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Armies of the Young

Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism

David M. Rosen

Publication Year: 2005

Children have served as soldiers throughout history. They fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and in both world wars. They served as uniformed soldiers, camouflaged insurgents, and even suicide bombers. Indeed, the first U.S. soldier to be killed by hostile fire in the Afghanistan war was shot in ambush by a fourteen-year-old boy.

Does this mean that child soldiers are aggressors? Or are they victims? It is a difficult question with no obvious answer, yet in recent years the acceptable answer among humanitarian organizations and contemporary scholars has been resoundingly the latter. These children are most often seen as especially hideous examples of adult criminal exploitation.

In this provocative book, David M. Rosen argues that this response vastly oversimplifies the child soldier problem. Drawing on three dramatic examples-from Sierra Leone, Palestine, and Eastern Europe during the Holocaust-Rosen vividly illustrates this controversial view. In each case, he shows that children are not always passive victims, but often make the rational decision that not fighting is worse than fighting.

With a critical eye to international law, Armies of the Young urges readers to reconsider the situation of child combatants in light of circumstance and history before adopting uninformed child protectionist views. In the process, Rosen paints a memorable and unsettling picture of the role of children in international conflicts.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book began with a quiet walk through the British Military Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. As I strolled among the well-ordered, manicured graves of the young soldiers who perished in Palestine during the Great War, I had a sense of the anguish, loss, and pain in these soldiers’ families, feelings that have now been almost completely erased by time. ...

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Chapter 1: War and Childhood

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pp. 1-18

The images are burned into our minds: a young boy, dressed in a tee shirt, shorts, flip-flops, holding an AK-47, a cap pulled down over too-old eyes; a child with sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest; a tough-talking twelveyear old in camouflage. The images disturb us because they confound two fundamental and unquestioned assumptions of modern society: ...

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Chapter 2: Fighting for Their Lives: Jewish Child Soldiers of World War II

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pp. 19-56

Among the most memorable stories of the Holocaust is that of Motteleh the child soldier. Motteleh, age twelve, was hiding in the forests of Belarus— then part of eastern Poland—when he was rescued by and joined a partisan group. Disguised as a local villager and carrying false identification papers, he became well known as a player of Ukrainian folk melodies ...

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Chapter 3: Fighting for Diamonds: The Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone

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pp. 57-90

When he was eight, Tamba Fangeigh was kidnapped in Kono District in eastern Sierra Leone by soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel army in the civil war (1991–2001), and was placed in the so-called Small Boys Unit of the rebel fighters. The joy he took in the killing of local militia and civilians is chilling: ...

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Chapter 4: Fighting for the Apocalypse: Palestinian Child Soldiers

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pp. 91-131

On March 29, 2002, Ayat al-Akhras, a Palestinian teenager, blew herself up outside an Israeli supermarket in Jerusalem, killing Rachel Levine, a seventeen-year-old student, and Haim Smadar, a fifty-five-year-old security guard. On the evening of March 28, Ayat videotaped her farewell address on behalf of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. ...

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Chapter 5: The Politics of Age

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pp. 132-158

The case studies presented in this book challenge the dominant humanitarian concept that child soldiers are simply vulnerable individuals exploited by adults who use them as cheap, expendable, and malleable weapons of war. These studies only begin to touch the range of circumstances in which children are engaged in combat; ...


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pp. 159-184

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 185-192


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pp. 193-199

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About the Author

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David M. Rosen is a professor of anthropology and law at Fairleigh Dickinson University, College of Florham, Madison, New Jersey. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his J.D. from Pace Law School ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813537832
E-ISBN-10: 0813537835
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813535678

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2005