intervention in Africa
Troops send to Liberia aimed at
stronger U.S. foothold on continent
The first unit of U.S. soldiers landed by helicopter at U.S. embassy in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, July 7 to prepare Washington's intervention.|
BY SAM MANUEL
Washington is moving rapidly toward sending troops to Liberia. U.S. president George Bush asked the Pentagon July 4 to dispatch a unit of 10-15 military specialists to the West African nation to determine how U.S. forces could be deployed. These troops arrived July 7 by helicopter at the U.S. embassy in Monrovia, Liberias capital.
The Liberia intervention is a cover under which Washington seeks to gain a larger foothold throughout Africa, eyeing especially oil fields in West Africa and off the regions coast.
Speaking to a group of African journalists July 3, shortly before departing for a five-day trip to Africa, his first expedition on the continent, Bush indicated that his administration is now seriously considering intervention into Liberias civil war. Citing the unique history between Liberia and the United States, which creates a certain sense of expectations, Bush said U.S. troops could be deployed soon, most likely after Liberian president Charles Taylor departs from the country. He called on Taylor to resign and leave Liberia.
On July 6, Taylor announced he is ready to run off for nearby Nigeria. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerias president, appeared at a joint news conference with Taylor that day and stated that his government has offered refuge to Liberias president.
Under the time-worn guise of peacekeeping, Pentagon officials stated they are planning to send 500 to 2,000 troops to the country. The U.S. forces would lead additional units of up to 3,000 soldiers from various West African countries. The Pentagon has reportedly directed the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, to prepare a planning order, a euphemism for the deployment of military forces. The command has responsibility for U.S. mili tary operations in most of Africa.
U.S. government officials have said that chaos in Liberia caused by a 14-year-long civil war is threatening Washingtons interests in the regionwhich is rich in oil and other natural resources. They are also linking intervention plans to Washingtons worldwide war on terrorism. National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice told the press, referring to Liberia, that failed states can spawn so much instability that you begin to see greater sources of terrorism.
Washington enjoys backing for this intervention from its imperialist competitors and overwhelming bipartisan support for it in the United States. Paris and London, both former colonial powers in Africa with substantial interests there, have urged Washington to intervene. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has done the same. Annan has also led calls for a robust peacekeeping force in the Republic of Congo, which has already been dispatched, led by French troops (see article in this issue).
As President Bush prepares to visit the continent of Africa, it is imperative that he announce our intervention immediately, said Donald Payne, a Democrat and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. At the end of June the caucus called for deployment of U.S. troops to Liberia, citing the examples of intervention by Paris and London in their former colonies of Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone respectively.
These plans were put into motion as Bush prepared to leave July 8 on a visit to the African nations of Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and Nigeria. Washington continued to deny that a final decision has been made on sending troops. At the same time, they increased their calls for Taylor to step down and leave the country. Taylor, a politically easy target, has been indicted by a UN-sponsored tribunal for crimes against humanity, based on his support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), one of the main factions in Sierra Leones civil war. Taylor is accused of supplying the RUF with arms in exchange for diamonds. In 2000 the UN placed an 18-month ban on the international sale of diamonds from the region in an attempt to undermine the RUF and the following year it imposed sanctions on Liberia.
The indictment against Taylor was unsealed while he and Liberian insurgent forces attended peace talks in Ghana. David Crane, a U.S. jurist and the chief prosecutor for the imperialist tribunal, expressed disappointment that West African leaders did not order Taylors arrest at the talks in Ghana. The unfortunate situation in Liberia is on their shoulders, he claimed.
In an effort to appease Washington, Taylor appealed for U.S. intervention following a failed effort by Liberian insurgents to capture Monrovia, the countrys capital. In a June 27 statement Taylor called on Washington to lift Liberia and Liberians out of this mess. On July 3 Taylor told CBS radio that U.S. troops would be welcomed inside the country. He would be willing to leave Liberia, Taylor said, and asked that the war crimes charges against him be dropped.
A long history of U.S. domination
The U.S. rulers have a long history of domination of Liberia. For decades Washington backed a string of regimes loyal to U.S. corporate interests. The U.S. government pressed Monrovia to enter World War II, providing the U.S. allies with much needed rubber and strategic transport facilities. Throughout the Cold War governments in Liberia provided Washington with important communications, navigational, and foreign broadcast installations.
While the civil war in Liberia has been going on for 14 years, Washingtons decision to intervene now is politically calculated. With Taylor discredited internationally, U.S. forces will meet virtually no opposition worldwide for being deployed in a region rich in oil and other natural resources. This will place Washington in a better position to dominate and exploit current and future oil fields and displace Paris and other imperialist competitors.
The current fighting in Liberia began with a factional struggle following the overthrow of the U.S.-backed regime headed by Samuel Doe. As in other countries on the continent, this fighting is fostered by the imperialist powers that first colonized Africa, and have subsequently kept it under debt bondage in order to maintain and expand their superexploitation of natural resources and African labor.
In late 1989, forces led by Taylor in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) invaded the country from bases in the French-dominated Ivory Coast with the aim of overthrowing Does regime. Doe was assassinated in 1990 by a group rival to the NPFL. His killing was followed by a succession of cease-fire agreements and interim governments sponsored by West African nations. Taylors party won legislative and presidential elections in 1997. New fighting broke out in September 2000.
The main armed opposition group is the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). It is a loose association of military groups led by defectors from Taylors regime and the previous Doe administration. Its leaders include Laveli Supuwood, former Minister of Justice in Taylors government, and Sekou Conneh who served in the Ministry of Finance.
Shortly after its formation, LURD established a liaison with the British military. The LURD forces are armed and trained by the governments of Guinea and Ivory Coast, but also receive indirect aid from Washington and London, according to an exposé in the Liberian Post magazine.
In 1996, under the guise of protecting U.S. embassy personnel, the administration of William Clinton stationed three warships with 4,000 Marines off the countrys coast. The U.S. embassy security there was beefed up to 300 Marines.
The American Colonization Society
U.S. economic interests go back to the settlement of the West African area sponsored by the American Colonization Society (ACS) in the early 1800s. The ACS was dominated by southern slave holders who saw repatriation of free Blacks to Africa as a way to avoid a repetition of the successful slave insurgency on the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo, which led to the founding of the Republic of Haiti. The ACS excluded Blacks from membership.
Other societies for the repatriation of Blacks, organized independently of the ACS, established colonies in the area. Among them were groups from Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania.
The ACS dispatched agents to negotiate agreements with leaders of the indigenous Dey and Bassa peoples for the purchase of land for the settlements. They were persuadedby some accounts at gun pointto part with a 36-mile-long and three-mile-wide strip of coastal land. In exchange, they received goods worth about $300.
In 1824 the advance settlement was named Monrovia, after U.S. president James Monroe, and the colony as a whole became the Republic of Liberia. The Liberian flag, comprised of a lone star on a blue field with red and white stripes, is modeled on the U.S. Stars and Stripes. Over the next four decades, 19,000 African Americansalso known as Americo-Liberiansand another 5,000 Africans recaptured from slave ships were repatriated to Liberia.
Under the pressure of the advancing colonization in the region by Paris and London, the rulers of Liberia formally declared a republic there and adopted a constitution in 1847. The document gave extensive privileges to Americo-Liberians, descendents of freed slaves, over the indigenous African populations.
Before World War II, the main foreign investor in Liberia was the U.S.-based Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. From 1926 to 1951 Liberias dependence on the rubber processing giant was so complete it was dubbed the Firestone colony. Goodrich and Uniroyal soon joined in exploiting the countrys extensive rubber resources. The U.S. steel giants Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Republic Steel Corp. held large investments in Liberias iron ore mines. Postwar foreign investments in Liberia exceeded $1 billion, among which was the largest Swedish investment abroad and the largest German investment in the region.
The super profits enjoyed by these companies were boosted by the generous tax relief policies of the Liberian government. In 1951 the after-tax profits of the Firestone-Liberia company amounted to three times the total income of the Liberian treasury. Revenues of the wholly foreign-owned Liberian Mining Company surpassed the total revenues of the Liberian government until 1960.
U.S. hands off Liberia!
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