Friday, November 28, 2008

Of Special Relationship With the USA: Liberia And Israel Compared

Of Special Relationship With the USA: Liberia And Israel Compared


Paul I. Adujie

New York, United States

This week, The New York Times, a veritable American newspaper published articles by Mr. Nicholas D. Kristoff and another by Mr. Somini Sengupta.

In both articles, the authors clearly demonstrated their complete understanding of the issues at stake in Liberia’s intractable wars and crises, they described what the US policy ought to be and how it is greatly lacking in every sense! This has been the case with US African policy, particularly with a country such as Liberia that is supposed to have some special relationship with the United States? Some special relationship that have always operated for the benefit of the United States! What sort of special is this?

Liberia is said to have been formed by African slaves freed from American bondage, Liberia therefore is more American than anywhere outside the 48 contiguous states of the United States, even more American than Texas, New Mexico, Arizona etc that were literally carved out of America’s neighbor to the South, Mexico!

Liberia is more American than Louisiana bought from the French, Liberia is more American than Alaska that was bought from the Soviet Union or Russia! Liberia was founded by American citizens, Liberia is therefore peopled by descendants of American citizens! What is more American than that?

No one could factually say the same of Israel, and yet, Israel has historically been the apple of America’s eyes in foreign policy formulation and implementation, Israel remains the darling of every American president and politician, the phenomenon has led some Americans to say, that, Americans politicians are always more Jewish than American Jews in matters and issues concerning Israel, whether it is military aid, loan guarantees, outright foreign aid from the US and policies in the Middle East that is perennially dominated by the US’s concerns for Israel’s best interests overall!

The US has always handled Israel with kid gloves on matters concerning Israel’s neighbors and the entire Arab world and all these, notwithstanding that Israel has repeatedly defied the US! Israel has always pursued policies in complete disregard or antagonistic of US policies and interests, Israel, has on more than one occasions, been caught conducting espionage or spying activities against the US, its big brother and ally?

Last week, President Bush complained of Israel’s Apartheid like high fence, this week, Prime Minister Sharon straight-facedly informed Mr. Bush, that fences make good neighbors! And Mr. Bush did not press further, he knows better!

On the other hand, Liberia has been at the beck and call of the US, Liberia actually uses US dollar as its national currency! Liberia has always been on the same side of political and strategic history with the US, Liberia has never spied against the US, Liberia has never pursued ANY policies remotely inconsistent with US national interests, strategic or otherwise.

It is a fact of history that American soldiers found a convenient Liberia, for America’s purpose, as they came marching up the streets of Monrovia during World War II singing "When the Saints Come Marching In." Liberians have forever craved a meaningful relationship with the Americans, Liberians have hoped against hope, this time around, again, that the Americans would come to their aid and rescue from war and death.

A majority of Liberian think of themselves as kit and kin of the Americans and think American help more compelling and demonstrably more compelling, because of the descendants expecting help from their "siblings" from across the Atlantic Ocean.

In Hearing Liberia s Pleas NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF on Tuesday July 29, 2003 wrote in the following in The New York Times

The bankruptcy of America's policy toward Africa is evident now in Liberia, a lovely and passionately pro-American country with dazzling white beaches, swaying palms, the greenback for currency — plus 200,000 deaths from unending war, and mass rape that spreads AIDS.

President Bush initially seemed to engage Africa in a way that President Bill Clinton and other predecessors had failed to do. To his great credit, Mr. Bush pushed hard to end Sudan's civil war. He announced a $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS. He visited Africa and has been responsive to the famine raging in Ethiopia.

Yet while it's too early to be sure, it looks as if Mr. Bush's Africa policy may be no more than a symbolic one, full of ringing sound bites and hollow pledges. Mr. Bush refused to ask Congress for funds to pay fully for his AIDS program. And his Africa trip had a check-the-box quality, suggesting it was more about domestic politics than Africa itself.

Worst of all, with Monrovia (named for James Monroe) now collapsing into killing and cholera, Mr. Bush has sent a symbolic presence to the waters off Monrovia for possible deployment later.

Africa needs a lot of things, but symbols aren't high on the list. Liberian children are not being slaughtered offshore, but on the ground, and that's where troops are needed. Sending troops to Liberian waters is a waffle, a gesture that saves no lives. After 9/11, Mr. Bush displayed leadership, moral clarity and decisiveness in sending troops to Afghanistan; today, Africa desperately needs those same qualities.

"Dithering only makes it worse," notes Ken Menkhaus, an Africa expert at Davidson College, arguing for intervention. "If we don't do it, it'll fester and blow up."

Similarly, writing in The New York Times on Wednesday July 30, 2003 SOMINI SENGUPTA in his, Oh, if Only the G.I.'s Would Come Marching In He said "Liberia was created by the United States with a peculiar alliance of slaveholders and abolitionists in the anxious decades before emancipation and founded on the ideals of American-style democracy.

In truth, for much of its history, it functioned as a plantation society, where the high-caste descendants of freed slaves ruled over the "Africans" and held an abiding loyalty to America, from whose rib their nation was formed.

Consider the frayed oil painting that still hangs on a wall in the now shuttered National Museum on Broad Street, in Monrovia's ravaged downtown. It is a historical montage featuring William Tolbert, the Liberian president from 1971 to 1980, seated in the company of J. J. Roberts, the founding president of the republic, along with two famous Americans: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

Consider the elation when a small team of American soldiers landed here in early July to conduct what they called a "humanitarian assessment." Liberians poured into the streets to thank their lucky stars. "Eh, marine, we like you, oh, marine!" they sang.

Consider, too, the spectacle of the weeping men and women who came to lay their dead before the gates of the American Embassy on July 21. That morning, as part of the third rebel attack on the city, a mortar shell had fallen on an encampment of displaced people across the street from the embassy, killing nearly two dozen civilians.

The living came to display their dead. They came in rage at what they saw as American indifference. And they came as though to remind the Americans of the creation myth that was given this land 150 years ago. "The love of liberty brought us here," reads the slogan on the Liberian seal, courtesy of the Americans who founded the republic in 1847.

But Liberian expectations have been built around more than just the idea of America. During World War II, Liberia joined the United States in declaring war against Germany — a principal Liberian trading partner at the time. Later, the country provided Firestone with the world's largest rubber plantation, aiding American dominance in the auto industry.

Liberia served as a solid partner to the United States in the cold war years. It supported American resolutions at the United Nations and provided a home for a Voice of America radio tower, an indispensable weapon of the cultural cold war.

Finally, the American explanation for its invasion of Iraq, where illegal weapons have yet to be found, has raised expectations all its own. It baffles Liberians that American soldiers would interfere where they are not wanted, and stay away from where they are.

"Mr. President, you have repeatedly said that the civilized world cannot sit idle while dictators and rebel groups brutalize innocent people," wrote George Kun, 27, a Liberian who went to the United States as a refugee in 1996, in an open letter to Mr. Bush.

These expectations, however deeply held, fly in the face of American inaction for over a decade. The United States had a chance to nip the Liberian mayhem in the bud 13 years ago, Liberians note, when Charles G. Taylor, the president that Mr. Bush now demands step aside, began his guerrilla insurrection.

Then, as now, Washington (at the time, Mr. Bush's father was in office) ordered American troops to park off the Liberian coast, and encouraged a West African peacekeeping force. The warship with 2,500 American troops bobbed in the water for several months before turning back. The Liberian war continued for six more years.

Once again, there is talk of Washington intervening. Liberians wonder if they are watching a replay." What logic on earth explains the double standards? The disparity and selective rewards and labels of special relationships that the US awards to countries it chooses? In light of the foregoing, it is clearly established that Liberia is special to the US.

Nigeria has already lost more than a thousand citizens and spent more than twelve billion dollars to peace keeping efforts in West Africa, and Nigeria is still willing to help! And yet, Liberia does not feature in the US radar of foreign policy? Because we are Africans? What gives?

Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional.

July 2003

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