Punish Uganda for the “Kill the Gays” law
Yesterday we had a caller from the great state of Missouri who said that the U.S. should not withhold aid from Uganda because its Parliament is considering a law to either execute homosexuals or imprison them for life. He claimed that this would be meddling in the affairs, customs and traditions of another country and cited from his travels in North Africa the fact that many countries there have long-standing taboos on homosexuality. He asked me what I thought of his contention that the U.S. should stay out of Uganda’s internal affairs on this matter. I said that there are some laws, traditions and customs that we should stop – like clitoral mutilation – but that I would think over a us response to the Uganda kill the gays law and respond today. My immediate reaction was that of course we should intervene to stop it, but I wanted to give a well-thought through response to honor his calm and articulate statement. Here it is.
There are over 200 nations in the world and many of them have laws, customs and practices that are repugnant to Americans and to people in other countries. But that does not mean that the US government should use our foreign aid and other diplomatic tools to change them. Those tools are meant for larger US policy interests – we may support nations whose customs we abhor because they are vital to American economic or security interests. Saudi Arabia is a prime example of this. We oppose its persecution of non Islamic (and some Islamic) religions and its treatment of women as non persons. Yet we support it because our policy is that it is vital to our military and security interests in the Middle East and to keep oil prices within limits (I know this is debatable, but that is another topic).
But we have no vital security or economic interests at stake in Uganda. the us sent 100 observer/trainers to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army, but other than that, if Uganda did not exist, the US would not be affected.
But we do have an interest in promoting equality and justice for all people. And the Uganda Parliament has been subject to meddling by US homophobic Christian organizations, possibly in violation of the law, who helped them assemble and introduce “kill the gays law”. This is repugnant to me and to the principles of American democracy. It should be repugnant to people who believe Christ’s message of universal love and non-judgment (“judge not that ye shall be judged”).
No nation, including Uganda has aright to American aid. Aid is a diplomatic tool the US and other nations use to get behavior they want. If the Ugandan Parliament insists on passing and enforcing laws that violate the foundation of American democracy, that all people are created equal and have the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then it deserves no help from us. Not only should the State Department withhold aid, but it should recall our ambassador until the bill is withdrawn.