High Crimes: Obama’s War on Child Soldiers and the Rule of Law

“Let us render the tyrant no aid” -Frederick Douglas, Narrative of an American Slave (1845)

Last week, the National Review published an interview with Lindsey Graham in which the two term U.S. Senator from South Carolina made the extraordinary allegation that President Barack Obama was  staging  a constitutional coup. “We are in danger of [no longer being] a rule of law nation,” Senator Graham told NRO’s Charles Cook. “It’s a mini-coup.”

Graham was referring to the political pressure being placed on Federal contractors to violate the 60-day employee layoff notification requirements mandated by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).  The Obama administration’s solicitation of WARN Act violations is just the tip of a very sinister iceberg that threatens the U.S. ship of state.  Over the past four years, President Obama has waged a war on the rule of law by repeatedly ignoring or selectively applying U.S. laws to suit his political purpose.  In the process, he has done violence to the principle that laws should be applied to everyone equally, even the President of the United States.

By far the most tragic victims of Obama’s war on the rule of law have been the child soldiers whose slave masters are supported with U.S. aid in violation of  the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA). The CSPA prohibits countries that use child soldiers in their armed forces from receiving  U.S. military aid.   The CSPA allows the president  to issue sanction waivers if he makes a good faith determination that a  waiver is in the national interest of the United States.  In order for the sanction waivers to be legal, the President must  provide a written justification for each waiver and report on the progress each of the past waiver recipients have made in demobilizing child soldiers from their armed forces.

President Obama has robotically issued child soldier sanction waivers in 20102011 and 2012.  Yemen, South Sudan, Chad and, since 2012, Burma and Libya have all received the green light to use U.S. aid to enslave children.  Obama’s justifications for his  sanction waivers have been nearly identical, and his administration has been unable to report progress in the demobilization of child soldiers over the past three years.  Instead of using the sanction waivers as a vehicle for change through “the fierce urgency of now,” Obama’s sanction waivers have become a convenient mechanism to preserve the status quo.  It is a tragedy that the  first African-American President of the United States has also become the first U.S. president to circumvent a Federal law designed to end the slavery of child soldiers.

In 2011, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R- NE), the CSPA’s sponsor, described the Obama Administration’s sanction waivers as an “assault on human dignity.” He rallied opposition to Obama’s unprincipled foreign policy by warning that “[g]ood citizens of this country who do not want to be complicit in this grave human rights abuse must challenge this administration.”
Congressman Fortenberry’s use of the word “complicit” is interesting, given the fact that  complicity in the recruiting or use of child soldiers has a very real consequence under the second part of the CSPA, the Child Soldier Accountability Act (CSAA) of 2008. The CSAA’s criminal penalties can be found at 18 U.S.C. 2, 2442, which mandates a 20 year prison sentence for U.S. nationals who aid or abet the recruitment or use of child soldiers.  This could include U.S. government personnel, contractors, or even the President of the United States. The Senate could have included provisions in the CSAA to shield U.S. government employees and contractors from the reach of its criminal penalties.  They did not do so.  President Obama should be familiar with these penalties since he was one of the CSAA’s six co-sponsors. He may yet become even more familiar with the CSAA’s penalties as Defendant Obama.  It is difficult to imagine a “high crime” more ignominious than aiding and abetting child slavery.
President Obama’s unprincipled disregard for the rule of law threatens a confrontation with Congress and a constitutional crisis if he is elected to a second term. His unchecked appetite for the exercise of executive power may yet lead, in even more uncertain times, to an unprincipled absolutism in which the law serves only the leadership and never the people.


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