Sunday, April 29, 2007

Warlords and Child Soldiers

Today's New York Times "Week in Review" includes an important story on child soldiers by Jeffrey Gettleman. Here's the introduction:

In the early 1980s, in the lowlands of Mozambique, a new technology of warfare emerged that would sweep across Africa and soon the rest of the world: the child soldier.

Rebel commanders had constructed a four-foot tall killing machine that cut its way through village after village and nearly overran the government. Its trail was smoking huts and sawed off ears.

The Mozambicans learned that children were the perfect weapon: easily manipulated, intensely loyal, fearless and, most important, in endless supply.

Today, human rights groups say, there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. And experts say the problem is deepening as the nature of conflict itself changes--especially in Africa.

Here, in one country after another, conflicts have morphed from idea- or cause-driven struggles to warlord-led drives whose essential goal is plunder. Because those new rebel movements are motivated and financed by crime, popular support becomes irrelevant. Those in control don't care about hearts and minds. They see the local population as prey.

The result is that few adults want to have anything to do with them, and manipulating and abducting children becomes the best way to sustain the organized banditry.

Read the complete story here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Voting Rights in Florida

Two months before the 2004 presidential election, I noted in this post that approximately 4,700,000 Americans would be ineligible to vote because of state restrictions on voting by convicted felons. The disenfranchisement of felons, which is a matter of state rather than federal law, has been most common in the South where it is a legacy of the Jim Crow era. It is generally viewed as a violations of international human rights law.

Yesterday, Florida's clemency board voted to allow most of the state's 950,000 disenfranchised ex-felons to regain their right to vote. The decision, pushed by Republican governor Charlie Crist, leaves only Virginia and Kentucky on the list of states with lifetime bans on voting by ex-felons.

Before the vote, Gov. Crist said, "This is Holy Week, a week that is all about forgiveness. Restoring civil rights is the right thing to do."


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Comfort Women: Why Now?

Why is the issue of the Japanese military's use of "comfort women" roiling Asian politics over sixty years after World War II ended? Foreign Policy gets answers from Columbia University's Gerald Curtis in this installment of "Seven Questions."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Returning to Form

I haven't had time to check the stats, but I suspect March 2007 was the lightest month ever for posting on Swords into Plowshares. Rather than make excuses, I'll simply announce my return and promise to do at least a little better in April.

Thanks for checking in.