A Lebanese television channel recently aired a special on child soldiers, featuring an interview with a 12-year-old sniper who joined a group fighting in opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad after his father was killed on the battlefield.
“I get up in the morning and try to shoot some soldiers,” Midyan Abu Al-Qa’qa’ says on the program, which was translated from LDC TV by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI).
“Sometimes I manage to shoot one or two, and sometimes I don’t. There’s nothing to it. I feel fine. I killed my first soldier on this front. When I killed him, I didn’t feel anything. He was the first, but then came a second, and a third…I’ve gotten used to being a sniper,” the pre-teen says.
According to a YouTube video’s narrator, Midyan “voluntarily joined the ranks of the fighters after his father was killed in battle in the south of Idlib.” He currently is a sniper in the Wadi Deif Camp, which is located east of Maarat Al-Nu’man in northwestern Syria.
“We will continue the revolution until we win or become martyrs,” Midyan tells the reporters. [Source: cnsnews.com 9/19/14]
The video also shows other child soldiers, and quotes a Syrian veteran who says, “Children make the best soldiers. When you give them orders, they obey. They never doubt anything.” [Search for the video at YouTube, entitled: Syrian Child Soldier: “I’ve Gotten Used to Killing Soldiers.”]
Children make the best soldiers. Why do you think that is?
It’s obvious. They’re the most capable of following blindly. Children — prior to adolescence or teenage years — lack what cognitive psychologist researcher Jean Piaget called “formal operations.” Formal operations refers to the capacity for more advanced abstract thought.
It takes an adolescent — or older — to subscribe to an ideology, because an ideology involves, by definition, a highly abstract set of concepts. “Freedom,” “Justice,” or “Revolution” all refer to concepts — regardless of their content — that only an adolescent is capable of accepting or rejecting. Children, on the other hand, are much more compliant. They don’t yet have the full conceptual capacity to be otherwise, at least in most cases.
What does it say about an ideology that its proponents require the blind obedience, honest ignorance and/or lack of intellectual development of children in order to sustain itself?
None of this is relevant to our present leadership in America. Our president insists that it’s not ideology governing the actions of terrorists in Syria, Iran, Palestine, in ISIS, or elsewhere. He insists that all the violence going on in the Middle East has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, ideology — least of all, Islam, a religion our president happens to like. We’re supposed to assume it’s all random. Perhaps because of the water, the weather, or some other unknown or accidental factor, parents in one part of the world arm their children and send them into battle, teaching them that it’s good to shoot someone and “not feel anything;” while in other parts of the world, parents would die before ever permitting or witnessing such a thing.
Yet without the justification of ideology, how could anyone — even as evil as terrorists — conspire to involve children in such a systematic way, in this conflict for what their elders clearly see as a battle between good and evil?
Children can sense or semi-grasp the concept of good and evil, in some unarticulated, perceptual-level form. You can read them fairy tales, or tell them Biblical stories, or similar stories with morally laced themes, in which there are evil queens, benevolent kings and good princesses, and the like. But they’re still too young to form their own intellectual conclusions about what’s good, what’s evil and why.
In the Westernized world, particularly the United States, people gasp at the very prospect of arming children to go into battle. Such emotions of disgust and horror are, in themselves, based on an implicit ideology. The ideology is rationality, liberty, individual rights and the material progress engendered by capitalism. People who cannot comprehend arming children to go into battle have enjoyed the benefits of liberty and material well-being their whole lives; and, in most cases, their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents have, as well.
Most, including our hapless President, will insist that the only thing we have to fear is ideology. But Middle Easterners who detest America detest us for a reason. It’s much deeper than what our military has done over the years. It has to do with our attitudes, our principles (politically and ideologically), and our very way of life.
In order to defeat an enemy you first have to understand it. You have to understand the core differences that could lead these enemies to crimes and actions, such as arming children, that are simply incomprehensible to our prevailing point-of-view.
Ideas have consequences. When you live in a world where supernaturalism and poverty are seen as inevitable, if not ideal, then it’s psychologically and logically inevitable that you will hate, envy and seek to destroy anyone who operates from a different point-of-view.
It’s not enough to simply recoil in horror at the prospect of sending children into battle. You have to understand what kind of mentality would lead to such a thing: What assumptions, what basic principles and beliefs. These are the same sort of beliefs that lead to public beheadings, planes flown into buildings, and whatever might happen next, on or off American soil.
I’ve heard the phrase (not my own, although I don’t know its origin): “Ideas move man; man moves the world.”
It’s one of the truest statements ever made. It not only explains all of human psychology. It explains almost everything that motivates human beings to do the great, good, awful or profoundly terrible things they do.
We quite literally are our ideas. Ideas matter. Indeed, as the Middle East shows us daily, ideas can and do have life or death consequences. Just ask the children armed to enforce them.
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