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They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire
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They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

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They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire
Paperback $18.00
Sep 13, 2011 | ISBN 9780307355782

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  • Oct 26, 2010 | ISBN 9780307366375

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A Globe and Mail Best Book
“A compelling, moving and insightful book that exposes the problem of child soldiers in all its dimensions. . . . The book is emblematic of Dallaire’s resolve, compassion and abiding commitment to justice. . . . Refreshingly sincere.”
 — Samantha Nutt, The Globe and Mail (Best Book)
 — Calgary Herald
“Discover for yourself the compassion that shines through in this book. . . . Heartbreaking and informative. . . . After all the horrors Dallaire has seen, his enthusiasm and optimism is a wonder. But it’s also infectious and refreshing.” 
 — The Gazette
“Painful but beautifully rendered.”
 — The Vancouver Sun
“As a documentation of the changing face of modern global warfare it is a must-read.” 
 — Telegraph-Journal


Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction NOMINEE 2011

Author Essay

Boys are generally limited to fighting and some support roles, but in these male-dominated societies where the women do most of the manual work of sustaining the “home,” girls have many more useful skills than boys do. Far from being weaker or more passive, girls have proven to be as easily and effectively used in the same psychological, logistical, reconnaissance and combat tasks as boys – for instance, a significant proportion of the volatile and brutal LRA in Uganda is made up of girls. A perceived advantage of girls over boys is that they can be used as sexual rewards for the soldiers (though boys do not entirely escape that fate). They can be taken as bush wives (monogamous or polygamous sexual companions of a commander or leader) or used as sex slaves by the troops. Rape of girl child soldiers is a matter of course in most of these conflicts, and the resultant psychological damage, physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and childbirth complications are additional abuses the girls suffer.

And what about the children who are the result of these rapes and sexual abuse? There are reported cases of long-lasting conflicts in which the children of child soldiers have been trained and are now engaged in the fight. I cannot fathom the degree of human abuse and gross destruction implicit in the life of a girl soldier who is used to produce the next generation of child soldiers.

A warning: if contemplating the conditions that lead to the recruitment of children as soldiers is rough, exploring how they are trained and actually used in combat, as I do in the next chapter, is even rougher. And all the more reason why we need to marshal all our efforts to stop this.


Every military force in the world employs a formal training system to impart its knowledge, skills, experience and ethos to its recruits. From the basic training or boot camp through to the teaching of advanced leadership and technical competencies, the purpose of such training is to immerse recruits – and veterans – in the norms, identity, culture, values and beliefs of the military institution that safeguards the disciplined use of force within a nation state.

But the training that most child recruits are subjected to is often inhumane and gruelling, designed to separate the strong from the weak in the crassest of ways, in the shortest of time, using the minimum of resources. As the authors of Human Rights Watch’s 2003 report, “You’ll Learn Not to Cry: Child Combatants in Colombia,” write: “From the beginning of their training, both guerrilla and paramilitary child recruits are taught to treat the other side’s fighters or sympathizers without mercy. Adults order children to kill, mutilate, and torture, conditioning them to the cruelest abuses. Not only do children face the same treatment should they fall into the hands of the enemy, many fear it from fellow fighters. Children who fail in their military duties or try to desert can face summary execution by comrades sometimes no older than themselves.”

Whether the children are abducted or volunteer to serve in a government army, a rebel group or any other belligerent armed cadre, they will undergo some form of training and socialization or indoctrination to ensure they become “good soldiers” or die trying.

Table Of Contents

Foreword by Ishmael Beah
1. Warrior Boy
2. Little Soldiers, Little Killers
3. Kidom
4. Kidom Lost
5. How a Child Soldier Is Made
6. How a Child Soldier Is Trained and Used
7. How to Unmake a Child Soldier
8. The Moment: Killing a Child Soldier
9. The Child Soldiers Initiative
10. What You Can Do
Appendix: International Action on Child Protection and Child Soldiers
Recommended Reading
Recommended Websites

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