A “Dirty War” of Political Terrorism Against Certain Liberians

Mohamedu F. Jones, Esq.

The Perspective

December 19, 2001

In the United States of the 1950’s, Senator Joe McCarthy reigned. He was very powerful. He had a simple tactic to obtain and consolidate his power - identify certain people as “Communists,” and then “challenged them to exonerate themselves from the charges if they are not [Communists].” This has since been recognized as a form of political terrorism.

I thought about Senator McCarthy’s tactics, which destroyed the lives of thousands of patriotic and law abiding Americans, when I read the Monrovia Guardian Newspaper story of December 13, 2001, captioned “BRUMSKINE, OTHERS RALLY For Dissidents.” McCarthy’s “shameless tactics” even affected one of the greatest 20th Century military and diplomatic leaders of the United States, Gen. George C. Marshall, army chief of staff during World War II and the architect of the “Marshall Plan”; the far-sighted American program that reconstructed Europe following the war. Marshall won the war and the peace for America, but was he not immured from McCarthy. The purveyors of the Guardian story also seek to affect the lives of two Liberians: former Liberian Senate President Pro Tempore Charles Brumskine and Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who ran for president of Liberia in 1997.

It is Senator McCarthy’s brand of terror that comes to mind when one reads that Cllr. Brumskine and Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf have been asked to exonerate themselves from the charge of raising money to support warring dissidents. This is the oldest form of “dirty trick” in the book: to ask someone to prove the negative. How do Cllr. Brumskine and Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf show that they are not raising money to support dissidents fighting in Liberia? Even more importantly, shouldn’t those who make the allegations be the ones to prove that they are raising such funds, rather than asking Cllr. Brumskine and Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf to prove that they are not. How does one prove the negative? How do you show not what you are, but what you are not? How do you show not what you do, what you don’t do. If you don’t do it, then how can you possibly demonstrate that you don’t do it?

This is the reason and rationale under girding the fundamental requirement of the rule of law that those who would accuse must prove. The basic reason for this principle is that it is impossible to prove the negative. What the purveyors of the Guardian story are doing is to make these accusations and then asked the accused to show differently, when they know that there is no such proof possible. Yes, they can deny it, as some of Cllr. Brumskine’s friends have done, or they can refuse to dignify this base form of indignity and refrain from commenting, which I note Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson has done so far. But what is not available to them is proof, and the accusers know so. Why – well, because if one of these persons were to attend any function were funds are raised, even if it is billed for “orphans,” the promoter of this story can ask that they show that the real beneficiaries are not those fighting in Liberia. Actually, if taken to its extremity, they can be asked to prove that any activity they engage in is not in the interest of the warring dissidents.

History shows us that while these tactics do not work in the long-term, they are nonetheless employed, and are certainly very destructive and divisive. It is therefore not surprising that the two persons who are headlined as “raising funds” for those fighting in Liberia are two people who many consider to be very viable candidates to take on the failed Liberian President Charles Taylor in the next general elections. This is no accident; in one blow, these people are accused of treason (within the meaning of the constitution) and also placed in the position to be resented by war-wearied Liberians. This tactic may be designed to stall, if not halt nascent candidatures that seems sustainable.

Moreover, it does not matter whether one supports either Cllr. Brumskine or Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf or neither; Liberians should be very concerned about this “dirty war” against them. Indeed, for Liberians living here in the United States, what is not stated in the story, but is clearly present, is that all Liberians who attend functions where funds are raised are either witting or unwitting supporters of war against poor Liberians.

This is a “dirty war.” This dirty war is as dangerous to Liberians as the “hot war” being fought in Liberia. Both have one thing in common; they can and do affect the country adversely. Is this the strategy to weaken prospective challengers to President Taylor by asking them to prove that they are not waging war against the Liberian people? And of course, those who would put this out there know fully well that they are asking Sirleaf-Johnson and Brumskine to prove the impossible. They also know that they are violating a fundamental principle of the rule of law: prove your accusation.

So instead of asking these two Liberians to prove that they are not terrorists, their accusers should prove that they are. Perhaps, even better, if anyone suspects Brumskine and Sirleaf-Johnson of supporting terrorism in Liberia by raising funds here in the United States, they ought to formally ask the government of the United States to investigate their activities in this country, and if warranted, to prosecute them for supporting terrorism in Liberia. President Bush’s policy is crystal clear: a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter whom they propose to terrorize. Under that rule, support of terrorism in Liberia is a violation of United States law.

And all Liberians must be extremely skeptical and disbelieving when someone is asked to prove the negative, as Brumskine and Sirleaf-Johnson have been asked to do. People are only asked to prove the negative when their accusers are unable to prove the positive. This turns a fundamental principle of democratic justice on its head and must be rejected by supporters of democracy.

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