IC Thursday: Voces inocentes

Today we're discussing Voces inocentes or, in lay, Innocent Voices. The 2004 movie focuses on the militaristic uses of children in the Salvadoran Civil War. The Salvadoran Civil War was South America's second longest civil war, running from 1979-1992.

Why we should care: Well, the U.S. had a pretty big role in the Salvadoran Civil War. Under the administration of three presidents, the U.S. sent seven billion dollars to El Salvador, mostly in favor of the Salvadoran military working to put down the liberal coup. The U.S. involvement in El Salvador's internal conflict was silent until a National Guard death squad raped and killed four American nuns and a laywoman in 1980. President Carter suspended all aid, at the time, until domestic right-wing groups pressured for continued support. They won out and the U.S. resumed its dumping of money into the complicated and bloody conflict.

Why we should care even more: The movie isn't really about the war, so much as it is about the orphans and child victims of the war. Set in 1980, the same year that the issue came to the fore in the US, the movie follows Chava and his mother Kella as they fight the forces of destruction to keep their family together. The movie is a microcosm of the problem of child victimization by military conflicts. There's no way to accurately discuss this issue in a short amount of time. Suffice it to say that children have been used for militaristic purposes since the beginning of time in nearly every culture (including the U.S.! WEE!!!)

There are a few ways children are used in the military: 1) Combat soldiers. The kids, as young as 7 in Kurdistan, participate as full members of a nation or movement's standing army. This means they hold weapons, kill people, and often rape and pillage with glee.

2) Non-combat soldiers. These kids often serve as messengers, lookouts, spies, and sources of misinformation. They also serve as sexual slaves for military leaders and common soldiers.

3) Body shields. They are used as human body shields during fire fights. They are also scouts for mines.

4) Propaganda. Saddam Hussein used children as young as 10 in his Fedayeen Saddam or "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". These were the kids with the red bandannas tied around their foreheads, holding Kalashnikovs in the Gulf War. You may have heard about them from the news; that's because they were both combat soldiers and a propaganda tactic.

As I said, this problem is far too complicated and wide-spread to state succinctly. So watch the movie. It will give you a pretty accurate account of the life of desperate families involved in wars that the United States will support but never take part of. It'll also give you a pretty good look at situations that we will never have to experience and probably feel like we don't want to think about. That's why International Cinema rules. These are more than movies. Go and be affected.


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