Child armies discussion (archive)
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From: SKeck47870
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 02:54:06 EST

A friend sent me an article about child soldiers (7,500 of them, many as young as 10) fighting a war in Sierra Leone, that included the following information:

"UNICEF estimates that approximately 300,000 children under the age of 18 are actively involved in armed conflicts around the world."

"In a 1996 UN report entitled 'Impact of Armed Conflict on Children', Graca Machel wrote: 'Children have served armies as porters, messengers, and spies [because they are] more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers."

"You can desensitize a child to violence more easily than you can an adult." says Dan Seymour of Save The Children, UK (who works to rehabilitate child veterans). "If you want people to carry out things that, on the whole, your average person would be unable to do, it's quite a good idea to get a child."

The article tells the stories of several children who fought in the Sierral Leonean war, who tortured enemies, murdered other children who refused to join the rebel forces, even attacked their own villages and murdered their families.

This got me thinking about the use of children as cultists in a DG game. Off hand I can't think of any published scenarios where this has occured. Has anyone out there tried this, and if so what was the result? I'm planning to use this in my campaign as a moral (as well as tactical) dilemma for my agents, hoping that they will that they will see these children as victims and try to rescue them, as opposed to mowing them down like so many orcs. Tactically, the children will be armed with a variety of spells, like shrivelling, rather than AK-47s, so killing them out of hand would lead to a Waco type scandal for the agencies they work for, and a lot of questions they would never be able to answer satisfactorily.

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 11:47:02 -0800 (PST)
From: Doug Iannelli

Approximately a week ago a post was made citing data concerning the proliferation of child armies. I apologize for not including a brief summary of that posting (I get the digest-version), but I would like to comment on it all the same. There are definite applications that can be borrowed from the "child soldier" and applied to the "child cultist" for DG use. However, it is my humble recommendation that, having reviewed some basic facts and history concerning the phenomena, Keepers contemplating using this element in their works consider the following:

As partially delineated in the posted article, the child as an instrument of war is an exceptionally worthy opponent. Consider these truisms:

1) Most all children, regardless of culture, believe themselves to be "ten feet tall and bulletproof" until some event or series of events sufficiently convinces them that they are, in fact, mortal. (Recall how many accidents or near accidents it took for you to finally begin to drive with some semblance of sanity having received your first car.)

2) Most children, regardless of culture, are highly susceptible to "peer pressure." Lack of substantial life experience makes it difficult for children to process information and make an intelligent assessment of what they are being asked to do.

3) Most children, regardless of culture, do not fully develop what we in the West would term "moral aptitude" until their early teens and there is good data to support that children base their ultimate "moral barometer" on the social-moral environment they are exposed to as early as seven years of age.

Now, these are only generalizations of the human condition. Let's look at what occurs when these base truisms are then inserted into a social environment alien to the stabile Western cultures to which we predominantly belong:

1) In many cultures and geographic locales, violence and conflict are so embedded in the daily life of the children being raised there are actually being indoctrinated to accept it as a normality of human behavior. The daily routine of death begins to develop a callousness toward the taking of a life.

2) The concept of "peer pressure" is elevated to an extreme by parents, political and religious leaders, and societal norms which advocate and cast approval upon abberant and violent actions against identified enemies. The child wants to fit in, ergo, the child blindly accepts the directions of his society and its leaders.

3) The stigma of sending children to their deaths to further a cause is either culturally absent or systematically erased by years of attrition. What you are potentially left with is a young, capable,amoral soldier who thinks he's invincible and is malleable to whatever party-line you feed him. It is no great surprise that the warlords and generals of the world are capitalizing on this. It really doesn't matter whether the young Palestinian boy just wants a one-way ticket to Paradise or a shot at getting up the local mullah's daughter's robe, he is ready and willing to deliver that bomb or pop that Israeli soldier because that is what good little Palestinian boys do. The ignorance/inexperience of youth prevents him from critically analyzing the situation any farther.

These attributes to the child soldier are, in my estimation, identical to those of the potential child cultist (observe Waco and Jonestown). It's not so much 0 SAN as it is dangerously misguided immaturity. Of course, if Nyarlathotep's secretly the one filling the child's head with nifty ideas, that's another story.

Now I get to the special advisory to Keepers planning on using this angle in their campaigns/scenarios:



This moral bulwark is ingrained in us. Particularly we soft Americans. Observe the following two accounts. Both involve US Special Forces teams. Both occurred in Desert Storm. Both nearly ended in disaster because an American commander (and "commando" at that) refused to take the life of a child.

On two separate occasions, US Special Forces personnel operating in small teams in hide-sites behind Iraqi lines observing troop movements prior to the commencement of the ground war where compromised when a child accidently stumbled on their positions. In both cases, the team leaders opted not to take the child out citing moral as well as tactical reasonings. In both cases, the child returned with armed adults and Iraqi regulars and the teams be besieged by small arms fire for several hours before emergency evacuation could be performed. In one case, the Iraqi's sent women and children to recover their dead and abandoned weaponry from within the killing zones of the entrenched SF troops. The SF troops shot the woman, but the children were allowed to carry out their task.

I have been told that this account has finally been released to the public in some book, but I am unaware of the title if this is in fact true. I was not involved (I was still in the medical portion of my course when Desert Storm took place and not yet assigned to a Group), but it was the topic of conversation several years later during training on just this particular topic.

To the United States and her Western allies, the phenomenon of child armies are of particular concern precisely because of our "high moral standards". Enemy commanders and terrorists realize this. The Viet Cong realized this. The Somali's realized this. The splintered Yugoslav groups realize this. It is our Achilles Heel.

I advocate heavy SAN loss to the DG operator who pulls the plug on a kid, with all pertinent temporary/permanent insanities applicable. This loss should be modified even further (negatively) if the operator has children of his/her own. If the feel and attraction of DG is to remain its foundation in reality (with just enough fiction thrown in to make you wonder) Keepers must shy away from allowing their operatives to become desensitized child killers, for if they are that amoral, what impetus do they have for confronting the Enemy and what makes them any better?

Well, just some food for thought. I hope this helps stir ideas for you in particular, Shane.

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999
From: Davide Mana

Just a few comments on Doug's excellent post.

. First - please notice that everything Doug detailed about child soldiers is not limited to guerrilla areas and the like; violent environment, peer pressure and youthful amorality are also the bases for the formation of kids gangs (with a lot of other ingredients, of course).

And everything Doug wrote reminded me the basic profile of any minor working as a runner for the Mafia; if you teach kids that power is the only measure of man, they'll serve power and struggle to get it and wield it.

The number of minors being employed by organized crime (both local and imported) is increasing steadily at the moment over here, and the Government around here seems unable to realize that the war must be fought from a cultural standpoint.

. Second - a possible reference of interest

Slavenka Drakulic - Balkan Express - 1993

[no further data, sorry, as I own the Italian edition]

The book is a good if impressionistic source on the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans - not so much quantitative data, but lots of psichological sketches and feelings. A few chapters are dedicated to an interview with a kid guerrilla and might give some insight on the psichology of the subject. Scary in its utter matter-of-fact tone.

. Third

Now I get to the special advisory to Keepers planning on using this angle in their campaigns/scenarios:



Maybe it's nitpicking, but…

<street ethologist mode>

All superior creatures have an instinctive protection feeling towards their youngs (don't know about plancton and crustaceans and the like).

It's an ingrained evolutionary trait.

On the other hand, there are many species (including a few primate groups) that have no misgiving whatsoever when it comes to killing the youths of a different, competing tribe or group or territorial unit. In this sense, the territorial/group feelings seem to be stronger than the protective instinct towards youngs.

Humans seem to be carrying the thing one step further - the fact that in many areas sons and daughters are perceived as a cheap form of do-it-yourself working force/home appliance and not as <inser favourite metaphore here> probably helps.

Westerners (but lets be careful with the expression - I know of no country where kids are more protected than Japan) possibly act the way Doug describes because they have not been put under great territorial/group pressure.

The attitude changes once pressure is applied.

What I mean is - I do not doubt that the Yugoslavians (or whoever) loved and still love their kids; only, the territorial/group menace (or, being cynical, the net gain) is currently perceived as strong enough to make the sacrifice of kids an acceptable bargain.

All of the above, of course, without considering the fact that there are some cynical bastards out there that would sell their mother for power, so imagine how much they care for someone else's kids.

In brief - while we can be harsh judging the callousness of "the enemy", we must recognize that circumstances might lead us to make the same decisions.

[and the Great Old Ones might be interested in sponsoring said circumstances]

Facts seem to point in that direction - see the instances of parents stealing their kids food in Nazi concentration camps.

Possible DG relevance - I agree that a DG operative has to suffer some really stiff SAN loss as the result of killing a kid cultist.

On the other hand, the chronical aspect of the above might easily lead him to perceive the kid cultist as nothing more than "the enemy", causing the territorial instinct to override the protection instinct. A nasty change in world outlook and attitude indeed, and particularly nasty if the guy has a family of his own.

This might offer some extremely evil wais to portray the oft mentioned "agent burnout", most of them probably to be used only by/with mature players.

</street ethologis mode>

From: Robert Thomas
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 10:12:07 GMT0BST

Just thought I'd add something to the thread about Western society being averse to killing children. Has anyone read the Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse 5"? Good book well worth getting. Anyway in this he refers to the childrens crusade. I'm not sure if this is real or not. Refers to a priest acting in the name of Rome raising an army of children who think they are going to fight in the crusades. Of course human nature being human nature they are all going to be sold into slavery. But the idea of it was accepted by the population of Europe at the time as a method of reducing the numbers of street children and serving God. So if the above is true Western Society does not have a "major" problem with the death of children providing (and this is a major caveat) they are not your own and they are percieved as a drain on society.

This has just reminded me of a plot from another book by Steven Coonts (surname may spelt be wrong) "Under Siege" he had drug barrons attacking the US by paying members of, for the want of a better sociological term the 'Underclass', to commit suicide by looking after their families and educating their children. Now there is someone you don't want to come across. Determined to die because they firmly believe it is in the best interests of their entire family. This could be more easily brought into a DG campaign or scenario than the idea of children acting as killers, in Western Society at least.

From: "The Reverend"
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 12:52:58 PST

Its real, they were sold to pirates.

Hello all, I just thought I should put in my $.02 here with what I know about the Childern's Crusade. As I am aware, this was not organized by the Church in Rome, but came about as a 'grass-roots' kind of thing. As I remember, there was this charasmatic boy, I think in his teens, who preached the idea that the holy land would be taken by the innocent, namely the children. In dribs and drabs, some children ran away from home, and tried to get to Jerusalem by asking for passage aboard ships. This is where the slavery part came in, as the crew would convince the children that they would transport them, and then chain them and sell them into slavery, I think on the North African coast. The reference I read to it, (which I don't remember,) said it was a strange phenomana, because even with the lack of offical sanction or centralized group, many hundreds of children were convinced to do this. Again, my memory is sketchy, and if anyone has any hard evidence, I'd like to know.

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 16:06:55 -0500 (EST)
From: The Man in Black

I'm planning to use this in my campaign as a moral (as well as tactical) dilemma for my agents, hoping that they will that they will see these children as victims and try to rescue them, as opposed to mowing them down like so many orcs.

"Hoping to see them as victims," yeah right, how about if I see them as *my* victims! MUAHAHAHAH!

Tactically, the children will be armed with a variety of spells, like shrivelling, rather than AK-47s, so killing them out of hand would lead to a Waco type scandal for the agencies they work for, and a lot of questions they would never be able to answer satisfactorily.

The only problem here is how to cover up the operation. I'm guessing Good ol' VX Nerve-Gas, an industrial wood chipper and viola! Chum for the entire fishing fleet.

(Joker): "How can you kill women, children?"
(Doorgunner): "It's easy! Ya' just don't lead 'em as much."
-Full Metal Jacket

From: Davide Mana
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999

Anyway, the Reverend delurked long enough to write

Again, my memory is sketchy, and if anyone has any hard evidence, I'd like to know.

Here's the data according to Domenico Del Nero's monography "1212 - La Crociata dei Bambini" (1998).

Original sources

. France - according to the chroniclers of the time, a sheperd boy (why is it always sheperds?) called Steven was visited by the Lord Himself, that handed him some letters to be delivered to King of France, Philip II August.

[truly does the Lord post in mysterious ways]

As the boy made his way to court, a moltitude (30.000 according to one source) of kids rallied around him under the motto "Lord Jesus Christ, give us back the Holy Cross". they reached Paris, the king handed the matter to the thologicians (he was no fool, clearly) and sent the kids back home. The kids got to Marseille and hired a passage to the holy land.

Here the chronicle is rather precise: Ugo Ferreo and Guglielmo Porco, merchants in Marseille, offered a passage on their ships. Part of the convoy (two vessels) was lost in a storm by St. Peter's Island; the survivors were brought to Alexandria and sold as slaves to Saracen princes. According to the source, 18 years after the event, still 700 of the kids were held into slavery.

. Germany - a moltitude of kids was rised in the same year 1212 in Germany by a boy known as Nicholas of Kholn. Nicholas was apparently acting upon instructions received in a vision - an angel had told him to go to the Holy Land, granting him the ability to open the sea, Moses-like, to walk all the way. According to one chronicle, Nicholas carried a "strange cross", looking like a "tau" letter, as a holy symbol. The kids followed the Rhine valley, crossed the Alps, entered Italy, reached Genoa, where the sea refused to open and the city authorities forced them to leave within one day, marched down to Rome where the Pope refused to meet them, and finally the march died out in Brindisi (then and now the best port to reach Yugoslavia or Grece). The number of casualties during the march was incredible, and the travellers were easy prey to wild animals and brigands. They kept a killer average speed (on foot) of 35 kms per day.

Later comments

. "puer" - were the crusaders really kids? First of all, while in classical latin the term "puer" used to describe them indicates a kid under the 14th year of age, the medieval latin meaning stretches the age window over 20-years-old. Even more so, the word was often used to indicate a social position, not an age. Just like the French "garc,on", it indicated a youth or servant.

. "pauper" - according to some critics, a significant misconstruction was caused by the rendition of the word "pauperes" as "pueres", turning "poor men" into "kids". The error is not unlikely - accounts were often written using shortened latin, and many of the chronicles we have of the event are second hand at best.

Later conclusions

By many Crusade Historians the Children Crusade was actually a "Popular Crusade", opposed to the "Knightly Crusade" sponsored by the establishment. The Kids Crusade was therefore according to these authors a spontaneous movement, probably set off by the Pope's 1199 decision to sanction the Crusade. This is probably true of the French crusade - that appears to be more organized.

Other interestin trivia

. can you say Nyarlathotep?

A popular crusade - and recognized as suvh by contemporary chroniclers - started in France in 1251, when an hungarian calle d Jacob, on orders from the Virgin mary, raised a force of 60.000 men from all the walks of life and set off to avenge the Mansura disaster taht had delivered the King of France in the hands of the infidels. Soon Jacob showed his true colors: he preached a very personal version of the Gospels, practiced and condoned poligamy, trained his force to follow his instructions only, led them to despise the sacraments and all that.

A charismatic leader, protected by the affection of the Queen, he led a crusade all right - first against the catholic priests in France, and latter against the Jews. The population finally could take it no longer, and the enraged mob assaulted and tore Jacob into pieces in Brouges. His followers were "persuaded" to disband - those that were still alive, that is.

. portents

According to Saint Medard de Soissons (13th century)

"Some say that before this strange departure of the children, at ten years intervals, fishes, frogs, butterflies, birds left in the same way, according to the order and the season of their species"

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