“Warlords are forcing children in conflicts around the world to become killing machines,” writes CNN. “Nothing more than what one child advocate calls ‘cannon fodder.'”

Some children are kidnapped from their schools or their beds, some are recruited after seeing their parents slaughtered, some may even choose to join the militias as their best hope for survival in war-torn countries from Colombia, and across Africa and the Middle East, to south Asia.

Once recruited, many are brainwashed, trained, given drugs and then sent into battle with orders to kill.

There is no escape for what the United Nations and human rights groups estimate are 250,000 child soldiers today. These children, some as young as 8, become fighters, sex slaves, spies and even human shields.

Sometimes their guns are taller than they are.1

Anthony Stahelski in the March 2004 Journal of Homeland Security, notes that “terrorism researchers have compared terrorist groups to cults, and they have concluded that the cult model applicable to terrorist groups [Stephen J. Morgan, The Mind of a Terrorist Fundamentalist: The Psychology of Terror Cults (Awe-Struck E-Books, 2001)]”:

Der Fuehrer’s Face (c)WDP

Most cults center on a charismatic leader. Charismatic leaders have many of the following characteristics: physical presence, intelligence, experience, education and expertise, the ability to verbally and clearly articulate the vision and the mission, and, most important, a strong emotional appeal. Most joiners of cults respond to the leader’s message first at an emotional level, then later at the physical and intellectual levels. Joiners report that they have finally found someone who has the answers to life’s perplexing questions and who is therefore worthy of their total commitment [Thomas Robbins, Cults, Converts, and Charisma: The Sociology of New Religious Movements (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1988)].

In exchange for providing joiners with meaningful existences and for fulfilling their affiliative emotional needs, the leader requests and receives unquestioning obedience from the joiners. Long-term members of the group support the leader’s obedience pressure by applying conformity pressure on new joiners in order to forestall any deviation from the group’s mission or values. The joiners’ initial susceptibility to this intense obedience and conformity pressure makes them extremely vulnerable to the five-phase social psychological conditioning process used in violent cults.2

Stahelski identifies five phases in the inculturation process of violent cult groups: depluralization, self-deindividuation, other-deindividuation, dehumanization, and demonization. Old Hickory’s Weblog notes points out:

It’s worth noting at this point that there’s nothing unusual or bizarre about the basic methods of influence that cult groups use. Charismatic leaders of the type he describes are also found in politics, churches and business, too. It’s the particular combination of processes that make a cult group distinct from other types of groups. It’s also important to recognize that cult groups are not always religious groups.…

Depluraization involves cutting off ones ties to the various groups by which individuals in society define the identity on a normal basis:

In stable, normal (non-crisis) societies, most individuals are pluralized – that is, they fulfill their affiliative needs by belonging to a variety of groups. None of these affiliations, with the possible exception of the family group, is absolutely essential to an individual’s self-concept.

Self-deinviduation is a redefinition of the individual’s identity in the cult’s terms. Cult researchers Margaret Thaler Singer and Lanja Lalich have described the development of a “pseudopersonality” in which individuals conform themselves to the highly restricted environment of the cult. Stahelski describes the process this way:

Internally, all recruits are expected to give up any values, beliefs, attitudes, or behavior patterns that deviate from the group values and expectations. Deindividuated joiners give up their personal sense of right and wrong if it is different from that of the leader. Furthermore, the joiners’ broader view of reality – their view of how the past, present, and future fit together to create the modern social world – becomes aligned with that of the leader.

Other-deindividuation is the process in which, as Stahelski puts it, “All enemies become a homogeneous, faceless mass: they all look alike, think alike, and act alike.” Again, this is a normal human characteristic, the us vs. them feeling. Patriotism, solidarity with one’s own religious group, professional loyalties, all of these use the same process. It’s the combination with other factors that distinguish it in the cult context.

Dehumanization could probably be seen as part of the same process he calls “other-deindividuation.” He defines the “dehumanization” process this way:

All positive characteristics (for example, moral virtue, intelligence, responsibility, honesty, trustworthiness, reliability) are attributed to members of the “in” group, and all negative characteristics (moral degeneracy, stupidity, irresponsibility, dishonesty, untrustworthiness, unreliability) are attributed to members of the “out” group. Dehumanization occurs when the enemy and the enemy’s characteristics are associated with nonhuman entities, such as animals, vermin, filth, and germs. Nazi propaganda in the 1930s compared the Jews and their negative characteristics to rats and cockroaches.

Demonization, the fifth phase of the social psychological conditioning process, occurs when cult members become convinced that the enemy is in league with the devil and cosmic evil. Since most cultures define “good” in comparison to “evil,” demonization is a widely available conditioning strategy. Referring to the United States as the “Great Satan” is an example of cultural demonization.3

“The Palestinian authority is transmitting a message to the younger generation: the goal of life is death,” reports the “Children of Jihad” propaganda documentary. “Children are instructed: throw down your toys and replace them with rocks”:

The goal of this training is to program the childreni to be ready and willing to murder and kill of their own free will even if it means that they themselves will die.… The deliberate incitement of the children has gradually lost all restraints. The incitement reaches each household through television and radio spots, it permeates the schools, and the textbooks are riddled with teachings of hate.

Teaching children to hate inundates them from all directions. Cartoons and characters in children’s magazines and newspapers remind them to throw stones. Photographs of… martyrs adorn every wall.… Children are taught not to fear death but to welcome it.…

In a society in which legitimization of child murderers becomes a part of its ideology then normative human morality no longer exists.… All of this has been orchestrated quite methodically by the Palestinian authority who, with malice of forethought and directed from above, have transformed children into political pawns.

The children are taught that suicide bombs are the only thing that terrifies the Israeli people and that they “have the right to do it.” Moreover, the children are taught that “after their suicide attacks, the man who makes it goes to highest estate in paradise” 4 where 72 beautiful virgins (or houris) – “in Muslim belief, women who live with the blessed in paradise” 5 – will “minister to their every need and desire.” 6

The “Children of Jihad” report notes a study conducted by a Palestinian psychologist who found “more than 50% of [Palestinian] children aged 6 to 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers who wear explosive belts.” The psychologist states that “in about 10 years a very murderous generation will come of age full of hatred and ready to die in suicide missions.” 7

“Police claim that there are over 1 million members of criminal gangs in the country, who commit around 80% of the crimes in the U.S.,” according the website.8

In 2001, the FBI announced that “approximately 1.4 million active street, OMG [outlaw motorcycle gangs], and prison gang members, comprising more than 33,000 gangs, are criminally active within all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. “This represents a 40 percent increase from an estimated 1 million gang members in 2009.”

Gang recruitment of active duty military personnel constitutes a significant criminal threat to the US military. Members of nearly every major street gang, as well as some prison gangs and OMGs, have been reported on both domestic and international military installations, according to NGIC [National Gang Intelligence Center] analysis and multiple law enforcement reporting. Through transfers and deployments, military-affiliated gang members expand their culture and operations to new regions nationwide and worldwide, undermining security and law enforcement efforts to combat crime. Gang members with military training pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of their distinctive weapons and combat training skills and their ability to transfer these skills to fellow gang members.9

“The FBI points out that many gangs, especially the bikers, actively recruit members with military training and advise young members with no criminal record to join the service for weapon access and combat experience,” notes Business Insider.10

Michael Dewar writes of the armed response in Weapons & Equipment of Counter-Terrorism:

In some countries, the army is automatically called upon to deal with a terrorist threat. Elsewhere, the police or specialist elements of the police are used: in the United States, various SWAT teams are trained and equipped to deal with terrorist situations; and elite police squads deal with such as D11 of London’s Metropolitan Police have special expertise with firearms. In many countries, a so-called ‘third force’, designed to deal with riots and other IS [Internal Security] situations, has been created. These are paramilitary organizations.… There are also various ‘élite’ units.… Every modern police force and army does, to a greater or lesser degree, retain some sort of specialist anti-terrorist capability.11

Describing the American militia movement in A Force Upon the Plain, Kenneth S. Stern emphasizes:

We need not and must not sacrifice our civil liberties to combat domestic terrorism. But our criminal laws must be enforced and a federal law enacted to outlaw “private armies.” America, after all, is not Somalia – a country where people form their own military units and terrorize their neighbors.12 While grassroots groups, civil rights organizations, ordinary citizens, and our government are countering the impact of militias in America by doing what we know how to do – speaking out against hate remains the most important things that we know does work – some university or think tank or foundation should convene the leading minds in the related fields, and given them a task: What would a field of study of hate look like? The answer to that question, the theories and a vocabulary and case studies to show what increases or diminishes hate inside and outside of politics, and why, is long overdue.13

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i The recruitment and use of children as soldiers was recognized in 1998 as a war crime under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.… Countries and territories in which children are known to have been used in hostilities between 2004 and 2007 include: Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand and Uganda. Between 2001 and 2004, child soldiers were also used in Angola, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Iran, and Yemen.
“United States: President Bush Signs Law on Child Soldiers,” Human Rights Watch, 3 October 2008, at (retrieved: 26 February 2013).

Related links

1 Ann O’Neill, “Stolen kids turned into terrifying killers,” CNN News, 12 February 2007, at (retrieved: 21 May 2013).

2 Anthony Stahelski, Ph.D., “Terrorists Are Made, Not Born: Creating Terrorists Using Social Psychological Conditioning,”, March 2004, at (retrieved: 12 March 2011); See also: Cultic Studies Review 4/1 (2005).

3 “Cults and Terrorists,” Old Hickory’s Weblog, 13 April 2005, at (retrieved: 12 March 2011).

4 “Children of Jihad,” IsraelsProtector video at, (retrieved: 12 March 2011). (Show video)

5 John Lagone, Violence! Our Fastest-Growing Public Health Problem (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1984), p. 76.

6 Edgar O’Ballance, Language of Violence: The Blood Politics of Terrorism (San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1979), p. 4.

7 “Children of Jihad.”

8 “Shocking Crime Facts,”, at (retrieved: 1 July 2013).

9 “2011 National Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends,”, 2011, at (retrieved: 27 February 2014).

10 Robert Johnson, “The FBI Announces Gangs Have Infiltrated Every Branch Of The Military,” Business Insider, 22 October 2011, at (retrieved: 27 February 2014).

11 Michael Dewar, Weapons & Equipment of Counter-Terrorism (London, Arms and Armour Press, 1987), pp. 7-8.

12 Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), p. 8.

12 Ibid., p. 250.

See also

“Destructive cult,”, at (retrieved: 24 October 2008).

“Terrorism,”, at (retrieved: 24 October 2008).

“Teaching Hatred to Islamic Children,”, at (retrieved: 12 March 2011).

Related videos

“Ex-Moonie Diane Benscoter: How cults think,” video at, (retrieved: 21 May 2013). (Show video)

“Children of Jihad,” IsraelsProtector video at, (retrieved: 12 March 2011). (Show video)

“Hamas TV ‘Mickey Mouse’ teaches Islamic Supremacism,” charlesmartel686 video at, (retrieved: 3 March 2011). (Show video)

“HUMAN RESOURCES Social Engineering In The 20th Century HQ FULL,” consciousnessofone video at, (retrieved: 29 November 2014). (Show video)

“Der Furher’s Face 1944, Disney,” mathieulg1992 video at, (retrieved: 13 March 2011). (Show video)

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