To read the first part of They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children is almost unbearable. So why recommend it? Because what the children suffer is actually unbearable. Yet children bear the brunt of forcible recruitment into adult fighting, and unless we do something about it, what we won't bear, they will. This is premise of Dallaire’s second book.
Dallaire speaks from his painful experiences as a professional soldier facing child soldiers shooting weapons. “Shoot or not to shoot?” is the question Dallaire is spending the rest of his life trying to eradicate. He cannot rest while adults on every continent (saving the uninhabited Antarctica) regard children as a cheap, easily manipulated weapons system. He insists on the term “weapons system” to make us who are at peace understand the comprehensiveness of the identification, recruitment, drugging, training and exploitation of children. Not absolving “Western” countries, he points to the clandestine use of children by drug gangs and organized crime. And he points out that although Canada was one of the first signatories of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is no legislation to implement it, allowing us to ignore its provisions.
The second part of Dallaire’s book is much easier to read. Here he outlines what he is doing to help military forces, NGOs and governments develop an effective process for preventing the recruitment of child soldiers. Even during peace, rehabilitation is traumatic and difficult in most post-war zones; only crippling the economics of using children can end their abuse by adults. A telling example is the continuous effort by arms manufacturers to make weapons light and easily used – but bullets are still relatively expensive. Dallaire proposes, among other ideas, an arms control protocol restricting ammunition.
They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children focuses its advocacy on Canadian youth, the 18 – 35 year olds. He urges them to vote and he urges them to act. He even provides a framework, through the Child Soldiers Initiative www.childsoldiersinitiative.org. His motto is “Zero Force: Even One Child Soldier is Too Many”. Hard to disagree.