Friday, February 28, 2014

Avoid the tin pots

     Not only has Uganda, unlike Arizona, actually put into place draconian anti-gay laws, this small central African country seems in a position to hold hostage the foreign policy of the US. It’s time to stop letting that happen without making a fuss.

     Governor Jan Brewer, convinced by both a lack of any evidence that there is a “gay problem” in Arizona and by the urgings of chambers of commerce, sports leagues, and major corporations, vetoed anti-gay legislation recently passed by the Legislature. Sadly, there are no countervailing forces in Uganda able to stop the criminalization of homosexual identity as well as behavior. President Yoweri Museven supports the laws, declaring that he thinks gays are disgusting.

     Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands took Museven at his word when he declared his country didn’t need western support. They cut off aid to Uganda but the U.S. has not cut off its relationships, including millions in foreign aid, to Uganda in response to its egregious anti-human rights actions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly “studying” options.

     Once again, our nation finds itself being played by a tin-pot dictator while the Europeans are taking action. Why? Because our leaders used Uganda in some bizarre relationships justified by the war on terrorism, in ways that apparently left President Museven feeling like he controls the relationship. For example, the U.S. government used Ugandans to provide the security for its facilities and personnel in Iraq, for instance, because leaders thought we could outsource war.

     Kerry does need to study what is going on. If the Secretary of State doesn’t know what’s going on in U.S. foreign policy, we are in more trouble than we imagined. It is simple enough: There is simply no justification for putting the U.S. in a position where national policy can be determined by leaders and governments of which we do not approve.

     Kerry did sharply criticize Ugandan officials on Monday because of the new law. “This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights,” he said. He and President Obama waffled when the toughest response to Uganda’s position was to note that it “complicates a valued relationship.”

     Arizona and other states have rejected blatantly anti-gay laws. It is time the U.S. follows its example and rejects the notion that America’s security must depend on countries whose policies are anathema to our most basic values.

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