WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The photos are horrific. The most recent shows children in Fallujah, Iraq, dancing gleefully while teen-agers tear at the immolated bodies of four murdered American aid workers. In another set, circulated earlier this week by The Associated Press, 16-year-old Hussam Abdo, a Palestinian youth, is shown at an Israeli military checkpoint in Nablus. The youth's hands are atop his head. Around his torso is a vest containing 18 pounds of high-powered explosives. The child isn't simply transporting the bomb, he is the bomb. Young Abdo is the fourth Palestinian child rigged with explosives to be detected by Israeli soldiers and police in the past week. The youngest was just 11.
Using children in armed conflict is hardly a new idea. It's a brutal reality of war that has been employed for centuries -- dating back to before the Crusades. Around the world today, it is believed that upward of 500,000 children have been drafted, captured or enslaved by government or rebel forces to kill or be killed. In places like the Congo, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to name just a few, children as young as seven years old are forced to facilitate or carry out unspeakable variations of torture and murder.
But in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chechnya -- indeed much of the Islamic world -- radical Jihadists have perfected the process of turning out child killers. In madrassas -- so-called religious schools -- all over Islam, young boys are "educated" to hate, kill and kill themselves. They are promised that if they die the right way -- as a martyr killing a Christian or a Jew -- they will reap spiritual rewards for themselves and financial rewards for their family. For youngsters ill-equipped with life skills -- ignorant of math, science, chemistry, biology or physics -- and indoctrinated in how to die -- it's a short step to suicide terrorism.
Hussam Abdo, the 16-year-old Palestinian bomber, is described by his family as "gullible." He'd be dead today but for an alert Israeli soldier suspicious about why, on a warm day, the child was wearing a heavy, oversized coat that fell to his knees, with long sleeves concealing his hands. Despite claims by Palestinian terror leaders that they "condemn the use of children under the age of 18 for attacking the Zionist enemy," Israeli security officials believe that bomb-rigged children may have been used to perpetrate as many as a half-dozen terror attacks in the last three years.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.