Thereís a 30-minute long YouTube sensation thatís gotten more than 70 million views in just a few days. The stated goals of the expertly produced Kony 2012 is to make an African warlord a household name and to keep U.S. military advisors in Uganda.
Because ideas presented in the documentary are stated as "something we can all agree on," I find it important to step forward and say that I do not in the slightest agree with the idea of US military advisors in Uganda. In fact, I think that the work being done by Kony 2012 director Jason Russell and a number of organizations and activists on this topic is flat wrong.
Kony 2012 has a "power-to-the-people" feel to it and calls for action that is humanitarian in nature, making it ideal in convincing naïve, well-intentioned people about the justness of having foreign troops in Uganda.
However, my years of political involvement have shown me that people must not be judged on what they say, but on what they do. As well-intentioned as they are couched, Russellís actions move us toward American military involvement in Uganda under popular pressure and under a veneer of justice. This is not an admirable goal and the talking points are familiar ones.
In fact, his techniques are so familiar that the maker of this film sounds like a neo-conservative, especially from September 10, 2001 until Wís mission accomplished speech on May 1, 2003.
Iím not going to spend time addressing the valid concerns that Uganda has oil reserves coveted by American interests, that US interests wants to beat China to Africaís resources and are looking for ways to have more of a military presence, that Joseph Kony and the Lordís Resistance Army might not be the threat they once were, that the crimes mentioned in Kony 2012 are an issue of the past and not ongoing, that Kony is believed to no longer be in Uganda, or that a tremendous amount of criticism has come out among Ugandans and other Africans against Kony 2012 and Kony 2012-type thinking. All of that can easily be found by a person approaching this video with a critical mind and an Internet connection.
Instead I will address more fundamental issues that are as pertinent today as they are in any other conflict and in assessing any other piece of pro-war propaganda meant to impassion. These are seven familiar techniques used by the neo-conservatives then and the neo-liberal Kony 2012 filmmakers today:
Itíll Be Easy
The makers of the film inform us that intervention in Uganda will be easy. However, we all know that a warlord doesnít get to be a warlord because itís easy to kill him. Weíve heard before that wars are easy. I remember how Iraq part II was supposed to be a cakewalk. If Americans understood that we were agreeing to 10+ years in Afghanistan, a post 9/11 assault on the Taliban and occupation would have been a harder sell. Iím not sure that Americans today would support a war in Vietnam with our 20/20 hindsight about the conflict. War isnít easy. That can be easy to forget.
Are we to imagine that Joseph Kony doesnít have a single general willing to follow in his footsteps? Will the brainwashed and abused child soldiers welcome us with open arms? Both of those concepts make this "easy" fight more complex and these questions donít even begin to scratch the surface. Iím not convinced that this will be easy. How poor of a memory does someone need to have to be IN THE MIDDLE of a war and to forget that military conflict is never guaranteed to be easy.
Calling hard things easy is nothing new. Door-to-door salesmen came up with a name for this technique Ė "the foot in the door technique." Itís a technique that has surely been around as long as interpersonal communication has existed. "Címon, it wonít be as hard as you think" is the gist of it. Sometimes thatís true. When it comes to war, thatís generally a lie.
He Has No Friends
"[Kony] is not supported by anyone," we are told in Kony 2012. Presumably everyone is Joseph Konyís enemy. He has no friends. Everyone in the region is against him. Well, then it should be easy for him to be killed or captured without US assistance right? If US assistance is needed, this claim sounds hard to believe.
There Wonít Be Unintended Consequences
If the unintended consequences were apparent to the warmonger, then the modifier "unintended" would not be needed. Causing problems and then coming along later saying "Sorry, I didnít mean to do that" isnít responsible. Itís even less responsible to screw up another country with one of our interventions and to pretend that we could not possibly have imagined that there might be unintended consequences. Ultimately, Americans can just get in planes and leave Uganda if we screw things up. Ugandans, on the other hand, are stuck there. We have no way of predicting what our intervention will do to their homeland. This Ugandan writer, Javie Ssozi, even goes so far as to suggest that the movement could cause Kony to fight back, which could mean abducting more children to secure his position and go on the offensive in now peaceful Northern Uganda.
Take Up the White Manís Burden
This is an ugly and seldom questioned aspect of every war America involves itself in. People who are so devoid of racism in all other aspects of their lives can so easily buy into this concept written about by Rudyard Kipling in 1899 when the US invaded the Philippines.
Essentially, itís the burden of the "advanced" white man to bring a better life to the "less advanced" non-whites. Put a twist on that and we have a version of Manifest Destiny Ė it is the duty of the advanced Americans Ė Godís chosen people Ė to ride to Africa and help; their lands will be better off under our control than in their current state.
Itís so blindly arrogant to look at our lives and to say that our lives are better than the lives of people who we do not know in a place far away. In the event that youíve never slept under the roofs of poor families in third world countries, I should share with you that people smile all over the world and quite enjoy their lives. My experience has been that even in the face of much adversity and even extreme poverty, the good people Iíve encountered would rather be left alone by America than ever lay eyes on an American soldier and the inevitable war zone that surrounds him. Many people the world over are happy without Americaís help even if their lives (like the lives of all human beings) are imperfect.
Attack Anti-War Ideology
Anti-war views can be ideological and inflexible. Some who are antiwar guard against others coming along and tearing away at the firm ideas of being against war. Common attacks to antiwar views propose moral questions intended to ruin the resolve of someone who is antiwar For example, the unlikely event of ticking time bomb scenarios are used in this way to try to erode at a personís peaceful values.
In case Obamaís presidency (the antiwar vote of 2008) hasnít done enough to undermine the antiwar movement, Russell, who probably hates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is calling for new military intervention. Thatís probably because heís flexible on the role war should play as a tool and encourages others to be more flexible. A war advocated by Dick Cheney to increase American military and corporate influence in the Middle East might be lousy, but if itís advocated by someone I like for reasons I like then itís suddenly grand to kill people. Is a bloody war, a bloody women-and-children-killing, community-destroying, body-maiming, soil-polluting war, with unpredictable additional consequences okay if itís done for humanitarian reasons and has a really cool marketing campaign?
Even a child can see right and wrong. The director demonstrates this by allowing us to watch as he tells his son about Joseph Kony. It can be hard to understand right and wrong from the other side of the globe. From my experience of years living abroad, it would surprise me if even 1% of people living outside of the US have the vaguest sense of what life is like in America.
At the same time, we Americans have no idea what life is like in Uganda. An American expert living and studying in Uganda for 20 years might be able to really give a solid estimate of all kinds of facets of life in Uganda provided that you considered him trustworthy. Six weeks in wartime Iraq, six weeks in wartime Afghanistan, six weeks in wartime Vietnam and even a soldier who is far removed from the day-to-day life of the average person in those countries can tell you that itís a lot more complicated of a situation than anyone at home realizes. He may not be able to describe the differences, but he recognizes that vast complexities exist.
Almost 20 years after the first invasion of Iraq, itís still asking too much to expect an American to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia in the land that weíve been occupying, let alone make an educated argument for taking sides in an armed conflict. Can any of us really be expected to discern what constitutes just and unjust in the context of Ugandaís internal politics? Yet in the example of Kony 2012, thatís exactly what weíre being called on to do, each one of us individually is being asked to step forward and to argue on behalf of military intervention in Uganda Ė a country that few of us know much about. As discerning thinkers seek to make themselves knowledgeable about Uganda, the more we learn about Uganda the less weíll see we understand. Just like our own country and any other country, the internal matters are complex, often more complex than most outsiders realize.
Ignoring the Hypocrisy of It All
Americaís the cleanest country out there, right? Itís an example of perfection, right? Forget that there are American citizens who would like to see our last two presidents, Henry Kissinger, and many others indicted by the same war crime tribunal that has indicted Joseph Kony.
The following, from Glenn Greenwald, is such a good accounting of some of President Obamaís horrific behavior that I like to reference it regularly:
You see, if you werenít American and watched American news perhaps twice a year, then maybe you would say "Wow, I canít understand why Obama isnít being tried as a war criminal yet. All those people he kills in other countries, youíd think his people would want him tried as a war criminal. If some outsider would just swoop in and deliver him to the Hague, everything would be better." Thank goodness other countries donít cluelessly get involved in our internal affairs Ė what a mess that would be.
I donít want to determine guilt or innocence by comparing Obama to Kony, but arenít we the American voter, the American taxpayer infinitely more responsible for going after Obama than Kony? Obama is our murderer. We enable him. Kony is someone elseís murderer. It may be convenient to ignore Obamaís crimes and go after Kony. Is it just though, to be concerned with the speck in the Ugandan eye, while ignoring the log in our own?
Invading another country about which we know little while essentially ignoring the faults of our own is the wrong step for an America interested in justice.
March 17, 2012
Allan Stevo [send him mail] is a writer from Chicago Ė author of LewRockwell.comís #1 Best Selling book for the month of February, the recently released How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012, a book on how Ron Paul supporters can secure the GOP nomination and with certainty deliver a presidential win for Ron Paul in 2012.
Copyright © 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.