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Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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MadArchitect

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Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, boycotted his own war crimes trial at the Hague today. The news has been paying closer attention to this story lately, and some of the atrocities listed are really astounding. There are reports of Liberian soldiers eating the hearts of slain opponents, decorating checkpoints with human entrails, etc. etc. And of course, the policy of drafting young boys into special military units and providing them with automatic weapons is probably the most widely known feature of the conflict.The reason I raise this topic is that I wanted to ask what you guys thought of the brutality of all this. I feel justified in taking it for granted that we all object -- the crux of my question is, what do you think makes such barbarity possible. If these were reports of ancient Carthage or Scythia, I don't know that we bat an eye, but this are things that happened in the modern world, in a nation established by the United States, under the rule of president educated in Boston, Massachussettes. How do we account for the existence of these events in our era?
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Chris OConnor

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Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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It seems difficult to keep up on world affairs these days. So much is being reported in so many places that it is a full-time job staying abreast of it all. Not only do I not know a thing about these specific atrocities, but I also have to admit to complete ignorance about the history and current events in Liberia. Charles who? Jesus. I feel like a dumbass sometimes. I heard that.
MadArchitect

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Re: Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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Liberia was originally formed in the late 19th century when a group of Americans decided that the next logical step in the abolition of slavery was to allow freed slaves the opportunity to return to Africa. The nation was formed to provide a state for these "returned" slaves (some of whom were born in America) who might otherwise have been left to the mercy of the local slave trade that was still in full swing.Charles Taylor was born in Liberia, but educated in the States. His rule has been incredibly violent, but he was re-elected on several occasions in what were determined by non-Liberian observers to be fair and free elections. Some people suspect that, as with the repeated election of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, support for Taylor was born largely from fear of what his regime would do if he weren't re-elected.And Chris, I sympathize with the feeling that there's just too much news to cover, but it also seems to me that our major news outlets tend to create a blind spot for us. Most people didn't know much about the civil wars in the former Yugoslav Republic until things were already nearly over there. On the whole, it seems, our press doesn't seem to like covering with any sort of depth certain kinds of stories. What's surprising about that fact is that a great many of these stories end up resulting in war crimes trials -- ie. they're related to some of the biggest moral, legal and political issues of the last 100 years. So another question we might ask ourselves is, why does our national press (or our nation at large) feel inclined to insulate us from these issues?
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Chris OConnor

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Re: Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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I seriously had no idea about Liberia. This is fascinating. Thank you for explaining things to me, Mad. I'd actually LOVE to see a book about the history of Liberia on one of our upcoming book polls. The goal of creating Liberia seems noble enough, but where did things go wrong? Did we create Liberia and then step back and allow warlords to sweep in and take control? And if so, why? Was it because Liberia offered us little in return for our protection and support? Would we ever let Israel fall apart? I should think not.
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Re: Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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Mad: ...what do you think makes such barbarity possible. If these were reports of ancient Carthage or Scythia, I don't know that we bat an eye, but this are things that happened in the modern world, in a nation established by the United States, under the rule of president educated in Boston, Massachussettes. How do we account for the existence of these events in our era?Mad, I can't possibly answer how barbarities such as those in Liberia or numerous other countries are possible. It is a world, and a school of thought, totally foreign to me. I do not, however, think that residence in the "modern world" and a few years spent in a western country makes an individual unlikely to accomplish such atrocities. It seems that humans are capable of doing atrocious things. I don't know that Liberia and Taylor's presidency are any different than a number of violent governments the twentieth, and now the twenty-first century, have hosted.Mad: Charles Taylor was born in Liberia, but educated in the States. His collegiate education took place in the states, but isn't Taylor largely the product of Liberia, a country with a very violent history? Before he was ever president, Taylor was a warlord, supporting Johnson's short and violent reign. If you live in a country where murder, rape, torture, etc. are the norm, I'm not sure that a handful of years in a western country could change that desensitization.Mad: Most people didn't know much about the civil wars in the former Yugoslav Republic until things were already nearly over there. Absolutely. This was when I first realized that I couldn't count on the news to report all the news. (Thankfully, I was still young.) My family hosted an exchange student from Macedonia for six months sometime in the late 90s. The stories she could recount were atrocious, much worse than the stories we heard from our Northern Ireland exchange students, even the ones that came from Belfast. Yet our knowledge of the troubles in Ireland was much more complete than what was happening throughout the former Yugoslav. (BTW, she was quick to note our ignorance when my mom once said she was from Yugoslavia.)Chris: Did we create Liberia and then step back and allow warlords to sweep in and take control?As far as my understanding goes, Liberia was created through a private group with private funds, and was formed as an independent republic shortly after its birth. Though it had U.S. support, I don't think there was ever any U.S. control or responsibility.Liberia was also a largish part of the U.S./Soviet buy-offs. In trying to capture Liberia from Communism, the U.S. gave huge contributions to an authoritarian leader, Doe, who had seized control after a violent coup. I feel like we sing the same songs over and over again.For all its violent and authoritarian history, Liberia elected its first female leader before the U.S. did. She may also be the first female leader of any African country, but don't quote me on that.Chris: Would we ever let Israel fall apart? I should think not.Now that's relatively loaded. But as far as my limited knowledge on both issues goes, I don't think there is much correlation between the U.S.'s involvement in Liberia's situation compared to the state of Israel.
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Re: Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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As I stated I know nothing of the history of Liberia. So my statement about Israel stems from that ignorance.My question was based on seeing some similarities. Liberia was created, according to what I've read here on BookTalk, as a means of providing freed slaves with a place to call home. Israel was created, accoriding to everything I've read, as a means of providing Jews a place to call home after WWII.We have a heavy influence on Israel today, but obviously not much of one with Liberia. Why is this? This is all I'm wondering.
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Re: Charles Taylor and Liberian war crimes

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By the way I added a book about the history of Liberia to the book suggestion thread. If any of you have an interest in this topic head over there and speak up. And if you know of a better book let us know. I just find it horrible that I'm 38 years old and completely ignorant about this subject. Reading and discussing a book on it might be rewarding.
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There's barbarism, and then there's barbarism

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MA: what do you think makes such barbarity possible....How do we account for the existence of these events in our era?Your question presupposes some sort of notion of human moral progress...as though this era is somehow more enlightened and less prone to barbarism as earlier eras. The modern world also produced Stalin's purges, Hitler's deathcamps, Truman's fat man and little boy, Mao's great leap forward, Pol Pot's killing fields...and a current nuclear arsenal that globally numbers over eleven million active warheads...five in a half million of which are paid for by US taxpayer dollars. Are you aware of the Holocene Extinction event? Quote:According to a 1998 survey of 400 biologists conducted by New York's American Museum of Natural History, nearly 70 percent of biologists believe that they are currently in the early stages of a human-caused mass extinction, known as the Holocene extinction event. In that survey, the same proportion of respondents agreed with the prediction that up to 20 percent of all living populations could become extinct within 30 years (by 2028 ). Biologist E. O. Wilson estimated in 2002 that if current rates of human destruction of the biosphere continue, one-half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years. More significantly the rate of species extinctions at present is estimated at 100 to 1000 times "background" or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of planet Earth;moreover, this current rate of extinction is thus 10 to 100 times greater than any of the prior mass extinction events in the history of the Earth.My understanding of climate change issues and biospheric devastation points to G-8 industrial nations, with China and India close behind, commiting the lion's share of biospheric barbarity...so, Liberian barbarism is certainly brutal: but it really doesn't hold a candle to the Biospheric barbarity that you and I and most people on this web site lend our support to.
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Chuck Taylors

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All I know is....Chuck Taylor makes a great pair of sneakers.Mr. P.
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Chuck Taylors

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These acts happen in our era because people will do anything to achieve and retain power. Atrocities will only be stopped or avenged when they threaten to put a dent in the profits (of various denominations) of those in power. The perfect example of this was the situation when Saddam used chemical weapons on the Kurds. The Western powers ignored this action, even blaming it on Iran, and continued to sell weapons and provide intel to Iraq, until Saddam threatened the interests of the powerful. The deaths of half a million children (not to mention adults) was considered 'worth it' until Iraq's oil was needed.In Afghanistan, intervention was justified on the basis that it would liberate the women of the country from the Taliban, yet Taliban members are now members of that government, partners of warlords. Nobody cares, because the PTB don't tell them about it.During the 1980s, the British went to war over the Falkand Islands, when a few years before that they forced the Chago Islanders off their Island in order to make an air base for the US to use. They tend abandoned British citizens to a foreign country. People only care about other people when they seem real. One dead person is a tragedy, one million is simply a statistic until the media starts to bring people's attention to a matter. The media only takes an interest if it is in their interest. Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
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