Documento creado: 11 de marzo de 2008
Air & Space Power Journal - Español  Primer  Trimestre 2008

ASPJ Wings              Editorial

You’ll Have to Learn Not to Cry. . . .

I had a friend, Juanita, who got in trouble for sleeping around. We were friends since we were civilians, and we shared a tent together. The commander said that it didn’t matter that she was my friend. She had done something wrong and had to be killed. I closed my eyes and fired the gun, but I didn’t hit her. So I fired again. The grave was right nearby. I had to bury her and cover her with dirt. The commander told me: “You did very well, even though you started to cry. You’ll have to do this again many times, and you’ll have to learn not to cry.”

 —Human Rights Watch interview with “Angela”
Bogotá, 2 June 2002

 “Angela” and “Juanita” are not their real names. Twelve years old when this incident occurred, Angela was a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), an organization with a long history of child abductions and forced recruiting.

This issue of Air and Space Power Journal addresses the study, understanding, and dissemination of tragic problem of concern not only to military personnel in the battlefield but also to civilian populations around the world: the use of “child soldiers” by armed forces, religious fanatics, and insurgent groups. Specifically, this edition seeks to provide a better understanding of this tragic issue, foster better awareness, and find solutions to the problem.

History confirms that in the past, wars were fought mainly by adults as part of state armies. Today, however, children—some of them younger than 18 years of age—participate in warfare. The warring parties often abduct or force them to fight against their will, disregarding with impunity the international laws applicable to the rights and protection of children.

Although the problem has reached critical proportions in Africa and Asia, governments, armed groups, gangs, and guerrilla members in many countries in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East widely use children as soldiers. Clearly, it has now become a global problem. Statistics show that in more than 20 countries around the world, the number of child soldiers involved in armed conflict now ranges from 200,000 to 300,000 and that more than 40 percent (80,000 to 120,000) of them are young girls. In these theaters of operations, child soldiers are subjected to comprehensive military training that involves using guns, making bombs, and planning military strategy. Their captors force them to engage in sexual slavery and participate in executions, murders, tortures, kidnappings, and attacks on the civilian population. On many occasions, they use these children as suicide bombers, spies, messengers, drug traffickers, and field servants. During the last decade, approximately 2,000,000 child soldiers died during armed conflicts.

In Latin America, one finds the most critical situation in Colombia, where some 11,000 to 14,000 underage boys and girls are linked to armed conflicts as part of guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The latest statistics confirm that between 20 and 30 percent of the FARC combatants are children under 15. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Colombia has the third-largest number of child soldiers in the world, after the Congo and Liberia. Four thousand of them die in Colombia every year.

The recruitment and forced employment of children in war is inhuman—a reproachable practice that deserves worldwide condemnation. It violates their human rights, warfare’s traditional norms and military codes of honor, as well as the prohibitions of many international treaties. This global problem requires a global response. Unfortunately, people’s awareness and goodwill have not resulted in strong measures designed to eliminate, once and for all, this abominable custom. We should not tolerate a world where children are robbed of their youth; turned into cruel, irrational human beings and war criminals; and ultimately sacrificed as part of conflicts created by adults. Like the vast majority of children, they should de allowed to play and enjoy the innocence of childhood. After all, they represent the world’s best hope for a future filled with peace and prosperity.

* * * * * * * *

In closing, it is with deep sorrow, and regret that I must inform our readers of the loss of a dear friend and colleague—Almerisio Lopes, editor of Air and Space Power Journal in Portuguese—who passed away on 14 January. By emphasizing his professionalism and dedication, I hope to preserve in everyone who knew him an unfading memory of his jovial character and humane and generous spirit. He was an excellent host and fountain of support to the many Latin American officers and their families who visited Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, seeking to advance their professional military education. Rest in peace, “my friend.” You will be missed! 

Mr. Almerisio Lopes

Rest in peace, my friend

Teniente Coronel Luis F. Fuentes, USAF-Retirado
Editor, Air & Space Power Journal - Español


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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