Taylor Hangs Democrats to Woo Angry Republicans

By Tom Kamara

The Perspective
April 16, 2001

For over a decade, Charles Taylor cleverly applied the dictum that "everyone has a prize". Thus he proceeded to deceive leading Americans into buying his deceptive machinations that have plunged Liberia and the West African sub region into difficult-to-escape mess. He hoodwinked his fellow warlords into dancing to his tune, only for the lucky ones to end up in the dungeon of exile. He blinded greedy politicians into believing his is a regime of "laws and not of men." He fooled gullible and naïve Liberians so intensely into believing he had the solutions to the nation's multiplying problems of poverty, illiteracy, and violence that they sang, "You killed my ma, you killed my pa, [but] I will vote for you..." Now he is bombarding the Republicans with a not-so-clever package of trickery to sell himself as a victim misunderstood and therefore unjustly lynched by the out-of-power Democrats, his pals of yesterday. In a recent letter to US Congressman Ed Royce, he blamed the Democrats, among his best friends in US power establishment, for his woos:

"The disinformation campaign, coupled with outright lies is the brainchild of some officials of the Clinton Administration. We must admit again, that their campaign against Liberia has so far been successful..."

But it seems that the Liberian ruler has run out of steam, for the Republicans, unlike the Democrats he now hangs, are far more contemptuous of him than he imagines. Reports The Washington Times:

"In an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times... Mr. (Ed) Royce pledged to steer a different course than the Clinton administration, which tended to avoid confrontation with leaders such as Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Charles Taylor of Liberia 'The Clinton administration did little to support the elected government of [President Ahmed Tejan] Kabbah or to condemn the brutality of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)'", the congressman Royce told journalists recently.

"In emphasizing the need for a new direction away from President Clinton's Africa policy, Mr. Royce was particularly critical of the past administration's muted voice on the bloodletting in Sierra Leone. What appeared to upset the congressman most was the links of West African leaders to Col. Gadhafi", the paper added.

Invariably, the next stage in the calculated and rehearsed deception that has made Taylor successful in the fulfillment of his political and personal economic agenda will be intensified, now that the warlord has begun investing in more PR firms in advancing his theory of everyone having a price. Laughably, though, the targets of the new courtship are the Republicans, while the new enemies are the Democrats, his sympathetic backers of yesterday. Taylor claims he is a victim of an international conspiracy spearheaded by Washington and London with the complicity of his exiled opponents when, in reality, it is the opposite - Clinton's silence and useful support that contributed to Taylor's success is the case.

Ignoring the fact that it was Republican Senator Judd Gregg who broke the taboo of silence on his destabilization projects in West Africa, Taylor castigates the Clinton administration and the Democrats for conspiring to ensure his inevitable fall when the truth is that Clinton and friends like the Rev. Jesse Jackson backed him despite the overwhelming evidence of his Libyan-backed schemes now consuming Sierra Leone and Guinea. Examples of how Clinton's ears were closed on Taylor's atrocities are many.

For instance, one of Taylor's major successes was when he threw London and Washington in disarray over a British-sponsored resolution to ban Liberian diamonds. Clinton could not see himself hurting friends like Jesse Jackson. So London stood alone, making the resolution ineffective. Wrote Mark Huband and Deborah Hargreaves in The Financial Times:

"Britain's attempts to halt the illegal flow of diamonds from rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone have been seriously undermined by the refusal of the US to agree to the extension of an embargo on diamond exports to neighbouring Liberia, a diplomat confirmed on Friday. The US refusal marks the latest in a series of serious differences of opinion between London and Washington over Sierra Leone.

"The US said it would not back a ban on Liberian diamonds, thus making British efforts at stopping Taylor futile. By exempting Liberia, from where President Charles Taylor wields extensive control over the RUF, the diamonds export ban is regarded as being almost impossible to impose unless the diamond-producing areas in rebel hands are recaptured. This goal is unlikely to be achieved without further bloodshed".

Although up to 95 per cent of Sierra Leone's illegally mined diamonds with the complicity of senior Liberian officials, Britain failed to convince the Clinton team to join in closing this destructive loophole of crime. References to Liberia were deleted in the resolution. Left alone, London convinced its European Union partners to suspend a $47m aid package to Liberia as punishment, a significant punishment since the EU was the country biggest donor. But since Taylor was earning between $300m to 400m per year from Sierra Leone diamonds, $47m loss made no difference.

The paper noted that, the UK largely depends upon the US to exert pressure on the Liberian government. Britain closed its embassy in Liberia several years ago while the US, which has a long relationship with Monrovia, maintains a diplomatic presence and has sought to improve its cool relationship with Mr Taylor.

Imagine if the Clinton administration had seen reason, and not Jesse Jackson, to back the British resolution. And it was in effect the same resolution, reintroduced, that has placed Taylor on the ropes for fear of sanctions. Since UN threat of sanctions, his rhetoric has changed. The RUF rebels, knowing they no longer have a safe Liberian corridor for operations and arms replenishment, are singing peace. Reports says the rebels have fallen off with their master and that Taylor has allegedly squandered their diamonds given to him in exchange for arms he has not delivered or can no longer deliver due to increased UN scrutiny. Examples of Clinton's magnanimity with Taylor include:

Frequent visits of high-level American diplomats fruitlessly urging Taylor to see reason. The delegation led by Thomas Pickering was reminded that Liberia is a sovereign country that would not be lectured to. Refusing to comply despite US pleas, the tyrant lectures the Americans on sovereignty and his Constitution.

He played Washington against Libya during and after the war, and yet enjoyed substantial support from American officials, with a former Assistant Secretary of State, Herman Cohen, once serving as his PR consultant. Mr. Cohen now claims that he only worked for Taylor for three months, and that he had to terminate the contract because Taylor does not listen to anyone. Some of Taylor's lawyers in this country are Democrats.

He subjected American diplomats to verbal threats and insults on live radio press conferences, with his party chair, Cyril Allen, threatening to arrest the ambassador at one point. His forces reined bullets into American embassy compounds, killing a fleeing ethnic Krahn opponent. He openly accused American embassy officials of selling American passports and visas, although the embassy denied the charges, calling them "street gossip." Despite these abnormalities, no known action was taken against the regime. Jesse Jackson vowed on one visit he would not rest until Liberia gains its place among respectable nations.

Although he boasted of having the Small Boys Unit, made of child soldiers, he impressed men like former President Jimmy Carter, who regarded him as a "family man." Carter consoled Liberians in 1997 that human rights and other abuses under Taylor as President were "inconceivable."

Writes Jon Lee Anderson: "Despite the fact that during the civil war Charles Taylor commanded one of the most vicious armies of modern times, and is widely believed to have abused his power for personal enrichment on a grand scale, he has an impressive roster of liberal American friends and acquaintances that includes the Reverend Jesse Jackson and former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Taylor enjoys an especially close relationship with former President Jimmy Carter, a fellow-Baptist, who travels frequently to Liberia to oversee "democracy building" and human rights programs that the Carter Center foundation operates there. Taylor's lawyer and PR man in Washington, D.C., is Lester Hyman, a Kennedy protégé and the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Massachusetts. Hyman says that when President Clinton was in Africa this spring he telephoned Taylor from Air Force One and gave him a "pep talk that was very encouraging."

But Taylor says he is confused over US contempt for his brand of politics determined by crime for personal wealth:

"It is still a mystery to me what the source of the reversal in US-Liberia relations might be. I do recall the cordial relations that existed between the State Department and I as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL. There might have been some misunderstanding of a number of events that for which my revolutionary movement might have been unjustifiably blamed..."

His "revolutionary movement's" attributes include gruesome butchering of five American Catholic nuns of which he now blames the Senegalese troops financed by American taxpayers to meet his demands. "The fact of the matter is that, the American-backed Senegalese unit of The ECOMOG peacekeeping force was in charge of the area where the deaths occurred. Coincidentally, the same Senegalese unit 'discovered' the bodies of the nuns, and yet, the deaths were blamed on NPFL forces that were miles away from the site of their demise".

"As a compassionate Christian, I have mourned the tragic death of the Sisters. I understand the pain and share the grief of their families, and wish to categorically reiterate that my Movement, the NPFL was not responsible for their death. As a matter of fact, many Americans and other foreign nationals were rescued by my organization and taken to War." Despite such clear lies, Royce insists that, "The United States must stand up to radical regimes in Africa while working closely with those nations that seek to broaden democracy, respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law."

Earnest Eastman, one of Taylor advisors, disagrees with the international conspiracy claims. "I am not aware of any. If there are, then something is wrong with us here and not outside." He said, "Without an independent and critical voice, a constructive, brave and forward-looking media, the efforts of peace and justice cannot be amplified and used to mobilize our citizens and youth who must become part of the process if it is to be sustained and made irreversible. If Liberians discontinue to allow the dishonest and the shameless to triumph; if Liberians discontinue to allow the abusers of our rights to be the role-model and if we stop admiring them in our society; if we stop allowing them to stamp upon our principles and if we stop allowing opportunism to prevail; dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty be punished and that Liberians must insist on honesty and integrity to become the badge of honor in the society."

He warned against the spreading "culture of impunity," declaring that this "must stop and the rule of law prevail, and not that of patronage and force prevail over the vulnerable and the weak."

"There is a perception of corruption that is believed to have spread throughout our society, it is hardly openly spoken of, but the common man seems aware of it and, I am told, is inaccurately advice about it, this is another political disease that must be exposed and the spreaders punished that the world will see," he noted.

Success in the application of one set of strategies does not guarantee their infinite validity. Taylor may realize, but not until it is too late.

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