Liberia’s Leading Ladies:
Finance Minister Antoinette Sayeh with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
“It took men three decades to destroy Liberia, and it is now the women who are fixing it.”
— quote from one very impressed man in Monrovia–

Liberia is poor. Its people are poor, its government is poor, the state of the country’s infrastructure is poor. You’d be hard pressed indeed to find a country much poorer than Liberia today.

And yet, paradoxically, Liberia should be filthy rich. From the perspective of its natural resources, Liberia boasts a literal gold mine. Open a map of Liberia, close your eyes and draw an X, and you may very well have located your fortune.
. . .
The hefty profits from extractive industries – diamonds, gold, forestry – have for decades been used against Liberia’s people instead of for them.

“The Bush administration’s new obsession with AFRICOM and its militaristic approach has many malign consequences,” write FPIF columnist and co-director Emira Woods and FPIF contributor Ezekiel Pajibo in AFRICOM: Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for Africa. “It increases U.S. interference in the affairs of Africa. It brings more military hardware to a continent that already has too much. By helping to build machineries of repression, these policies reinforce undemocratic practices and reward leaders responsive not to the interests or needs of their people but to the demands and dictates of U.S. military agents. Making military force a higher priority than development and diplomacy creates an imbalance that can encourage irresponsible regimes to use U.S. sourced military might to oppress their own people, now or potentially in the future.”

As Woods and Pajibo write:

AFRICOM’s first public links with the West African country of Liberia was through a Washington Post op-ed written by the African- American businessman Robert L. Johnson, “Liberia’s Moment of Opportunity.” Forcefully endorsing AFRICOM, Johnson urged that it be based in Liberia. Then came an unprecedented guest column from Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, “AFRICOM Can Help Governments Willing To Help Themselves,” touting AFRICOM’s potential to “help” Africa “develop a stable environment in which civil society can flourish and the quality of life for Africans can be improved.”

Despite these high-profile endorsements, the consolidation and expansion of U.S. military power on the African continent is misguided and could lead to disastrous outcomes.

Liberia’s 26-year descent into chaos started when the Reagan administration prioritized military engagement and funneled military hardware, training, and financing to the regime of the ruthless dictator Samuel K. Doe. This military “aid,” seen as “soft power” at that time, built the machinery of repression that led to the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Liberians.

. . .

Liberia has already given the Bush administration the exclusive role of restructuring its armed forces. The private U.S. military contractor DYNCORP has been carrying out this function. After more than two years in Liberia and an estimated $800,000 budget allocated, DYNCORP has not only failed to train the 2,000 men it was contracted to train, it has also not engaged Liberia’s Legislature or its civil society in defining the nature, content, or character of the new army. DYNCORP allotted itself the prerogative to determine the number of men/women to be trained and the kind of training it would conduct, exclusively infantry training, even though Liberia had not elaborated a national security plan or developed a comprehensive military doctrine. In fact, the creation of Liberia’s new army has been the responsibility of another sovereign state, the United States, in total disregard to Liberia’s constitution, which empowers the legislature to raise the national army.

This pattern of abuse and incompetence with the U.S. military and its surrogate contractors suggests that if AFRICOM is based in Liberia, the Bush administration will have an unacceptable amount of power to dictate Liberia’s security interests and orchestrate how the country manages those interests. By placing a military base in Liberia, the United States could systematically interfere in Liberian politics in order to ensure that those who succeed in obtaining power are subservient to U.S. national security and other interests. If this is not neo-colonialism, then what is?

And based in Liberia, AFRICOM would be conveniently located to interfere in governments throughout the West Africa, and all along the Gulf of Guinea.

Another unsavory fact, and additional evidence that DynCorp is wrong for Liberia, are the charges of human traffiking, sexual slavery, and paedophilia in Eastern Europe, brought against DynCorp by employees of the company, and documented on video. (Insight on the News; 9/2/2002, Vol. 18 Issue 32, p48) In Liberia, a land whose children have already suffered being conscripted as soldiers, in conjunction with human traffiking, sexual slavery, and paedophilia; Dyncorp is uniquely unqualified to act in any capacity.

I came across another point about defense contracting that people in both the US and Africa need to consider. Kevin Drum points to this:

. . . there has been very little public debate or discussion about military privatization. . . . the kind of privatization represented by the gun-toting Iraq war contractors has created what she called “a live war military-industrial complex” — that is, an industry that depends for its profits, even its existence, on hot wars, wars that kill people. . . . it’s an opening to all sorts of other issues.

Although he adds:

Hmmm. Is this really true? It might be, but the old military-industrial complex seemed to be pretty good at nudging us into hot wars too

Some time ago I came across the Perpetual War Portfolio. In theory, this is satire, but look at the return, and look at the connections. The Bush family, Cheney, and their friends and associates are all heavily involved with these and related corporations, all are profiting from the Bush war presidency.