On October 15th 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of 100 armed Amerikan military advisors to Uganda to aid that country’s armed forces in their war against the Lord’s Resistance Army. Most of these troops will be from U.S. Army Special Forces. Along with operating in Uganda, the center of that conflict, they will also be operating in neighboring countries in the region where the LRA has also been operating. The stated purpose is to protect human rights and bring stability to the region. But like other military incursions the U.S. has done in the past and does at this present time, it is to secure its military, political, and economic domination over these regions. Human rights becomes a smokescreen to hide its own hypocrisy.
In his letter to Congress authorizing this latest military intervention, Obama stated:
“For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in Central Africa…The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
Here Obama names the other three countries that the U.S. “advisors” will be involved in. He also states that the factual human rights abuses the LRA have committed have an impact on the security of the region in Central Africa that the U.S. is interested in. The U.S. emphasizes that the troops will operate in these four countries “subject to the approval of each respective host nations,” and while they are armed, will only engage in armed actions in self-defense and not act in an independent or unilateral way. But even a cursory glance at the war in Vietnam in the past shows that full scale military involvement began with the sending of “advisors.” As anti-imperialists we stand against any U.S. military interventions anywhere in the world. Furthermore, this is a case of the U.S. using the mantra of human rights to justify military encroachment, which is worth exploring in more detail.
The Lord’s Resistance Army and Uganda
The conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army goes back to the 1980‘s. The LRA has its roots in the Christian Holy Spirit Movement active then. Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA came out of a vacuum of power when other rebel groups at the time declined. Its purported goals are to establish a government based on the Ten Commandments of the Christian Bible. They have committed massacres, rapes, kidnappings and forced conscription of children as soldiers and women as sex slaves. Kony and other LRA leaders have been issued warrants by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Although the conflict has been going on for decades only recently has the United States been interested.
The military intervention of Central Africa by the United States has been building up for the past few years. Under the Bush administration the Pentagon previously sent 17 ‘counter-terrorism’ advisors to train Ugandan troops. Since 2008 the U.S. has given $33 million in military aid to Uganda to fight the LRA, and nearly $500 million in other aid. In May 2010 the U.S. Congress passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and North Uganda Recovery Act to further target the LRA.
Counterattacks by the Ugandan army have forced the LRA to disperse into neighboring countries, in areas where the state is weak if not inoperative. They have popped up in the countries of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. This has been used as an excuse for Uganda to intervene in these countries as well.
Human Rights and Wrongs
The stated purpose of this latest intervention is to protect human rights. On the surface this is a lie. The strength of the LRA has dwindled. Where once they had 3,000 troops and 2,000 other supporters, now it is estimated they have as few as 200 to 400 troops.
While the LRA is no doubt engaged in human rights abuses, this masks the real intent of this intervention. For one, the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, is a comprador of the United States, and an ally in their “war on terror.” Back in 2009 Uganda sent 10,000 men and women to Iraq to work as private security guards in the U.S.-led occupation there. Uganda being an impoverished former British colony, these mercenaries were given substantial pay much higher than their country’s average income. Recently Uganda’s military has been involved in Somalia, aiding the U.S. in its war against the al-Shabab militia purportedly linked to Al Qaeda. This recent deployment is a reward to Museveni in aiding their war on terror.
Evidence shows that Museveni is using the supposed ‘war on terror’ to suppress dissent and to hold onto power. In their battle against the LRA, the Ugandan military has committed their share of human rights abuses also. During protests this year in Uganda against the rising costs of living, force has been used by the government to break them up. Thousands of protesters have been arrested, with many not even charged. In a protest in April of 2011 nine people were killed by security forces.
Another human rights abuse case in Uganda, in that it has been unique in receiving international attention, has been the introduction of a series of anti-gay legislation. There were attempts to pass legislation that would allow the death penalty for gay persons in the country. A recent report in Salon.com shows that much of this anti-gay rhetoric has been fostered by Amerikan evangelical groups operating in the area. Another form of imperialist intervention.
Another factor for U.S. intervention is the potential mineral resources in Uganda. There is large untapped reserves of oil in the country. Other minerals used in modern electronics come from this region also.
The U.S. has shown through its actions that it will disregard international law on human rights when it wants. The sentiment on this Amerikan military mission is that the troops will be used to set up the extrajudicial assassinations of Kory and other LRA leaders. Other recent cases of this tactic include the extrajudicial killing of Gaddafi by the lackey rebels in Libya. Before that the assassination by drones of Alkawi in Yemen, who was a U.S. citizen. And before that the extrajudicial killing of Osama Bin Laden. Not to mention the thousands of others the U.S. killed without trial in its supposed War on Terror. The military involvement of the U.S. in Uganda, like others before it, will have its own disproportionate impact on regional security, as well as a likely increase in human rights abuse cases.
Human Rights Watch and Humanitarian Imperialism
Aiding Obama in this latest round of imperialism disguised as humanitarian intervention is the human rights NGO community. Most prominent among them is Human Rights Watch. After Obama made his statement about the military deployment, HRW followed by releasing a statement supporting his actions. This is not one case of a misguided non-profit do-gooder organization, this is consistent with HRW’s support of western military intervention to bring about a western version of “human rights.” As their director Roth stated, “The U.S. is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards.”
In emphasizing double standards, Human Rights Watch believes that the U.S. has the right to intervene in other countries affairs to enforce these western standards of human rights. It belatedly protested the human rights abuses of U.S. imperialism, not to bring the U.S. to justice but to give the U.S. a moral standing to continue to be the aggressor of the world.
The peoples of the Third World have long been the receivers of Western colonial and neocolonial encroachment. Not only must they deal with direct military intervention by the U.S. and the Western powers, but ‘their own’ corrupt and subservient governments, liberal NGO’s, and other reactionary groupings like criminal organizations and armed cults that come about in a vacuum of power. The oppressed and exploited peoples of the world will be their own liberators in the end. Through revolutionary organization they will bring down the old power and build a new liberatory power they will wield, to be free of all forms of slavery and oppression.