Outrageous Outrage, Part 1: Joseph Kony
So, admit you probably never heard of Kony until the other day. It’s ok – even you guys who think it’s tantamount to neo-colonial paternalism for us to suddenly care about Kony and Uganda – you, too, can admit that, although you probably heard of Kony‘s army, you probably weren’t aware of his name.
As it turns out, Kony probably isn’t in Uganda at all, and Uganda’s political and economic situation, like that of much of sub-Saharan western Africa, is dictatorship in economic crisis, where AIDS is rampant and kids suffer from mysterious diseases that go unaddressed and untreated. Uganda doesn’t exactly have a history of great leadership, and apart from perhaps hearing of the Lord’s Resistance Army in recent years, the only thing you likely associate that country with is Idi Amin, and he fled to Saudi in the late 70s – another Ugandan who terrorized his own people and was never brought to justice.
And Invisible Children – articles have been released questioning their finances, their earnestness, their methodology, the content of their video, and their tchotchkization of a very serious issue.
I acknowledge all of that. I won’t be sending Invisible Children $30 for a t-shirt or for stickers, and won’t participate in yet another bit of activism-by-bracelet.
However, isn’t it a good thing what they did? Isn’t it a good thing that now, suddenly, this week, you’ve heard of Joseph Kony and know who he is? What he did to kids, to his country? I think it is. We can nitpick over the content of the video, its historic and political accuracy, its oversimplification of a complicated issue. We can denigrate the pretense of earnest Westerners suddenly caring about African causes, but in the end, knowledge is better than ignorance.
Especially because Joseph Kony has been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. You might not be aware of that, or that court, because the United States is not a signatory to the treaty that created the court, is not a participant in that court, and is not subject to its jurisdiction. As a result, the United States has very little moral or legal authority to do very much at all vis-a-vis that court about Kony’s alleged crimes.
And that’s another thing – a little bit of knowledge and “awareness” about the fact that a general war crimes tribunal exists in the Netherlands, and the United States has nothing to do with it, because if we did, the usual suspects – Birchers and their fellow travelers – would complain about everything from the UN, loss of sovereignty, New World Order, black helicopters, and all that other pseudo-informed, paranoiac, irrational rejection of thousands of years’ worth treatymaking and law.
In the end, as flawed as the Invisible Children group and methods may be, you’ve now heard of a really bad guy, who is a wanted fugitive and indicted war criminal. And if you click on this link, you’ll see the entire roster of Ugandan indictees at the International Criminal Court, and all of them should be brought to justice. But if you want to see Kony’s warrant of arrest, here it is. It’s been pending since 2005. Sure, the situation in Uganda is now different from how it was then, and there are other bad people doing bad things in Uganda. But with Kony 2012, now you have an excuse to read and learn all about it. But for that video, you’d still be sitting there not knowing a thing about it, or caring.
Now, you do.
Certainly, if you want to learn more about the Ugandan situation, now you have a wonderful excuse to do so. But I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive – that you have to completely immerse and inform yourself in the Ugandan political situation to credibly be able to care about the apprehension of Joseph Kony. However, what you can do – and should do – is contact your federal representatives and demand that the United States sign and ratify the Treaty of Rome, and become a full participating member in the International Criminal Court (which is independent and not under UN auspices), and that we do everything we can to help bring war criminals to justice, at home and abroad.