Intimidation as a Political Strategy

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 24, 2002

Charles W. Brumskine
I recently read with mixed emotions Mr. Willis Knuckles' attack on Senator Charles Brumskine. Mr. Knuckles challenged the former senator (and now presidential aspirant) to return to Liberia or shut up. He criticized Mr. Brumskine for sitting in an air-conditioned office in Washington, DC and attempting to run for the Liberian presidency.

What do I mean by mixed emotions? Well, in a sense, I do agree with Knuckles in calling for Brumskine to return home and that he should have never left in the first place. And here's why: Although I wasn't in Liberia during the "war years" which ended into a Taylor presidency, I heard that Brumskine was the legal mind behind the Taylor war machine - propelling Taylor unto the throne. I have heard enough to convince me that Brumskine played a major role in perpetuating the lies and schemes that ultimately resulted into this present day fiasco. Simply put, Brumskine was one of the "bad boys" and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Although I had heard and read much about Brumskine and what a brilliant legal mind he was, I had an opportunity to meet and listen to him speak at the All Liberian Conference hosted by the Liberian Democratic Initiative (LDI) and the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) in Washington, DC in early June of the current year.

My impressions? He may be a brilliant legal mind - I'm in no position to be the judge of that from the limited exposure. But as a politician and likely presidential candidate, he doesn't get my vote (that's assuming I do have one), at least not yet. He spoke and I watched him closely. He failed to come across as a statesman with deep convictions. His body language and general disposition did not convey to me a deep sense of commitment to radical changes in our society. His proposals for change were at best cosmetic and superficial. His message was shallow and delivered in an uninspired way. He came across as unprepared for the great task

Let's get back to Willis Knuckles' bold statement. What I found absolutely appalling and distasteful was Knuckles' reference to Taylor's remark that Brumskine was a "scary boy". How can any civilized and decent person dignify such a crude and criminal remark? Taylor is not just a schoolyard bully - no ordinary bully. This is a dictator with thugs armed by the state at his command and disposal. We've heard about their adventures. Are we to believe that Taylor made such incriminating remarks and yet Knuckles feels Brumskine has nothing to fear about coming back to Liberia and challenging Taylor? How soon we forget! I am going to digress and take my readers about twenty-two years into the past – that notorious or famous year, 1980, (depending on where you stood).

It was a bright and humid Southwestern Summer day in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As we prepared for a football (soccer) practice, onto the pitch came Willis Knuckles, fully dressed in impressively looking sports regalia and accompanied by a few locals. I immediately recognized him as "somebody" from Liberia but what somebody was this? Curious as ever, I asked one Mr. "Know-all" who immediately told me it was Willis Knuckles, the former minister of Labor, Youth and Sports during the fallen Tolbert regime.

Wow, I thought to myself, I didn't even know he played soccer. "What's he doing here", I asked. Again, Mr. "Know-all" with a devilish smile on his face said, "Those boys are scared. The Krahn boys are running them out of town." I will not bore you with the details of the ensuing discussion, which did not obviously end on that soccer pitch. But suffice it to say that I was opposed to any dictator and his cronies running defenseless citizens out of their own country by scaring them. In other words, I saw Willis Knuckles as a victim, with whom I sympathized. I still oppose that tactic, which is the purpose of my writing today.

Willis Knuckles stayed a while with us in the community before moving on to New York where he established himself as a successful banker, of the Western Union variety, if you know what I mean. As the threats lessened and the fear diminished, he extended his business to Monrovia where I am told he grew into a fine businessman. Apparently he has permanently moved back there where his cheap attempts at being a propagandist has earned him a front page spot on the website - right under Big Charlie.

Now, all of a sudden, he's not that scared little man that ran away from the Krahn boys. He's now a big, brave, (and safe) man calling for the "scary boy" to return home. The more times change, the more they remain the same. Maybe Willis Knuckles will become a government minister again.

Well, I've got a challenge for the big, bad and brave Knuckles: Since you say there is nothing to fear in Liberia, why don't you try criticizing the freckled-faced dictator and see whether you'll live to pretend to play soccer again. Here are a number of topics you may want to experiment with: Human Rights Record, Blood Diamond and the RUF Connection, The Killing of Dokie, Attacks Against the Krahns, The Proposed Firing of Non-Christians from the Cabinet, (is this a joke?) Hassan Bility's Illegal Incarceration, The Total Disregard for the Constitution, Firing and Arbitrary Transfers of Elected Officials, Depletion of the Liberian Rainforests for Personal Gain, Lack of Public Utility and Clean Water, Poor Health Care and Closings of Schools, Abrupt Ending of the So-called Reconciliation Conference. These are just a few of the topics you may begin to address for your practice in democracy.

I guarantee that if you ever do, you'll end up dead (courtesy of Big Charlie, the freckled face), maimed and incarcerated, or I'll see you on the soccer pitch in Oklahoma or maybe New York.

As already said, I do not support the "Brumskine for Presidency" ticket (at least not now), but if he had it as well as they say he did, something must have scared that man terribly to make him run under the covers of darkness to leave Liberia. I, therefore, want to make it quite clear that I believe there's good reason for Brumskine to be afraid for his life, as Knuckles was afraid for his in 1980. You see, it doesn't matter who the bullies are, if they want to take your lunch money, you ought to be scared. But the bullies in Monrovia want more than your lunch money; they want your head on their dinner plates. That's not "minimum risk".

SPECIAL NOTE: Dear Mr. Knuckles,
Would you please intervene on my behalf to have the editor-in-chief of carry these thoughts on the website? After all, it's a free country, isn't it and I'm still a citizen. Scared yes, but still a citizen. And this is all about Liberia.

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