On the Kony 2012 campaign, Afghanistan Massacre, and the Double Standards of Human Rights Imperialism
The recent Kony 2012 video that has gone viral all over the internet has been talked about almost everywhere as of now. With over 70 million views and counting the 30 minute video by Invisible Children is unprecedented in its dissemination through social media, especially from those who do not usually engage in politics. The goal of the campaign is to bring awareness to Joseph Kony, head of the Lords Resistance Army, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, and to “make him famous.” Within days afterward critics have also responded to the campaign in its oversimplication, the shady dealings of the charity, and many other issues. The most important issue for anti-imperialists is how this campaign supports direct U.S. military intervention and is building public opinion to support that intervention with the support of liberal-minded Amerikans. At the same time a massacre of civilians in Afghanistan was committed by at least one Amerikan soldier participating in the occupation of that country. These two events show the blatant double standards of how human rights are used to further imperialist goals.
Back in November 2011 I wrote an article about Obama’s deployment of military advisors to Uganda, entitled “U.S. Imperialism Creeps Into Uganda, Central Africa Under Guise of Human Rights.” I explained the deployment was not the first of Amerikan military involvement in Uganda, the equally atrocious human rights abuses of the Ugandan government and military, and the involvement of human rights NGO’s in facilitating imperialist encroachment. Since the Kony 2012 campaign took off that article has received a spike in hits and reposts, and I recommend readers who have not read it to do so. This Kony 2012 campaign has proven the main points in it.
The Kony2012 video and campaign
The 30 minute video spread online plainly states what Invisible Children wants to do, take out Kony “by any means,” which they mean militarily. The video focuses disproportionate time on the filmmaker himself and his family, despite saying it is not about him. Many minutes are spent talking to his 5 year old son as he tries to explain the situation in Uganda and the LRA. In one scene he puts in front of his son two pictures, one of a former child soldier they have worked with and the other of Joseph Kony, contrasting the good African with the bad African. Also, the child soldier is seen as a victim, while the filmmaker is seen as the hero savior, a typical western mentality that white people are the ones who will save Africa.
In one part of the film it shows the Invisible Children staff cheering during a news announcement that Obama is sending armed military advisors to Uganda. They also mention that their lobbying was responsible for the LRA Disarmament and North Uganda Recovery Act of 2010 that laid the basis for the escalation of the U.S. military in Uganda. In their campaign to make Kony “famous” they put his picture with those of Hitler and Bin Laden, an exaggeration if there ever was one. This also seeks to make Kony a unique figure in the scale of atrocities when in fact there are many warlords who are equally if not worse in human rights violations but are less marketable. Furthermore it calls on people to get attention of well known celebrities and policy makers to reach their goal. Some of these people include Amerikan war criminals themselves. The sheer hypocrisy of this campaign is thick.
The campaign advertises advocates to get campaign kits, wear bracelets, put up posters and prepare for a national day of action on April 20th. With the amount of criticism the campaign has received lately the turnout might drop off due to the skepticism. But this should be seen as an escalation of tensions with Uganda, and an increasing presence via AFRICOM within African countries.
It has been pointed out about the fact that the LRA is weaker than it has been with fewer soldiers, that Kony is not even in Uganda at present, and that the conflict inside Uganda has nearly been swelted. Although the LRA has been active since the 1980‘s, only recently has attention been paid to them. Also, untapped oil reserves been discovered near Lake Victoria in 2009 by Tullow Oil. They found nearly 800 million barrels of reserves valued at $50 billion and more could be found at a later date. Another factor with this is growing inter-imperialist conflict with China. China is building relations with many African nations, mainly to obtain needed energy and mineral resources. China being a former revolutionary nation still acts in its own self-interests but provides needed aid to impoverished nations there, more beneficial than what the U.S. provides. Oil is not the only factor in this region but the control of oil and who it will go to.
There will be many sincere minded people who will participate in this campaign. But like much well meaning but faddish liberal activism it is tainted with First Worldism, where the U.S. or other western nations are seen as doing no wrong, or at the very least atoning for their past sins by doing good. They campaign to catch an African war criminal but ignore the war criminals in their own nations, which there are plenty. In supposed humanitarian aims it serves as a cover for imperialist interests.
At the same time this campaign was taking off, in Afghanistan a massacre of 16 civilians, 7 of them children, was committed by one or more Amerikan soldiers participating in the military occupation of that country. According to the New York Times:
“Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. The man gathered 11 bodies, including those of 4 girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.”
“In Panjwai, a reporter for The New York Times who inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base counted 16 dead, including five children with single gunshot wounds to the head, and saw burns on some of the children’s legs and heads. “All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned,” said Anar Gula, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the house after the soldier had left. “We put out the fire.”
Residents report there may have been more than one soldier involved. Many others were wounded and being treated in hospitals, so the death toll could rise. This attack provoked deep outrage, even prompting comprador Afghan head Hamid Karzai to speak out and demand justice as Amerikans attempt damage control.
This incident follows many atrocities committed by Amerikans in Afghanistan. Recently a U.S. soldier was caught urinating on a dead Afghan. Other U.S. personnel participated in a Koran burning, prompting much backlash. A “kill team” was recently uncovered, with a few of the participants getting court martials. In the ongoing war in this region civilians have been regularly targeted, with thousands dying a the hands of U.S.-NATO troops. Yet there are few calls for justice against these imperialists. No well-orchestrated campaigns to bring attention to these war criminals. And no pending prosecutions in the International Criminal Court, which seems to only target Africans.
As revolutionary anti-imperialists we know that the main enemy of the world is imperialism and we stand with the people of the world against it. True internationalism is seeing the world through the eyes of the oppressed and exploited majority. Liberation will not come through charity efforts or humanitarian militarism. It will come through the defeat of the First World imperialism and their lackeys, and the building of a world based on human needs for everyone, not just a privileged minority in rich countries.