We All Make Mistakes - All Of Us Except, Of
Course, St. Patrick
(A response to Patrick Seyon's article - "Setting The Record Straight")
By Harry Greaves, Jr.
I don't intend to get into any long drawn out debate with Patrick over the degrees of blame that should be assigned to various players in the tragedy that has befallen our beloved country these past 10 years. History will be the judge of that. I merely want, for the record, to lay out the facts, some of which he may be ignorant of because he came into ACDL late in the game and did not exert himself sufficiently to be in the know about all its activities. For, you see, ACDL operated at that time on two tracks and at two levels: one overt (political); the other, covert. Patrick was not privy to the covert operations and I have no intentions of divulging the names of those who were. Suffice it to say that, in view of Mr. Doe's refusal to bow to the wishes of the Liberian electorate as expressed in their overwhelming rejection of him at the polls in 1985 and his continued harassment of the Opposition during the post-election period, all options were on the table. Charles Taylor just happened to have been the first to obtain the resources, human and material, to make good on his threat to remove Doe forcibly.
So, when Patrick refers to $10,000 as a significant amount, sufficient to purchase many weapons, he betrays a lack of understanding of the resources necessary to wage a war. When we were brought into dialogue with him, Mr. Taylor had already recruited, equipped, trained and deployed an army, with the aid of millions of dollars from governments with the requisite resources at their command. The first shots had already been fired in Nimba and the war was in full flight.
When it comes to blame, there is enough to go around. One only has to read Mark Huband's book, The Liberian Civil War, or any of the numerous other accounts to appreciate that gross human rights violations were committed by virtually all the factions: the NPFL, INPFL, LPC, ULIMO-K, ULIMO-J, Lofa Defense Force and even the Armed Forces of Liberia, which had a particular, constitutional obligation to protect the Liberian populace but elements of which had been converted, instead, into an ethnic death squad of chilling proportions. Several of our political allies fell victim to the atrocities of more than one of these factions. And, the hurtful truth remains that those recruited into the various militias were Liberians. Those who fought for, and committed atrocities in the name of these militias, were Liberians. And when the war was over, those who voted Taylor into office were, again, Liberians.
If the election results are to be believed, 3 out of every 4 Liberian voters, all of whom suffered the trauma of that war, voted Mr. Taylor into office in July 1997 eventhough they knew he started the war and in many cases personally suffered privations at the hands of his militias. While we all know those elections were not conducted on a level playing field, that intimidation played a role and valid suspicion of massive cheating abounds (which we have not been able to prove), the fact of the matter is that Mr. Taylor is now in office as an elected president. I am not one of those who subscribes to the view that Liberians deserve what they are getting because they voted Mr. Taylor into office.
We all make mistakes - all of us except, of course, St. Patrick, who, as he reminds us with great sanctimony throughout his diatribe, is without blemish. Making a mistake is not a sin. Repeating it is. When I make a mistake, I like to fess up to it, make amends where possible, resolve to learn from that mistake, then move on looking for solutions. I believe the Liberian people made a big mistake in 1997, the painful reminder of which is with them every day in the form of no electricity, no decent drinking water, sewage in the streets, a barely functioning healthcare system, inadequately equipped schools, no jobs, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, loss of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, blatant disregard for the rule of law, a security apparatus run amok - all of this happening whilst the ruling class comprising a small clique of government officials lives ostentatiously. The Liberian people will have an opportunity to correct that mistake in 2003 and I believe they will.
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