Saturday, February 07, 2009

Civilian Deaths Stain US Military Support in Uganda

The troops did not seal off the rebels’ escape routes or deploy soldiers to many of the nearby towns where the rebels slaughtered people in churches and even tried to twist off toddlers’ heads. - from NY Times

I was sick at heart to have read that a US-aided military mission in Uganda has resulted in a killing spree unleashed upon innocent civilians in nearby villages. The civilians were targets of the Lord's Resistance Army. For all the good some may say we're trying to do, the massacre - 900 innocent lives taken - puts a stain on the US simply for having been formally involved and, if we were going to be involved, having overseen the result - a muderous mess.

I wonder what the Obama foreign policy team is thinking about this kind of military support? If the foreign policy of the United States is such that we're attempting to regain our reputation and are playing the part of our brothers' keeper, it seems we're playing it thin and candestine with too many innocent lives on the line. Don't we citizens have the right to be made well aware of what our nation's goals are in asserting our military efforts in this part of the world...and how far we'll go to achieve those goals?

There will be certain ideologues who will say that the US has few direct national security interests in Uganda and that we can't go around protecting every human right. There are some who'll say that they believe it's morally right to use US military to defend the innocent in an ever-increasingly interdependent world. As a pragmatist living in a nation that is struggling to stay economically afloat, I land somewhere in between, admittedly more on the side of protecting human rights because my conscience informs me that we can't just turn our heads and look the other way. Yet, if we're going to become involved, we can't go about it half-assed.

When innocents are massacred and it's shown that, for unclear foreign policy reasons, the US is becoming more intensely involved, it's time for US citizens to ask their leaders to start talking about Africa and our foreign policy goals in Africa for the 21st century.

See Jeffrey Gettleman and Eric Schmitt's NYTimes story