US mercenary corporations recruit child soldiers

This video is called Ugandans flock to Iraq for security jobs – 2 July 09.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

US employs former child soldiers as mercenaries

31 October 2012

The US is increasingly using private security forces to wage its wars and maintain its occupation of countries after the withdrawal of regular troops. Both in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of mercenaries and dozens of private security companies are being deployed to this end.

The utterly ruthless and cynical methods employed by American companies and endorsed by Washington were graphically illustrated in a German documentary television program broadcast last week. “Weltspiegel” showed how US companies were recruiting former child soldiers from Uganda to risk their lives as mercenaries for miserly pay in Iraq and other war zones.

The journalists, Marcel Kolvenbach and Daniel Satra, followed the path of young men from Uganda who were hired by Ugandan private security companies. These companies then pass them on to US firms that are commissioned by the American army to guard their camps in Iraq and other areas of the world where the United States is waging war.

In many cases, the young recruits had fought as child soldiers for the Christian fundamentalist rebel group of Joseph Kony against the Ugandan government led by President Museveni. In the course of fighting they have both experienced and committed horrible massacres.

In March of this year there was widespread media hype in the US surrounding the thirty-minute video “Kony 2012.” The video denounced the plight of Ugandan children who were used as soldiers by Kony. As the World Socialist Web Site warned at that time, this campaign was also supported by President Obama in “a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion in favor of American intervention.”

The reality is that the traumatized child soldiers in Kony’s force are being systematically used by the US as cheap cannon fodder in Iraq. Ugandan security companies and their American partners are quite prepared to exploit the dire and traumatic situation of the child soldiers.

The Ugandan journalist Rosario Achola reported: “Most of these former child soldiers do not know how to make ends meet when the war is over. They cannot find work and find themselves adrift. So a job as a security guard in Iraq or Afghanistan is practically the only choice they have.”

She continued: “It’s ironic that the nation which expressed the most outrage about Kony and child soldiers is now exploiting these former child soldiers to fight their battles and protect them in a war which has nothing to do with Uganda.”

The young men who have learned nothing other than how to kill are required to risk their lives for a few dollars to make profits for local companies operating throughout the country. They are assured they are carrying out a safe job, but once in the field the reality is very different. Many of the returnees report of fatalities or injuries. Many are themselves injured.

On behalf of Weltspiegel, Rosario Achola interviewed Ssali Twaha, a mercenary who was told that he would be carrying out a safe mission in Iraq in the Green Zone. But then a ricochet hit his camp. He recalls: “Suddenly I heard my comrade above breathing heavily and blood dripped down on me through the mattress. It was pitch dark, I thought he had wet the bed. I wanted to wake him up. But when I touched him everything was full of blood with foam coming from his mouth.”

A US attorney reports on the case of a seriously injured Ugandan, paralyzed on one side of his body, who was deported back to his home country and then just left to his fate. “When I met him he had neither a disability pension nor medical care. He was just wasting away.” The attorney took the case to court. A further 60 victims then came forward who had suffered the same fate.

The companies that receive large sums from the US government to insure soldiers against such injuries refused to pay out. “Three of our clients have received death threats—in Uganda and Iraq. They received threatening calls such as: ‘If you do not drop your lawsuit, we will kill you.’ The attorney also reported on another injured soldier who was told by his employer, ‘If you report it you will arrive home in a body bag.’”

One security company that offered the US Army mercenaries for $1,000 per man per month was undercut by another that demanded just $400. As a result the soldiers employed by the first company were forced to return home.

The former child soldier Dibya Moses also had to leave Iraq after an illness and return to Uganda. He was dismissed without any compensation or severance pay. In an interview with Achola, he explained: “The people here are desperate for a job in Iraq because they see it as an opportunity to earn an extra few dollars. In the end it is like modern-day slavery.”

Both the US Defense Department and the State Department refused to comment on this practice. The Ugandan security contractors are not allowed to contact the US authorities. “It is a subcontractor agreement. If the US company finds out that Ugandan companies have contacted the US Defense Department or State Department then their contract will be terminated immediately,” declared an employee of a Ugandan security company. Many now fear for their jobs because the US companies are increasingly recruiting in Pakistan.

For US security firms, the hiring and deployment of mercenaries is a billion dollar business with high profit margins. The US government is prepared to pay out huge sums in order to “outsource” death and injury, thereby reducing the number of US military casualties. Journalist Sarah Stillman has established that currently in Afghanistan, more members of private security companies are killed in action than US soldiers.

Wounded in Iraq, Ugandans Fight for Compensation From America: here.

Ugandan survivors angry about ‘Kony 2012’

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

Kony 2012‘ Prompts Outrage In Uganda, Future Screenings Canceled (VIDEO)

Posted: 03/14/2012 9:38 pm Updated: 03/15/2012 9:45 am

Everyone from actors to models to business leaders have weighed in on “Kony 2012,” the 30-minute video about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army that went viral last week.

However, little has been heard about what the Ugandans who were affected by Kony and the LRA think of the video.

Al Jazeera’s Malcom Webb went to a public screening of the video in Lira in Northern Uganda, which, according to him, is “the area worst affected by Joseph Kony’s Rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.”

Webb reported that the attendees didn’t even get to see the whole film because people became so angry and frustrated with the depiction that they began throwing rocks.

“The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled,” Webb reports for Al Jazeera.

Victor Ochen, the director of The African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), the group that organized the screening, said in a statement that it drew more than 35,000 people and was broadcast on five radio stations.

Due to the response, future AYINET public screenings of “Kony 2012” in Lira reportedly have been canceled.

“[T]he film produced such outrage, anger and hurt that AYINET has decided that in order not to further harm victims or provoke any violent response that it is better to halt any further screenings for now,” Ochan said in the statement. …

Watch the video from Malcolm Webb above, and click over to his accompanying article to read more about the screening in Uganda.

This video from the USA is called Invisible Children Funded By Anti-gay Christian Right? Kony 2012 Criticism.

When Invisible Children’s Stop Kony 2012 campaign exploded onto the internet last week, it was just a matter of hours before critiques of every colour followed suit: here.

The central impulse behind US involvement in Uganda is the drive to dominate the region’s recently discovered oil reserves and its other natural resources, as part of the struggle for influence in Africa between the US, China and the former colonial European powers: here.

Invisible Children filmmaker Jason Russell, who created the viral “Kony 2012” video, will remain in the hospital for several weeks for what his wife described as “reactive psychosis.” In a statement released Wednesday, his wife and other family members said they believe this condition caused him to act strangely last week, ranting and roaming around a San Diego street in the nude: here.

Kony 2012, humanitarianism or war?

This video is called The Truth: Kony 2012 Exposed.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Kony 2012 promotes US “humanitarian” intervention in Africa

14 March 2012

The campaign launched around Kony 2012, a 30-minute video targeting the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, is aimed at furthering US military intervention on the African continent under the guise of humanitarianism.

The video has been viewed on YouTube tens of millions of times, and its depiction of the suffering of the people, and particularly the children, of Uganda as the result of the protracted military conflict between the LRA and the US-backed government of President Yoweri Museveni has no doubt struck a chord with many, particularly younger people with little knowledge of the complex history of the region and the many interests involved.

The campaign’s message has been greatly amplified by a series of celebrities, ranging from Oprah Winfrey to George Clooney, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Rhianna and four of the Kardashians, all of whom have tweeted their support. It has likewise received virtually uncritical promotion from the mass media, with television anchors in the US comparing it to the use of social media during the mass revolts that shook Tunisia and Egypt last year.

In reality, there is absolutely nothing radical or oppositional about Kony 2012, whose explicitly stated aim is to drum up popular support for the continuation and escalation of one of the first direct military interventions by the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the African continent.

In October of last year, the Obama administration announced its decision to send 100 combat-equipped US military “advisers,” most of them special forces troops, into Central Africa with the stated aim of hunting down and either capturing or killing Kony and other leaders of the LRA.

While Invisible Children claims its campaign is for Kony to be delivered to the International Criminal Court for trial, the US government has refused to be a party to the ICC and has made no mention of the court in relation to its military operations in Central Africa.

A March 7 open letter to President Barack Obama, issued in conjunction with the release of the video, praises the Democratic president for his “leadership on this issue.”

“Your decision to deploy U.S. military advisors to the region in October of 2011 was a welcome measure of further assistance for regional governments in their efforts to protect people from LRA attacks,” the letter states.

It continues, “However, we fear that unless existing U.S. efforts are further expanded, your strategy may not succeed.” It touts the US military as the sole force capable of providing “tactical airlift” together with “cross-border coordination.” It cautions against any “premature” withdrawal of US special operations troops and urges the administration to utilize recently approved Pentagon funding “to provide enhanced mobility, intelligence, and other support for ongoing operations.”

The heads of three organizations signed the letter: Invisible Children, the maker of the Kony 2012 video; the Enough Project, a subsidiary of the Democratic-oriented think tank, the Center for American Progress; and Resolve, a human rights group connected to Catholic missionary organizations.

Behind this campaign is an unholy alliance between the Christian right in the US, which has chosen Uganda as something of a laboratory for its reactionary social and political outlook, and sections of well-heeled liberals who have become a new constituency for imperialist intervention waged on the pretext of upholding human rights and protecting civilians.

The White House last week came out publicly in support of the Kony 2012 campaign, with spokesman Jay Carney stating that Obama “congratulates” all those who responded to this “unique crisis of conscience” and vows to continue the US intervention.

Underlying the sudden and peculiar turn by Washington towards a “human rights” crusade against the Lord’s Resistance Army are very definite economic and geo-strategic interests. These are bound up with the recent discovery of substantial oil reserves precisely in the area where the hunt for the LRA is being staged and increasingly fractious competition between Washington and Beijing for geo-political influence in resource-rich Africa. AFRICOM and military intervention have become crucial instruments for the US in combating the wave of Chinese investments in infrastructure projects aimed at facilitating the extraction of African oil and mineral wealth.

What is peculiar about the intervention against the LRA is that it has been launched under conditions in which the militia group has already been reduced to a few hundred fighters and driven out of Uganda. While it conducted brutal attacks that claimed many civilian lives and was responsible for abducting large numbers of children for use as child soldiers a decade ago, its operations have been sharply curtailed in recent years and its atrocities far overshadowed by the mass killing carried out in the resource wars being waged in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Museveni’s Ugandan troops and affiliated militia groups are among those responsible for the loss of nearly 6 million lives since the mid-1990s.

The Kony 2012 video portrays Uganda as it was a decade ago, thereby generating false propaganda for the US military intervention. At the same time, it casts the struggle between the Ugandan government and the LRA as a morality play, pitting “good” against “evil.”

While the LRA has committed massacres and crimes against the region’s civilian population, it is hardly unique in this regard. It is a product in the final analysis of the divide-and-rule methods utilized by British colonialism, which generated inter-ethnic conflicts that independence and a rising native ruling class only continued to foster.

With the coming to power of Idi Amin in 1971, power shifted to the traditionally oppressed north of the country and away from the south, which had been favored by the British. The Acholi, one of the main northern ethnic groups, dominated the country’s military, which continued to exercise significant power even after Amin’s ouster in 1979.

In 1986, however, the country’s military ruler, Gen. Tito Okello, was brought down and the Acholi-dominated army disbanded after Museveni and his National Resistance Army, which preceded Kony in the use of child soldiers, swept to power.

It was out of Museveni’s ruthless suppression of resistance in the north that the LRA emerged. This repression led to the forced relocation of much of the north’s Acholi population into “protective villages,” effectively concentration camps in which people were deprived of their land and agriculture and many thousands died from hunger and disease.

Even the Museveni regime has criticized the film’s distortions. “It is totally misleading to suggest that the war is still in Uganda,” Fred Opolot, a spokesman for the Ugandan government, told the Telegraph. “I suspect that if that’s the impression they [Invisible Children] are making, they are doing it only to garner increasing financial resources for their own agenda.”

While no doubt the Ugandan regime is critical for its own reasons, tied to its own interests and concerns that an image of Uganda as a war zone will interfere with the corrupt privatization and investment schemes that have enriched a narrow elite at the expense of the masses of people, the government spokesman has a point.

According to Invisible Children official Jason Russell, the group sold some 500,000 $30 “action kits,” consisting of T-shirts, bracelets, stickers, posters and buttons, in just the first week since the posting of the video, translating into $15 million in revenue.

As Invisible Children freely admits, the bulk of this money does not go to aid the impoverished population of Uganda. Barely one third of its spending last year supported programs in Central Africa, while 20 percent covered salaries and expenses and 43 percent was used for “awareness programs.”

Invisible Children’s previous funding sources also merit critical examination. Among its biggest donors is the National Christian Foundation and the Christian Community Foundation, two grant-making groups that provide financial backing to key organizations of the Christian right, such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, which promote anti-abortion and anti-gay legislation and religion in school, as well as the Discovery Institute, which advocates teaching “intelligent design,” or creationism.

Some of these same religious right groups have been deeply involved in fostering anti-gay hysteria in Uganda, including the pushing of legislation that would make homosexual acts an offense punishable by death.

Invisible Children’s Jason Russell was a featured speaker last November at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school was founded by the extreme right-wing demagogue and Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, a defender of segregation and South Africa’s apartheid regime who became a significant force within the Republican Party.

The Kony 2012 campaign represents a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion in the interests of US intervention. It seeks to exploit the idealism of young people in order to distract them from the fundamental source of the tragic conditions facing masses of people in Africa—the heritage of colonial oppression and continued imperialist domination. And it proposes the US government and the US military as the solution to human rights abuses, as if the war crimes from Vietnam to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya had never happened.

Secret Australian SAS operations in Africa: here.