Obama's Child Soldiers

Six days after the inauguration of President Obama, the U.S. is scheduled to begin the first trial of a child soldier accused of war crimes since World War II. This video shows why President Obama must take swift action to end the unconstitutional military commissions, and why he must bring the United States back in line with the rule of law and treaties it has signed regarding the treatment of juveniles who have been recruited or used in armed conflict.

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Here is some background to the trial set for January 26: Canadian citizen Omar Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan in the midst of a firefight that seriously injured Khadr and resulted in the death of a U.S. solider. Khadr was sent to Guantánamo where he was been held for 7 years — one-third of his life. He was beaten, subject to painful stress position and even used as a “human mop” after he urinated on the floor during one interrogation. Under these conditions, the prosecution of Khadr raises grave concerns about the rule of law and underscores how unconstitutional the military commissions are. President Obama must end them as he has promised.

Doing so will spare ACLU client Mohammed Jawad from trial in an illegal system. Jawad was sent to Guantánamo after he was captured at about age 16 at the scene of a grenade attack in Afghanistan that injured two U.S. soldiers. Afghan authorities threatened Jawad with his death, and that of his family, if he didn’t confess to the attack. Based on the resulting false “confession” Jawad was transferred to U.S. custody, where he was further abused, and then to Guantánamo. Among other forms of cruel treatment he suffered at Guantánamo, Jawad was subjected to the so-called “frequent flyer” program, where he was moved every few hours — 112 times over two weeks — to deny him sleep. His trial date under the military commissions has not been set because the Bush administration has appealed the military judge’s decision to suppress torture-derived “confessions”. The appeals court decision is pending.

Join the ACLU in calling on President-elect Obama to immediately shut down the military commissions operating at Guantánamo.

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... and then what?

Ian w

I completely agree with the statement made in the video that "if Khadr had committed a crime, he should be tried in US Federal Court," and I of course disagree with the manner of the detentions being practiced by the US government in Guantanamo.
However, the ACLU is adopting tactics of sensationalism here. For one thing, it's not unheard of for minors are to be tried as adults in US Federal Court. The ACLU here shows videos of the clearly unhappy subjects to make us feel sympathetic, but that type of complaining is fairly typical of anyone who is imprisoned--it obviously sucks to be in jail, especially, I'm sure, for years without due process. I am not suggesting that the benefit of the doubt be extended to the people operating Guantanamo, only that here the opposite is taking place. The ACLU is leading the viewer toward conclusions it isn't fair to make. No evidence is offered for the "human mop" thing or the other claims made in this case, although the claims are stated as fact. An ACLU representative states that "his lawyers claim he is a victim of other combatants that used him as a child soldier." This is not the proper venue to air the claims of his lawyers, only that such a venue needs to be made available. It's a good point that the US is signatory to agreements regarding juveniles used in armed conflict, but this point is obscured and undermined by the sensational, unverifiable claims. it also looks a bit silly to go after Obama in this way before he's president, although I understand the time-sensitivity of the issue. Although I know I myself would be called a liberal, I'd understand accusations of "liberal hysteria" against the ACLU in this case. You're hardly making strict, specific legal arguments on behalf of civil liberties, here.


Obama will not shut down Guantanamo, nor will he prevent the US from torturing children, but thanks for your effort.

Suzanne Ito, ACLU

Rainman: The ACLU recommends that detainees are tried in the U.S. federal courts, a time-tested system that has successfully tried terrorism suspects in the past, including Jose Padilla, Zacarias Moussaoui, and the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, or by court-martial. There is no need for the creation of National Security Courts or any other new judicial system, to bring these detainees to justice.

S.P. Williams

Titling your article "Obama's Child Soldiers" is both inflammatory and patently unfair. Obama is not even president yet, and you're tagging him with this stuff? What a turn off.


i believe that America should do what ever it takes to shut down the terrorists no matter what it takes.


"He was beaten, subject [sic] to painful stress position and even used as a 'human mop' after he urinated on the floor during one interrogation."

Reminds me of my own childhood, but I suppose the ACLU doesn't care about youth rights unless the U.S. military is involved. The fact that young persons are treated as slaves is a non-issue here, just as my right to love is a non-issue here.


I think the "obama's child soldiers" title is just soo intellectually dishonest. Obama will close Gitmo, end of story.

Ian w

I notice that on the ACLU homepage the headline changed from "Obama's Child Soldiers" to "Child Soldiers in Gitmo," although the former remains on this page. I'm sure that has something to do with the fact that Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo today, so you no longer feel the need to go after him in such a dishonest and sensational manner, as though any of it were his fault, anyway. I hope the ACLU refrains from this sort of tactic in the future. It's beneath the organization and if anything it would prevent many people from taking you seriously.

Steven S.

These bio's of child soldiers is laughable. I'm sure the author has unfettered access to the "Afgan authorities" who threatened this guy with his life if he didn't confess. This is unsubstantiated blather that is designed to fire up the gullable.

Those who take up arms against us do not deserve the same freedoms we enjoy. If not Gitmo then what? Let's let them go and be good guys.

Obama is dangerously underprepared for the position he has been elected to by his blind following. I fear we are rapidly beginning a very unpleasant journey that will gain him experience at the expense of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. The terrorists are, I'm sure taking note of our kinder, gentler stance.


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