My friends became humanitarians this week. They shared a 30-minute video with me on Facebook and Tweeted about a Ugandan war criminal after seeing Zooey Deschanel do the same thing, so I guess that makes it legitimate.
These are the same kind of people who put an end to child abuse after they changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters in 2010. I’m really proud of everyone.
This is Generation TMI. We give away too much information in conversations, and we take in too much from what we see and hear each day. It’s a little difficult to filter every piece of news that slithers into my brain, which is why I’ll be a lifelong cynic. It’s not because I want to spend the rest of my days at bars quoting Bukowski’s prose; it’s because I want to live my life as one of the few people to whom others look for truth.
Invisible Children, Inc. is a nonprofit organization perhaps best known for its documentary about the forced enlistment of child soldiers by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Some jackass named Joseph Kony is in charge of the guerrilla group, and the hatred that’s currently a-brewin’ for these vicious clowns is well-deserved. If it’s true they massacre villages and sell girls into sexual slavery, I would love nothing more than to watch these people run through the streets on fire.
Then again, maybe I’ve watched too many Saw movies—you know, “Those that don’t appreciate life do not deserve life”—or maybe I dream a little too often of Dexter Morgan living next door.
Either way, I’m able to lower my testosterone levels long enough to remember that the main goal should not be a reenactment of Eli Roth’s nightmares featuring Kony as the helpless victim. The main goal is to help these children escape a monster that has for too long ruined lives.
How do we go about helping these people achieve peace and freedom? Or what should we not do?
Invisible Children bragged about its continued efforts in lobbying the US government to interfere with Kony’s actions, which eventually resulted in Obama sending 100 troops into Uganda to train the country’s army.
But the sudden mass outbreak of anti-Kony fever recalls Bush-era rhetoric. (“Either you are with the Ugandan military or you’re with the LRA!”) There is a cultish feel to this train of thought. But I’m not “with” either organization. Choosing one evil over the other does not make you sophisticated, nor does it make you any more virtuous than undecided onlookers.
Michael Deibert wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post where he explains the origins of the Ugandan government’s power:
Kony is a grotesque war criminal, to be sure, but the Ugandan government currently in power also came to power through the use of kadogo (child soldiers) and fought alongside militias employing child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, something that Invisible Children seems willfully ignorant of.
Most importantly, says Deibert, the Lord’s Resistance Army is no longer in Uganda, and it hasn’t been for at least six years.
The Ugandan government under Yoweri Museveni is no better now. It has been using the classic door-in-the-face technique to crush basic liberties under the guise of civil progress.
In early February, Uganda’s parliament revived an anti-gay bill that promised death sentences to those engaging in homosexual behaviors. A new version of the bill dropped references to the death penalty for “serial offenders,” but there are still mandatory prison sentences for homosexuals. More likely than not, this is all the Ugandan government wanted in the first place—a false display of willingness to negotiate.
Human Rights Watch depicts further corruption within Ugandan police forces:
…officers routinely use unlawful force during arrests, including beating suspects, using torture during interrogations to extract confessions, and the alleged extrajudicial killings of at least six individuals in 2010 alone.
And this is whom Invisible Children wants the US government to train? Are they also proud that for the past two years, the Obama Administration has waived almost every penalty against foreign governments using child soldiers to give them more of our tax money in military aid?
US military training often goes awry. Six years ago we trained Guatemalan soldiers to fight against the LRA. Kony’s group, according to David Axe at Wired, “wiped out the entire eight-man commando force and beheaded their commander.” We also trained Osama bin Laden to fight against the Soviet Union, which was then deemed the greater of two evils.
We see how that turned out.
Despite how mismanaged Invisible Children’s funds may be, it’s good that they’ve helped build schools, but the organization should be ashamed that it promotes firepower to solve these complex conflicts. Charity and guns don’t mix.
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