Michael Gerson

On Christmas Day, in Faradje near the edge of the park, much of the town of about 25,000 residents was gathered in the evening to listen to a band. At first, they waved at the soldiers walking on the main street toward the market, assuming they were Congolese forces. In fact, they were they were hard-core LRA fighters who had flanked the crowd and began clubbing people to death with sticks. At least 100 houses were burned. Hundreds of people were killed or taken captive -- tied together by the waist and marched single file carrying looted goods into Garamba Park.

Though the initial results of the Ugandan military assault were disappointing, a number of starving LRA fighters have begun to surrender, and the pursuit of the rest is ongoing. The Ugandans, facing delays and difficult weather, have done a capable job. And regional cooperation has been exemplary -- the defense chiefs of Uganda, Congo and southern Sudan are in daily contact about the operation.

The Obama administration, however, will need to maintain the same intense diplomatic pressure that the Bush administration has applied to keep this coalition together. Congo's President Joseph Kabila was expecting a swift outcome, and may eventually face domestic pressure to end Ugandan operations on his country's soil. But there can't be any wavering now.

The success of this campaign is important because impunity for crimes against humanity is itself a crime. And justice, in this case, may send a pleasingly disquieting message to the likes of Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe: that mass killers do not always die quietly in their beds.

There is a natural and appropriate hesitance to wish death for any man. "Many that live deserve death," warned J.R.R. Tolkien. "And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice. ... "

It is a wise saying -- with some notable exceptions. And one of those exceptions is Joseph Kony, who has dealt out death to so many.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
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