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August 1, 2003

Warmongers of the Congressional Black Caucus


Intervention in Iraq Was Bad, but in Liberia Is Good

by Anthony Gancarski

In 2002, this writer went on record predicting US military action in West Africa. Rumsfeld had just said that Al-Qaeda had operations in 60 countries, and that the US maintained prerogative to go into those potentially failed states and strike blows for American values. And Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner was quoted last summer as saying at a meeting of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) that oil reserves of Angola and Nigeria are a "national strategic interest" of the United States, adding that "Congress and the (Bush) administration should declare the Gulf of Guinea an area of ‘vital interest’ to the U.S."

Oil from the Gulf of Guinea as of last year comprised 15% of US imports, and it is unsurprising that the US would seek to rely more heavily on these mostly non-OPEC nations as the Terror War progressed. Likewise, it is unsurprising to this writer that Bush made the rounds in Africa last month, and unsurprising that Liberia provides a unique opportunity for the US to shape West Africa to its mercantilist demands.

What does surprise me, though, are the people being used to sell Liberian intervention to the American public. The loudest voices for war this time around don’t belong to neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer and Richard Perle [who is keeping a suspiciously low profile as the cakewalk in Iraq materializes.] This time, the arguments for intervention are advanced by members of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC]. And those arguments are nothing short of amazing.

Representative Corrine Brown [my Congresswoman], for example, was front and center in early July with many other worthies from the CBC, pimping US military action in Liberia. This is unsurprising, as Liberia has been one of the Congresswoman’s pet causes for much of the summer; a couple of weeks before, she organized a rally for Liberian-Americans.

Why is Brown, so ensconced in her Congressional seat that Florida Republicans don’t even give her real opposition anymore, so fired up to commit troops to Liberia? National Interest? National Security? Perish the thought—this writer would respect her more if she admitted what the war was really about.

No, Brown sells Liberian intervention on Clintonian grounds. As she said in July on the floor of the House, "The Bush administration sent troops to Iraq . . . to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, to liberate the Iraqi people from a tyrant, to bring justice to the people of that nation, so they claim. At this very moment, leaders in the United Nations, leaders in various African nations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, members of the human rights community worldwide, are pleading with the President to send peacekeeping troops to Liberia. Yet the President set off for Africa without any intentions of even visiting Liberia and without bothering to consult with members of the Congressional Black Caucus about his trip, many of whom have worked on issues pertaining to Africa for decades."

Nothing here about logistical problems, about the tripartite nature of the Liberian conflict; just that the UN pleads for us to send troops in, and that Bush is somehow insensitive for not doing photo-ops in the Liberian war zone. But Brown has more to say on the subject: "200,000 Liberians died in fighting in the 90s" and "Liberia has always been a faithful ally of the United States" and "our nation plays an influential role in world politics" so it follows that "this is a perfect time for the United States to play a leading role in bringing about an end to the misery and suffering of the Liberian people."

A perfect time? Our military’s manpower is tapped out to the point that reservists fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is an open secret that recruiting for the Reserves has become exponentially harder since 2001. The US Treasury is bare, the Interest Rate fixes implemented this millennium haven’t helped the job market, and Americans’ support for no-win foreign wars has long since peaked. This is a perfect time for Corrine, perhaps, who likely won’t face a serious challenge to her re-election in 2004. But not for anyone else but those sitting in safe house seats.

"In closing, my favorite scripture is ‘To whom God has given much, much is expected.’ We are expecting that the administration will come forward and help the suffering Liberian people." With that pithy quote and subsequent expectation, Brown closed her remarks at the CBC Press conference, using God as so many have in the last century, to sell their pet project wars.

Of course, Brown wasn’t the only Congressperson talking nonsense that day. New Jersey’s Donald Payne essentially argued that American intervention in Liberia was justified by the precedents of British intervention in Sierra Leone and French occupation of Cote D’Ivoire. Elijah Cummings justified American intervention on the grounds of Africa’s "economic potential". Mr. Davis of Illinois urged that our military intervene with "sensitivity" and "humaneness". And Maxine Waters offered up the opinion that the President "may not really understand" Africa, but that we should be "all engaged as a family working for the best interests of our country", while suggesting that US troops staying out of Liberia would be the rankest form of racism.

I fail to understand what political capital Bush would gain from collaborating with the Congressional Black Caucus on the issue of Liberian intervention. Charles Rangel, not too long ago, argued in favor of reinstating a military draft on the basis of "shared sacrifice." Sounds swell, but this writer supposes Waters, Rangel, and the rest probably haven’t canvassed their constituents, asking them if they’re interested in being drafted to fight "humanitarian" wars in countries they likely never studied in school. Of course, given the manner in which most CBCers are guaranteed safe, practically uncontested Congressional seats, it might appear to the cynical observer that, isolated from electoral pressure, they’re willing to embrace gimmicks in lieu of a foreign policy that doesn’t bankrupt America. But that accusation makes them sound like a motley assortment of hack politicians, and this column would never want to leave its readers with that impression.

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Anthony Gancarski, the author of Unfortunate Incidents, writes for The American Conservative, CounterPunch, and LewRockwell.com. His web journalism was recognized by Utne Reader Online as "Best of the Web." A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

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