Scorched huts and crushed skulls
February 6, 2009 4:46 PM   Subscribe

"The Lord’s Resistance Army is now on the loose, moving from village to village, seemingly unhindered, leaving a wake of scorched huts and crushed skulls. Witnesses say the fighters have kidnapped hundreds of children and marched them off into the bush, the latest conscripts in their slave army."

Apparently, Ugandan and Congolese forces failed to seal off rebel escape routes and heavy fog took away the element of surprise in what was to be the death blow for rebel resistance in the ongoing violence in Uganda. The result was that the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group led by accused war criminal Joseph Kony, adhered to their standard operating procedure and began slaughtering civilians, many of which had no knowledge of who their attackers were.

No U.S. troops were involved in on the ground fighting, at least according to the Times article, but by all accounts this operation was botched.

These massacres
are nothing new. And there are those who aim to stop it .
posted by IvoShandor (52 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, I guess I should point out that the American military was involved in the planning and funding of this operation, sorry.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:48 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know far too little about the politics of this region, but is it a coincidence that Laurent Nkunda, the leader of one of the opposition guerilla forces, was recently taken into custody?
posted by one_bean at 4:53 PM on February 6, 2009


Thanks for posting about this. I recently read Kill Your Family First and learned about it. The author of that book has a blog and he follows the events as they happen. It's really dramatic, one of the least known and most interesting blogs I follow. Kony is on the run, big time, but he is so paranoid and never seems to make a mistake. Latest news is some of his senior leaders are surrendering.

Obama's fathers family is from the same linguistic/tribal/ethnic region as Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.
posted by stbalbach at 5:17 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


this is the worst thing I have heard all day
posted by parmanparman at 5:23 PM on February 6, 2009


Is there a place where we can give money to hire ex Special Forces teams to go in and arrest vicious assholes like Kony? Arrest and line up for a trial and a hanging?
posted by illiad at 5:26 PM on February 6, 2009


Holy crap. I hadn't heard about this. Thanks?

Did anyone else think of Reavers?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:29 PM on February 6, 2009


I thought for a half second this was going to link to a trailer for some kind of dark fantasy movie. This kind of atrocity is so divorced from my existence that I have a hard time engaging. I like Illiad's idea, but what kind of analysis has been done on the best way to deconstruct the LRA? Will taking Kony out of the picture do it?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:34 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one person in the world needs to do some dyin', and quick, more than Joseph Kony. I know, I know, we have due process and justice and all that but seriously. Kill it with fire.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:40 PM on February 6, 2009


I am always surprised at how normal these people look. Joseph Kony looks like some guy you'd have a beer with. Osama bin Laden looks like someone you'd see studying at Starbucks. I obviously grew up with too many Charles Mansons as posterboys for crazy because really, is it too much to ask that fanatics and murderers look the part?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:48 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]



Is there a place where we can give money to hire ex Special Forces teams to go in and arrest vicious assholes like Kony? Arrest and line up for a trial and a hanging?


Paging Smedlyman. Smedlyman pick up the white courtesy phone.
posted by tkchrist at 6:12 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, Rainbow Six does not exist in real life, and likely never will. Sometimes I think wishing we had an elite strike force to deal with situations like this is like wishing for super powers.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:15 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd read any of these links, but I get physically ill thinking about the fact that this sort of thing actually happens.
posted by cthuljew at 6:15 PM on February 6, 2009


No one person in the world needs to do some dyin', and quick, more than Joseph Kony. I know, I know, we have due process and justice and all that but seriously. Kill it with fire.

Yeah. When people say "Violence never solves anything." I point them to shit like this, and they will usually say... "Okay. Maybe in this case I'll make an exception."

The prudent and judicious use of violence has it's place. This dude is fucking evil.
posted by tkchrist at 6:16 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice to see the Pope (representing of course not all but some of Christianity) speaking out against the LRA. When religions clean their own houses, we atheist neighbors have less to worry about.
posted by eccnineten at 6:25 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Rainbow Six does not exist in real life, and likely never will. Sometimes I think wishing we had an elite strike force to deal with situations like this is like wishing for super powers.

I don't know what Rainbow Six is, but there are elite forces. They do exist. They just ain't Chuck Norris. And generally they are want to obey international treaties and law like the rest of the military. So use as assassin against a country with which we are not at war isn't gonna happen very often. However, my old man being an ex-green beret has known some of those SOG guys that were used as assasins in Central/South America. And they did actually sneak into countries and go shoot or blow some dude up. What we realized is it doesn't really do much good. The next guy they turn out to be just as bad.

The problem with elite forces is their use is fought with consequences. Not the least of which is monsters like this guy belong to somebody. And it's probably us. And parachuting a bunch of mostly white Americans into central Africa isn't gonna be secret. In a situation like this it would be a suicide mission. So no commander is gonna be eager for that.

Not only that our SOP these days is Predator drones and shit like that. Elite forces don't make Raytheon, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and Grumman money.
posted by tkchrist at 6:32 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


fought
=
fraught
posted by tkchrist at 6:39 PM on February 6, 2009


gee, I was really hoping this one would be about some stupid online gaming community...but no :(
posted by supermedusa at 6:56 PM on February 6, 2009


The next guy they turn out to be just as bad.

Repeated for emphasis.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:12 PM on February 6, 2009


It's hard to know if the operation was truly botched. I don't consider the NYT or human rights groups to be military experts. It sounds like they got screwed by the fog, and for all we know it might not have been feasible to defend all the civilians. If the operation was successful, it probably wouldn't have been necessary. Just sayin', I think it's premature to say it was botched, versus bad luck.

Also, yeah, the Congo has been so fucked for so long. The things I've heard about coming out of there for the last fifteen years sound like the whole country was dosed with The Ladder. It seems to me that the whole country is severely psychologically traumatized, and at this point we're looking at the kind of sadistic madness that is passed generation to generation in the same manner as child abuse. I have no other way to understand some of this stuff.
posted by Edgewise at 7:26 PM on February 6, 2009


Is it weird that, before I clicked the link, I thought the Lord's Resistance Army was some group out of Idaho?
posted by jonp72 at 9:12 PM on February 6, 2009


"at this point we're looking at the kind of sadistic madness that is passed generation to generation in the same manner as child abuse. I have no other way to understand some of this stuff."

I think Edgewise makes an important point here. With stuff like this going on so long, and with all the child recruitment, people grow up thinking this is at least common, if not normal. They need role models. It's like religious cults adopting children so they can grow up in the belief, because they know no rational adult would join.
posted by jellywerker at 9:30 PM on February 6, 2009


Sometimes I think wishing we had an elite strike force to deal with situations like this is like wishing for super powers.

What makes us think that an elite strike force like this would only be used for situations where all us libruls get all on the same page about who gets to get their nuts sawed off without trial? Do we all vote first? Cuz the problem with a strike force like this (and unlike you, I do believe it exists) is that it is just as easy to use it to kill duly elected Presidents and such of countries that don't tow the line.
posted by spicynuts at 9:34 PM on February 6, 2009


FYI..in the above I did not mean to imply that only liberals would see Kony as evil...I just meant, you know, all us MeFi'ers who tend to be slightly librul.
posted by spicynuts at 9:37 PM on February 6, 2009


If I had the kind of money the scum from Wall Street have stolen, I think I'd feel obliged to do some good in this world and would contract, say, Blackwater to assassinate a lot of evil people. Kony would be among the priority targets.

Alas, I haven't stolen a few hundred million from investors and taxpayers.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 PM on February 6, 2009


As for “the next guy turns out to be just as bad,” hey, at least it gives them a chance. Letting Kony and ilk like him live helps no one.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 PM on February 6, 2009


Is there a place where we can give money to hire ex Special Forces teams to go in and arrest vicious assholes like Kony? Arrest and line up for a trial and a hanging?

You're looking for a guy named Eeban Barlow. Only he mainly does consulting and works the lecture circuit now.

Incidentally, the guy really, really doesn't like the UN, at least in the role it has given itself in Africa. I'm not at all sure to what degree I agree with that.
posted by oostevo at 9:55 PM on February 6, 2009


I think Edgewise makes an important point here. With stuff like this going on so long, and with all the child recruitment, people grow up thinking this is at least common, if not normal. They need role models. It's like religious cults adopting children so they can grow up in the belief, because they know no rational adult would join.

This comment belongs in the EVE thread.
posted by phaedon at 10:04 PM on February 6, 2009


Obviously it wouldn't be difficult at all to hire mercs to take these guys out. A couple weeks ago I read in an article about Nkunda where someone said "All it takes is $10,000 and a satellite phone" to raise an army in Congo. I think it was in something either linked in an FPP or Metafilter thread about the situation.

If it only takes $10k to raise an army, obviously it can't cost too much more hire some people to kill 'em. however, I don't think it's actually legal as an American to organize the assassination of foreigners, even if they're huge assholes and Africans.

Can you imagine a world where middle class westerners pool their money and organize online to assassinate military leaders and raise armies in war-torn countries because they read some article that pissed them off like some kind of fucked up real-world eve online?

The U.S. government is forbidden from engaging in assassination.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on February 6, 2009


I was in Gulu last year with my organization, World Vision, which runs one of the largest Children of War response organizations in Northern Uganda (I was actually in Kampala just last week working on some of our issues with Fleet Management in Northern Uganda). Save the Children is a another great organization doing great work there. Invisible Children also got its start in the area, following the story it first documented of the "night walkers" - children who leave their villages at night to walk miles into the bush, trying to avoid capture.

Imagine what its like if that's what you had to do every night as a kid - wander away from your family into the African bush, instead of being tucked in and sung to sleep. Bloody hell.

There are a number of great organizations doing response work in Northern Uganda, but that's all it really is - responding to the problem. Setting up centers for physical and psychological recovery. Sometimes even reconciliation - which is hard to imagine - stories of people with their lips or noses or ears cut off, meeting the person who did it, and actually forgiving them, because hey - that person was someone else's kid from the next village over. I remember at one point in my ignorant, incredulous, western point of view, I stupidly stopped to ask why they didn't just move in and wipe out the LRA. A man looked at me bluntly and asked me if I would do the same thing if my child was there, with the LRA.

I talked with a number of children who had been with the LRA. They never met your gaze or said much, and what little they would say was quiet, soft. And they don't change after that - I met a number of men in their mid-twenties who had once been kidnapped to the LRA themselves. None held a job, they only farm a small plot of ground outside their IDP camp huts. They don't have much to say. Its not that they mind talking about their experiences, they were even quick to show their bullet-wounds and machete scars - its just that, like the children, something in them has changed. They've seen and done things no human should ever see or have to do. There's a hollowness in their eyes - something missing where normally you encounter what some might call a soul.

And there's no hope. This has been going on their whole lives. Its all they know. This might be news to some of us, but its not news to them. Its just another day waking up in Northern Uganda, with the government botching up military operations again, and the LRA back on the offensive. Once again the children will start leaving their village when the sun sets, to wander and hide, hoping not to be set upon.

Of course there's no US troops there. You think these people are dumb? They wouldn't notice a band of muzungu militia? There's barely anyone from the outside world up there even dealing with the fallout of the problem, much less anyone trying to actively stop it. The US is too busy debating a massive economy bailout, dealing with the disasters in the Middle East, enjoying a new president with fresh new ideas and a blackberry, and putting a basketball court in the whitehouse. There's bigger problems for your average American than a few kidnapped children in the far flung reaches of the pearl of Africa. If you ever want a barometer of public concern over things like this in the world, just look at the comment count when they hit the front page of MeFi. Compare it to the comment counts and subject matters of the posts above and below it. You'll see.

At least this is a step in the right direction, and honestly I'm a bit blown away that this was approved by Bush, and I hope its a policy that Obama furthers. But it will still be a long time, if ever, before anything really changes there.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:12 PM on February 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


As for “the next guy turns out to be just as bad,” hey, at least it gives them a chance. Letting Kony and ilk like him live helps no one

What about when 'just as bad' is the best case scenario?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:51 PM on February 6, 2009


Compare it to the comment counts and subject matters of the posts above and below it. You'll see.

It certainly wasn't lost o me that the thread about the fake on-line war got 5 times as many comments than this thread, about (a facet of) the worst humanitarian disaster of the last 20 years. Call me a bleeding-heart, but I think a massively stronger UN than could put 200,000 trained, armed peacekeepers on the ground and handle the logistics of keeping them fed and organized would be a very useful thing for the world to decide to have for extreme cases like eastern Congo, Somalia, Cambodia (1979) El Salvador (1982-85) etc. This would be costly in the short run, but in the long run, it'd pay dividends.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


CBC Radio's Carol Off speaks to Anneka Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch about LRA atrocities.

Related: Radio documentary from CBC's Dispatches about a Unicef rehab program for former child soldiers and sex slaves in the DRC.

If I ever win the lottery I'm starting a trust to bankroll Sécurité Sans Frontiers.
If only things were that simple.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:34 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I ever win the lottery I'm starting a trust to bankroll Sécurité Sans Frontiers.

Like I said, I don't think it would cost very much to launch mercenary missions in these places, you just need to know the right people. The cost of organization has dropped immensely, I bet you could find a lot of people who would donate to your micro-imperialist organization. You wouldn't need to win the lottery.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 PM on February 6, 2009


delmoi, just let me win the damn lottery, okay?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:01 AM on February 7, 2009


I spam this link in all the Congo posts it seems, so: Congo Crisis at a Glance for an overview of the horror; a page at one of the blogs linked in the FPP examines the roots of the crisis:
The crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, has many layers. Since the late 19th century, Congo’s vast natural resources have continually attracted violent intervention from abroad and stoked internal conflicts. Congo’s government has never effectively represented or protected its people, and has all too often simply served as a source of unchecked power and personal enrichment for individuals. The ongoing crisis in eastern Congo is rooted both in this history of predation and corruption, and the continuing aftermath of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Today, Congo continues to struggle with an explosive combination of conflicts at the local, regional and national levels.
It's not a situation that commando derring-do can resolve, though you can't help thinking that even the worst blood-diamond bandit would be a step up from Kony.
posted by Abiezer at 12:29 AM on February 7, 2009


"I am always surprised at how normal these people look"

They look like us, because we are them. All of us are just a few scratches and bruises from barbarity.

Hans Frank or Baruch Goldstein or John Chivington or Daniel Wemp, we have been normal -- normal killers -- since we were proto-chimpanzees protecting our turf and food and our sexual access to mates by forming gangs and killing our rivals.

For each one of the 50,000 peaceful vegetarian gorillas on the planet, there are 120,000 humans.

It's part of our fabric as human being -- we literally wouldn't be the species we are -- if we were otherwise. If we were gentler, we would probably be extinct, and certainly not a teeming six billion on the cusp of fouling our nest and ruing our global habitat. We are descened not from the ones who died, but from the ones who prospered by killing.

We are species of primate that kills our own, and enjoys it, because it that is how we've survived for six million years -- our "advance" over the chimp is that we also find ways to plan it and to rationalize it and to deny it.
posted by orthogonality at 12:40 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Colonel Chivington knew these Indians to be peaceful before the massacre . Smith witnessed, as did helpless Indian mothers and fathers, young children having their sex organs cut away. U.S. soldiers mutilated Native American women, cutting away their breasts and removing all other sex organs. After the Massacre, soldiers displayed the women's severed body parts on their hats and stretched them over their saddle-bows while riding in the ranks. The sex organs of every male were removed in the most grotesque manner. One soldier boasted that he would make a tobacco pouch with the removed privates of White Antelope, a respected elder. Conner witnessed a soldier displaying the body parts of a woman on a stick. The fingers of Indians were cut off to get at the rings on them. Connor remembered a baby only a few months old who had been hidden in the feed box of a wagon for protection. When the soldiers discovered the baby some time later, the baby was thrown onto the frozen ground to die. In going over the site the next day, it was noted that every corpse was mutilated in some way, and scalped.
-- from Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
As to Colonel Chivington, your committee can hardly find fitting terms to describe his conduct. Wearing the uniform of the United States, which should be the emblem of justice and humanity; holding the important position of commander of a military district, and therefore having the honor of the government to that extent in his keeping, he deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre which would have disgraced the verist savage among those who were the victims of his cruelty. Having full knowledge of their friendly character, having himself been instrumental to some extent in placing them in their position of fancied security, he took advantage of their in-apprehension and defenceless condition to gratify the worst passions that ever cursed the heart of man.

Whatever influence this may have had upon Colonel Chivington, the truth is that he surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women, and children on Sand creek, who had every reason to believe they were under the protection of the United States authorities, and then returned to Denver and boasted of the brave deed he and the men under his command had performed.
-- Report of the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War
posted by orthogonality at 1:04 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a gradient here in the right direction over the medium to long term. People outside the area are slowly becoming aware of the suffering within. We have only recently developed the ability to make people directly aware of this kind of thing in remote places. Perhaps this will necessarily lead to changes in the next 20 or 30 years. Perhaps.
posted by fcummins at 1:09 AM on February 7, 2009


I bet you could find a lot of people who would donate to your micro-imperialist organization

I've actually thought about approaching an organization called International Justice Mission with just such an idea, although I doubt they'd go for it. New Yorker had an interesting article on what they do recently, freeing child sex slaves in many parts of the world.

While on the surface it seems a fairly viable idea, and I think the right people with the right funding and know-how could pull it off, the necessary next question that follows is how do you manage the fall-out? I mean none of these countries have a relatively stable democracy waiting to swing into place once XYZ dictator / warlord / etc. is taken out of power. Its a much bigger problem than just offing "some guy." Its frustrating.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:16 AM on February 7, 2009


All of us are just a few scratches and bruises from barbarity.

Nice hyperbole. Feeling a wee bit cynical are we?

While indeed every human being can be killer not every human being is a potential monster mass murderer waiting to burst forth. It's just not true. Having been through military boot camp I can tell you you have to work pretty god damn hard to get people conditioned to go against their core social programing and commit the sin of murdering their fellow man.

Study after study has shown how reticent soldiers are to shoot people. Like the one commissioned by Brigadier General SLA Marshall the showed out of an average squad of 10 men during WWII fewer than three ever fired their weapons at the enemy. While his number were undoubtedly off and his own data suspect, the military conducted several studies after that concluded, without intervention and changes to training, about half of the recruits fresh out of boot camp and sent out into combat had severe problems or hesitated shooting the enemy. Since WWII and Vietnam drastic changes to training were made to acclimatize and condition soldiers to the preemptive act of killing.

In the case of the Congo you have an unscrupulous and sociopathic personality cult leader taking mere children who have unformed characters and decision making ability and then essentially torturing them into being murders. These are not a few bruises and scratches. That is complete and total bullshit.

Also if human were all the horrific killers you claim there would be no PTSD and other psychological trauma associated with COMITTING acts of war, not just surviving them.
posted by tkchrist at 2:04 AM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Agreed, allkindsoftime, about the pointlessness of just removing one horrible man. And that it's a bit silly to assume that creating a constitution for a country like Uganda will make the country peaceful. The constitution might guarantee rights, but how do you guarantee those rights are actually for the people?

The UN sends peacekeepers, who just basically are hall monitors with guns and big helmets. They don't take anybody out, they just are there to try and keep public order. Which is a start, I guess. The AU doesn't seem to be able to agree on action against Mugabe, who'd been voted out of office and refused to leave... what are the odds they'd act on something like this? A politician with a long shadow and an association with post-colonialism is one thing... but you're talking about children in this case. Everyone can agree that children should be safe from this kind of thing, yes?

What stance does the church take on this? (The "proper" church, not this bunch of bastards) A Desmond Tutu might go a long way towards ending this horror...
posted by Grrlscout at 2:24 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obviously it wouldn't be difficult at all to hire mercs to take these guys out.

Please reexamine the limits of your knowledge. There is nothing obvious about your conclusion.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:33 AM on February 7, 2009


Uganda isn't the Wild West, you can't just go in there with mercenaries. The politics of the region are Byzantine, the LRA serves a purpose for all governments in the region - they say they want to wipe it out but really they don't. Not to mention the physical environment is worse than Vietnam. Things are not so black and white.
posted by stbalbach at 5:43 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


What stance does the church take on this?

The church(es), I have found, for the most part, are largely as un-organized and subject to questionable government as the actual political governments themselves. Don't get me wrong - there are lots of great churches, and Christianity - and, if I'm not mistaken, Islam - are both growing fastest in the African continent. There's more Presbyterians in Ghana alone than there are in the entirety of the US, for instance.

Tutu is an incredible man but he strikes me as something of an anomaly (an incredible one, but an anomaly all the same), although the church should certainly be praying for and looking for such men to step in and work towards peace and reconciliation.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:51 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the Ugandan government's position with regard to having international forces coming in? I would assume that the UN, US, AU or any concerned party couldn't just walk in there unless it was specifically requested by the Ugandan government. The original article mentions that they asked for US help, but to what degree?

Also, even if the Ugandan government did authorize it, which countries would participate? There is already a lack of participation in Afghanistan, and there are increasing calls for withdrawal by citizens of countries that are actually there. Which soldiers would participate? How do we ensure their safety, especially in the jungle? Why would we expect any more success in Uganda?

I think there is this erroneous idea that just because we have guns and technology and access to better resources that we could just walk in there shoot up all the bad guys a-la-Rambo or Ahhhnold, save the children and the hot hot women and walk up with nothing more but a few paper cuts on our big bulging biceps.

Look at present day conflics: NATO-Taliban, US-Iraq Insurgency, Israel-Hamas - how one sided it appears, but how messy it actually is.

And as many of you mentioned above - what happens after that?

@AllKindsofTime,
You were in Uganda - you probably have a better picture of the situation than I can ever piece together? What can we do? I guess public awareness is the key. How about $$ - will that make it go away? If I sent money, which organization would benefit the most?
posted by bitteroldman at 6:47 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Compare it to the comment counts and subject matters of the posts above and below it. You'll see.


If others reading this are anything like me, they may just find themselves at a loss for words when faced with such horrors.
posted by orme at 6:55 AM on February 7, 2009


I've tried to get people who say that Islam breeds terrorism to see that the LRA is a Christian terrorist group just as much as Al Qaeda is an Islamist terrorist group. These folks generally don't know what the LRA is. The US media have done a horrible job of keeping the US populace informed about African affairs. It's like they think only one thing can be reported at a time, so if Darfur is being reported on, Uganda and Congo are right out.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


"There's bigger problems for your average American than a few kidnapped children in the far flung reaches of the pearl of Africa."

I think most folks don't have the tools. No more than if I were presented with a complex programming problem. I think I understand something bad is going on when my computer crashes, but damned if I know in nuts and bolts what to do about it.
Same thing. Folks seem more than willing to send money, aid, etc.

One of the first signs of success - paradoxically - for a guerrilla outfit is when established states mount counter operations against them.
There's no question one could crash the party and clip the right people. And really, a system of targeted assassination here wouldn't be that bad a solution in the force spectrum. It'd have to be very small.
But the enemy is the organization, not one guy. As said above, kill one guy, another takes his place. It's not the same as removing the fuel for a fire. People are typically just carriers of the idea. And anyway, if you've got such a sophisticated intelligence operation running such that you can target at will and strike with that degree of precision it's probably put to better use driving a wedge between the terrorists.

The stronger objective here would be to separate the people from the LRA. Problematic obviously, given they abduct folks' children.
What they need is a credible prospect for the future. E.g. what the English offered the Boers, which would attract people away from the group ( with ongoing but judicious use of force) Use of direct force here dances very close to attritional battle.
The LRA are clearly eroding the government's capability to govern (I've got Clausewitz's people, state and army in mind).
In the case of the Brits and the Boers - the commandos harried and reduced the Boer's so they were always on the run and unable to influence events. People on the veldt were removed from contact and the British offered government security, order and peace.
(Debates on imperialism aside, I'm just talking strategy)

"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."

This. Is wrong from first principles. The objective seems to have been (seems since I haven't fully studied it) to just attack the LRA. I'd suspect the unnamed U.S. military official is accurate when he said they broke from the core idea in the operation. Anyone worth sending would have known the focus isn't so much capturing or killing at one stroke but progressively denying them access to their areas of sanctuary, dominating communications, and giving people enough security that they feel comfortable not only refusing to support them, but informing on them.

In this, the LRA's been successful. It's not like they kill innocent folks for no reason. Or rather, if it is some insanity it serves a tactical purpose: provocation.
You want your opponent to overreact. Try to chase you down, fight on your terms instead of waiting.
And it's tough for undisciplined or unseasoned forces to tighten the rachet rather than hunting the bastards down who are murdering children. Understandable.
But as soon as your focus is on what they're doing, you've relinquished your own connections and started playing their game. You've lost the initiative.

So, on another level, I understand the altruism to want to hire some folks and take them down. Were this a penny ante operation, that might work. But they've got an organization. So the roles have to be played. As mentioned above, you're better off with NGOs supporting two sides of the triangle and letting the army just apply slow pressure and area denial.
I could go put a bullet in the bastard. But you want an oar, not a straw for this.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:28 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What they need is a credible prospect for the future.

After killing the bad guys, the next thing I'd do with my billions is to offer anyone who wanted out of the country a way out of the country. Bring them to a first world nation. Pay their housing and education for five years. Then offer them the choice to return to their home nation, where they might now be able to do some good.

In Afghanistan in particular, I think it'd probably end up being an overall good thing to evacuate everyone who want out, to the huge internment camps the US has set up already. Food, education and healthcare for three years. Back in Afghanistan, kill anything that moves. When the refugees are returned, help them rebuild their nation, especially as regards government and business.

Those are extreme measures, but the problems are extreme. The only solution I can see is to completely break the cycle. Education, annihilation, and rebuilding just might do the trick.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:49 PM on February 7, 2009


It's a bit like triage. You can't get bogged down in avenging the dead. Even if war criminal skates, as something is going on, the priority has to be to save the people you can. Killing the bad guys is the last thing on the list. Matter of opportunity.
Vengeance is a dead end. As something is on going - so is justice. Order is a higher priority.
The dead aren't coming back no matter how many of the enemy you kill. The objective is to save the people you can. That takes time and slow pressure, not explosive pressure.
Someone who's bleeding out and has a gaping hole you can't fix with the tools you have is gone. You're better off focusing on someone you can save no matter how much you want to react to the horror or blood or pain. Do something in response to address it.
Anger and fear are typically responsive. And certainly understandable. They can't rule your decision making though.
Like triage, it can appear cold blooded in method, but it's the method that saves. Not the extremity of the reaction, no matter how swift. You have to create and instill order and that vision. React and you're doomed to follow. And you'll never have the initiative.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:06 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Only dimly related to what's been discussed in this thread is this, an article about The Family. They're basically a cell-group underground Christian political movement that apparently believes that as long as Jesus is on your side, you can go ahead and commit acts of atrocity.

What's really scary about The Family is that they apparently have the ear of many of your, and the world's, leaders.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a place where we can give money to hire ex Special Forces teams to go in and arrest vicious assholes like Kony?
Frederick Forsythe tried something like that and others imitated him. And various groups and individuals with less exalted motives have also had a go.
posted by CCBC at 2:35 PM on February 8, 2009


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