March 7th, 2012

Joseph Kony: A Monster to Destroy?


photo credit: Invisible Children

In just three days, the half-hour video produced by Invisible Children to highlight a Ugandan warmonger oppressing little kids has reached over 12 million people. (Edit: in less than a week, it has been viewed 70 million times.)

Many of those millions are now loudly parroting the message advanced by the video’s creators: the federal government is needed to intervene and help take out this monster once and for all. The narrator claims that in order to find Joseph Kony, the ring leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, “the Ugandan army needs the technology and training” which must be offered by the United States government.

Due in large part to the activism of this same organization, Barack Obama deployed 100 combat-equipped soldiers in 2010 to help regional forces capture or kill Kony and senior leaders of the band of rebels. In a letter explaining his action, Obama stated that “deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”

While it is laughable to claim that killing a bad guy half a world away who poses absolutely no threat to America would further the “national security interests” of the United States of America, one thing the intervention certainly does is further America’s “foreign policy” which has for decades entailed one intervention after another.

Invisible Children wildly celebrated this feather in its cap, though likely seeing it as just the beginning. Thus, the video. The idea is to further generate awareness, and then encourage activism, ultimately applying pressure on politicians in Congress to maintain and increase the troops on the ground. As the narrator further exhorts, “if the government doesn’t believe that people care about arresting Kony, the mission will be cancelled.”

The conflation of caring about Kony’s arrest and supporting the federal government’s involvement in that process saturates much of what Invisible Children does. In doing so, they readily admit that the use of military forces to capture and/or kill Kony would be a war waged “not for self defense,” says the narrator, “but because it was right.”

This is a subtle though dangerous connection, one where the “right thing” is almost universally agreed upon, but where the means to achieve that end is rightly problematic to some. Keep in mind what the narrator said: the use of the military to pursue Kony would not be an action done in self defense. Even so, they claim, it would be “right.” But something cannot be right unless done in the right way. Stopping a bully at school is the right thing to do; stopping him with a shotgun is not. Helping an unemployed neighbor pay his bills is the right thing to do; funding that “charity” with the money you stole from another neighbor is not. Fighting back in defense against an aggressor is the right thing to do; chasing that aggressor back to his home land and then bombing his loved ones and countrymen is not.

Stopping Kony is the right thing to do. To that end, Invisible Children’s efforts to generate awareness are definitely praiseworthy, as are any efforts to encourage individuals to donate their time and resources to bringing about that goal. Where they cross the line is believing and advocating that the military of the United States government should be involved.

In the early 1820s, several European countries were attempting to re-establish control over South America, jockeying for power by clashing with each other militarily. There was significant support in the united States of America for lending military and financial support to the various independence movements throughout South America. (Sound familiar? This same story has repeated itself dozens of times in the past two centuries.) In response, then-Secretary of State (and future President) John Quincy Adams stated the following in an Independence Day address before the House of Representatives:

America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.

She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart….

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.

She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

Her glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

History has repeatedly proven the folly of America’s deviation from this policy. This government has on numerous occasions involved itself beyond the point of extrication, under the guise of destroying monsters and assisting foreign independence.

This has application to many interventions, including the one which seeks to bring Kony to justice. Joseph Kony is a monster. But he is one of many. If and when captured or killed, another will rise to take his place. And even now, there are hundreds of other warlords and evil men inflicting their nefarious designs on the individuals they have dominated. America was not founded to be the policeman of the world, nor do there exist sufficient financial resources and moral authority to do so.

Truth be told, America has itself become a monster by violating the very principles and practices outlined in Adams’ speech. Recall that in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ taught his followers a lesson of hypocrisy and priority—one which has direct application to this situation:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Kony is capturing and killing innocent people. So is the federal government. Fancy videos and emotion-fueled activism show the horrors of what this Kony has done half a world a way, but where is the outcry and galvanized opposition to what our own government is doing half a world away? Where is the concern for the sanctions and blockades imposed on nations which create suffering, starvation, and death as a punishment for innocent people who have done no harm? Where are the throngs of teenagers clamoring for the government to stop dropping bombs on cities they can’t even pronounce? Why are there not well-funded educational campaigns raising awareness of the torture, intervention, war profiteering, and destruction inflicted upon foreign people by Americans in military costumes?

That story is not popular, nor is there a single scapegoat as easily vilified as there is with the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony. It’s comfortable for us to see monsters in distant lands and support their extermination, while coming to terms with the monsters who infest our own government is neither comfortable nor convenient. Thus Invisible Children casts a bright spotlight on Kony’s “mote” while the “beam” in America remains in relative darkness. In focusing on Kony while refusing to hold our own government to account, we become hypocrites who do not see clearly.

The video’s narrator affirms that “arresting Joseph Kony will prove that the world we live in has new rules.” In contrast, opposing, removing from power, and holding to account (through impeachment and criminal charges) those responsible for our interventionist, immoral, and offensive foreign policy—one which causes the death and displacement of millions of "invisible children"—would prove that the world we live in has reaffirmed the old rules of justice and morality, and that America’s motto once again is, as Adams said, “Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

18 Responses to “Joseph Kony: A Monster to Destroy?”

  1. David Motola
    March 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    Connor my friend, you have done it again. Well said! Thats exactly how I felt but I just wasn’t able to put it into words. Thanks.

  2. Nathan000000
    March 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Great points. I’d love to see a follow-up article about what people should do. That is, how should the problem be solved without involving the federal government? Would it be moral for a group of individuals to form an independent militia and travel to Uganda and hunt Kony down on their own? Has that ever been done before? I would be fascinated to read about historical examples of this alternative approach.

  3. JR1234
    March 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    I’m glad our involvement is only 100 soldiers and I agree that the calls for U.S. military action should not to be taken seriously. But I also think this article goes overboard into the category of hysterical ranting in its calling America a monster and essential equivocating America with this clown’s group.

    Where is the outcry and galvanized opposition to what our own government is doing half a world away? How about all Ron Paul followers and the entire democratic party’s constant assault on Bush for the war in Iraq and the “not soon enough” withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan??? Does anybody in mainstream media or academia speak positively about those conflicts? What about the war in Vietnam? Yeah, it was REALLY popular. Whatever one’s stance is on those conflicts, its foolish to imply that there is no galvanized outcry or opposition to them. If you think America is a monster, then leave.

  4. Dan Henry
    March 8, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    Amen Nathan lots-o-zeros. Government is the people’s option for doing something they feel is right. I dont like the option either, but its an option. What others do they have? Granted – he’s not the only monster out there, but other than redirecting people’s emotions, contributions, and actions to your enemy, what recommended approach do you have for those who are fighting their own?

    If it was your child, what would you do? Yup Kony just sent his thugs to your house and now he’s back in the jungle on another continent with your son. Or what if it were my child? I mean we’re friends, right? I’ve witnessed first hand how you pull out the stops, so I’m not criticizing your charity, but asking – this guy is a monster. What should we do? Focus on the bigger, meaner, stealthier monsters only – cause hey, you can’t catch them all? Or snuff out a few of the most rotten low hanging fruit on the side when you can?

  5. Ty
    March 8, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    sums it up nicely… http://narwhaler.com/woke-up-today-made-4-million-enemies-kony-2012-xen5ym

  6. Hannah
    March 8, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    I appreciate your points, a little. You don’t take in to account that we as a people group our trying to use our government how WE want them to be, as oppose to how things are now, where the government makes every choice for us. This is for the people by the people. And your attack against teenagers is aggravating, we aren’t all brain dead idiots who don’t know anything about our nation’s problems and government; and we can pronounce most things. You makes us seem like we’re pointless, fighting for an unworthy cause and we only respond to fancy videos with small children that are realizing the bad things and giving innocent responses. We don’t. I responded to this because its something I believe in. I understand our government is screwed up, but this is a chance for it to change. To actually view what the people want. It is the ‘people’s’ government, is it not? I think that you could find a way to make everything America’s fault and make it impossible to help anywhere else that might need it, that alone is creating another ‘monster’. That’s not how you change the world and fix America’s problems either. Helping America shouldn’t be our only priority. That’s why American’s have bad reputations because people are so selfish. Somethings are more important than the same rants that we hear about our government everyday.

  7. Nathan000000
    March 8, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I wanted to clarify: My questions were not rhetorical. I’m actually open to the possibility that a private militia is a moral alternative. I don’t know that it is, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a discussion of it. If the US military has no legitimate legal jurisdiction in Uganda, then how is it any less legitimate for a band of well-armed, superiorly-trained private citizens to go do this?

  8. Jennie
    March 8, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Many Americans are under the illusion that our foreign policy, although extra-constitutional, is benevolent and selfless. With great power comes great responsibility, and the US has been a force for good in the world, standing up for the little guy and fighting battles others cannot fight for themselves. This is pretty heady reasoning, and clearly why so many people justify our intervention. It was good enough for me.

    The thing is…it’s not true.

    There are unspeakably wicked rulers all over the world at any given time. (Monsters like Joseph Kony. This man has been terrorizing innocents for many years, yet many are only just hearing of him. I have personally wanted him dead for at least a decade.) It would be utterly unrealistic for us to take them all out, and no one pretends we can and should attempt such a policy…until they need to sell us on the idea of war. The rationale that we need to stop a cruel dictator is usually employed after war is decided upon for entirely different reasons. It’s a rationalization.

    After it became clear that there was no real threat to us (or to anyone) from Iraq, the reasoning for war shifted. According to Condoleezza Rice, it is now justified because Saddam Hussein was such a wicked tyrant. During the first Gulf war, we were told that the huge oil reserves in Kuwait being threatened by Hussein had nothing to do with our war with Iraq. It was solely because he was invading a smaller country and we had a duty, by virtue of our great power, to stop the bully.

    When making the case for war, presidents and pundits often cite the evil nature of the enemy (and flatter the American public by telling us that we have the goodness, strength, and therefore responsibility to “do something”). It’s a tactic that bypasses the intellect and goes straight for heart. Emotional people are easily manipulated people. No sacrifice is too great for doing what we believe is the righteous thing. Remember what Madeleine Albright said about the deaths of Iraqi children due to our sanctions?

    I think the Nephites really believed they were righteous right up to the end. They refused to repent because they had no need of it! I mean come on, they were the NEPHITES. A people of noble heritage, a knowledge of their history and the scriptures, excellent in learning and technology and quite probably the greatest experiment in human liberty the world had ever known. If it sounds familiar, it should.

  9. John
    March 8, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    @ Hannah-You make some good points about our government being for the people and by the people. Please remember though, our government is built upon the foundations of the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution is not a fluid document that changes with the times. The Constitution was created to protect the minority, not to support the majority. Please invest more time in understanding the basis of the Constitution and our government before making your decisions on what you want to support politically. You absolutly are free to form your own opinions, but please remember the foundation of our government in the process.

  10. JJL9
    March 8, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Hannah, you state: “You don’t take in to account that we as a people group our trying to use our government how WE want them to be, as oppose to how things are now, where the government makes every choice for us. This is for the people by the people.”

    Suppose you were a lamb and you lived with two wolves. I’m guessing they would want to eat you. Suppose you were “lucky” enough to institute democracy. So now you get to vote on whether or not they eat you. Two to one.

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.

  11. Amber
    March 8, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Nathan000000, how about these alternatives:

    Diplomats. The US government shouldn’t force another nation to do anything, but a diplomat or two or a hundred can be sent to talk to the leaders. Sincere words would have a greater effect in changing monsters than bombs will. Diplomats can also convince the monster to allow missionaries in and charitable organizations in to relieve the people and educate and strengthen them.

    Allow private citizens to do whatever they want. This would include openly allowing private citizens to bring innocent victims into the US.

    I’m sure there are lots of others, including simply allowing the monster to self-destruct. A monster like that cannot last long, and the people of that country would be able to learn and grow better.

    I’m sure there are more options, if we’re willing to get creative, or at least trust that peaceful, lawful solutions would work infinitely better than unlawful violence.

  12. Jennie
    March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    One more thing…

    It’s difficult to miss the irony that in waging multiple wars in Muslim countries, ostensibly to bring them freedom, we are unable to assist the efforts of peoples who are already overthrowing terrible dictators on their own and are begging for help.

  13. Austin Archibald
    March 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Sheesh. It’s up to nearly 40 million views less than a day later. I’m sure the CIA is loving this.

  14. KDT
    March 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    I am a little rusty on my history, but I do know that as a fledgling nation the colonies received help from France. That sounds pretty similar to what the US does. I am not saying that it is right to interfere, just that it goes back further that just our nation. I believe that there were repercussions in France for this action, but without there help it would have been much more difficult to have become the USA. There is a difference I don’t believe that the people of France thought that giving help to a bunch of rebel from another country was a good idea since they were struggling now. Where as in this situation the reason action was taken was because Citizens of the US ask the government to intervene. Maybe they were wrong, they feel they were right. I think it comes down to who you are, where you are coming from, and what information you have. For instance does the young man Jacob who was featured in the film feel that what the creators are doing is wrong? On the other side you could say if they don’t want the help of the US military why help them?

  15. TRON
    March 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    What you are talking about is a non-interventionist policy, which is a libertarian policy. But the libertarians also believe in free trade. I put it to you that we can’t do both.

    Let’s talk about Taiwan. They want to buy some Aegis destroyers. American corporation Lockheed Martin would love to sell them to Taiwan. Would a libertarian government allow this deal? Oh, did I mention China? They are vehemently opposed to it.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/08/06/us-taiwan-usa-arms-idUSTP4108620070806

    Do we let a private American company sell a product they produce (making a great profit) to Taiwan even though it will anger China immensely?

    How about India? We did a huge deal with them to sell them military equipment and nuclear material for their nuclear power plants, while giving them a waiver on having nuclear missiles. The deal will eventually make 100 billion dollars worth of sales to India – huge profits for American corporations. Needless to say, China was not happy with this.

    Both of these examples are non-interventionist. But China in retaliation could easily close the south China sea. Would a libertarian send in the navy to reopen it? Or let it close, upsetting most of the nations in Asia? (It is the most used sea lane in the world.)

    How about Iran? They would love to buy some of our medium range ballistic missiles (Jupiter, Thor). They have the money. Would a libertarian allow this? I can’t begin to tell you how many countries would be upset about this. First, all of the Middle East and most of Europe. I think even Russia would be mad about a nuclear missile that could reach Moscow.

    We are an empire. When you have the biggest GDP in the world, it’s hard not to have enemies. The libertarian non-interventionist/free trade policy could easily make more enemies then a Republican or Democrat could even dream of.

  16. outside the corridor
    March 9, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Thank you, Connor.

    One of the reasons I don’t use my “real” name is . . .

    somewhat related to the above article.

    I won’t say when, and I won’t say ages or genders–

    but . . . some time ago my husband and I found an orphan . . .
    in a country that had been devastated by false ideologies and had not been helped by U.S. policies.

    What we did was completely legal, by the way. We brought this child (not a baby) with numerous “issues” into our home and into our lives and an incredible adventure began. Well, the adventure began long before the child become our child. The FBI had to approve us, even. THAT was an experience. We had to use astonishing amounts of money.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much we have learned.

    I can’t begin to tell you how enriching this experience has been for us. We had simple desires. The simplest was to provide for the “fatherless”. And other things to personal to mention on here, because I have sensed that there are a few on this site who won’t mind putting pins in balloons–

    Now, none of *you* know who *I* am–so I can say these things–

    there’s a reason I am ‘outside the corridor’–

    I have been so terribly disappointed by the ignorance I have found as we have gone on this parenting journey with this very special former orphan.

    In and out of the church. Astounding ignorance.

    First, many were dismayed that we would get a child from “that place!”–
    As if any child from “that place” would be marked forever–
    No respect for the country of our child’s birth often translated to very little respect for our child–and even less for us!

    Second, others were troubled that we would bring such a child to America and claim the right to make the child a citizen. Yes, we spent a tremendous amount of time, money and work on tedious papers to accomplish this, besides the amount that was spent adopting and bringing the child to America, etc., etc., etc.–getting medical help, etc., etc., etc.–

    Third, when our child’s “issues” were seen, we were often told, especially at church that:
    a–*we* weren’t doing a good enough job, even though none of our child’s issues were even remotely destructive or negative towards any other human being–and had existed prior to our becoming the child’s parents–
    b–our child HAD to be normal; the problem was that if we simply ‘pretended’ the child had no problems, they would go away. The child needed to act like other American (Mormon) children, even if those other children WERE obnoxious and rude, etc.–

    Absolutely profound ignorance.

    We had already raised a family. We had already been through quite a few experiences in our combined lives, and we were veterans of mortal tribulation, but we sensed that much of this ‘prejudice’ towards us and our child stemmed from a lack of education on the part of Americans (in or out of the church) about other countries and their cultures and their hardships–

    There was an arrogant attitude, also, of, “well, now that this child is in America, EVERYTHING will be all right; there will be no more problems, because America is great and good, and children don’t suffer here”–

    *shaking my head as I deal with troublesome memories*

    I saw “ugly America” wherever I went in the attitudes towards our child. I felt patronization. I saw attitudes of superiority.

    People in the spacious building mocking? Oh, YES!

    Yes, there were exceptions. Those who were exceptions were embraced, thanked, appreciated, loved–and are still kept close to our hearts–

    but those who were the exceptions were those who had learned to think outside the ‘box’ of empirical America! Who had learned to think outside the box of “looking good on paper in Mormondom”–
    Those who were exceptions were those who had also been treated badly for various reasons.

    We didn’t give up. We kept on going. We endured threats and slighting and rejection–

    our older children felt our pain–and suffered, too–

    and . . . we have been tremendously, amazingly blessed.

    God is GOOD!

    Our child is an astounding success and a great, great blessing in our lives.

    I can’t describe it or explain it, but it’s true.

    We no longer talk about it unless it is necessary. Too many people are too rude not to notice that our child looks profoundly different from us and that we are very much grandparents raising a child who is ‘too young’–LOL!

    People ask. People can be rude. Sometimes we explain. We are a two person embassy for our child’s country, for which we feel deep passion–

    Sometimes we have no choice but to explain, but often we just wish people would grow hearts.

    I can tell you that sending war into a country to save children does NOT work–

    I can tell you that firsthand.

    You can believe me or not, at your own expense.

    Sometimes I have wanted to say, “go for yourself and see the world and help a child YOURSELF.”

    So . . . don’t send your government to do it. If you do it *our* way, you will be symbolically spat upon. You will be avoided. You will be lectured. But you will find joy you could never imagine any other way.

    God bless those children in Uganda, and God keep America far away from that troubled country.

    Send a Teancum from that place, dear Father, to take out the evil dictator, but don’t let America go there.

  17. outside the corridor
    March 9, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    example:

    a number of years ago a presidency of a church auxiliary/quorum . . .

    had a dinner in the home of one of the members of the presidency, and my husband and I were invited, because we were involved–

    during the dinner the person sitting to my right, whose home it was . . . quietly asked me to tell about what it was like for our child in the country of origin–

    what sorts of experiences did that child have?

    I was careful. I knew we were eating dinner. I kept the answer very general and I kept my voice low.

    But there was a man nearby who overheard. The man stood up, said, “Are you trying to make me feel guilty?!”–

    I hadn’t even realized that the man had been listening. I was too shocked and surprised to say anything, but the entire company grew very quiet, and people in the room began to soothe him.

    Our child was forgotten as everyone rushed to make that man feel ‘comfortable’.

    The man who stood up was very wealthy–

    NObody had asked him to help our child; certainly we hadn’t. We had never asked anyone for any kind of financial help, and we never received any. LOL!

    We had not complained. We had not told him that we thought his lifestyle was selfish. If we believed that, we certainly hadn’t consciously thought about it–

    not before that night.

    But I saw something almost frightening happen. I saw a complacent, self-satisfied member of the church tell me that he did not want to think about what was happening in other countries–

    this person is also what I would call a neo-conservative . . . and has a family and personal history that would point to being supportive of pre-emptive wars. His political beliefs are definitely in the pro-war camp–

    I am sure he would be one of the first to say, “go get that bad guy in Uganda!”–

    It was amazing to me how, after that, others in the ward who might have shown interest in our child and our experience began to back away from us, because that man who did that that night . . . was ‘popular’ in our ward–

    and is respected for his wealth.

    When I was young I used to think that Jesus was too hard on the Pharisees. Now when I need comfort and need to feel that I have a fellowship . . . LOL–

    I read about His calling the Pharisees to task—

    and the things He said about them, and I feel less alone–

    because I KNOW I am not Jesus. I know I don’t have the power to stop peoples’ mean speech, and I know there is Someone who does. :)

  18. KG1776
    March 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    according to http://www.activistpost.com/2012/03/kony-2012-psy-op-collapsing.html
    and http://www.activistpost.com/2012/03/kony-2012-psy-op-collapsing.html
    the Kony story is a scam. I was suspicious as soon as I heard that the bill to get involved was signed (by BHO) and passed without congressional approval, and allows the US to deploy military forces in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. This wouldnt be about Africa’s natural resources, would it?? According to this article, there hasnt been any LRA activity since 2006–yet we are hearing about the atrocities NOW?? Why now? Furthermore, if you fell for the emotional pull on your heart strings and are considering supporting them financially, you will want to read the paragraph under the photo with the caption “We Will Fight War” in the latter link.
    I would be interested in what you think about this information?

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