Tuesday, October 31, 2006


John Edwards sings Kumbaya for Uganda

John Edwards is once again taking a bold stance on an issue without, you know, actually saying anything we can use:

“At a moment of tremendous global hardship -- from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the killing fields of Darfur -- it is rare to find hope. So when there is the possibility for peace, we must seize it. That's why one of the world's great tragedies, the conflict in Northern Uganda, deserves our attention.” To End Uganda's Nightmare

No doubt about it, Uganda, like its neighbor to the north, Sudan, is an absolute disaster by any measure used. And I do not mean to make light of Mr. Edwards’ sincere concern with the plight of the people over there. But this piece amounts to little more than a public expression of such concern without any concrete recommendations as to exactly what should be our course of action/reaction to the events unfolding there.

After years of civil strife, the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are meeting to work out a possible peace agreement. This gives the former Senator cause for optimism and to further the progress, he makes some recommendations including this sure-to-be-controversial one:

“Second, the United States should publicly voice its support of the peace talks and encourage the Ugandan government and the LRA to maintain their commitment to the process…this is the closest the two sides have ever come to a comprehensive agreement. Uganda needs to know that Washington stands behind the drive for peace and will be a supportive ally after an accord is signed.”

Ah yes, the old public support of peace talks. What’s not to like. Unfortunately, Mr. Edwards doesn’t get into the issues surrounding those peace talks. But first some background.

When John Edwards was running for president in 2004, he was asked his stance on the new International Criminal Court (ICC):

“9. Do you support US participation in the International Criminal Court? YesI believe that the United States must be committed to bringing war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. We were right to sign the treaty creating the International Criminal Court in 2000, and America must remain engaged with the Court in order to have our concerns addressed. Although we need to make sure that safeguards are in place to prevent abuses of the process, President Bush was wrong to disengage, which damaged American credibility among our allies and on values that we all believe in.
Source: Peace Action Candidate Questionnaire John Edwards on Foreign Policy

Fortunately, the US does not participate in the ICC but it is up and running and looking for work. One potential source of a mission is Uganda – and LRA leader Joseph Kony. In fact, the ICC has already indicted him and some associates for war crimes (warrant of arrest unsealed against 5 LRA commanders - October 14, 2005). Now, as you can imagine, Mr. Kony views his possible trials for war crimes as a stumbling block in reaching a peace agreement:

“IT HAS been presented as a classic struggle of peace versus justice. Talks aimed at ending one of Africa's longest and most savage civil wars are on the verge of collapse as the leaders of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insist that there can be no peace deal unless the International Criminal Court (ICC) drops its indictments against four of their number. The court remains adamant that there can be no impunity for crimes against humanity. But as the faltering talks limp into their fourth month, a hint of possible compromise is in the air.” Uganda Will Kony come out of the bush? Economist.com

(the “hint of possible compromise” alluded to was for the ICC to refer the case back to the Uganda courts…yeah, that’s gonna work)

So what sayeth Mr. Edwards? Does the ICC drop the charges against this obvious thug in the hope that Uganda can find its way toward a lasting peace? Does the mere prospect of some kind of peace justify Mr. Kony avoiding any kind of retribution for the LRA’s 20 years of unimaginable savagery? Actually Mr. Edwards doesn’t sayeth – he ignores the issue completely. Instead he serves up a predictable pablum of the United States, the United Nations and the international community letting those involved know that, by golly, we’re there for them. But he doesn’t say whether we’ll be there for them if, say, troops are needed to maintain a peace. That would be taking a stand. And that could come back to haunt him.

In 2008, John Edwards will be asking us to make him our next president so he can more fully implement such deeply-thought-out policies…while considering that, just imagine the Carter Administration redux.

What's particularly sad about Uganda is that it is a modest economic success story in East Africa, with recent improvements to its agricultural productivity.
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