Thursday, September 3, 2009

Charles Taylor's trial continues

Have you been reading about Charles Taylor's trial? If not, as I think I've said before, you're missing out on some really good stories. And by that I mean stories that should provide a much needed laugh.

Over the last couple days, Taylor's testimony has focused on his denial of accusations that he illegally armed both Sierra Leonean rebels and of course his own troops during the war. Of particular interest, is ongoing discussion of allegations made against Taylor in the report of the UN Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone. The document under discussion is S/2000/1195 and it can be found here.

Today, the story was that officials at Robertsfield International Airport in Monrovia were so corrupt that it would have been easy to bribe them and bring weapons in. While that's certainly true, you expect me to believe that, despite the large amounts of weapons coming in (and they weren't coming in on foot over regional borders, no they were being flown in thank you very much) that all of this happened without either his knowledge or consent? Give me a break.

That's a pretty tall tale and just because it's fun and I like linking to things that prove that he's wrong, I'll refer you again to Global Witness, to the UN sanctions committees' expert group reports (on Sierra Leone and on Liberia), to the International Crisis Group and of course to Small Arms Survey. Put together, the evidence against Taylor is pretty overwhelming. Still, it's great that he's getting an opportunity to defend himself, even if he has tell massively outlandish stories to do so. The bottom line is this, if the prosecution does its job right, that's what will come out of this process: that Taylor's tales are largely just that.


  1. Charles Taylor claims CIA helped him escape in 1985 from Plymouth County Correctional Facility--a maximum-security prison about 45 miles south of Boston.
    I know Taylor has been telling tall tales at The Hague, but this one doesn't sound far-fetched to me. I used to live in Boston and I've seen that prison with my own eyes. There's just no way one would escape from that prison--even a Navy SEAL--without inside help.
    If this claim proves to be true, then America is as responsible for the mayhem wreaked upon Liberia afterward as Taylor is.
    I could embark on this "deterministic" thread till I turn "blue": Congo, which could have been spared current crises had the US not prop up Mobutu for too long; Afghanistan: jihadists backed by US money and weapons to fight the Soviets, and who have morphed today into vicious Taliban insurgents with American blood on their hands...
    Foreign-policy engineering has never worked and will never work: that's the lesson America has not learned yet!

  2. Alex--maybe he did get help to escape from jail but I think that on the Taylor/Mobutu front and on many others, there is plenty of blame to go around in terms of facilitating conditions for conflict, slaughter, and abject poverty. If we're talking Congo, Mobutu received support from many countries. More generally, commercial interests (in some cases state-sponsored) in these resource rich countries are what they are etc. It's way more complicated than the CIA playing games. I'm both French and American, I think my two countries together (plus a bunch of others) made some really bad calculations but I don't think I could chose which one was worse in this area.

  3. And one more thing, even with outside support, that doesn't absolve Taylor/Mobutu and many others of their own actions. The "I did it because I could" and "it's not my fault because someone helped me" defense isn't all that compelling.