The devaluing of human life — and of childhood — is continuing in the 21st century. And one sign is a disturbing USA Today report that says the Taliban are increasing using children in many ways to fight Americans:
From 3- and 4-year-olds used as human shields or to gather spent cartridges, to teenagers offered motorcycles for planting roadside bombs, children are being used more and more to fight Americans here, U.S. Marines say.
“We’ve seen children actually dropping mortar rounds in the (firing) tubes against us,” says Lt. Col. Michael Manning, commander of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment that is rotating home after seven months in this hilly northern district of Helmand Province.
“I’ve never seen a culture that cares so little for human life. They (the Taliban) truly don’t care unless it impacts their own personal family,” says Manning, who has lost 13 Marines and seen 127 wounded since March.
The use of children on the battlefield has been spreading across Helmand, where Marines began an offensive to drive out the Taliban early this year, says Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of all Marine ground combat forces here.
Marines have witnessed youngsters dragging away wounded Taliban, planting roadside bombs and collecting dropped weapons.
At a remote firebase east of here, a squad leader, Sgt. John Ellis, says he found children selling heroin dosages wrapped in torn pages of the Koran it the village streets.
The trending in this century is so far troubling. Political dialog is coarsening, the world economy is ailing and kids are being used to kill adults. You can’t say the bars are being lowered on past assumptions about the way the world operates.
Increasingly it’s: where ARE the bars?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.