October 15, 2001
It is now a little over a month since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. When President George W. Bush announced this past Sunday, October 7, 2001, from the Treaty Room of the White House "a place where American Presidents have worked for peace" that he had ordered the U.S. Military to strike at the Osama bin Laden Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and the military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, there was no question that the war on terrorism had begun. This was a moment expected ever since September 11. But before then, President Bush had announced earlier in the week that the government had taken steps to freeze the financial assets of well over twenty identifiable, well-known terrorist organizations operating throughout the world (In his prime-time press interview held last Thursday, President Bush announced that $24 million of the Al Qaeda assets had been seized).
The President also informed the American public and the world that more than 40 countries had joined America in this global war against terrorism. The participating countries spanned all continents and regions of the world including the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia. Because of the non-traditional and unconventional nature of the war, this new war is being fought on several fronts: military, diplomatic, financial and intelligence. Some countries, he said, have granted the U.S. air and landing rights, while others will contribute to intelligence sharing.
Interestingly, this new antiterrorist alliance has brought together old and new adversaries such as Russia, China, India as well as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which the world has not witnessed since the end of the cold war. The alliance also includes pariah states such as Libya, Syria, Iran and Liberia - all blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.
However, there are some nagging questions that have emerged: Whether this new antiterrorism alliance, which includes countries that have a track record for sponsoring terrorism and providing safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists, will now be embraced and brought into the community of democratic nations? Whether this new coalition is simply a marriage of convenience? Or, whether this will entirely change Americas foreign policy? These questions underline the new fears that many who have been victimized by acts of terror, have of the newfound alliance.
But Mr. Bush offers some answers to these questions when enunciating the mission of the war. The President said: "We did not ask for this mission. But we will fulfill it. The name of todays military operation is Enduring Freedom. We defend not only our own precious freedoms but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children from fear."
And in further clarifying American foreign policy, and how the war on terrorism would shape a new global order, Secretary of State Colin Powell writes, "In this global campaign, the United States welcomes the help of any country or party that is genuinely prepared to work with us, but we will not relax our standards and we will continue to advance our fundamental interest in human rights, accountable government, free markets, non-proliferation and conflict resolution, for we believe that a world of democracy, opportunity and stability is a world in which terrorism cannot thrive."
But while Secretary of State Powell makes it clear that the U.S. has no intention of changing its foreign policy or international relations with countries as a result of this global war on terrorism, there are a number of countries - pariah states - that have mischievously calculated that by their participation in this new global coalition, they can gain some political advantage and deflect international pressure from their regimes.
In this new murky political alliance, the warning of the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency Ibrahim Kamara, must not be ignored. Challenging the U.N. to develop a "precise and comprehensive" definition of terrorism, he told the U.N. General Assembly that his country "would wish to insist that those states, which continue to provide support and solace to terrorists must be swiftly and definitively punished. They must be sanctioned and their political and military leaders must be individually held responsible for crimes committed by perpetrators." The Ambassador could not have said it any better, his country, which has been at war for the last decade, has experienced one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent human history from the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which has received sponsorship from the Taylor regime in Liberia. Several thousands of people have been killed at the hands of the RUF since the war started.
Liberia, which is currently under United Nations sanctions for its support to the rebel RUF - a terrorist outfit - notorious and infamous for committing acts of terror such as rape, murder and torture, against the people of Sierra Leone, has shamelessly declared its support for this new global coalition against terrorism. Ironically, while it supports the war on terrorism, the regime in Liberia has been one of the main sponsors of terrorism and terrorist activities which has led to the destabilization of the West African sub-region, especially the Mano River Union countries - Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has gone to the unusual length of pledging the use of his countrys airspace and airport facilities, and even volunteering to commit troops if requested. "We are not ruling out the possibility of providing troops, neither are we taking it off the table, it all depends on what is requested." Hallelujah! These potent words cannot be those coming from a man who just a few months ago was threatening to arrest the American Ambassador accredited to Liberia, and who has persistently accused the U.S. and Britain of being involved in a "conspiracy" to depose his regime.
But as Mr. Taylor huff and puff, seeking to find redemption through this war on terrorism, the memories of Liberias recent war of theft, plunder and terror, which took the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, are still very fresh and cannot be easily forgotten and buried.
While the global war on terrorism is just and must be supported by all humankind, accepting help from anywhere and everywhere in pursuit of terrorists is equally justified. But there should be no quid pro quo, reward or amnesty given to those who are not deserving of it. President Taylor, most definitely, is one of those - he does not deserve reward. This should be the time for recokoning!
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