A Critical Eye On The New Deal's Reaction

By: Sumowuoi Pewu

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 10, 2003


The Overview: I can not help but be impressed with the New Deal Movement and the dedication with which it summoned the level of fervency of its response to the "New Democrat" containing 5,381 full word counts wafting in nine pages of insults laden document to the Paper's editorial of August 25, 2003, entitled, "The Dawn of Unholy Alliances in Post-Taylor Liberia," authored by the University of Texas trained Liberian Journalist, Tom Kamara.

In his editorial piece, Tom offered his readers an insight into the just concluded Liberia's Peace Conference in Accra, Ghana, by taken apart the political rearrangement and reshuffling that essentially provided veto power to the Liberian warlords in the division of the "spoils of war." Tom opined that these flawed processes have fueled the anarchy and bloodbath cycle that have come to deeply codify the mindset of criminal warlords whose craving for power and greed, has led to the hemorrhaging and decimation of Liberia. Tom went on to assign complicity and culpability to the political parties (including the New Deal Movement) for their ever-deforming perception of the enduring objective forces in Liberia (Liberian people) that political parties ignored and marginalized in Accra. Tom warned that the New Deal Movement has exposed itself for what it is by the deeds of its political horse-trading in Accra with just not "unsavory political forces," but unpredictable and a voracious band of militiamen whose swerving demonstrated desire is the plunder of the Liberian state.

As it would obviously be expected, the New Deal Movement angrily and strenuously objected to the New Democrat's editorial and accused Tom of "...lying and slandering groups and individuals as a way of gaining relevance and fostering self-aggrandizement..." The New Deal, burbling dutifully in its own defense, provided heavily veiled literary oblique illusions and adversarial feistiness, and accused Tom of mischaracterization by constructing a ‘"Mickey Mouse logic"' shrouded in ‘Byzantine' motive to undermine the New Deal since he does not take kindly to the group's success. On the simple face of things, the New Deal's reaction quickly takes a bizarre intellectual turn by scolding Tom of ‘Machiavellian contraption' and equally having a ‘saintly impression of himself'' in pursuit of establishing a moral symmetry between the New Deal and the rest of its political foes it is alleged to have made deals with in Ghana.

With that salvo fired, the cultural wars have begun with a swagger. The jihad is being waged with particular ferocity in an effort to score a decisive victory in these wars. It appears the construct of the postmodern politics in Liberia is inextricably bound to convictions that there are truths and moral norms worth defending in our politics. That, the anything-goes mentality and drumbeat of rule breaking at the detriment of our society drown our traditional values for which we are all vicariously liable to the Liberian people.

The Shrouding Effect
- Distortions aside, though, the New Deal's reaction, laced with, and, punctuated with personal attacks shrouds the real debate of accountability in our national politics. But instead, it heightens our accelerated sense of foxhole mentality bordering on "pit-bull politics." The New Deal's academic theorizing only seems variously flaky and pretentious. All the more distressing, the New Deal resorted to the perennial Liberian nonsense of failing to deal with legitimate issues raised, but rather, shroud them in some vague generalities and confused assertions replete with lengthy litany of rhetorical scream fest of "land of the political sewage tank," scandal mongering and personality assassination" as some ducking mechanism. It dawns on me that the Party has not adequately done its homework and/or due diligence in addressing the issues by Tom. To me, the New Deal's reaction should have been more associated with evidential matters; i.e., did Tom's editorial piece constitute sufficient misstatement(s) as to be biased against the New Deal? The party must ask this question, can it provide irrefutable argument (rather than a mere persuasive argument) to provide a counter corroborating information to dispute Tom's assertion?

Instead, the Party puts up a counter-intuitive reasoning by first attacking Tom of taking residence in the ‘political sewage tank,' and second, blames Tom Kamara for contributing to the general decline of truth - by attempting to paint Tom's writing as a tailor-made bundle of puristic panties. In fact, the only thing that made this disquisition notable is that its author was the redoubtable New Deal Movement - comprised of men who are not only respectable crusaders for scholarly intellectual rigor in Liberian politics, but are literary theorists and self-styled champions of the war on "lies" embodying the best of close friends like George Klay Kieh (trained as a political scientist at the elite Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois), Alaric Tokpah (a veteran of the student movement and a doctoral candidate at Clark Atlanta in Georgia), A. B. Mitchell, Tolo Cofab, etc. But to be avowedly opposed to a line of argument as slander deserving to be abhorred, and yet, embraced it for the purpose of defending oneself is not only counter intuitive, but also, self-defeating.

It certainly beats my imagination and it is beyond me in terms of the real utility the New Deal Movement derives and accomplishes by asserting, "Let us examine your record. In 1980, you and other ‘Liberian microphone revolutionaries,' including Charles Taylor, residing in the United States, quickly packed your bags after the military coup and returned home in search of government jobs. In your specific case, you served as the Editor of the New Liberia, the propaganda arm of the People's Redemption Council (PRC). After you fell out with Sergeant Doe, you were dismissed. In 1990, during the first Liberian civil war, you had no qualms about serving as Director of Communications at the Executive Mansion, during the Amos Sawyer leadership of the Interim Government of National Unity IIGNU). IGNU, like the current National Transitional Government, which you claim to despise, was factionally based it included even elements from Taylor's NPFL. Did you refuse the position? Did you criticize IGNU for being a factionally based government? The answer to these questions is no! Your complaints were only personally based (the pursuance of your personal interest) You were unhappy because Lamina Waritay was appointed Minister of Information, Weade Kobbah Wureh, Director-General of the Liberian Broadcasting System and Swanzy Elliott, Deputy Minister of State for Presidential Affairs for Public Affairs. You wined about not being appointed to one of the aforementioned positions, when you have been a "faithful political follower." Your other recurrent complaints during the IGNU days had to do with perks - cars, money, etc."

It is too frail an argument and an over-simplification of a debate by the New Deal to simply trade recriminatory diatribes with Tom by asserting that the man was once a sagging relic of Samuel Doe's military despoliation and then imply that he was an anachronistic supporter of the Doe's dictatorship. Doing the exact thing that the New Deal Movement says it is avowedly opposed is mine boggling to me. The ferocious fight to score a decisive victory in their political fight with Tom is not accomplished by the sheer literary "shock and awe" as it is being unleashed from the New Deal.

Examining the Construct of the New Deal's Political Typology - Considering that some of the biggest political actors in the New Deal are professors of political science, it wasn't surprising that Tom Kamara was berated in the New Deal's reaction as using the Liberian Peace Conference held in Accra, Ghana, as his "political laboratory" to develop a typology of Liberian political parties based on faulty assumptions. The statement goes on to provide an impressive pedagogical framework for Tom Kamara by asserting, "First, the typology is Byzantine.

This is because its epistemology is based on alchemy and baseless generalizations and non-sequitars. For example, one cannot use a single event, the falsehood of the information notwithstanding, to define the ideological orientation of a political party. Instead, any serious typology must examine the manifesto and the manifesto-praxis nexus of a political party overtime, before a conclusion about that political party's ideological orientation can be definitely made."

Clearly, this line of argument has a scientific merit to it and the New Deal's point that in order to establish a nexus (or a link) from an event requires a close observation of a trend over time is absolutely valid. But there is only one problem, the correctness of the New Deal's analysis notwithstanding. In politics, one memorable event can be a defining moment subsumed in eternity for good or bad. Remember former Vice President Dan Quay's "potato" gaffe? No one argued then that the Vice President should be pardoned because there was no evidence of established practice and custom (praxis) for his gaffe. That one mistake defined and bedeviled the man for the rest of his career. Indeed, in real politics, a skeptical public looks for a link (nexus) between established practice (praxis) as distinguished from theory (manifesto) to see a sensible shift in their political paradigm. As a practical matter, the public sees "nexus-praxis" (with the antecedent nexus before the noun praxis) and not the New Deal's coinage, "praxis-nexus." But of course, who wouldn't be impressed with the repertoire of the New Deal's linguistic organizational architecture? It is a testament that Liberians can achieve great feats and higher heights in academia.

In the interest of simplicity, however, we will examine the noun "Byzantine" and study its "epistemology" to determine its impact on this discourse. Byzantine is a former ancient Empire (founded A.D. 395 - 1453) known in today's history as Constantinople. The Empire was characterized by deviousness, complexity and intrigue. But these are traits that are found in every modern society today. I am not saying the New Deal Movement shouldn't have the right to perceive Tom as being devious, complex and intriguing. In fact, if some of us are coming across as being eager to defend Tom Kamara, then I really apologize. But invariably, there is one literary problem (if not gaffe), with the New Deal's impressive pedagogical framework. It asserts that Tom's generalization was "...based on alchemy..." Why alchemy? The word means to better mankind. Alchemy - an early form of Chemistry, with philosophic and magical associations, studied in the Middle Ages: its chief aims were to change base metals into gold and to discover the elixir of perpetual youth in mankind. I guess I am unable to reconcile Tom's nature of being Byzantine (devious, complex and intriguing) with his generous spirit of alchemy (the ability to better mankind) at the same time.

Now, let's analyze the other reasons attending the New Deal second position. The party asserts that "...for the sake of making the point, the formation of a working relationship between or among political parties, especially in the context of complex conflict resolution and its attendant battery of peacemaking modes, does not constitute the formation of an ideological alliance." True! The New Deal couldn't be more to the point. "Third, the truth is that as a nationalistic and patriotic political party, the New DEAL Movement was part of a working relationship organized by the various Liberian political parties (excluding Taylor's National Patriotic Party of Liberia)." "We are not crude dogmatists, arrogant and self-proclaimed ‘saints' who insist that we know it all. When it comes to the national interest of Liberia, we have consistently declared our willingness to put the national interest above partisanship! That is why the New DEAL motto reads LIBERIA FIRST!"

Although the New DEAL might not entirely be successful in attempting to lend a sense of patriotic majesty to their role in the Accra Peace Deal, we will reward them for their unflagging effort in contributing to a dull and unimaginative political debate in Ghana. The one thing that remains unexplained though, for the New Deal, is its recent stance against collaborating with other political parties. While in Liberia early February 2003 to bury his late father, the Standard Bearer of the New Deal Movement, George Adadu Klay Kieh, blasted the Liberian opposition in a newspaper interview as "unsavory" and out rightly rejected calls to coalesce to defeat Taylor at the time. Now, since when did the New Deal start sporting this new nationalistic stripe of "when it comes to the national interest of Liberia..." "...[we-sic] put the national interest above partisanship?" Was the dawning of this new reality in anticipation of participating in government? Gosh, I am impressed!

Personally, I have spoken to the highest level of the New Deal, particularly, to Klay Kieh about the need to construct a transient philosophical ideogram with other political parties with the view of defeating Taylor at that time. For every time, the brother questioned the "unsavory" nature of the opposition. Of course, nobody ever said such an assertion appeals to one's puritanical and/or "saintly" credential. I have never understood Kieh's logic considering that we both worked on similar venture in 1997. But who is Pewu to question the intellectual pedigree of these flawless New Dealers, though, their personal adversarial political style and bitter rancor can only outlast the stellar quality of their party. It is important for the New Deal to see our political landscape as a vast chessboard. One wrong move in a distant corner of the board has a jarring effect on the rest of the players in the center of that board. No matter how well intentioned the New Deal's shift in position, the occasional disagreements on matters of principles and policies are and will always be an inevitable process of an enlightened relationship between equal colleagues. This is called diversity of opinions. Nothing personal against Kieh, Alaric, Mitchell and/or Tolo Corfah!

Demonization of Krahns?
Maybe Adhominen - It is fascinating to me to accuse one of an aberrant behavior and yet, turn around and to do the same thing. The New DEAL Movement rants against Tom as a "crude tribalist" and the voice of "ethnic baiting" for the use of the word "Ethnic Krahns." This is quite a spectacular assertion and a charge deserving the rigor of our analytical paradigm. The New Deal accused Tom of a "Mickey Mouse logic." But let's test the New Deal's own logic. First, we are seen in the New Deal's approach what is called "Bias in Favor of Causal Explanations" in critical reasoning. Fischer labels the assumption that a cause must somehow resemble its effect - the "fallacy of identity." This type of reasoning does not allow one to build an acuity sense nor an eye for the copious details in facts. But the practitioner of this kind of reasoning usually puts up an untested theory and then, goes in search of postulations to support the theory. For example, look at the New Deal's reasoning that "President Doe demonized the Gios and Manos, while Taylor did the same to the Krahns and the Mandingos. Consequently, scores of innocent Krahns and Mandingos were set up for slaughter, simply because they belonged to the "wrong ethnic group," in the eyes of their accusing hard core tribalists (like you [Tom-sic])."

First, the word "ethnic" doesn't mean tribalism. It must neither be confused with "ethnocentrism." The word "ethnic" is used to provide descriptive identity to certain demographic sub-groups in a population. We generally tend to assume that causes are similar to their effects, in the sense that important or large effects must have large causes. When inferring the causes of behavior, too much weight is accorded to personal qualities and dispositions of the actors like Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe and not enough to situational determinants like the nature and behavior of our civil war in the first place. Finally, people often perceive relationships that do not in fact exist, because they do not have an intuitive understanding of the kinds and amount of data needed to prove a relationship.

We cannot see cause and effect in the same sense that we see a desk or a tree. Even when we observe one billiard ball striking another and then watch the previously stationary ball begin to move, we do not perceive cause and effect. The conclusion that one ball caused the other to move results only from a complex process of inference, not from direct sensory perception. That inference is based on the juxtaposition of events in time and space plus some theory or logical explanation as to why this happens. To conclude from Tom's usage of the word "Ethnic Krahns and Mandingos" will set the basis for a slaughter house is quite a stretch. We have a knack for constructing a plot from imagined events, and this plot then dictates the possible endings of the incomplete hypothesis we formed. This plot is formed from the "dominant concepts or leading ideas" that we use to postulate patterns of relationships that might not even exist.

What is this assertion by the New Deal? "Tom, you must stop this business of establishing people's guilt on the basis of "ethnic association." This is brazen adhominem! Appealing to people's prejudices and emotions rather than to their reason amounts to sheer demagoguery. This dangerous push can only lead one reeling on self-decapitation.

The Habit of Forming Views of Centralized Direction - Very similar to the bias toward causal explanations is a tendency for us to see the actions of other people (or groups of any type) as the intentional result of centralized direction and planning. Most Liberians are slow to perceive accidents, unintended consequences, coincidences, and small causes leading to large effects. Instead, we see coordinated actions, plans and conspiracies on the horizon from people we disagree with. We then accuse them of being NSA and CIA agents out of pure imagined contraptions.

Together, they explain the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories associated with the so-called progressives in Liberia. Such theories are invoked to explain large effects for which there do not otherwise appear to be correspondingly large causes. For example, it seems outrageous to Liberians that a group of seventeen enlisted illiterate soldiers could have altered their history permanently. Because the motive for the coup is so dissimilar for some, the effect it alleged to explain doesn't fit into the symphony of things that rhyme with their reasoning. If such "little" causes as mistakes, accidents, or the aberrant behavior of a few individuals have big effects, then it stands to reason that major events happen for reasons that are senseless and random sometimes rather than always by some purposeful designed of a Tom Kamara's journalistic "meretricious claptrap" driven by his "evil pen."

When it comes to the crunch, Tom's ideas about political parties accounting for their deeds are every bit as conventional - and as considered - as anything our cultural war could wish for. And most of his fellow-travelers will readily endorse those values, even if they might not put their argument quite splenetically as Tom. Guys, not to worry, I doubt the New Deal Movement will be a mere pushover waiting to be written of as an unsalvageable morass of our political history. Even if Tom's editorial's piece seems a "journalistic harangue," it should be distinguished only by the speciousness of the occasion it provides for. The Party's future is in safe hands with upper political apparatchiks.

Finally, if the New Deal's attack on Tom was borne out of an affection for him, and sees my lay man comment as an attempt to convert their exchange into an instrument for the pursuit of a baseless literary confrontation with the New Deal Movement, then, of course I beg for forgiveness and should be pardoned - albeit a "progressive" version of brotherly love. Oh well, maybe!