Friday, June 13, 2003

Not my usual understated title, eh? Nor is it the usual understated entry, when it comes to one of the most despicible human beings on the planet.

Liberian rebels groups (LURD is the primary one and MODEL) are on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia. Their only stated revindication is the removal of the head of state, indicted war criminal Charles Taylor. A cease-fire has been agreed between the parties while peace talks take place in Accra, Ghana. The peace talks are complicated by Taylor's indictment; the warlord has indicated he will not leave office voluntarily unless the indictment is lifted.

I really don't know how LURD would govern Liberia. As I said, their only stated ambition is the removal of indicted war criminal Taylor. Little is know about the groups, although LURD is widely believed to be sponsored by neighboring Guinea. There is little love lost between Taylor and Guinea's leader Gen. Lansana Conté. Conté backed one of Taylor's rivlas in the first Liberian civil war in the 1990s. Taylor is assumed to have been behind the cross-border attacks into southern Guinea in late 2000 that cost dozens of lives and much material damage. With Sierra Leone devastated and Ivory Coast on the brink, Guinea is the only one of Liberia's neighbors that has not been at least partly destroyed by Taylor-backed forces.

LURD has no real political program other than removing Taylor. If it has a focal leader, he is hardly known. But I wonder if that's a good thing. If West Africa, rebel factions tend to form around charasmatic leaders, whose goal is little more than self-enrichment. Perhaps LURD's lack of a strong personality means that it will be more disciplined about governance.

But especially in West Africa, it's hard to be optimistic about any "regime change" that results from a civil war. Unfortunately, such conflicts are basically a circle of hell from which it is almost impossible to exit. Sometimes the the circle's spinning pauses for a breather, but it's never really broken. Once their civil wars started, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been in and out (mostly in) of civil war intermittently. What such conflict does is create large groups of people who don't know how a civil society is supposed to function. Especially children. The child soldier phenomenon is well-documented. The opening of that pandora's box is what have condemned Liberia and Sierra Leone to instability for the foreseable future.

The use of child soldiers is especially demonic because it's self-perpetuating. It creates a culture of war. Thousands of young Liberian and Sierra Leonian males have grown up knowing nothing but war. They are used to having adults cower to them because they hold Kalashnakovs. Often, they were forced to rape or kill relatives and burn down their own village FOR THE SOLE PUPORSE of shredding the pre-existing social order, essentially forcing the boys to sever all links with their previous lives. Repairing this incomprehensible damage is infinitely more difficult than signing a peace treaty and divying up ministries.

This is why it's so important for the nascent Ivory Coast conflict to be stopped in its tracks. This is why it's even more important to prevent this Dantean nightmare from spreading into Guinea.

This commerce in chaos is doubtless the most demonic aspect of Charles Taylor's reign. But since he was chummy with Col. Gadaffhi and reportedly had links to al-Qaeda, no one should be surprised at the depth of his malovolence.

I am not confident that the LURD will run Liberia substantially better than indicted war criminal Charles Taylor. At best, LURD may stop the bleeding and stabilize the country a tiny bit. At worst, at least LURD will only destroy Liberia rather than taking the entire West African sub-region with it. How tragic that things have descended that far. How tragic that, thanks to Charles Taylor, a group that might limit its destruction to its own country is seen as the lesser of two evils. Charles Taylor is one of the most sickening individuals living today. He is one of the men who's directly or indirectly responsible for destroying more lives than nearly anyone else on the planet. Saddam would envious of some of things Taylor's men (mostly boys, actually) have done. In condemning this slime, I apologize only for not using stronger language.

Although some insist that Taylor should be arrested and put on trial before the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, I am open to an alternative for him and his buddy Foday Sankoh (whose troops were responsible for the infamous process of hacking of hands and arms of their victims). I say, release them. Release Taylor and Sankoh into the central market areas of Monrovia and Freetown (the capital of Sierra Leone) respectively. Release them into the markets ALONE AND UNARMED. Then take bets on how long they survive. I put the over/under at 5 minutes.


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