[ed. This article is based on a talk the author recently gave regarding the film, Kony 2012.]
(Swans - March 26, 2012) This month a campaign known as KONY 2012 made quite a name for itself by distributing an extremely popular documentary over the Internet (with the same name) that called for increased US military support for the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in his ongoing fight against Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. As it turns out, KONY 2012 is nothing more than a cynical bid by a combination of evangelical Christians and US foreign policy elites to further consolidate their overlapping interests in Africa through the promotion of a Greg Mortenson-style "participatory militarism."
KONY 2012 (the campaign) represents a coalition of three groups. The first two, the Enough Project and Resolve Uganda, are closely related to one another and to the upper echelons of the US government's foreign policy establishment. Thus the former acting executive director of Enough (Cory Smith) is the vice president of Resolve; while Peter Quaranto, one of the four individuals who founded Resolve with the aid of the Africa Faith and Justice Network, presently works in the office of the US State Department's Special Envoy to Sudan.
The last group in the KONY 2012 coalition, and the one responsible for the making the documentary, is Invisible Children. A review of all the people who have served on Invisible Children's board of directors since they were officially incorporated in 2006 indicates that the one single individual with the best connections to the inhumanitarian industry is their former chairman Dave Karlman, who recently served as the chairman of the International Rescue Committee's financial literacy committee.
As one might expect the CIA-connected International Rescue Committee is especially active in Africa. (Note that Yoweri Museveni recently served alongside George Rupp, the president of the International Rescue Committee, on the executive committee of the misnamed Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa.) Currently operating with an annual budget in excess of $300 million, the International Rescue Committee's reports are regularly regurgitated uncritically in the media with no mention of its controversial history, past and present. Just like KONY 2012, the International Rescue Committee is highly proficient at harnessing celebrity power to US foreign policy objectives. Counting George Clooney among their high-profile supporters, the International Rescue Committee even recently rewarded Angelina Jolie with their international freedom award.
Notably both George Clooney and Angelina Jolie are counted among the twenty cultural leaders that KONY 2012 are encouraging the public to win over to their militaristic cause. Other such cultural leaders include the likes of Bono, Oprah, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and even right-wing shock jocks like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
It was, however, never any secret that Invisible Children were funded by an assortment of right-wing Christian individuals and foundations. On this front their most significant funder is perhaps the ProVision Foundation -- a foundation whose Web site notes that it "exists to glorify God and serve His will in Kingdom-building." ProVision is a subsidiary of the radical right-wing National Christian Foundation, which disperses over $0.5 billion a year to like-minded charities, many of which include fundamentalist groups in the United States, like for example, "The Family," which helped push Christian Ugandan lawmakers to propose a "kill the gays" bill.
In many ways evangelical groups like Invisible Children, ChildVoice International (which was also formed in 2006 to oppose the Lord's Resistance Army), and larger outfits like World Vision play a vital role in making Africa safe for capitalist exploitation. Sara Diamond, in her excellent book Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (South End Press, 1989), concludes that:
'Humanitarian aid' and 'psychological operations' are two areas of 'total war' where the Christian Right serves U.S. foreign policy objectives best. Acting either as 'private' benefactors or as agents of the U.S. government, Christian Right 'humanitarian' suppliers and promoters of anticommunist ideology use religion to mask the aggressive, cynical nature of 'humanitarian' projects. Cloaked as missionary evangelism, the 'spiritual warfare' component of counterinsurgency escapes serious attention by anti-intervention activists who are justifiably preoccupied with stopping more massive, direct forms of U.S. militarism. (p.162)
At this point it is worth recalling the photograph which showed the founders of Invisible Children posing alongside members of the US-supported Sudan People's Liberation Army (who have long been involved in fighting the Lord's Resistance Army). This connection to Sudan is no coincidence and reflects the obsession of the US foreign policy establishment and their Christian allies with the longstanding and highly problematic Save Darfur campaign. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the KONY 2012 video should (on numerous occasions) feature John Prendergast, who in addition to being the co-chair of the Enough Project is a board member of the Save Darfur Coalition.
Lest one forget, oil exploration in Africa is high on the minds of Western policy-making elites. Three companies that are in the thick of such "exploration" efforts in Uganda are Tower Resources, Schlumberger Oilfield Services, and Tullow Oil Plc -- the latter being "one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in Europe," whose Web site states that the group "is entering its next phase of growth with a major focus on Africa, where Tullow is already a dominant player." The president of Tullow Oil Uganda happens to be Elly Karuhanga, who is also the chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, and a board member of Canmin Gold Ltd and the uranium mining IBI Corporation. Therefore, for anyone truly concerned about stopping needless slaughter in Africa a good place to start would be with the corporations and foreign governments that have so much to fear from democracy.
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Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com. Please help fund his work. (back)