I’m going to repost a large portion of Antiwar.com columnist Ivan Eland on US interventions in Uganda against the LRA during the Bush administration. It went horribly wrong back then, directly resulting in runaway LRA forces expanding into other villages and murdering even more civilians. I wonder how much worse it could end up this time, what with actual troops on the ground.
The Pentagon’s new Africa Command bureaucracy, which was created largely to defend oil produced on the West African coast (itself a dubious objective), has already branched out to fight “the war on terror” elsewhere in Africa – with disastrous results.
Typically, around the world, the United States needlessly makes enemies by training indigenous militaries to fight terrorist groups that didn’t focus their attacks on U.S. targets. As a superpower, the U.S. hates “instability,” no matter how far from U.S. territory or interests it develops. Thus, the U.S. military has been training the Ugandan military in counterterrorism.
For more than a generation, the Ugandan military has been fighting a brutal Christian terrorist organization – the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.) – which originally wanted to overthrow the Ugandan government but now slaughters and maims people (for example, by cutting off their lips) in the name of fighting for the ten commandments. Five years ago, the Ugandan army drove the L.R.A. into the remote Garamba National Park in the Congo, which is on the border of Uganda and Sudan.
Recently, the Ugandan military asked for the Bush administration’s help in going into the Congo after these Christian terrorists (which I will deem “Christianists”). According to the New York Times, then-President George W. Bush, ironically an aggressively oriented Christian himself, approved U.S. military assistance to the Ugandan military to wipe out his violent religious brethren. The U.S. military helped plan and finance the Ugandan cross-border operation in cooperation with the Congolese government. Unfortunately, the operation was bungled badly and as many as 900 innocent civilians paid the price with their lives. Many more were maimed, raped, and had their villages razed.
The botched U.S.-assisted Ugandan and Congolese invasion of the park allowed the L.R.A. Christianists escape routes and then did not guard nearby Congolese villages. In response to the invasion, the Christianists went on a crusade, brutally sacking village after village in northeastern Congo. The Christianists burned villages, heinously murdered innocent Congolese civilians, and raped many women. The Christian terrorists even tried to twist off the heads of small children and kidnapped older children to fight in the L.R.A.’s conscripted (slave) army. Even worse, the Christianist forces have split up and remain on the rampage.
If the definition of terrorism is killing innocent civilians for political gain, the Christian L.R.A. are clearly terrorists. But what about the Bush administration’s actions? The L.R.A. had been driven to a remote national park full of impenetrable swamps. President Bush then approved assisting and financing an eradication operation that had no direct relevance to U.S. national security interests and had substantial downside potential if the Ugandan and Congolese militaries – not renown for their competence – made a mess of the operation. Human rights organizations have heaped scorn on the operation as needlessly poking a hornet’s nest.
Even though President Bush didn’t intend to assist a foreign military incursion that resulted in substantial civilian deaths, isn’t he morally culpable for those deaths because he recklessly aided an operation unneeded to ensure U.S. security and with the tremendous risk of incompetent militaries generating a violent backlash from the Chrisianists with a botched operation?