September 13-19, 2006

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The Byrne Report

Kid Not

By Peter Byrne

According to Wikipedia, the only interesting things that occurred in Petaluma during the last half century were Polly Klaas' 1993 murder and the fact that alleged pedophile John Mark Karr briefly lived there several years ago. Karr's ex-wife, Laura, still resides there, near chez moi. As the press boiled around her house recently, a neighbor told me he saw the back of his very own SUV on national television!

His glee vanished when I said the "Iraq" word, adding, "Richard Allen Davis and John Mark Karr have nothing on George Walker Bush for ambition when it comes to murdering children."

"I forgot about all that," said the neighbor, his face falling.

Are we so desperate as a nation to forget about the hundreds of thousands of children we murder in Iraq via blockades, invasions, occupation and the sparking of civil war that we gladly focus our attention on the pathetic Karr to escape the horror of our own deeds?

Refusing to accept responsibility for our own war on children, we go ga-ga over an idiot who knows we want a scapegoat for our sins, while we do nothing to prevent the enslavement, rape, torture and economic exploitation of hundreds of millions of children all over the world, often caused by American business interests.

The United States and Somalia are the only nations in the world that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Somalia has not done so because it has no government (we destroyed it in the 1990s). Here in the United States, Congress has refused to sign off on the historic treaty for 11 years. The Bush administration is on record against it because it mandates the provision of social security for children and outlaws the execution of minors.

The treaty also upsets a large element of Bush's so-called Christian voting base, which, according to the National Center for Home Education, objects to the convention's "guarantee of freedom of thought, conscience and religion." These home-schoolers also object to the requirement that "all ratifying countries protect children from . . . corporal punishment."

Even more to the point, the convention outlaws sexual and economic exploitation, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of children. If the United States were to ratify the treaty, we would have to withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and the Philippines, not to mention hundreds of military bases around the world serviced by child prostitutes.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published dozens of reports detailing the abuse of children by corporations and governments. One recent report exposes U.S. governmental organizations as telling African masses that condoms cause AIDS. Another report shows that the Coca-Cola Company brutalizes child sugar-cane farmers in El Salvador. Yet another details how U.S.-backed paramilitary forces in Colombia are relying on child combatants.

There are Moroccan kids as young as five who labor 100 hours a week as domestic housekeepers for 70 cents a day with no rest breaks or days off. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandan children were orphaned after America turned a blind eye during the Rwandan massacres and left to roam the streets without a farthing from us. In 2002, half of the chocolate produced in the United States was linked to the use of child laborers (some of them slaves) in West Africa.

Did you know that the Congo, Pakistan and Iran have now outlawed state execution of juveniles? The United States is the only country left that regularly puts juvenile offenders to death.

In India, HRW reports, exported silk is made by "children as young as five years old who work 12 or more hours a day . . . making silk thread [by] dip[ping] their hands in boiling water that burns and blisters them." Under American occupation, Afghani women and girls are routinely subject to rape and repression without recourse. "Children working in agriculture in Egypt, Ecuador, India and the United States are endangered and exploited on a daily basis," HRW states. Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole import bananas farmed by eight-year-old children. Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel are educated in racially segregated, vastly inferior schools to those run solely for Jewish Israelis.

In conclusion, reports HRW, "in every region of the world, in almost every aspect of their lives, children are subject to unconscionable violence, most often perpetrated by the very individuals charged with their safety and well-being."

And let us not forget that the U.N. documents that some 14 million children die every year from malnutrition and preventable diseases.

And we sit around cooing over JonBenet Ramsey, waiting for the backs of our SUVs to make us famous.

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