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Old 07-22-2003, 12:12 PM   #16
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Well, as far as I can tell (I've been listening to discussion on this for the last week or so on NPR), Taylor has a viable point in demanding that peacekeepers come in before he leaves because if they don't there is a very strong possibility that the power gap will be filled by violence. He's been accused of crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, and he's definitely a bad character. But if he can be gotten to step aside peacefully, it would be a very good thing for all involved.

some more information from this article on AllAfrica.com
Quote:
Reiterating that Liberia is "at the heart" of West Africa's turmoil, Mr. Ali Mukhtar Farah, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, told Africa Recovery in May that unless the situation there is brought under control, peace and reconciliation efforts in Sierra Leone also may be in jeopardy. Liberian President Charles Taylor is widely blamed for much of the turmoil in West Africa during the last decade, including rebellions in Sierra Leone and Guinea and most recently in Côte d'Ivoire. Liberia's newest exports are young fighters eager to take part in any regional conflict offering the possibility of payment.

Mr. Taylor in turn accuses neighbouring countries' governments of supporting the rebel groups Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). A panel of experts established by the UN Security Council has documented Guinean support for LURD, including the use of its territory as a supply route for arms and supplies, apparently in retaliation for Liberian backing for Guinean anti-government groups. The panel also found evidence that the Ivorian government is backing MODEL.

These Liberian rebel groups renewed their offensive in early June, soon after peace talks in Ghana broke down. Around the same time, a UN-backed special court for Sierra Leone indicted Mr. Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity arising from his alleged support for the brutal insurgency in that country during the 1990s.
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Old 07-22-2003, 12:29 PM   #17
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This is an interesting commentary from a Detroit newspaper that gives some background on the connections to the US.

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Seeking help, Liberia looks home, to U.S.

July 15, 2003

BY DESIREE COOPER
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

As a nation fresh out of a war with Iraq, it's no surprise that President George W. Bush finished his five-country tour of Africa without committing American peacekeepers to Liberia. If you ask most Americans, they'd probably say that Liberian President Charles Taylor's bloody dictatorship -- which has destabilized neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast -- is regrettable. But what business is it of ours?

Few understand that Liberia -- along with many of its problems -- was created by America 150 years ago.

Finish what we started
In December 1831, the James Perkins left port in Norfolk, Va., with 339 passengers aboard. Included were some of the most talented people of Southampton County, Va. -- doctors, masons, blacksmiths, cobblers and carpenters.

The passengers, all former slaves, were headed for Liberia, a colony established by the U.S.-backed American Colonization Society a decade before. It had become a sort of reverse Middle Passage -- a way to rid America of the increasingly powerful blacks who had been born free or who had bought their freedom.

For their part, the blacks were less than enthusiastic about the Liberia scheme. They didn't want to leave behind enslaved family members to try their fortunes in the white-ruled colony. Many had never been to Africa; stories of the dangerous voyage and the rugged lifestyle were deterrents to emigration.

So, as a carrot, the U.S. government appropriated money to ship and resettle free blacks to Liberia. As the stick, states like Virginia passed laws forbidding freedmen fromremaining there on pain of re-enslavement. In some cases, they were terrorized until they boarded ships like the Perkins and headed for Liberia.

Upon arrival, they were blended into a strict caste system that reserved the most power and privilege for whites, followed by the former slaves, called Americo-Liberians. Removed from their land and forced into the lower rungs of society were the aborigines.

Liberia declared its independence in 1847, but tensions have continued between the elite Americo-Liberians, who make up only 5 percent of the population, and the aborigines. Last year, I interviewed Tuo, a 21-year-old Liberian refugee living in the Detroit area. "The Americo-Liberians are the educated class," he told me. "They look like Africans, but they speak like African Americans."

Since its establishment, Liberia has been treated as a U.S. protectorate. Firestone built the world's largest rubber plantation there. The CIA used it as a base for anti-Libya intelligence operations. In return, it became Africa's largest per-capita recipient of U.S. aid -- part of which was used in the 1980s to prop up corrupt dictator Samuel Doe. When the Cold War ended, so did most of the foreign aid, leaving Doe vulnerable.

In December 1989, Americo-Liberian Charles Taylor invaded Liberia. Trained in Libya, he touched off a 6-year civil war that has decimated the nation's economy and people.

Tuo was separated from his family during the war but was reunited in a Sierra Leone refugee camp. "When elephants fight," he said, "it's the grass that feels the pain."

It's no wonder that Liberians, whose flag is a cross between the Texas Lone Star and the Stars and Stripes, are looking to their homeland for help. And in this case, their homeland isn't in Africa -- it's America.
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Old 07-22-2003, 02:04 PM   #18
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melon,

So what did you think of Bill Clintons response to Rawanda?
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Old 07-22-2003, 02:07 PM   #19
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It wasn't addressed to me, but IMO the entire Western world has blood on it's hands with regard to Rwanda. They knew perfectly well what was happening there and yet they stood back and witnessed the slaughter of over a million people.
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Old 07-22-2003, 02:07 PM   #20
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sulawesigirl4:

Thank you for that little historylesson
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Old 07-22-2003, 02:26 PM   #21
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Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees
It wasn't addressed to me, but IMO the entire Western world has blood on it's hands with regard to Rwanda. They knew perfectly well what was happening there and yet they stood back and witnessed the slaughter of over a million people.
Absolutely. Funny how Bill is brought up anytime someone cannot reasonable defend Bush. This is the second time a Bush has turned its back on Liberia. His father did the same thing and even had troops off the coast.
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Old 07-22-2003, 03:10 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2
melon,

So what did you think of Bill Clintons response to Rawanda?
I think we're all aware that Clinton, the US, and the international community as a whole failed miserably with Rwanda. But I wonder why you bring this up rather than actually discuss the reasons we should or shouldn't get involved in Liberia?

What's very interesting is that while running for President, candidate Bush criticized the US involvement in humanitarian operations such as Rwanda and said that, "Africa doesn’t fit into the national strategic interests of the United States."

Quote:
As a candidate, he didn't know much about Africa and didn't much seem to care. During a televised presidential debate in which Africa came up, he accidentally called it a "country" and a low foreign policy priority on his list.

He repudiated "nation building" by the United States and said President Bill Clinton "did the right thing" in delaying U.S. intervention to stop the genocidal slaughter in Rwanda. Clinton had apologized for the delay, which cost an estimated 300,000 lives.
source here
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Old 07-22-2003, 05:09 PM   #23
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The aftermath of the war in Iraq has seen a number of dangerous hitches. Based on what I know of the situation in Liberia (which isn't much, even after perusing some of the links here), I would agree that we should send troops to Liberia. But I wouldn't blame Bush too much for being cautious.
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Old 07-22-2003, 06:33 PM   #24
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This raises an interesting question:

At what rate must a government kill its people before the world community will intervene militarily?

And, if a country does elect to intervene, is it then obligated to intervene in every other similar situation?
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Old 07-22-2003, 06:40 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
This raises an interesting question:

At what rate must a government kill its people before the world community will intervene militarily?

And, if a country does elect to intervene, is it then obligated to intervene in every other similar situation?
It is a difficult one. I think this is why the humanitarian argument is not used often to justify a War. It, in my mind, is quite possibly the strongest case that could have been made for action in Iraq. In my mind, it was a stronger case than WMD.

But, they have specifically asked the US to intervene. Does this make it different? How many countries have asked us for intervention?

it is a dangerous precident.

Good questions.
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Old 07-22-2003, 06:51 PM   #26
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It is a good question. However, I think at least one of the factors that makes this case unique is that both sides of the civil war have signalled that they want outside intervention. Indeed the people are begging for it.

Also, although sometimes it is assumed that the US gets strapped with the burden/expectation of helping out in every case, I think that a look at recent peace-keeping missions would indicate otherwise. Just in the past few years, Australia took the lead in East Timor, France in the Congo and Cote d'Ivoire, Britain in Sierra Leone. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal...
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In other words, a norm has evolved whereby the First World country with the closest ties to a developing nation at risk of collapse takes the lead. Other countries back it up militarily, politically and financially. America's long ties to Liberia make it the obvious choice for this crisis--and the world is looking to us for leadership. Support from other countries has already been pledged. Taking action in Liberia, therefore, is a matter of fulfilling our international responsibilities. Shirking this role would reinforce the cynical image held by many around the world of U.S. leadership--a superpower to be feared but not respected. President Bush's claims that the United States cares about Africa would be labeled meaningless.
That is of course one perspective. I'm sure there are others which would say that we can't afford to do this. I wonder if we can afford not to.
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Old 07-24-2003, 10:03 AM   #27
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An update on the situation in Liberia from AllAfrica.com.

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Fighting continued for a fifth consecutive day, Wednesday, in the battle to control Monrovia, the besieged Liberian capital and President Charles Taylor’s last stronghold. There were reports of fierce exchanges of fire between rebels and troops loyal to the Liberian leader.
and it appears that Colin Powell has come out in definite support of US intervention.

Quote:
Pressure remains intense on Washington to intervene to stop the fighting in the country originally settled by freed American slaves in 1847. President George W. Bush has committed limited American involvement and says he will follow West Africa's lead.

But the current United States’ military presence in Liberia is confined to a reinforcement of marines guarding and boosting security at the high-walled US embassy complex in Monrovia’s Mamba Point diplomatic enclave. Around 20 more marines, in full body armour, were flown in by helicopter on Wednesday, bringing to 41 the deployment of the protective team.

In the Washington Times interview on Wednesday, Secretary Powell made a strong case for American intervention to help calm the violent and volatile situation in Liberia, adding that any such mission would be limited in "scope and duration". Washington has a duty to help Liberians, Powell told the newspaper, a conservative voice that is widely read in policy-making circles in the American capital.

"We do have a historic link to Liberia and we do have some obligation, as the most important and powerful nation on the face of the earth, not to look away when a problem like this comes to us. We looked away once in Rwanda, with tragic consequences," he concluded, referring to the 1994 genocide in the central African nations.

In the interview, Powell noted that Paris and London had sent peacekeeping forces to stabilise the wars in their former colonies and in other African countries. Acknowledging that the United States was "clearly stretching" its forces around the world, he said the American military still had "unused capabilities".

Powell said Ecowas nations, poised to send a peacekeeping force into Liberia,"just don't have the capacity to deploy forces and keep them sustained in the field." Liberia did not need "250 guys with no equipment", he added.

"Only the United States, France, Britain and maybe one or two other countries have that kind of capability within their armed forces," he said.
entire text can be found here
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Old 07-24-2003, 12:32 PM   #28
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Thanks for posting the information Sula. It seems this is a subject mainstream media are largely ignoring so it's good to see it being discussed here.
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Old 07-24-2003, 12:46 PM   #29
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You're welcome, Fizzing. I know it's not as sexy and controversial a topic as Iraq, but I think it's really important that we stay informed about what's happening. I guess I have a personal interest in what's happening in West Africa because in a little over 2 weeks, it's going to be my home for two years.
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Old 07-24-2003, 10:11 PM   #30
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This is a disaster.

Liberia Faces Human Disaster as Battles Rage

Updated 8:18 PM ET July 24, 2003


By Matthew Tostevin

MONROVIA (Reuters) - A week of raging battle in Liberia's capital Monrovia accelerated the mushrooming humanitarian catastrophe on Friday for tens of thousands of people driven from their homes.

Rebels and forces loyal to President Charles Taylor fought in a storm of rockets and bullets over the same ground for the sixth day in a row, as West African nations set yet another meeting to discuss deploying Nigerian peacekeepers.

The United States remained on the fence on Thursday, saying President Bush had yet to decide whether to commit troops to a country founded by freed American slaves in 1847.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Bush was examining the options and was still considering sending combat troops. But the Pentagon was believed to be reluctant to commit soldiers.

Away from the immediate danger of flying bullets, displaced Liberians struggled without food, clean water or adequate shelter from pelting rain, always in constant terror that the fighting would set them on the move again.

Many international aid workers have been evacuated because of the danger. Those who remain warn that cholera, diarrhea and other diseases will flourish in the desperate conditions.

The city's main water plant has been down for days and inaccessible because of fighting nearby, forcing people to rely on wells -- not all of which have been chlorinated.

Rebels of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) seized the port and broke open stores of rice and relief food supplies after attacking the capital last Saturday for the third time since June. Prices are rising in loyalist-held areas.

"I don't even have money to buy food. See my children, they are hungry, they have not eaten for a day," said Esther Fahnbulleh, who used to run a small food stall before rockets landed near her home and set her on the move.

"Let anyone come to bring peace to this country and come now," she said.

West African countries have agreed to deploy peacekeepers and two battalions of Nigerians are on standby, but regional leaders have set another meeting for Monday in Ghana's capital Accra to finalize arrangements.

Taylor has said he will step down and head into exile once foreign troops arrive. The United States is mulling how best to assist in restoring stability after nearly 14 years of violence.

Still uncertain is whether anyone can deploy while the battle rages in the capital.

Taylor's forces advanced to gain a little ground around the three key bridges that mark the front line on Thursday, only to pull back under heavy gunfire from the well-armed LURD rebels.

"This battle is not easy at all," said one top commander.
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