Hooked on Automatics: Somalia Islamic Militants Force Children to Watch Executions and Learn to Use Weapons

125px-Flag_of_Somalia.svgthumb_teacher1The Islamic al-Shabaab militia is well known for its harsh application of Sharia law in Somalia. However, it turns out that they have the same concerns about the children growing up with the wrong priorities and values as do people in the West. In the case of the al-Shabaab, the problem is a failure of parents to teach children to use weapons and their insistence on educating them on such things as reading and writing. The militia group is now forcing children to watch executions and giving away prizes of automatic weapons and grenades at children events. It is the Somali version of Hooked on Phonics.

The militants have been rounding up children from schools to watch executions in places like Merca, Somalia.

In Kismayo, children competed for the right to own AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades and anti-tank mines. At the prize ceremony, parents were reminded to teach their children well about the use of weapons and the need to kill.

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42 thoughts on “Hooked on Automatics: Somalia Islamic Militants Force Children to Watch Executions and Learn to Use Weapons”

  1. Jill,

    Self respect is critical; however, talking to oneself is going a bit too far.

  2. Byron,

    To me, I don’t think of non-violent resistance as passive (although there is a form of it that uses intentional passivity to as a tactic). Passive people may be armed or unarmed. During the reign of Bush for example, many on the right, including the militias, remained passive, or worse, supportive of Bush as he dismantled the Constitution, ordered torture and falsely led us into a war of his choice. It is now the left that is remaining passive in the face of these same crimes committed by a Democrat.

    Active resistance takes many forms, one of which is non-violence. Non violence doesn’t mean no one will get hurt or take risks, it means only that one will not use violence to achieve one’s goals.

    I think the idea of an ass-kicking hero is a strong archetype in our minds and hearts, one that doesn’t serve us well. The Hero Archetype is actually the mirror image of the dictator. It is one person that is supposed to make things right just as the dictator proclaims he will make everything right if we only follow him. In this I am not doubting the courage of any person who tries to right a wrong. To reach out and help other people is heroic. It is one of the best things we can accomplish in our lives. But that isn’t the same as the archetype of a single hero who takes everything on by himself and puts it right. We put things right by working together. The more people able to think for themselves, lead, follow, take over for each other, the better. To face down tyranny we need the many, not just the one.

    I agree with you that dictators can only prevail because people are afraid, both because they should be of a cruel person who can do real harm to anyone who fails to obey but also when people are afraid to see the emperor has no clothes.

  3. “Maybe I have a “High Noon” complex.”

    Martin: You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If you’re honest you’re poor your whole life and in the end you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star.

  4. Mike S writes: There is a whole historical sub-genre regarding the proposition and evidence that Jesus (or whoever was supposed to be Jesus)was actually a revolutionary against Rome and that was why they crucified him.

    there wasn’t anything special about crucifixion –it was the death sentence of choice, along with flogging on the way to the site. thousands of people were crucified for scores of reasons, chiefly disloyalty to Rome.

    the christian bible is the only reference we have about jesus and differing gospels portray him as a different guy in each. the search for new meaning in the gospels isn’t new and neither is the desire to paint him as an ordinary guy, a rabbi, a teacher, a criminal. different times evoke different groups who tackle this little-known person and try to humanize him to seem more like their idea of what a savior ought to be.

    I believe that there was no such figure and the christian gospels built this character out of whole cloth embellishing as time went on… since none of the authors of the gospels actually knew him and the time span for writing was long and there are no other surviving chronicles of this man.

    the urge to find salvation is a strong one and the need for jesus to be part man/part god is unsettling for me.

  5. Byron,

    Civil disobedience is just another form of stampeding. And it can work regardless of government cooperation or proclivity simply because of math. If the head of the fish is rotten, to borrow the Russian truism, the body can kill it by simply ceasing to cooperate in some instances. I say some for a reason because there are a certain amount of bad actors that will never respond to social coercion and must be removed by force as it is all they understand. Just like economics works best as a combination of free and controlled markets (and I know you disagree) the only viable solution is a mixture of both tactics in any given situation. Gandhi was indeed a pacifist and prime mover for removing the Raj, but if you think that it was totally bloodless? Eh, you’d be mistaken. In fact, as independence approached their was a large uptick in sectarian violence. People died and killed to free India. That the bulk of the change was induced passively will not change that. As with most things, an example of a polar (i.e. black/white) solution is a true rarity. Most solutions are gray.

  6. Jill:

    I cant really say why I like a Terminator/Han Solo Jesus. I guess I like the picture of basically one man taking on the totalitarian power structure of his time. Maybe I have a “High Noon” complex. I doubt Gandhi would have been successful with the Romans and I don’t think a turn the other cheek Jesus would have been either. Although a good many Christians did die at the Circus prior to Romes eventual collapse.

    Their deaths can probably be attributed to passivity and Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek.

    In my opinion passivity in civil disobedience only works if the power structure is willing to entertain change. Otherwise civil dissent will be put down harshly and quickly. Think Hitler, Saddam, Iranian Mullahs, etc.

    A revolution in a country like that has to be a total spontaneous uprising of such shear mass that it is impossible for the dictator to control it. Or if he tries, he loses whatever support he may have had.

    I find it strange that a population has the means of over throwing a dictator at any time they wish but fear keeps them in a herd mentality. If you can stampede the “herd” the dictator is done and in short order.

    I doubt I explained anything, as I said above I dont know why. You have any thoughts on that?

  7. Jill,

    First, I think we all need to look at our ideas about gender. In some sports, women have recently started competing with men and they’re doing just fine. In about 20 years you may be surprised at who competes at what sport and does well. Sports are hampered much less by biological limits than social strictures. The differences between individuals is greater than between what you would call the two sexes.

    I was asking a genuine question about a tough or in your description of a terminator/hans solo hybrid, I would have to say, a violent Jesus. If you do want to explain this I am interested and although I may disagree with you, that’s all it would be–a disagreement. I like you.

    I personally fear left wing complacency far more than right wing militancy.

    At this point, I think a general strike in the streets is another way besides the ballot box to help the poor, working and middle class and restore the Constitution!

  8. Jill:

    men and women are different and have different abilities. Men and men are different and have different abilities. Women and women are different and have different abilities.

    Why don’t women compete with men in the Olympics?

    Being non-violent is obviously the best way to go. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that in this country.

    And my liking a tough Jesus has more to do with my thoughts on religion, specifically the Christian religion, than anything else.

    Are you worried about a bunch of violence loving, gun toting conservatives? No need to be, we would only be violent if our rights were usurped totally by government. I do love the second amendment. As Ben Franklin said “Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote”.

    The ballot box is the appropriate venue for political disagreements.

  9. Byron,

    This is what you wrote earlier: “I always thought that Jesus was a revolutionary. And never did like the feminine Jesus portrayed in the pictures and in sermons at church when I was young.

    He took on the entire hierarchy of that time and basically beat them. No turn the other cheek Jesus for me, I like the bad ass avenging Jesus. Think the Terminator and Han Solo combo Jesus.”


    This sounds to me like you prefer a violent, rather than non-violent revolutionary figure. If I read that incorrectly it was an honest mistake. I think the question of violence is extremely complex. The ideas you attribute to me are not mine. I have never justified the taking away of anyone’s freedom. I hope you have read enough of my posts on this blog to know that I try to stand up for people’s rights. So to directly answer you question, there is no time that the taking away of anyone’s freedom is acceptable to me. I choose to work in a non-violent way to rectify this situation to the best of my ability.

    As to your understanding of who women and men are I can only say there is a great deal of information which contradicts these ideas. Our culture deals in the myth that women and men are far more different than we are alike. We also believe there are only two sexes, when in fact there are actually five. I think we need to challenge these myths and really see who we all are.

  10. Many reasons for not have women in combat specific MOS’s have nothing to do with their ability to perform in combat.

  11. Jill:

    I don’t doubt for a minuet that some women are capable of doing well in combat, history shows us that. I am only saying that it is not the general rule. Fortunately or unfortunately women and men are different, we handle stress differently, we have different strength and endurance levels, we handle heat and cold differently. Some men aren’t qualified for combat either, but generally they are.

    To me the article you linked to sounds like it is cultural necessity to have women on the front lines. How did the women do in the earlier fighting?

    “My other question is: why does a violent revolutionary appeal to you more than a non-violent one?”

    Who said it did? I like Gandhi as much as I like George Washington. I dislike Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, both of whom were violent men. It’s not the violence or lack of, it is the cause that appeals to me.

    So what you are saying then is that the American Revolution was not a worthy cause because it was violent, but voting a dictator into power in Venezuela or Iran is ok because it was non-violent?

    As long as freedom is taken away in the ballot box it is ok? But if freedom is reestablished at gun point that is not ok?

    I am just curious.

  12. Hi Byron,

    Did you know our service women, right now, are in combat? It’s not supposed to happen but it does, all the time. If something is not in nature it cannot occur. It would just logically not be possible for it to happen. I think we have to conclude that the idea that certain traits naturally occur only in females or males cannot be true because we constantly see women and men acting exactly counter to these supposedly immutable, “natural” characteristics.

    My other question is: why does a violent revolutionary appeal to you more than a non-violent one?

  13. Mike:

    “In context of the ongoing discussion here the notion that we are today more intellectually/politically evolved than the ancients is a flawed one.”

    I agree and believe any educated Roman could make mince meat of any of us on this blog in terms of rhetoric, well maybe not BobEsq., he has that guy Kant pretty well figured out. And would slap the guy silly with the categorical imperative.

  14. Jill:


    Do you feel women are not and cannot be revolutionary forces in the world (because that’s what I get from your first sentence). Also, do you feel that the only way one can be a revolutionary person is to be violent (because that is what I get from your last statement).”

    Obviously no on both counts. Gandhi comes to mind as does Joan of Arc. However if the revolutionary is violent, I would say she tends to loose her femininity.

    I also think that women make poor warriors for the most part because it is not in their nature. And no, I have no problem with women who want to serve. But I dont think they ought to be in direct contact with the enemy. Ships, planes, subs, tanks even sure.

  15. Mike and Byron,

    There’s a often played bass Concerto by a famous virtuoso and pedagogue, Dragonetti. The problem is it wasn’t really by Dragonetti. It doesn’t sound anything like anything else he’s written. Somewhere along the line, someone wrote this piece and decided it would be better received if it was by Dragonetti, and so it got attributed to him, and even though it’s fairly obviously NOT by Dragonetti, it’s “The Dragonetti.”

    I wonder how many sermons get attributed to Jesus.

    By the way, there’s a reason Dragonetti wasn’t known as a composer.

  16. Jill,

    I do not feel that Bryon was being inflammatory in his statements. I think he was trying to express that express that what we are led to believe is not necessarily what we now believe.

    This is pretty much like the belief of some that thought torture was good at the beginning and now have changed the focus to torture not being good and what else is our government not telling us.

    As far as Women, I did not think that he was saying what you are inferring.

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