If US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cares more about money than human rights of children that are being forced to become child soldiers, then we have a real problem, Jennifer Breedon, international criminal law attorney, told RT.
In a confidential US State Department memo, reported first by Reuters, Rex Tillerson reportedly breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar from a list of states known to employ child soldiers.
RT: Why do you think Rex Tillerson decided to take Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar off the list of countries using child soldiers? Does this make it easier for the US to cooperate with the militaries of these countries?
Jennifer Breedon: It does make it (easier), but unfortunately Rex Tillerson in his capacity of secretary of state has actually been directly going against President Trump in a lot of the things he stated. One such thing – he stated many times in his platform…about the stand against these countries that are utilizing child soldiers, and we’re not supposed to be able to provide military support or even training.
But essentially if we allow military training of countries that we know have child soldiers, we’re essentially helping to train those very children that have become child soldiers. We have seen this time and time again, where President Trump has stated something in his foreign policy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has gone against it. I don’t know if this is some kind of stance, or if he is just sort of laughing behind the President of the US, but it’s really showing a destabilization from the US foreign policy standpoint.
One such example – and this correlates directly with the child soldiers – is the UN speech. President Trump gave a UN speech in September of this year, talking about the self-determination of nations and how he wanted to go against certain people that were proxies, tied to the Iranian regime. Regardless of the stance, Rex Tillerson went completely against everything Trump said. He helped the PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) and the Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq, and he has continued to do this almost in direct defiance of President Trump.
RT: Why did Tillerson make this decision, despite the State Department acknowledging those countries use children in their armed forces?
JB: And that’s the worst part, because the head of the State Department, essentially the head of our entire US foreign policy, Tillerson has an obligation to listen and to utilize the people within the State Department that have been there, and to adhere to their reports, and to what they have said. Unfortunately, it seems like he’s kind of going rogue on this and just thinks that he can do better.
This is the guy who was a businessman – he worked for Exxon – and he’s done all kinds of deals with nations. So if Rex Tillerson is somebody who is only looking at money, and who cares more about money – whether that would be US military contracts or other things with these countries – then human rights of children that are being forced to become child soldiers to take part in these violent battles, then we have a real problem – when the leader of foreign policy cares more about these military or financial deals than he does the human lives of these people.
RT: Can we assume there is some kind of internal split within the US State Department? How far could this go?
JB: Absolutely. I think that’s been a consistent problem at the State Department, and with this new information unfolding, we’re going to see that more, that there is a split. One of the most important things for any nation – especially a powerful nation – is that there is unification among the people in power and among the leadership.
You’ve seen a split now: you have top State Department officials coming out and disagreeing with Tillerson’s decision to arm these child soldiers. We’ve seen this before in the State Department when they’ve written letters, they have expressed their disconcerting feelings about what the department, what the secretary of state is doing.
So not only is there a split within the State Department, but there is also a very heavy, deep partisan split within the US and a split between President Trump himself and Tillerson. So Rex Tillerson seems to be splitting with not only the president, but his very own State Department, which he is opposed to adhere to, and listen to some of their reports.
RT: The US State Department spokeswoman claimed some of the countries had only one report of a child soldier. Does that make it reasonable to remove them?
JB: It depends on the situation – I always say this. I am somebody who is a human rights attorney, and as such we always have to look at the situation. For example, there are some countries – such as Afghanistan and others – where terrorism from the Taliban and others have become so bad that it is mainstream. And there are some people that are maybe 16-17 years old that choose to put their studies on hold and with their parents’ consent want to go and fight in the military. Under legal terms, they would be considered child soldiers.
Again, if this is the one instance that you’re looking at, where this was a child that was between 16, 17 years old that wanted to help because the village was unable to live in, then that is a very different situation, than if there were many things happening or this was a six-year-old child that has been forced into military combat. So, as you stated, if there is one – it depends on the situation. If we look at it reasonably, rather than just black and white saying “there is one instance, we’ll never do business with you,” or “what is that one instance?” That is what we need to see more often in the State Department is – what is the instance; can we help these countries?