Wednesday, December 26, 2007

US Military, Stop Recruiting Children

I took my children to see National Treasure II this Christmas and was dismayed, as I often am, by the extensive military recruitment ads blasted at them in the pre-previews period while we waited for the movie. In this case, it was Three Doors Down's video “Citizen-Soldier” – replete with a National Guard logo during the song, with follow-up blurbs by the guy who asks you to turn off the cell.

Not that the video is itself objectionable (but, see "Kingdaddy" over at Arms and Influence); not that we shouldn’t be proud of our troops or acknowledge their sacrifice, valorize them even, as long as they do their jobs admirably. In fact compared to the quality of much popular music, it’s healthy to see political themes, whatever they are, as an antidote to the sappy mush that keeps our kids' focus on sex and fashion.

There is, however, an international law banning recruitment children under the age of 15 into the armed forces. Let me repeat that – the norm is against recruitment, not mere use, of children.

Surely this includes subjecting them to military recruitment ads.

So why is the US military permitted to buy ad space in theaters for films with lower than an R rating?

True, the United States has not signed the Optional Protocol on the Convention to the Rights of the Child banning child recruitment. (Oh, right, the US hasn’t signed the framework convention itself either.) But it doesn’t matter, because the Special Court for Sierra Leone has ruled that child recruitment is banned not only in treaty law but in customary law, meaning that so many countries agree its wrong and don’t do it anymore that even those who claim the right to recruit children are breaking international norms.

What would it take to get these ads out of movie theaters, I wonder?

For more on the military-entertainment-industrial complex, I recommend any of Cynthia Enloe’s books, the newest of which is Globalization and Militarization.

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