The Kony Baloney

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There's a 30-minute long YouTube sensation that's 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, Russell's 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 W's mission accomplished speech on May 1, 2003.

I'm 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 Africa's resources and are looking for ways to have more of a military presence, that Joseph Kony and the Lord's 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:

It'll Be Easy

The makers of the film inform us that intervention in Uganda will be easy. However, we all know that a warlord doesn't get to be a warlord because it's easy to kill him. We've 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. I'm not sure that Americans today would support a war in Vietnam with our 20/20 hindsight about the conflict. War isn't easy. That can be easy to forget.

Are we to imagine that Joseph Kony doesn't 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 don't even begin to scratch the surface. I'm 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 — "the foot in the door technique." It's a technique that has surely been around as long as interpersonal communication has existed. "C'mon, it won't be as hard as you think" is the gist of it. Sometimes that's true. When it comes to war, that's generally a lie.

He Has No Friends

"[Kony] is not supported by anyone," we are told in Kony 2012. Presumably everyone is Joseph Kony's 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 Won't 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 didn't mean to do that" isn't responsible. It's 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 Man's 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, it's 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 — it is the duty of the advanced Americans — God's chosen people — to ride to Africa and help; their lands will be better off under our control than in their current state.

It's 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 you've 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 I've 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 America's 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 person's peaceful values.

In case Obama's presidency (the antiwar vote of 2008) hasn't done enough to undermine the antiwar movement, Russell, who probably hates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is calling for new military intervention. That's probably because he's 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 it's advocated by someone I like for reasons I like then it's 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 it's done for humanitarian reasons and has a really cool marketing campaign?

Simplistic Thinking

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 it's 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, it's still asking too much to expect an American to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia in the land that we've 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 Uganda's internal politics? Yet in the example of Kony 2012, that's exactly what we're 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 — 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 we'll 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

America's the cleanest country out there, right? It's 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 Obama's horrific behavior that I like to reference it regularly:

"President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

"He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He's brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the US as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world's most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

"Most of all, America's National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journalu2018s Michael Hirsh just christened "Obama's Romance with the CIA." He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed "a vast drone/killing operation," all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama's steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called "Top Secret America" has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the "austerity" measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America's middle and lower classes."

You see, if you weren't American and watched American news perhaps twice a year, then maybe you would say "Wow, I can't understand why Obama isn't being tried as a war criminal yet. All those people he kills in other countries, you'd 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 don't cluelessly get involved in our internal affairs — what a mess that would be.

I don't want to determine guilt or innocence by comparing Obama to Kony, but aren't 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 else's murderer. It may be convenient to ignore Obama's 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.

Allan Stevo [send him mail] is a writer from Chicago — author of's #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.

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