U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) speaking to an anti-LRA rally in Washington in April 2009.
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: October 17, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – As the American public and members of Congress try to figure out why President Obama suddenly has a sudden interest in protecting the beleaguered citizens of the African nation of Uganda, Red Dirt Report discovered – not surprisingly, we might add – that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R- OK), is “the driving force behind the legislative efforts against (Joseph) Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army,” according to his website.
Just so you know, 100 American troops are being sent to Uganda to help locals oust the LRA, a group that has terrorized locals for close to two decades.
“I applaud our nation’s military for making this a priority and taking the steps outlined in our legislation that will eventually protect the children and people from Joseph Kony’s reign of terror,” Inhofe said in his Oct. 14, 2011 statement. “I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the LRA, and this will help end Kony’s heinous acts that have created a human rights crisis in Africa.”
And while Inhofe has praised the military's “priority” in east-central Africa, a military already stretched to the breaking point, Inhofe also noted in a press release from earlier this month that the work being conducted by Oklahoma 45th Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan is vitally important to our national security. Inhofe noted this following the tragic loss of 12 Oklahoma soldiers in that quagmire since late July.
“The losses they have experienced have been tragic and have been felt across the great State of Oklahoma,” Inhofe stated on Oct. 3, 2011, “But they did not die in vain. Their efforts will lead to a stable Afghanistan and prevent insurgents from gaining a safe haven. As Ambassador Ryan Crocker told us, if we do not succeed in Afghanistan, it will become a base from which to launch another 9/11.”
And while the threat of ever-present Islamic terror is alluded to in Inhofe’s statement, the senator from Tulsa said nothing about the curious rise in opium production – leading to heroin ending up in Western Europe and beyond – in Afghanistan and that even more Afghan provinces are seeing production of the plant.
Could it be that American troops are helping Afghan farmers grow opium? Very likely. Americans patrol and protect poppy fields. The opium trade is the Taliban’s main source of funding, noted an ABC News report. Oh, the U.S. is going to “track the drug traffickers” (a sort of "Fast and Furious" operation but with drugs, not guns) while it is stolen and shipped in CIA planes to heroin dealers in the West. But you didn’t hear that from me …
As The New York Times reported last week, “Poppy cultivation rose in 2011 and spread into areas once declared ‘poppy free,’ according to a United Nations survey. Continuing, the Times report said “The value of the opium produced in Afghanistan is set to more than double this year to $1.4 billion – equal to 9 percent of Afghanistan’s entire economy – as prices continued to rise and fields rebounded from an infection that blighted last year’s poppy harvest.”
So, the Drug War continues and more and more Americans are crammed into more and more prisons. And the American troops – dying for what? – are coming home in flag-draped coffins. Meanwhile, our leaders scare the public into thinking “another 9/11” will be launched from chaotic, primitive Afghanistan unless we fight with AK-47-toting goat herders and poppy farmers who think it’s the 9th century.
Interestingly, the “Congressional Delegation” trip Inhofe took a few weeks back, along with U.S. Sen. John Boozman and U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, “included stops in Liberia, Senegal, Ethiopia and the newly-created South Sudan, all notoriously corrupt.
Liberia, as we know, has dealt with all sorts of problems and in 2003 President Bush sent troops there, as we noted in a recent story.
Senegal, it should be noted, is run by a corrupt 85-year-old leader named Abdoulaye Wade. Ethiopia’s prime minister is also a controversial figure, cracking down on critics by throwing them in prison, charging journalists with acts of terrorism and detaining them without trial on trumped up charges. South Sudan is so new, we don’t know what direction they will go.
So, does Africa-loving Sen. Inhofe call for true democracy
and freedom in these African nations, run, in many cases, by brutal dictators? If
so,why don't we hear more about it? And what's really behind Inhofe's obsession with Africa. According to Americablog, Inhofe's more than 100 trips to Africa since 1999 have cost taxpayers nearly $200,000 and that amount was calculated nearly 3 years ago. It's likely higher today.
You may recall Inhofe’s outspoken support, earlier this year of his “friend” war criminal tyrant – a Christian, we should add – Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to relinquish power following a presidential election. As long as you claim to be a Christian and are “friendly” towards the West, you’re o.k. in Inhofe’s book.
As author Jeff Sharlet wrote in his important research of the “Fellowship” (aka “The Family”) in his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Oklahoma power players in Washington – Inhofe, Coburn and former Sen. Don Nickles are all members of the Christian cult “The Family” and he writes that a Senate aide told him that Inhofe had “traveled across Africa on the Family’s behalf, insisting that the continent’s leaders hear him out about his American Christ before any business could occur.”
Twisting arms for Jesus? A sitting, senior U.S. senator from
Oklahoma? Naww … But we’ll save all that for another time. This time, we want
to focus on Uganda and our involvement there.
Red Dirt Report did interview University of Oklahoma students and staff who have trekked to Uganda in recent months, helping Sister Rosemary Nyrumbe and her Pros for Africa operation at St. Monica's School in Gulu, Uganda. In our report, from August, we learned how appreciative Sister Rosemary and the children and others in Gulu are of the efforts of groups like Oklahoma City-based Pros for Africa.
As we wrote in our Aug. 19, 2011 article: "Northern Uganda has been devastated by fighting and skirmishes involving the murderous and oddly apocalyptic group the Lord's Resistance Army. Many people have been tortured or killed by members of this group and the Gulu area was an LRA stronghold, Pros for Africa members told Red Dirt Report."
We need to emphasize that Inhofe was a key sponsor of the
Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. And
last Friday afternoon it came out that 100 American troops – “advisors” (see:
Vietnam) would assist Ugandan and other troops in east-central Africa in
flushing out the crazed and murderous LRA cult. This, when citizens are dying
by the thousands in nations across the Middle East and Asia and elsewhere. What of the people dying in Syria? Bahrain? Zimbabwe? Burma?
The “Plan Uganda” operation (our term, for lack of a better one), which has been planned for the past year by the Department of Defense and the State Department, according to Inhofe’s site, U.S. military advisers “will not engage in offensive combat operations” and will “address the LRA threat while protecting the civilian population.”
While this is a laudable goal in terms of the humanitarian angle – and the LRA has had a devastating impact on the civilian population of Uganda and neighboring areas, as we have previously reported -- is it right for the U.S. to send troops into a foreign country under the guise of “national security” when there are no obvious links to national security concerns between the U.S. and Uganda? Other than the issues we brought up in our Red Dirt Report story and other linked articles we don’t see a need to send troops and countless millions of dollars into this “Plan Uganda” operation that the DOD is firmly behind now, thanks to former SecDef Robert Gates who was a big supporter of Inhofe’s plans for Uganda.
Inhofe, who has taken many trips to Africa during his time as Senator, is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and in June he successfully added an amendment to the committee-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The amendment, authored by Inhofe, provides authorization to end the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the LRA. This would, notes Inhofe’s site, require Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “submit a comprehensive strategy to ending the human rights crisis in Uganda to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations."
Inhofe, a self-described “Jesus guy” with a heart for Africa, said on June 17, 2011 that this amendment is “another step toward ending Joseph Kony’s heinous acts” and that this ensures that the U.S. “stays proactive in efforts to stop the current human rights crisis in Africa. We must work to bring justice to the children and victims in Uganda devastated by Kony and the LRA.”
Inhofe, who has spent much time in Uganda and neighboring nations, spoke at an April 2009 public event in Washington hosted by “Invisible Children,” a non-profit organization that is hoping to bring attention to plight of the abducted “child soldiers” of the LRA. He stood alongside the likes of actors Kristen Bell and Val Kilmer and rock musician Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. The LRA problem is one that Inhofe has long sought to bring to the attention of the American people and Invisible Children is also supported by Ugandan dictator and Inhofe pal Yoweri Museveni.
Museveni, interestingly enough, has been calling for a united “East Africa” as noted in a 2009 article where the Ugandan dictator wants “the region … to become one country” and that once that was achieved, the likelihood of Uganda and East Africa developing their own space program would become more likely.
“Uganda alone cannot go to the moon. We are too small. But East Africa united can. That is what East African integration is all about,” Museveni said before the Uganda Law Society in the city of Entebbe.
So, is a united East Africa a goal? Could President Obama’s meddling in Kenyan affairs while he was U.S. Senator be a part of a larger plan? In that same article a “tariff free trade zone including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda” was being discussed.
As Inhofe said at the event: “As someone who cares deeply for Africa, I must thank all of you for your hard work and dedication in finding a peaceful end to this crisis.” Inhofe really took on the “Invisible Children” issue in 2005 after visiting Uganda on one of his many trips there.
At that time, Inhofe and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) held a screening of “The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers” That’s fine. It’s a real problem. But isn’t this an issue that should be dealt with by the U.N. or the Ugandan people themselves? Feingold, who is now out of office, has been telling the media that while he authored the 2009 anti-LRA legislation, "our legislation did not authorize the use of force by American troops anywhere," but he noted that the bill "did call for a comprehensive approach in dealing with the Lord's Resistance Army, which includes military, diplomatic, and development components."
Ironically, Feingold's good friend in the Senate, U.S. Sen. John McCain, has been vocal about his concern about "Plan Uganda," and whatever that may involve.
McCain, this weekend, called the "Plan Uganda" op a "slippery slope," while human-rights groups are applauding Obama's move. We at Red Dirt Report are critical of the operation for it's lack of Congressional approval and dubious motives.
"I worry about with the best of intentions we somehow got engaged in a commitment that we can't get out of, that's happened before in our history and we need an explanation. And I'm very disappointed, again, that the administration has not consulted with members of Congress before taking such action," McCain said.
Again, there is no "direct threat," as Time has reported today. "This is a pure humanitarian/regional stability play - exactly what Africom was initially sold as doing." added the Time piece: "(A) lot of this work still needs to be done across Africa. China won't do it, so it's us or nobody."
That's the typical attitude of the West. When it comes to Africa's problems - and they are many - it's us (and our blood and treasure) or nobody.
As for comments from other members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation on Obama's "Plan Uganda" advisory operation involving US Special Forces, we are still awaiting to hear from them. We hope to have a follow-up soon.
Copyright 2011 West Marie Media