Quit Bashing Senator Brumskine

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 25, 2003

Willis Knuckles' Bad Challenge

Sometime last year the Liberian propaganda website allaboutliberia.com carried an emotionally charged opinion piece by Mr. Willis D. Knuckles, Jr. In that piece, Mr. Knuckles expressed dismay that the former Senator Charles Brumskine was being "unrealistic" for attempting to solve the "present crisis our country faces from an air-conditioned law office in Washington, D.C."

He lambasted and ridiculed the former senator for proposing a "foreign intervention force". He went on to invite Senator Brumskine to return home and join others in "engaging the government in a bid to promote a more open and democratic society and help build our country". A failure to meet this challenge effectively reduces Mr. Brumskine's presidential ambition to a "fairy tale not even worth reading", Mr. Knuckles wrote.

Mr. Knuckles downplayed Mr. Brumskine's assertion that he felt at risk at the time he resigned his position as President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate. Mr. Brumskine, we will record left the country under some strange circumstances.

Although Mr. Knuckles acknowledged that President Taylor at a national conference referred to Senator Brumskine as "that scary boy", he still maintained that there was nothing to fear. The truth of the matter is Mr. Taylor is known internationally as a merciless dictator and war monger, but Mr. Knuckles chose to dismiss his threats as insignificant - strange logic.

Mr. Knuckles justified his position by claiming that other politicians were frequently visiting the country for meetings and consultations at "some minimal" risk, but he saw it as the "sacrifice serious Liberians have to make at this time".

Mr. Knuckles closed his tirade with a challenge that could be interpreted as an insult to Senator Brumskine. This is what he wrote: "If the learned counselor is not prepared to do at least that, then he had better shut up on Liberia and pursue his law practice in America. Trying to call the shots on Liberia from a Washington law office just won't work".

In an earlier article I wrote and published on this website under the title "Intimidation as a Political Strategy", I disagreed with Mr. Knuckles and challenged his position. It was my opinion that Mr. Brumskine had a legitimate concern for his safety and that did not diminish his constitutional rights to speak on issues affecting our country. Mr. Knuckles chose not to respond to my viewpoint, as far as I know.

However, Senator Brumskine and his political advisors thought it wise to accept the challenge of returning to Liberia to declare his candidacy for president for the up-coming elections. It was quite a noble and brave thing to do, if you ask me.

Our readers know what has transpired since the time the former senator returned home. My question is: Has Mr. Knuckles changed his position? Does he still think that Mr. Brumskine had nothing to fear? Does he still think that President Taylor is playing fairly? Just a thought.

Commentary on the News?

Since Senator Brumskine returned home, quite a few commentaries have been written to to analyze the situation in Monrovia as it evolves. Instead of giving him credit, they've been taking shots at him under the guise of earnest commentary.

One of those commentaries was published by Jerry Wehtee Wion whose work appeared under the broad title, "The Saga of Taylor versus Brumskine: Commentary on the News."

I was expecting an earnest commentary on the news by a professional newsman, but was quickly disappointed as he delved into a fictional account of President Charles Taylor's thoughts. Don't ask me how he got into Mr. Taylor's head, but this is what he heard Mr. Taylor say to Mr. Brumskine:

"Dear Brumskine, Welcome back to Liberia. You and I were in this mess together, but then you wanted to step on my toes. So you ran to our mother America and now you are back. Suddenly, you are now a good guy and I am the devil. But because we come from the same old school, I will not arrest you to make a political hero out of you. But instead, I will use you like a political football. I will harass and intimidate you, and will give you the run-around just to frustrate your presidential ambitions. Of course, you will regret why you even decided to come back home in the first place. And then you are talking about how you want MY job to be president of Liberia? Have you forgotten the agreement that I was to remain President of Liberia until the year 2024...The Vision? Just watch me! Your buddy, Chuck Taylor."... The commentator tells us, "Those are Taylor's unspoken message to his onetime legislative agenda designer".

Since the matter under discussion is of utmost importance, I was disappointed at Mr. Wion's attempt to trivialize the events at hand. Maybe he should be reminded that journalists have an obligation to report the facts. Creative writing is best left to those pursuing other forms, such as fiction.

Mr. Wion attempts to berate Mr. Brumskine by referring to him as the former flag bearer and cheer leader for Taylor's rubber-stamp legislature.

Let's examine a few words used to describe Mr. Brumskine as an exercise in semantics. First the word flag bearer. A bearer is one that carries or supports, as a porter. (Porter means a person employed to carry burdens, especially an attendant who carries travelers' baggage...) This term does not denote a position of great power as we can extrapolate from its meaning.

The American Heritage dictionary of the English Language (third edition) defines ‘cheerleader' as one who expresses or promotes thoughtless praise; an adulator.

The term ‘rubber -stamp' is described as a person or body that gives perfunctory approval or endorsement of a policy without assessing its merit. A perfunctory approval or endorsement.

I hope the reader will bear with me as I try do some critical analyses of what Mr. Wion is telling his readers. First he calls Mr. Brumskine a flag bearer, a cheerleader in a rubber-stamp legislature, and then accuses him of ‘turning a blind eye on Taylor's abuses'. He writes, "Never did the Senate, under Brumskine's leadership initiate any legislative inquiry into Taylor's wanton abuse of the constitution, including the murders of opposition figures, and the crackdown on human rights activists and journalists.

Here is my point: If Mr. Wion agrees that the Liberian Legislature under Brumskine was a rubber-stamp body, isn't it counter-logical to have expected them to be effective and assiduous in their tasks?

He writes: "Yes indeed, Brumskine maintained a tight-lip when Taylor murdered prominent Liberians including the late Gabriel Kpolleh, Jackson F. Doe, Sam Dokie...plus countless number of other Liberians..."

In a very shocking and careless way, Mr. Wion seemed to have lost all sense of reasoning and fairness when he writes further: "What is good for these victims of Taylor should equally be good for Charles Walker Brumskine in Taylor's so-called democratic Liberia." As if to justify this horrible and pathetic thought, he continues, "Some of these crimes were committed when Senator Brumskine was carefully crafting Taylor's autocratic agenda in the legislature".

Are we to believe that when a crime, specifically a murder, takes place the legislature has a responsibility to investigate the president? What was the role of the police, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court?

It is such a sad testament that these horrible crimes were committed, but blaming the Legislature instead of the Ministry of Justice shows the twisted logic of the writer. And to conclude that Brumskine deserves the same fate is nothing short of insanity.

Finally, the writer tries to defend the indefensible by tacitly endorsing the position of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) for its strange and unexplained rage and fury against innocent Liberian civilians. This group does not understand the meanings of the words reconciliation and democracy. They are bandits fighting the bandits of their former boss, Charles Taylor. They are just as bad. They too, must be denounced.

To end this piece, I'll like to quote a fellow Liberian for whom I have developed a great deal of respect for his high intellect, commitment to public causes and proven integrity. I refer to none other than Counselor Mohamedu F. Jones who recently penned an article under the caption: "Senator Brumskine's Absolute Right to Travel". He wrote and I quote:

"As a Liberian citizen, Senator Brumskine has a fundamental constitutional right to travel. [Under Article 13(b), "Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to leave and to enter Liberia at any time."] This declaration means that the government cannot legally keep a Liberian from leaving the country or returning to it. In addition, Senator Bruumskine also has an international legal right to travel. Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." This means that the government of Liberia is obligated to provide the necessary documentation for the exercise of the right to travel".

So instead of bashing Brumskine and rehashing his past association with Taylor, we should give him credit for standing up against his former partner and demanding his constitutional rights as a Liberian and a citizen of the world. He deserves no less.