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Obama Quietly Okays Military Aid to Countries That Use Child Soldiers

Overrides law banning such aid; critics charge 'Obama becoming an expert at waiving human rights laws'

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

President Obama pictured in 2009 (Photog: Mark Wilson/Getty)Amid the hoopla of the government shutdown, the White House quietly passed a bill Monday that overrides a law banning military aid to countries that use child soldiers.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 prohibits the U.S. government from providing military assistance to countries that directly use, or support the use of, child soldiers. Built into the law is an option allowing the U.S. president to override the ban if he/she deems it necessary.

On Monday, President Obama issued complete waivers to Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan, opening up those countries to U.S. military aid despite their known use of child soldiers, declaring in a written memorandum it is "in the national interest of the United States" to override the ban.

Obama also granted partial waivers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia to allow "International Military Education and Training" and "nonlethal" defense for both countries and "provision of assistance under the Peacekeeping Operations authority for logistical support and troop stipends" in Somalia. According to Think Progress writer Hayes Brown, these waivers open the door for military aid for ongoing "peacekeeping" operations in both these countries.

"Obama is becoming an expert at waiving human rights laws," writes Ken Hanly in Digital Journal. "He waived part of a law last month that banned the US from supplying lethal aid to terrorist groups so he could send aid to Syrian rebels. In the case of Egypt, Obama has refused to call the coup by the armed forces a coup and by doing so does not run afoul of a law that would ban aid to a country where there had been a military coup."

"Human rights are to be promoted but only insofar as they do not conflict with US national interest as understood by the president," he added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has come under criticism for filling its own military ranks with hundreds of thousands of teenagers, including 17-year-olds who can enlist with parental consent.

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