Friday, August 08, 2003
James Taranto's Best of the Web:
"The government of Niger is being pressurised to sue the US for damages over allegations that Iraq tried to buy uranium from the West African country," the BBC reports. "The Chairman of the opposition Alliance for Democracy and Progress, Issoufou Bachar, says that Niger must seize the opportunity and file claims for 'heavy damages.'

Taranto thinks this is a reason for tort reform. That's fair enough, but the BBC article goes on to quote Bachar as saying that "[t]he US forged a letter on Niger's behalf."

Now who's slurring who? Maybe I've missed something, but I'd always understood that the forged documents in question originated in a third country. While I suppose it's possible that the documents were forged by US intelligence, that's a rather serious charge to be making. It's enough to make one wonder what kind of intelligence Bachar is relying on.

Your one-stop source for news and opinion about political happenings in South Africa:

More on the recent Liberian arms shipment....

Abiola has this to say:
To leave no doubt about the intended recipient of the arms in question, it transpires that Charles Taylor and his chief of staff, a certain "General" Benjamin Yeaten, had actually gone personally to the airport to to pick up the shipment themselves.

There can be no clearer indication than this that Taylor has absolutely no intention of going into exile voluntarily, and regards the arrival of foreign peacekeepers as no more than another divinely inspired opportunity to safeguard his hold on power.

He also adds that the weapons came from (prepare to be shocked) Libya.

It's the same old story, but I hope some people are paying attention.

Thursday, August 07, 2003
It's now been 5 years since the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The East African has a run-down of the 18 terrorists who were charged in connection with the attacks. So far, 13 of them have been captured or killed.

The Washington Post published a good editorial today about Charles Taylor. Yes, true to his nature, he's still trying to wriggle and weasel. For the sake of Liberia, I hope that the diplomats closest to him are letting him know that the game is over.

If Taylor doesn't leave voluntarily on Monday, he should be immediately arrested by ECOWAS peacekeepers and taken to a quiet cell in Freetown.

Instapundit has been following this story about a group of European tourists who were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Algeria earlier in the year. Several have been released, but now, apparently, some have been moved to Mali:
The kidnappers, from an Islamic extremist organisation called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, captured the 10 Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman in southern Algeria in February and March.

They crossed over into Mali towards the end of last month.

The Malian government has been reluctant to talk publicly about measures under way to secure the hostages'released, although President Toure has pledged to resolve the situation peacefully.

The Bamako daily newspaper l'Independant said on Thursday that the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of 55 billion CFA (US $95 million) for the release of the hostages, some of whom are said to be in poor health.

This story seems to present more questions than answers. For starters, why did the terrorists decide to negotiate with Mali instead of Algeria?

Also, is a "peaceful" solution necessarily what's called for in this situation? Seems like that puts the terrorists pretty much in control.

The peacekeepers in Liberia are already doing some good:
Nigerian peacekeeping troops intercepted and detained a plane carrying over 10 tonnes of ammunitition for the forces of President Charles Taylor which landed at Robertsfield international airport before dawn on Thursday, military and diplomatic sources said.

Taylor and his military chief of staff, General Benjamin Yeaten, went personally to the airport to try and secure the release of the cargo, which consisted of ammunition for AK 47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, they added, but the Nigerian soldiers refused to hand it over.

The military source said the ammunition had been purchased overseas by Taylor's son Chucky Taylor in contravention of a UN arms embargo against Liberia and was originally due to be delivered by ship to the port of Buchanan.

I wonder who he bought them from...and where they were headed.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003
The peacekeepers have only been in Liberia for a few days, but Taylor is already using their presence as an excuse to stay in power. Taylor will weasel, talk, lie, kill, steal, etc., if he thinks it will buy him another day or two in Monrovia. The big question is how ECOWAS and the UN will respond if Taylor doesn't leave voluntarily on Monday. I suspect the response will be an announcement of another round of negotiations to smooth over any misunderstandings with good ol' Chuck.

Ultimately, Taylor will only be removed by force or the credible threat of force. I wonder if ECOWAS is up to the task.

According to daudi, life's not easy for a Zimbabwean pro-democracy activist...and as if that weren't enough, this one also happens to be gay....

Which makes me think... with yesterday's election of the American Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, I'm beginning to wonder if an Anglican schism won't happen much sooner than I'd initially thought.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Kind of an interesting article about the human rights record of ECOWAS peacekeeping forces. It's not particularly positive:
In Sierra Leone, Human Rights Watch documented 180 cases of summary executions in 1999 by West African forces or by Sierra Leonean militias under their command. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the State Department also cited reports of illegal killings by the Nigerian-led force, including a case in which West African troops killed an 8-year-old boy who was caught with a pistol and given no trial. One West African military officer, dubbed "Captain Evil Spirit" by local residents, oversaw the execution of at least 98 people on a bridge, according to a 1999 Human Rights Watch report.

Yet another reason why a peacekeeping mission in Liberia won't be simple.

This is a little frightening:
President Thabo Mbeki says Liberian President Charles Taylor has confirmed to him that he will hand over the reigns to his deputy Moses Blah on Monday.

Speaking to reporters in Pretoria following a meeting with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in Pretoria today, President Mbeki said President Taylor had telephonically assured him of the imminent move.

'Yesterday President Charles Taylor called and said he is handing over government to the Vice-President on Monday,' he confirmed.

President Mbeki said Mr Blah would thereafter concentrate on forming a government of national unity that would include the rebel formations.

No doubt Mbeki is using the same "quiet dimplomacy" with Taylor that has been so effective in Zimbabwe.

Surely Mbeki knows that Liberia's problems cannot be solved simply by removing Taylor. (Don't get me wrong -- getting rid of Taylor would be a great start, but that's not the end of it.) With Mbeki in charge, Liberia will be stuck with a "unity government" made up of exactly the same thugs who have been raping and pillaging the country for the last few years.

Doesn't sound like much of an improvement to me.

Monday, August 04, 2003
Why is Africa poor? This OpinionJournal article offers some answers and some direction for the future:
In effect, solving the development problem in Africa requires the crafting of political institutions that limit the discretion and authority of government and, more saliently, of individual actors within the government. No simple recipe for limiting government exists. Yet two principles are clear. First, the countries of Africa must create mechanisms and incentives for different branches and levels of government to impose sanctions on one another if they exceed the authority granted to them by the law. Second, these sanctions cannot be imposed in an arbitrary or ad hoc fashion; the sanction mechanisms themselves must be limited by the law.

Funny...I didn't see anything in there about neo-colonialist exploitation and economic imperialism.

A terrorist suspect in Kenya killed himself and a policeman with a hand grenade while trying to evade capture.

Mark Steyn points out the incoherence of liberals who deplored the "rush to war" in Iraq, but seem pretty eager to send the Marines to Liberia. Contrary to popular belief, a "peacekeeping" mission in Liberia wouldn't be a cakewalk:

An American diplomat recently described to me the war on terror as a Saudi civil war that the Saudis had successfully exported to the rest of the world. What would it take to export West Africa’s troubles to the world? For some no-account nickel’n’dime operator, Charles Taylor has done a grand job of destabilising a region. Where’s next? Benin? Togo? If you don’t think West Africa can be contained, it’ll have to be cured, and that’s a 30-year project. Otherwise, George F. Kennan’s argument against intervention in Somalia holds for the west of the continent, too: ‘This dreadful situation cannot possibly be put to rights other than by the establishment of a governing power for the entire territory, and a very ruthless, determined one at that. It would not be a democratic one, because the very prerequisites for a democratic political system do not exist among the people in question.’

On the other hand, if anyone in the Bush administration were to start talking about Liberia in those terms, you can pretty much guarantee that Howard Dean, Bishop Griswold and all the other enthusiastic interventionists would be marching up and down chanting, ‘It’s all about diamonds!’

He's right. It probably would be a 30-year project. But despite the risks and the uncertainties involved, it still might be worth it. There's a danger in simply ignoring the lawlessness of failed states--even the ones, like Liberia, that don't possess weapons of mass destruction. Anyone remember Afghanistan?

Doug Farah, who's written a series of articles for the Washington Post about Charles Taylor's connections to Islamist terrrorism, now writes that Bush could easily make a national security case for intervention in Liberia...but he doesn't seem to be trying:
Despite Taylor's history of atrocities, the Bush administration has couched the debate about whether to send troops to Liberia only in terms of a humanitarian crisis, as if the country's misery was an act of God, like flood or famine. In building the case for even limited action, administration officials have remained strangely silent on Taylor's terrorist ties, his execution of political rivals, his policies of torture and the shutting down of the free press.

And while the United States put a price on the heads of Hussein's notorious sons, it has been mum about Taylor's son Chuckie. Yet Chuckie runs Liberia's intelligence services and commands the elite Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU). It is the only group whose loyalty to Taylor is unconditional because its members not only get paid, but get to keep what they loot. Chuckie is so violent that he was removed from his ATU command two years ago when even his troops couldn't stomach his antics. Now, with the regime under threat, Chuckie is back and the West African nation is descending into another round of mayhem.

(Read the whole thing.)

Maybe overt US involvment in Liberia is a good thing and maybe it's not, but let's start the debate by disposing of the notion that such an intervention would be purely humanitarian.

According to the skeptic, someone else gets it.

Whew! I took a much longer than expected (but much needed) break. Now I'm back and ready to go.

Apparently not much has changed during my absence... For example, Chuck Taylor continues to promise he will leave Liberia, this time by Aug. 11. I'll believe it when I see it.

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