The U.S. Backed the Dictators Whose Rampant War Crimes Destroyed their Healthcare System
Everyone’s seen the stories …
Ebola has become an epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone because those West African countries don’t have the resources to cope with the disaster. This is largely true because both countries have been torn apart by war.
Wikipedia notes regarding Liberia … the epicenter of the Ebola crisis:
Under Taylor’s leadership, Liberia became internationally known as a pariah state due to the use of blood diamonds and illegal timber exports to fund the Revolutionary United Front in the Sierra Leone Civil War.
The Liberian economy began a steady decline due to economic mismanagement following the 1980 coup. This decline was accelerated by the outbreak of civil war in 1989; GDP was reduced by an estimated 90% between 1989 and 1995, one of the fastest declines in history.
Civil war strife ended in 2003 after destroying approximately 95% of the country’s healthcare facilities. In 2009, government expenditure on health care per capita was US$22, accounting for 10.6% of total GDP. In 2008, Liberia had only 1 doctor and 27 nurses per 100,000 people.
As to Sierra Leone, Wikipedia points out:
Government corruption and mismanagement of the country’s natural resources contributed to the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991 to 2002), which over more than a decade devastated the country. It left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries.
But what most Westerners don’t know is that our governments are partly responsible for the war that ravaged those countries’ healthcare infrastructure.
The Boston Globe reported in 2009:
Former Liberian president and accused war criminal Charles G. Taylor said today that his infamous prison break from the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in 1985 was aided by the US government …
Agence France-Presse noted in 2008:
A former Liberian warlord allied to Charles Taylor has told the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that the United States released the strongman from jail in 1985 to engineer the overthrow of president Samuel Doe.
[Prince Johnson, now a Liberian senator] has already made allegations about Washington’s dubious role in the 1989 to 1997 war ….
Taylor and Johnson were allies in the early 1980s, but they later fell out, with Johnson forming a rival organisation to Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
So both dictator Taylor – and his rival, a current Liberian Senator – testified that the U.S. broke Taylor out of jail.
In addition, the Boston Globe reported in 2012 that U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents confirmed that Taylor had CIA ties. Editors later largely retracted the story. However, other sources allegedly confirm it.
Taylor was instrumental in destroying Sierra Leone, as well …
As the Daily Mail wrote last year, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism in Sierra Leone:
The former president of Liberia was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.
The court’s ruling came more than a decade after Taylor helped rebels go on a murderous rampage across war-torn Sierra Leone, raping, murdering and mutilating tens of thousands of innocent victims.
Taylor had aided and abetted crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebels, while knowing well the kinds of crimes they were committing.
Presiding Judge George Gelaga King said: ‘Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposefully unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist.’
The court found Taylor provided crucial aid to rebels in Sierra Leone during that country’s 11-year civil war, which left an estimated 50,000 people dead before its conclusion in 2002.
Thousands more were left mutilated in a conflict that became known for its extreme cruelty, as rival rebel groups hacked off the limbs of their victims and carved their groups’ initials into opponents.
The rebels developed gruesome terms for the mutilations, offering victims the choice of ‘long sleeves’ or ‘short sleeves’ – having their hands hacked off or their arms sliced off above the elbow.
And it’s not just Taylor …
The Chicago Tribune reported in 2002:
The story of the American involvement in Sierra Leone is coming out in bits and pieces, but we can already see that the Clinton administration’s unrepentant policy there has been to empower one of the cruelest torturers and mass murderers of our times. And the story is far from over.
Let us focus first only on events in the spring of 1999: Foday Sankoh, whose savage Revolutionary United Front movement had massacred thousands and cut off the limbs of thousands more, had been arrested by Nigerian peacekeeping troops. Finally, he was in the hands of the at least nominally decent government in Sierra Leone. The long-suffering Sierra Leoneans, whose country had been a moderately prosperous former British colony, prayed that the worst was over.
But instead of insisting upon justice, President Clinton placed a now-famous phone call to Sankoh and persuaded him to enter a “peace accord.” The psychopathic Sankoh was told kindly by the American president that he could soon run for president! In the meantime, he would share power in the government and, supposedly, disarm his savage and often drugged teenaged troops, many of whom were ushered into the movement by being forced to kill their parents.
There was more to come. While taking Sankoh out of jail, where he was to be executed, the U.S. administration also refused to seriously support the UN-sponsored Nigerian troops because they had engaged in some minor “human-rights abuses.” The administration further refused to allow mercenaries, like the South African Executive Outcomes, to defeat Sankoh’s movement.
Thus, the only two groups that had the effective power to settle the situation were held back by this odd Clintonesque purism, while a homicidal killer went free. Once loosed again upon his people, Sankoh broke all of his promises –and what even reasonably rational person could not have predicted that? He called his latest convulsion of killing and maiming “Operation No Living Thing.” But now he is under arrest again–and the Clinton people have still another chance!
So the president sent the Rev. Jesse Jackson to West Africa to “mediate.” Before he left for Sierra Leone, he compared Foday Sankoh’s murderous RUF to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa, which fought for and gained equality for all South Africans. Sankoh, Jackson said sagely, could play a “positive role.”
Jackson traveled first to Liberia, which neighbors Sierra Leone, to meet with his “friend,” the other unspeakable dictator of West Africa, Charles Taylor. Once there, Jackson praised Taylor, who is responsible both for the terrible bloodletting in his own country as well as in Sierra Leone, as someone who could play a “very positive role” (please note that his role is slightly upgraded from Sankoh’s)
Combatants from Sierra Leone and Liberia inevitably attacked border communities in neighboring Guinea in 1999-2000, pushing the violence into that otherwise peaceful country.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees also flooded into Guinea to escape the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone:
Guinea remains the primary asylum country for West Africa’s refugees. Refugee influxes during the 1990s were so overwhelming that, for several years, Guinea hosted the largest refugee population on the continent. Some 120,000 Liberian and up to 50,000 Sierra Leonean refugees continued to reside in Guinea as of July 2003.
And the destruction of infrastructure in Sierra Leone means that people with Ebola are crossing the border into Guinea.
Update: The West’s Neoliberal economic policies towards Africa didn’t help.