It is hardly news that the U.S. government routinely doles out aid to tyrannical regimes around the world. Less well known is the fact that many of those regimes recruit or conscript children as young as 11 years old into their armed forces — and that President Barack Obama has more than once thwarted Congress’ attempt to prevent U.S. military aid from going to such countries.
In late 2008 Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), which prohibits the U.S. government from giving military aid to countries that the State Department determines in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report recruit and use children under 15 in their armed forces or militias. The bill was approved unanimously by both houses of Congress, and one of the cosponsors of the Senate version was none other than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. It would, therefore, appear that Obama was strongly opposed to aiding foreign countries that use child soldiers.
Since assuming the presidency, however, Obama has exploited one big loophole in the law to send taxpayer dollars to several of the world’s worst practitioners of child soldiering. The law permits the president to waive the restriction on aiding countries that use children in their armies if he “determines that such waiver is in the national interest of the United States.” Obama apparently believes that U.S.-bought influence in foreign countries is so important that in the last two years he has granted full waivers to every country on the TIP report receiving U.S. aid, with one exception: Congo, which lost a portion of its aid last year.
In October 2011 Obama issued a waiver to Chad because it had allegedly taken “steps to come into compliance with the standards outlined in the CSPA,” yet those steps were obviously insufficient to keep it off both the TIP report and a similar UN report. He gave Yemen a waiver despite the fact that the State Department had found that the Arab state has conscripted children as young as 11 into its army; the waiver enabled the country to obtain $21 million in U.S. military aid. And he granted Congo a partial waiver because, he said, it had also moved in the right direction but was not yet fully compliant with the law.
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Photo of child soldier in South Sudan: AP Images