassel, Yoo had this to say:
Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody,
including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no
law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty.
Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.
(The above is taken from a Prison Planet news article by Paul Watson entitled Bush Advisor Says President Has Legal Power to Torture Children). Also detailed in the article is the fact that ‘it happened at Abu Ghraib. Women who were arrested with their children were forced to watch their boys being sodomized with chemical glow sticks as the cameras rolled. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says that the US government is still withholding the tapes because of the horror of the "soundtrack of the shrieking boys" and their mothers begging to be killed in favor of seeing their children raped and tortured.’
Writing for Truthout, William Rivers Pitt highlights the issue of children being imprisoned and tortured in US-controlled detention centres, including the now infamous Abu Ghraib, in the article Torturing Children.
The Convention on the Rights of Children is a legally binding international instrument that incorporates the full range of human rights. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation, and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the Convention by ratifying or acceding to it, national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.
Considering the particulars listed above it’s obvious that the US government is once again leading the pack when it comes to breaking international human rights laws. (This is the conclusion of the Final Written Opinion of Judge Niloufer Bhagwat, International Criminal Tribunal For Afghanistan at Tokyo 10th March 2004). The flagrant committing of international crimes against humanity is aided by Big Media who hype up the deaths of westerners in armed conflicts and downplay or downright ignore crimes committed against children by the military (which incidentally marks them as partners in Crimes Against Humanity according to Principle VII of the Nuremberg Principles). Another interesting and disturbing fact is that the same bill that legalises such torture, even against American citizens deemed ‘enemy combatants’ by the administration retroactively gives Bush, the Neo-Cons or any of their henchmen immunity from war crimes charges dating back to September 11.
According to United Nations reports, the Israeli regime has now slaughtered over 900 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008 when the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian homes, schools and mosques began. More than 300 of these are babies, toddlers and young children, with a further 1500 injured. This war crime has got to be one of the most horrific in the history of humanity.
Added to that Israeli forces are further breaking international law by using white phosphorus bombs against civilians, which cause human flesh to burn to the bone and often blinds its victims.
Another fact that should be pointed out is that most of the areas (ghettos/refugee camps) Palestinians are put in after the destruction of their homes and confiscation of their land are walled in. More often than not during bombings and rocket attacks people have nowhere to run to.
It should be pointed out again that the technology being used for these atrocities, the fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and bombs, are being paid for by the American taxpayer, just like they are in Iraq with similar consequences. Around $5 billion in US military assistance (did you get that…‘assistance’) is given to the Israeli regime each year, that’s around $6 million a day.
A schoolgirl riddled with bullets. And no one is to
blame The undisputed facts are these: it was broad daylight,
13-year-old Iman al-Hams was wearing her school uniform, and when she
walked into the Israeli army's "forbidden zone" at the bottom of her
street she was carrying her satchel. A few minutes later the short,
slight child was pumped with bullets. Doctors counted at least 17
wounds and said much of her head was destroyed.
Eyewitness reports match reports from soldiers from the unit responsible for her murder, the Shaked battalion who this time reported their company commander who, after four or five soldiers shot her from a distance, moved in closer to put two bullets in the child's head, then walked away, turned back, switched his weapon to automatic and emptied his entire magazine into her.
An army investigation into the incident found that the company commander had not acted unethically in the shooting of Iman.
The soldiers of the Shaked battalion who reported the commander seem to have found their conscience in this instance. The last time I read a report referring to the battalion it was mentioning the printing of a t-shirt for a Shaked battalion sniper depicting a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, "1 shot, 2 kills."
The above report is included in Those Who Forget History along with other evidence of children being deliberately targeted by Israeli occupation forces.
And last, but by no means least, this article reveals another atrocity being committed in your name with your taxes.
As Butler Schaffer observes in the above commentary, ‘As long as it is other people's children who are dying, many of us have a calloused indifference to the suffering.’
I ask you, how indifferent have you become to the crimes being committed against children around the world, particularly those in the Middle East, by the US and it’s allies?
(Here I imagine I hear that too often heard response, ‘but what can I do about it?’ My answer, quoted from Psyclone, is ‘You could start by asking the question as if it was a real question, instead of a statement that says there’s nothing you can do. Ask yourself the question and think about it for more than a few seconds. The answers might take some working out, but there is something you can do. There are things we can all do.’)