It appears, according to an article in iPolitcs, that some smart, responsible people in the defence staff are getting ready for the inevitable: “Military setting rules for coping with child soldiers ahead of Africa mission,” is how the article is headlined. It’s a good move. ““We’re well aware we’re going to encounter this,” said one senior military source. “When that happens, our troops go through the spectrum. If someone was walking towards you slowly, you’d have time to employ possible several options to try and deal with the problem … “But if someone is running at you from a fairly short distance, at some point the bottom line is our soldiers always have the right to defend themselves. It doesn’t matter the weapon, the context or who the attacker is. And it sounds maybe to the uninitiated jaded that our soldiers could maybe use deadly force against a child if the child was about to kill them, but the bottom line is if we didn’t do that, our opponents could use that tactic all the time.”“
The article also says that the military staff have worked closely with retired Lieutenant General and retired Senator Romeo Dallaire’s Child Soldier Initiative “which stresses the need to remember that child soldiers are children first.” That’s also vital. Readers must remember that no one enrolled in the Canadian Forces for the opportunity to kill children … we have enough soldiers suffering from enough combat stress related demons without adding new ones.
But, as the article says, it will happen and the threat spectrum will, sometimes, narrow to the point that a soldier has no choice but to shoot to kill … to kill a child.
One concern is that some in the media, not all, there are many good, hard working, well informed, thoughtful journalists who have studied military maters and report with care and even some sympathy …
… but many, unlike those pictured, above, will go to Africa with one HUGE story in mind: Canadian soldiers kill kids!
The military needs to inoculate its soldiers with two vaccines:
- One to tell the soldiers, clearly and comprehensibly, when and why it is necessary and right a proper, too, to shoot and kill an armed child soldier; and
- Another to tell the Canadian people that such killings are, from time to time, both unavoidable and morally and legally just and that Canadian soldiers, respecting and reflecting the best traditions of Canada in battle, will do the right thing in the right way, even when the situation is, to be charitable, ambiguous.
What we must bear in mind is that, in all likelihood, a young, twenty-something Canadian soldier, perhaps a high school graduate, will have to make a life and death decision in a split second under conditions of intense, almost unimaginable stress … the sort of decision that battalions of lawyers, human rights advocates and assorted other social justice warriors love to debate for weeks and weeks around comfortable conference tables. The outcome is that someone will die or be grievously wounded: perhaps the soldier, himself or herself, perhaps an African child soldier and someone, most likely the soldier, may also be emotionally scarred for life because of whatever choice (s)he makes. And the rules of engagement that guide that choice, as the iPolitics article makes clear, will have to be based on often contradictory definitions ~ the guidance from e.g. the United Nations is internally contradictory on such simple things as the age of a “child.” But the ultimate decision to kill or be killed will not be made by an advocate in a comfortable office, it will be made by a soldier in the heat of battle and then second guessed by the media.