Understanding when and how we ought to act on matters of humanitarian concern is difficult enough without adding blatant misinformation to the mix. It is essential to be clear about who it is we are dealing with, and for what they do or do not actually stand. To further complicate such matters without regard for the truth only serves to assist those who would wish harm on the innocent.
I was absolutely floored by statements made by Rush Limbaugh this past week as to who the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is, and what they represent. I hold no misgivings about the fact that Limbaugh and I are fated to probably disagree on every political issue. I even expect to disagree with his “facts” on a regular basis. However, his statement was so insanely off base I found it important to address the issue. Feel free to form your own opinion as to US involvement in Uganda (personally, I am in strong support of this move by Obama), but form it based on truth and reality. Do not allow a misrepresentation of the LRA to confuse your stance on the US lending its assistance to a country that has repeatedly asked for our help.
Here is Limbaugh’s statement, as quoted by Think Progress:
“[The] Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them…
“Lord’s Resistance Army objectives. I have them here. ‘To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people.’ Now, again Lord’s Resistance Army is who Obama sent troops to help nations wipe out. The objectives of the Lord’s Resistance Army, what they’re trying to accomplish with their military action in these countries is the following: ‘To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people; to fight for the immediate restoration of the competitive multiparty democracy in Uganda; to see an end to gross violation of human rights and dignity of Ugandans; to ensure the restoration of peace and security in Uganda, to ensure unity, sovereignty, and economic prosperity beneficial to all Ugandans, and to bring to an end the repressive policy of deliberate marginalization of groups of people who may not agree with the LRA ideology.’ Those are the objectives of the group that we are fighting, or who are being fought and we are joining in the effort to remove them from the battlefield.”
Perhaps Mr. Limbaugh ought to take a moment to look up the term “propaganda” and consider whether the publication of these “objectives” by the LRA might fit into that category? I am sure we can all think of a few less than honorable organizations who claimed to have the most honorable goals.
So, who is the Lord's Resistance Army?
The LRA is a rebel army that has been terrorising the people of Uganda, as well as those in neighboring countries, for the last twenty years. They are known for horrific violence, the slaughter and rape of the Ugandan people, and their long history of abducting children. The organization is full of child soldiers, who were abducted from their families and brainwashed into believing in Joseph Kony's cause.
Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, has made himself not simply into a military leader, but what many refer to as a "self-appointed messiah." He has convinced his followers that he has a direct connection to the spirit world, and that those who truly believe in him cannot be harmed by bullets. The fact that Kony claims to rule by the 10 Commandments only serves to further highlight is disconnect from reality.
Kony, as well as a number of his military commanders, is wanted by the Intenational Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. There are 12 counts against him, including rape, slavery, forced enlistment of child soldiers, and murder. According to the Enough Project, "over the last 10 to 15 years, as many as 38,000 children and 37,000 adults have been abducted and used as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves." Kony is not interested in bringing down a dictatorship for the benefit of the Ugandan people. He is interested in gaining more power for himself. The LRA is not an organization to defend, but rather an organization that desperately needs dismantling.
Bringing an end to the LRA's reign of terror in the region is complicated, as they are a splintered organization and many of the soldiers are children. Thus, the Ugandan government has struggled to contain them and has continually asked for international assistance. Interestingly, this is not the first time the US has sent military advisors to Uganda. President Bush, during his time in office, also sent advisors to the region to assist the Ugandan government in dealing with the LRA. Obama's decision to do the same comes after the unanimous passing in the Senate and House of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Thus, in theory, senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle were in support of bringing an end to the LRA.
Ultimately, this situation with the LRA should not be complicated. They are a horrifically violent group, the Ugandan government has asked for international assitance, and our congress voted unanimously that we ought to give that assistance. Let's not allow misinformation espoused by some to distract us from our purpose, which is to protect the innocent civilians and uphold the belief in basic human rights.
For more information:
Similar to the Satellite Sentinal Project set up to track violence in Sudan, Invisible Children has teamed up with Resolve to create the LRA Crisis Tracker. Here you can follow the actions of the LRA. Additionally, Invisible Children put together the video below to give those unfamiliar with the situation a basic understanding. I highly sugggest taking 3 minutes to watch and learn.
Follow Corrie on Twitter @corrie_hulseLRA, Rush Limbaugh, Uganda, ICC