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LIBERIA - US trying to replace the government

A-infos worker | 06.08.2003 09:55 | Analysis | London | World

Article by someone who's worked out there - difficult to get information but an analysis of how US is pulling strings

Long answer: It is virtually impossible to find out what is really going on, who is
pulling the strings and all that in somewhere like Liberia, because
there are very few sources of current information. The international
media is not interested until it reaches crisis and once that has
happened, it is really too late to find out, they can't travel outside
Monrovia and they only really report on the humanitarian crisis aspect
of things. However, there are certain things that you can say for sure
about Liberia that allow you to make a pretty good guess about what
is going on.

Liberia was established, by the order of President Monroe (hence
Monrovia) by a small number of slaves repatriated from the US after
the abolition of slavery in the US. These ex-slaves were consciously
established as a local ruling class to serve US interests. They quickly
subjugated the tribes of the interior and practically recreated the
slavery which they had come from, this time with them as the
masters. Curiously enough, the fashions of late 19th century Southern
US still survived until very recently among the Liberian elite. Rich
folk live in plantation style mansions and wear top hats and
waistcoats. Anyway, since the basis of their power was almost
entirely external, their was no limits to their corruption, and Liberia
has always been one of Africa's most messed up countries.

In the 1980's Charles Taylor seized power, after a saga of brutal
feuds among the ruling class. Taylor is no more than a violent
gangster, ruling the country like a godfather, but for a long time he
was tolerated by the US since he was useful to them. For example he
was one of the main conduits for illicit US aid to UNITA in Angola, in
particular laundering their 'blood diamonds'. He was also a useful US
bridgehead in a region where France's colonial hold is still strong.

Although there has long been a diamond industry in Liberia, in the
1990's there were discoveries of large deposits of kimberlite (a
mineral which indicates the presence of diamonds) in the region along
the border of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. When I was in the
region in 2000, I met a de Beers geologist who had just finished a
stint of exploration along the Guinea border. He had just bought an
island off the coast of Mozambique and was retiring there - in his

Taylor let his gangster instincts go to his head and started getting
way to uppity for his overlords' liking. In the late 1990's he backed
Foday Sankoh's RUF guerillas in Sierra Leone, little more than a gang
of diamond thieves, to the annoyance of the British and yanks. It
wasn't until about 1999, after the intervention of Ecomog and south
african mercenaries that the RUF were driven out of their diamond
mines. Ecomog is essentially cover for the Nigerian military, the
regional strong man, and also global capitalism's enforcer of choice in
the region. At the same time Taylor was skirmishing with the
Guineans along their border, again going after their diamond producing
areas. In late 2000 a rebel army invaded Liberia from Guinea.
Although this army claimed to be an independent body of Liberian
exiles, everybody knew it was armed, trained and mobilised by the
Guinean government, almost certainly taking orders from Paris.

Finally, the straw that broke the camel's back was Taylor's meddling
in the civil war that broke out in Cote D'Ivoire earlier this year. A
rebellion broke out in the North of the coutry against Gbagbo's
governent - a staunch french ally. The rebellion has, in my opinion, the
backing of the US who have been long trying to wrest influence away
from the French in this coutry which is effectively the capital of
French West Africa. At a time when the rebels were advancing on
Abidjan, Taylor screwed things up by backing a third force which
invaded Cote D'Ivoire from the West and took the regional capital of

The US has made it abundantly clear that they want Taylor out. In
fact they openly state that the first precondition for peace in the
country is Taylor's resignation and they refuse to even talk to him
about a negotiated settlement. The invading force simply must be
armed and financed from Washington, although the aid is probably
funneled through Sierra Leone, Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea. The rebels
are currently beseiging Monrovia where Taylor's loyalists are making
their last stand. The US is playing its classic double game. On the
one hand they do not want to get involved in any fighting so they are
waiting until Taylor has been removed before they get directly
involved. At the same time they are letting everybody know, in a clear
but subtle way, that they are backing the rebellion. It is interesting to
note that the rebels are copying UNITA's tactics in Angola - use
terror to empty the countryside of people and make them all seek
refuge in the city, in the hope that the resulting humanitarian crisis
will cause the regime to collapse.

They have created this humanitarian catastrophe, in a calculated and
scientific way, which they will do nothing to resolve. But at the same
time they have started drumming it up in the media. This is paving the
way for their intervention - but only when things have reached a
favourable balance of power and the war has effectively been won. At
this stage they will send in peacekeepers to safeguard their conquest
of power, to make sure that the latest warlords don't go getting any
big ideas, and to mop up any remaining resistance to their monopoly
on diamond production. This will probably initially involve some US
troops but they will cede the job of occupation to Ecomog. They don't
want to have to deal with the unpopular side of being an occupying
army. The Ecomog 'peacekeeping' troops in Sierra Leone were far
from popular and suffered many losses, despite the fact that they had
driven out the hated RUF. A UN report into their mission found that
they had been involved in extensive diamond smuggling, rape, murder
and all that other stuff that always goes with occupation. A notable
aside is that the Indian general who produced the report was forced to
resign immediately afterwards and no changes were made to the
occupation. Peacekeepers in Liberia will doubtless do the same.

The story is horrific, but it is not atypical. In general this is what
intervention and peacekeeping means. Peacekeepers can't be
deployed against the wishes of the permanent members of the UN
security council, who also happen to be the big imperialist powers. In
general they are only employed to maintain the status quo once it has
reached a balance favourable to the big powers. Humanitarian
catastrophes are a favourite ploy, not only to justify intervention to
the world, but to depose an unwanted ruler without actually having to
fight against him and to decimate the society to such a point that not
only will there be no resistance, but they will be welcomed with open

So that is my opinion. It is quite possible that I am wrong in several
important details, since I haven't been following the situation in West
Africa too closely for the last year or so and th e information is from
memory. However, I'd be very surprised indeed if the essence was
other than what I have described.

> Been doing a bit of readin' up on Liberia by Chekov Sunday, Aug 3 2003
(Replies/responce to comments on the above text posted in

which, by the way, I'd recommend to some of you US flag wavers.
Doesn't it make y'all feel a little uncomfortable blindly cheerleading
the US, in a situation where you openly admit to knowing absolutely
nothing about what's going on? I mean, even if somebody wrote an
article criticising my mother, I'd try to investigate the claims before
leaping to her defence! Do y'all really trust your government so much
that you think that it's always doing good and you don't even have to
bother finding out what it's up to?

Since I wrote the comment, Charles Taylor has announced that he is
quiting, followed closely by the security council vote to "authorise a
multi-national force"[Sunday Tribune]. "The United States pushed for
the vote" and "US ambassador John Negroponte has said the Bush
administration wants the force being assembled by...Ecowas to take
the lead, with the United States providing support." Pretty much
exactly what I predicted. Again I could be entirely wrong, I don't have
enough information to be certain, but it's a pretty good indication
when a theory is useful in predicting the future.

What's more I am interested to see that France abstained from the
vote. They cited the ICC as the reason, but I'd say that imperial
rivalry is a more likely explanation. Another interesting titbit that I
saw was this, from an aid worker writing in the Tribune, "Almost
everywhere we go people call out for are they supposed to
understand why the four aid agencies left in the country don't 'do'
food? Even I don't quite get it, and I've been doing this work for years.
... shortage is not the issue. So what went wrong? simple really: they
left all their eggs in one basket, at the port which is now controlled by
the rebels. Strange really, when every other agency which had stocks
in that part of town had moved a good portion of them to the other
side of town in case of future attacks." To me it's not so strange,
indeed it sounds very much like my description of a consciously
manufactured humanitarian crisis. Just in case any of the flag wavers
happen to go off and actually read something about Liberia (faint
hope), I'll answer their objections in advance. Yes, the agencies
responsible for the food distribution are from the UN (principally the
WFP) but they effectively take orders from the US embassy in

Then a few quotes from the human rights watch document linked
above: "Although U.S. pressure on the Liberian government to
address human rights abuses remained strong, the U.S. failed publicly
to condemn both abuses by LURD rebels and the government of
Guinea for providing logistical and some military support to LURD.
The closest it came to doing so was in a March 1 statement by the
U.S. ambassador in Monrovia condemning the renewed fighting in
Liberia, and calling on the Liberian government to take steps to
respect human rights and the rule of law. Although the statement
stopped short of naming Guinea, the statement did call on 'all parties
in the region to cease supporting any group that seeks political
change through violence and to respect their neighbor's borders.'

The U.S. government's silence on LURD abuses and Guinea's support
for LURD was particularly notable given that the U.S. government
began a U.S.$3 million program to provide training and non-lethal
equipment to the Guinean military in May 2002."

Again, very close indeed to my analysis above. The one point of error
being that Guinea is acting as an agent of the US in Liberia, rather
than of France. Makes more sense that way I suppose, and the
Guinean government has long been the most difficult of France's
charges in the region.

To answer Drbinoche's objection about the lack of M16s. When we
say that country A arms country B, we don't mean that they put a load
of weapons in a box and ship them off directly with a return to sender
address! In general when you are supporting an armed faction in
Africa you don't want to make it that obvious. To create an armed
faction you need two things, money and a supply route. The money is
trifling, with a few millions you can buy enough arms to destabilise
most african regimes. The supply route is more difficult, you have to
get a government in the region to launder the arms. This entails this
third party buying them on the international market and covertly
exporting them to their intended destination. In general the arms
bought are always of the AK47/RPG variety, because they are cheap
and readily available on the international market, regardless of the
source of the money. Although the governments of the region are
always scheming against each other and arming factions in each
other's countries, this is almost always with the approval of one of
the two big imperialist powers in the region, the US/UK or France. If
you disobey them, you get ousted - a la Taylor.

Once you have the money and arms supply, it is very easy to start the
insurrection. With unemployment (in terms of paid labour) running at
90% plus in most of West Africa, there are always a plentiful supply
of recruits among the youth. Early teens are preferred as they make
better killers, lacking the ability to contextualise their deeds.

If you are smart you will channel your money through an existing
ethnic strong man, who will recruit exclusively from a particular 'tribe'
and thus gain leverage from existing ethnic tension. If you are really
smart, and rich, you will fund a few of them simultaneously as the
chance of any particular strong man losing his way is quite high. If
they become too corrupt they will not give a good return of suffering
for your dollar, on the other hand the power may go to their heads and
give them notions of independence.

To answer a couple of objections:

a) No this is not anti-americanism. For a start I'm talking about what
the US government is doing. As you are all making abundantly clear,
this is done with pretty much zero knowledge on the part of the
population. In fact in Africa in general, but particularly West Africa,
the French government has had a much worse effect, basically
because they've had the chance. Whereas the US deliberately
blocked any intervention to stop the genocide in Rwanda, France
eventually intervened to protect the remnants of the Interahamwe!
Interestingly Giscard d'Estaing, the big EU man is personally
complicit in some of their worst crimes. He used to go elephant
hunting with Bokassa in the CAR - a name which even surpasses
Amin in terms of depravity. Not that the US/UK aren't doing their
best. UNITA has to have been one of the most brutal movements the
world has ever seen to name but one of the horrors they have
unleashed upon Africa.

b) I am not absolving Africans of blame. I am merely asking why this
is happening. There are, of course, a large number of Africans deeply
guilty. It really has nothing to do with race. Give me a country with a
similar economic situation to Liberia, give me a few million and a
supply route for arms and I'll destroy it. Doesn't matter where it is,
doesn't matter what colour the people are, it's easy. History has
shown, time and again, that, with power, you can manipulate
situations so that people will do the most horrific things to each other.
This does not absolve the immediate actors of blame. The various
killers in Liberia are just as guilty as those complicit in the nazi
regime were (incidentally a much higher proportion of the population
than in Liberia). Although, as with the nazis, the greatest blame
clearly lies with those who give plan everything and give the orders.

c) To refute Paul's argument, you only need to mention auschwitz,
two world wars, the slave trade ... Actually, for somebody like Paul,
probably the best refutation is a look in the mirror or listen to your
own dumb arguments, no genetic superiority there, that's for sure!

d) Seanin's accusation of me being racist is hilarious. Seanin, I'd have
thought that 'racist' was a compliment in your book. Well, you've
found me out, I think blacks are superior to whites. For this reason I
hate and pity myself, my family, most of my friends, my girlfriend and
the vast majority of the Irish population. If only we were black, I
repeat over and over.

Finally, I'd really love if some of you pro-US government 'no matter
what it does', types went off and tried to refute some of these
arguments. In places like Liberia they often don't bother to cover their
tracks too well. They can rely on the deep racism of the media and
establishment. In general most people just assume that this type of
thing is 'just what Africans do'. Even among left-leaning types this
type of thinking is endemic. It is very rare indeed for people to visit
these region from the west, without being part of one of the complicit
bodies. I was fortunate enough to spend a year or so in the region and
was particularly shocked at what the NGOs are actually doing there.
Read more at the link supplied.

related link:

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  1. US History 101 — Mike
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