Those hunting for Kony: Go find him yourselves

In Opinion
Jason Russell (left) and Ben Keesey (right), founder and CEO of Invisible Children Inc. respectively, started the Kony 2012 campaign. Courtesy of MCT 

As part of the annual recycling of flash-fad righteous causes, the reoccurrence of obnoxious sidewalk chalk has signified that a renewed do-gooder campaign is in the works.

Filmmaker Jason Russell is currently trying to rehabilitate his career by re-inflating the balloon of hype over third-world thug Joseph Kony with a brand new video. While altruistic causes might excite teenage minds to imagined heights of glory, one would hope that few adults would fall for this cheap trick of humanitarian propaganda.

Unfortunately, optimistic hopes of sanity are rarely fulfilled, especially in the halls of Capitol Hill.

Joseph Kony and his brigade of thuggish rebels are a small insurgent group that has adopted the moniker of the Lord’s Resistance Army, though they do little resisting and even less of the Lord’s work. They are mostly an armed band of wandering extortionists who often forcibly recruit children and commit gruesome civilian atrocities.

The group has been fighting in Uganda, the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic for the better part of three decades, but their exact whereabouts are in flux and always ambiguous.

Flash forward to 2012 when Jason Russell created a viral social media video, extolling American children and teenagers to pester their parents to take action against this sporadic third-world insurgency.

Soon, self-righteous and inchoate adolescents everywhere demanded that the grown-ups do something (what, exactly, was rather unknown), and plastered Kony 2012 posters and other graffiti over every available surface.

The previous fall, President Obama had sent over a token force of 100 troops to Uganda, ostensibly to train the military there to hunt down Kony. Russell’s charity, Invisible Children, supported this executive action and the crux of the Kony 2012 campaign was to put pressure on legislatures to increase support to central African nations to better catch the flagitious warlord.

Perhaps Russell, who now claims post-traumatic stress disorder after this year’s media frenzy, should assemble a citizen’s battalion featuring both his impressionable followers and his celebrity supporters, such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys and Bono. They could travel to Uganda, buy weapons, and begin their righteous crusade against Kony’s injustice, while only putting their own lives in danger and doing so with their own checkbooks.

Of course this will never happen, since it is much easier to risk the lives of others than their own, even as they pontificate from their podiums of moral superiority. Those who are so willing to send other young Americans into battle rarely volunteer themselves, while those who have seen the grotesque realities of war are usually more reluctant to condemn others to this fate.

There are plenty of bad guys in the world. Many dictatorial African nations come to mind, and perhaps even the Ugandan military. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is certainly no friend to his people, few would wish to live under Iran’s ayatollahs, and there are many Mexican drug lords who undoubtedly match Kony in brutality.

By Russell’s logic, shouldn’t this country send our troops to battle these other agents of evil?

This contradiction exposes the “world police” fallacy that has guided U.S. policy over the last half-century. Fundamentally, the bungled military adventure in Iraq only differs from the altruistic task of Kony-hunting in its magnitude. Instead of more interventionism, let the African people protect themselves from dictators and warlords.

If the situation were reversed, we would not be looking for help from beyond our own borders. Let’s stop sending our nation’s young troops overseas and into hazard for dubious causes.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow. A someone who’s so quick to call others “self-righteous” and “inchoate”, you really are full of a lot of self-righteous bullshit. I don’t really know what the point of this article is, other than to attempt to place yourself above others who are trying to contribute to addressing one of contemporary history’s worst injustices. What are you actually contributing to anything?

    Additionally, you need to educate yourself. The US ADVISORS — emphasis on ADVISORS — are not “young Americans” being put in harm’s way. In fact, they are forbidden from going anywhere remotely close to where LRA combatants are reported to be located. Most of the advisors are bored and frustrated because they want to contribute more to actually arresting Kony and his top commanders, but their mandate is so limited that they can’t do a fraction of what they’d like to do.

    Before you jump into your arrogant, condescending diatribes, why don’t you 1) do your research and 2) stop and ask yourself how an article like this constructively contributes anything to society. I’ll help you with that second point: It doesn’t.

  • Megan

    I agree that the United States can’t be saviors of the world, however the Kony 2012 campaign isn’t asking for us to save the world it’s asking for us to care about the atrocities that have been and will continue to be endured in Uganda. We’ve seen the results of inaction and I for one am not happy with my view.

    I’d rather have my children pester me to care about human life than to pester me about the lastest video game. When did we become a society that devalued the pain of so many?

  • Kathleen Fuller

    Indeed we shouldn’t reach out and help those who are lacking in resources because the human mentality should be every country for themselves. Those countries needing food don’t need us to send any. And I’m sure the impoverished Mexican families can fight off cartels and the like if we just continue leaving them to their own devices. What the world needs is a bit more tough love, that’ll make it a better place. Since my families aren’t in constant threat of being stolen away, forced to murder and disfigure other people and then become sex slaves and child soldier, why should I help those who live with that? Let’s just keep our soldiers here, nice and safe, so that when the battles that are raging overseas eventually do directly affect us THEN we can deal with them. Why be brave and try to help our fellow man. Let’s just sit on our asses and enjoy what we “deserve” because we were born in a free country. We’ll just never take a vacation to any of those God forsaken places, cause, you know, THAT’s the way the would should work.

  • Steve

    “Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything.”

    Stephen Colbert

  • Anonymous #2 (anon #1 is dumb)

    Why don’t we send in our troops to stop the drug wars just across our border? Kony is a puppy dog compared to the drug lords that terrorize cities and families all across Mexico and Central America. These drug lords have done things that the most renowned horror filmmaker in all of the world couldn’t even imagine.

    Why don’t we send in our troops to India and Southeast Asia where young girls at the age of ten and 11 are being forced into sex slavery? Why don’t we send in our troops to Nigeria where armed thugs are enslaving children, as young as eight, to work in gold mines, and now Nigeria is having the worst epidemic of lead poising in the history of the earth. In the village of Bagega, 400 children have died so far, 1500 children have been treated and 2000 children still need major treatment, all because armed thugs controlling gold mines want their gold, cheap.

    One country policing and intervening in the worlds affairs is unsustainable, and it’s not the answer. Especially when we can’t even take care of our own citizens. 46.2 million people in the US are in poverty. According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex.

    How the hell can we help a country or region half way around the world when we can’t even help our own citizens?

    This isn’t some fantasy world where if there is a dire problem on earth, the US military comes in and fixes it. This is reality. We can’t do everything. Not one country should be expected to do everything. Get our priorities straight, then, when we have the fortunate resources, manpower, and responsibility to take care of the world, we make a decision.

  • Peter

    These officious kibitzers are sooo annoying! You are not the fount of all knowledge, Daniel Barbeau. Get over yourself.

  • Lola

    I think the author’s point is that these do-gooders who plaster the Kony signs everywhere are unwilling to actually go out and fight themselves. Why should the lives of the US military’s young men and women be risked for these “charitable” guys’ fantasies of catching this guy and his band of criminals when they are so unwilling to do it themselves? The US military cannot be expected to serve as a worldwide police force catching every bad guy out there. Contrary to popular belief the members of the military often join for the cause at hand (aka war) and aren’t just sitting ducks waiting for the newest cause to come up from do-gooders around the US who have recently been offended by hearing a story that has been actually been going on for decades.

  • Anonymous #3

    Anon 2 –

    We’re talking about 100 US advisors and a tiny amount of money to support their efforts. The world we live in is not a dichotomy where we have to choose between stopping the LRA and addressing poverty in America.

    We can and will do both.

    I am proud of our brave men and women in central Africa (and elsewhere). They are directly contributing to stopping a man who perpetuates the abduction, rape, and killing of innocent civilians. That’s honorable and justified work.

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