Left, Charles Taylor, warlord and convicted criminal against humanity; right, well, you know who.
The War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague has convicted the former warlord-turned-"democratically elected" president of the West African nation of Liberia, Charles Taylor, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Taylor was on trial for his involvement in the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. The atrocities in that civil war included murders, rapes, amputations, and recruitment of children into the conflict. The war was largely financed by smuggling and illegal sales of conflict diamonds, in which, according to the verdict, Taylor played a crucial part. The events of the Sierra Leone civil war were dramatized in the 2006 motion picture "Blood Diamond", starring Leonardo Dicaprio.
What Taylor was NOT tried for was the atrocities he committed in his own country, Liberia. Since, before he became president in 1997, he was a warlord in the country's civil war, were atrocities matched those committed in Sierra Leone. Yet oddly enough, Taylor is as popular in Liberia today as he was when he was elected president. At the time, his unofficial campaign slogan was "You killed my ma, you killed my pa, I'll vote for you".
So why would people vote for someone who had killed their relatives, or root for him once he was found guilty of crimes against humanity? This is a complex question, but religious influence seems to be an important part of the answer. According to some Liberian supporters of Taylor, "He's the only God-fearing president we've got." Per some reports, Taylor officially declared Liberia a Christian nation, even though most Liberians are not Christians. At a three-day CBN[Christian Broadcasting Network]-sponsored "Liberia for Jesus" rally in February 2002, Taylor was the star attraction, lying prostrate on the red-carpeted stage of Samuel Doe Stadium in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, and exhorting the crowd to come to Christ. "I cannot help you," he told his long-suffering people. "All help comes from God."
But ordinary Liberian are not the only ones knowing Taylor as a man of God. He has a pious, and powerful, friend here in the US. His name: Pat Robertson.
Here is what Robertson said in defense of Taylor, condemning the Bush administration's demands that he step down:
According to Taylor himself, Pat Robertson was awarded a Liberian gold-mining concession in 1999 and subsequently offered to lobby the Bush administration to support his government. Robertson has denied that, despite his demands that the administration retracts its its demand for Taylor's resignation. It is alleged that Roberton pumped 15 million dollars into the gold-mining project and much of the money went directly into Taylor's pockets. More disturbingly perhaps, it has been alleged by two Operation Blessing pilots that Robertson used his Operation Blessing planes to haul diamond-mining equipment to his mines in Liberia, despite the fact that he was telling his 700 Club viewers that the planes were sending relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda.
It is a disgrace that Robertson has never been officially investigated for his alleged role in conflicts in West Africa. I do not think the freedom loving people of the US should tolerate this travesty. Further, if Robertson lobbied US administration on behalf of a foreign government without going through the proper channels, he violated the federal law. Hopefully the conviction of Taylor should open the door to investigation of his most prominent associates, and few are higher up the ladder than Robertson.