Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Entry archive:

U.S. President Barack Obama chats with Daily Show host Jon Stewart during a commercial break in taping on Oct. 27, 2010 in Washington. (Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama chats with Daily Show host Jon Stewart during a commercial break in taping on Oct. 27, 2010 in Washington. (Pool/Getty Images)

Obama, the UN and child soldiers Add to ...

Remember Bush-isms, Slate editor Jacob Weissberg's near-daily chronicle of the foot in the mouth of the 43rd President of the United States of America throughout his tenure? Even if you missed that series - or the book that grew out of it - who will ever forget "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job," which won the award as George W. Bush's most memorable phrase of 2005.

More related to this story

Well, last night, as the first commander-in-chief to appear on a comedy show, President Barack Obama was met by a skeptical Jon Stewart. As a worthy representative of his liberal base, Mr. Stewart challenged the President throughout the interview for - among other things - his decision to hire Lawrence Summers as his top economic adviser. To which the President replied: "In fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job." To which Mr. Stewart retorted with a chuckle, "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."

To understand why Mr. Obama's liberal base may be disenchanted with the dude, Canadians need look no further than the case of Omar Khadr - being tried by a military commission devised by George W. Bush, as modified by Barack Obama.

Yesterday, as the CBC has reported, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict wrote to the members of the military commission at Guantanamo requesting that Mr. Kadr be repatriated to Canada. In the letter, Ms. Coomaraswamy - trying to shame the commission with a bit of flattery - argued that the United States has been one of the "champions [of her agenda]… lending both its political influence and funding support to child soldier de-mobilization and re-integration in over 15 conflict situations around the world, including Afghanistan."

Perhaps.

Earlier this week, however, as the Washington Post reports, President Obama took a step back on championing that cause -and specifically on legislation signed into law by president George W. Bush - to the consternation of one of the observers at the Khadr trial:

President Obama has granted a waiver allowing four countries to continue receiving U.S. military aid even though they use child soldiers, officials said Wednesday.

Human rights groups reacted with surprise and concern, saying the decision would send the wrong message.

"What the president has done is basically given everybody a pass for using child soldiers," said Jo Becker, children's rights director at Human Rights Watch.

Administration officials said cutting off aid would cause more damage than good in countries where the U.S. military is trying to fight terrorism and reform abusive armies.

Obama sent a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, dated Monday, saying that it was "in the national interest" to waive a cutoff of military assistance for Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories