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. 



  • Not everyone is so down on the LRA, here’s a part of what Rush Limbaugh said in October 2011:

    “Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. It means God. I was only kidding. Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them. That’s what the lingo means, “to help regional forces remove from the battlefield,” meaning capture or kill.

    So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda, and — (interruption) no, I’m not kidding. …

    Lord’s Resistance Army objectives. I have them here. “To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people.” Now, again Lord’s Resistance Army is who Obama sent troops to help nations wipe out. The objectives of the Lord’s Resistance Army, what they’re trying to accomplish with their military action in these countries is the following: “To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people; to fight for the immediate restoration of the competitive multiparty democracy in Uganda; to see an end to gross violation of human rights and dignity of Ugandans; to ensure the restoration of peace and security in Uganda, to ensure unity, sovereignty, and economic prosperity beneficial to all Ugandans, and to bring to an end the repressive policy of deliberate marginalization of groups of people who may not agree with the LRA ideology.” Those are the objectives of the group that we are fighting, or who are being fought and we are joining in the effort to remove them from the battlefield. ”


  • Don’t hold your breath on that whole Treaty of Rome and International Court thing, since it would also require the US to submit US and Israeli war criminals to trial–you know, the folks who explode radioactive dirty bombs over Iraq and Lebanon, conduct terrorist (i.e., undeclared) wars on myriad countries, mine Nicaraguan harbors (ICC-condemned) and put up the Land-Grab wall in Palestine, which is, as the saying goes, another country from Israel (ICC-condemned).

    Now if we can only find a way to attack the bad war criminals and mass murderers and protect the good ones (us and ours). . . .

  • I know this is a serious issue, and I hope that this comment doesn’t diminish. It is not meant to.

    My favorite part about reading your posts, Alan is that you are not encumbered by the existing boundries of our language. If there is no word that adequately works….you rise to the ocassion. “Tchotchkization” may be your best to date. AMIRITE?

  • Thanks, Pete.

  • What no one seems to mention is that the Ugandan government has been just as culpable in committing human rights atrocities, and no, it doesn’t justify Kony’s actions either but it’s a limited introspective into the situation. Africa is a very complicated place, far too complicated to be summed up by “bracelet activism” as Alan put it and 30 minute Youtube videos.

  • Sure, this all might lead to a serious effort to understand the history and politics of Uganda/Africa and our place in them. Seems doubtful though. Here’s my list of outcomes, from most to least likely:

    1. the bros from Invisible Children gain increased wealth and prominence by positioning themselves as white saviors
    2. a bunch of people wear bracelets, post links to a YouTube video and otherwise delude themselves about the issue, activism and how it works.
    3. the campaign works, and the U.S. ramps up its intervention, attacking yet another non-western country in pursuit of yet another bad guy du jour.
    4. this all leads to a serious effort to understand the history and politics of Uganda/Africa and our place in them.

    So yeah, I’m not that optimistic.

  • I support the effort just based on the fact that IC is timing their Big Reveal of the bad guy to occur on Pot Day.

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