“America is now aiding and abetting the use of child soldiers.”
That was how Ari Rabin-Havt, deputy policy director for US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), responded to a New York Times report on Friday detailing Saudi Arabia’s use of Sudanese child soldiers as young as 14 years old to wage its vicious assault on Yemen, which has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
According to the Times, “Five fighters who have returned from Yemen and another about to depart said that children made up at least 20 percent of their units. Two said children were more than 40 percent.”
“To keep a safe distance from the battle lines,” the Times noted, “their Saudi or Emirati overseers commanded the Sudanese fighters almost exclusively by remote control, directing them to attack or retreat through radio headsets and GPS systems provided to the Sudanese officers in charge of each unit, the fighters all said.”
The Times report was met with horror by anti-war activists, who highlighted the fact that—by continuing to send the Saudis arms and provide other military assistance—the United States is directly complicit in the kingdom’s use of children as soldiers in its years-long war on Yemen.
“Children paid to kill children. This is how our ‘ally,’ Saudi Arabia, wages its disgusting war in Yemen,” wrote Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. “And we help pay for it.”
As the Times reported, nearly all of the Sudanese soldiers paid by Saudi Arabia to fight in Yemen “appear to come from the battle-scarred and impoverished region of Darfur, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during a dozen years of conflict over diminishing arable land and other scarce resources.”
Taking advantage of its “vast oil wealth,” the Times noted, the Saudi kingdom has offered thousands of dollars to desperate Sudanese families in order to lure children to fight in Yemen, where millions of people have been pushed to the brink of famine.
The Times report comes amid a growing push by American lawmakers to end US complicity in the Saudi atrocities, which have often been carried out with weaponry made in the US.
As Common Dreams reported, the Senate took the “historic” step earlier this month of voting to end US military support for Saudi Arabia.
But, thanks to a handful of Democrats, House Republicans succeeded in ramming through a rule that killed the possibility of the Yemen War Powers Resolution of even reaching the House floor for a vote in this Congress.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who has helped lead the push to end US complicity in Saudi Arabia’s atrocities, has vowed to keep pushing for final passage of the measure when the next Congress convenes in January.