From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Dec
31 21:00:11 2002
Subject: AANEWS for Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 20:25:36 -0500
What is described as an “aggressive year-long European probe into al Qaeda financing” has confirmed what many investigative journalists have already establishedterrorist groups are laundering money with the help of key African leaders involved in the mining of gold, selling off of natural resources and the lucrative trade in “conflict diamonds.”
The Washington Post, which over the weekend reported that it had obtained a copy of the intelligence report, said that key senior terrorist agents of Osama bin Laden “oversaw a $20 million diamond-buying spree that effectively cornered the market on the region's precious stones.”
The report adds that the leader of Liberia, Charles Taylor, has received at least $1 million for providing sanctuary to bin Laden agents in the weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. The men moved freely between a “protected area” in Liberia, and the presidential compound in neighboring Burkina Faso.
Neither the Post summary nor the intelligence report, however, mention Taylor's connections in the United States which include members of the former Clinton White House, Rainbow Coalition head Rev. Jesse Jackson, and business associate Pat Robertson who is a major religious right luminary and founder of the Christian Coalition.
In fact, Robertson has entered into a special agreement with Taylor's government to operate a mining business known as Freedom Gold Ltd. Taylor, who led an insurgent movement and emerged as President of Liberia following a bloody and divisive civil war, has reciprocated by helping Robertson's ministry organize giant prayer rallies, and ordered the closing of all churches and businesses so people would attend the events.
During a “Liberia For Jesus” rally, Taylor collapsed onto the ground, and declared “We shall confess our sins before God, (and) ask him to heal our land.”
While Taylor is putting on the masque of public religiosity and trying to turn his nation into a theocracy, however, watch dog groups say that he is looting Liberia's wealth, aiding terrorists and violating human rights on a massive scale. Even an article in the conservative US News written last year by journalist Michael Barone noted: “Taylor runs a regime that, according to Amnesty International, routinely imprisons, torture, and rapes citizens for offenses like participating in peaceful demonstrations.”
One source of Taylor's enormous wealth has been his ties to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of neighboring Sierra Leon. RUF controls extensive diamond mining operations which ship the stones to Liberia where they are often sold for cash at discount to al Qaeda agents. Taylor, in exchange for his financial and military support of the RUF, receives a commission on each exchange.
In a fastidiously documented expose in the July 2000 issue of New Republic, Ryan Lissa traced the ties linking Taylor and numerous al Qaeda officials beginning with Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah. His name appears in the latest European intelligence report as well. Abdullah, a top aide to Osama bin Laden, arrived in Liberia's capital of Monrovia in September, 1998 and met with one of Taylor's longtime cronies, Ibrahim Bah, who is also mention in the documents obtained by the Post. Just two weeks after the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, more al Qaeda operatives arrived in Liberia and purchased RUF diamonds through Taylor intermediaries. According to Lizza, the Liberian diamond pipeline had become a vital component for survival of al Qaeda and the RUF.
Like bin Laden, Ibrahim Bah was a product of the “blowback” operation conducted by the U.S.in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Money, training and military equipmentincluding ground-to-air Stinger rocketswere given to various “Mujahadeen” or “holy warrior” militias in order to drive out the Soviet forces which had invaded Afghanistan to prop up a rump government ensconced in Kabul. In the wake of the Russian withdrawal, civil war erupted among the various factions. Local warlords, many linked to the international drug trade, squared off against free-lance military commanders and religious militias. By 1998, a faction known as the Taliban controlled about 90% of Afghanistan, and with the help of Pakistan's Interagency Intelligence Service (ISI), installed a ruthless, ultra-Islamic regime.
With the Russians expelled and the Soviet Union collapsed, Islamic militants turned their attention to propagating a stern version of “Jihad” or Holy War. This has taken the form of confronting not only nominally secular governments in the Middle East (such as Egypt) or regimes like Saudi Arabia deemed inattentive to enforcing the Shar'ria (Muslim law), but wider forces such as globalism, capitalism and, of course, the United States.
Like the Taliban, Taylor's regime was born out of a cycle of civil strife and military uprisings. In April, 1980, young army officers staged a bloody coup in Liberia and killed then-President William R. Tolbert. Samuel Doe became head of state,and chairman of a ruling “People's Redemption Council.” He also emerged as a key played in U.S. geopolitical strategy in Africa, and a year later President Ronald Reagan ordered an increase in military and other aid to the new Liberian regime.
Corruption and charges of election fraud, though, characterized the Doe government. In December, 1989, a small insurgency led by a former procurement official in the Doe bureaucracy, Charles Taylor, crossed the border into Liberia from the Ivory Coast and soon initiated another bloody civil war. Taylor made alliance with various local chieftains and warlords, and charges were soon made that he was exploiting the wealth of conquered territories to finance his political ambitions. By August, 1996 Taylor and his National Patriotic Front managed to win the first democratic elections held in Liberia in over a decade. The civil war, Taylor declared, was an act of God to punish Liberians for their sins.
A Human Rights Watch World Report in 1999 noted, “The newly elected government of Charles Taylor in Liberia showed an intolerance of losing factions in that country's civil war.” Liberia was also described as a nation “rich in oil or precious minerals such as diamonds, (where) wealth appeared ... to buttress dictatorial regimes characterized by a lack of respect for human rights than to promote development.”
Despite such concerns, though, Taylor had friends in high places where it counted mostWashington, DC.
One was Rev. Jesse Jackson, who became the Clinton administration's Special Envoy to Africa. In late 1998, Jackson was urging area leaders to “reach out” to the RUF and its commander, Fody Sankoh. Lizza noted that Sankoh “built his Revolutionary United Front by systematically kidnapping children and forcing them to murder their parents ... Once children were conscripted, their loyalty was maintained through drugsthey were injected with speed, which numbed their sensitivity to violence and rendered them dependent on their adult suppliersand violence. When conscripts tried to escape, RUF leaders amputated their limbs. ”
Taylor had used similar tactics during the civil war, employing a “Small Boys Unit” within his guerilla organization.
Jackson and Taylor first met in 1998, and in November of that year the envoy urged the Sierra Leone government to “reach out to these RUF in the brush battlefield.” Even after the RUF launched a deadly raid on the capital of Freetown, Jackson continued his efforts on behalf of the guerillas, and pushed through the July, 1999 Lome Agreement which made Sankoh the new vice president of Sierra Leone. The former RUF head was also put in charge of the country's diamond mines.
It 1999, Pat Robertson incorporated a Cayman Islands-based firm known as Freedom Gold, Inc., and signed an agreement with the Taylor regime to mine an area in southeastern Liberia. Numerous accounts have documented the fact that Taylor enjoys a 10 percent interest in the country. But the curious ties linking al Qaeda, Taylor and Robertson -- an association based, it appears, on pure greedsoon generated controversy. The Washington Post carried two stories critical of the cozy Robertson-Taylor business agreement, to which a Freedom Gold official replied: “Freedom Gold Limited was formed in response to Liberia's need to spur economic activity after their long and devastating civil war. Dr. Robertson remains a friend of Liberia and is working to alleviate the suffering of the Liberian people. Dr. Robertson's first and foremost goal is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.”
Before he was spreading the gospel in Liberia, though, Robertson launched a business deal involving mining concessions in a remote area of the country known as Bukon Jedeh. Since 1978, a former California legislator , Ken Ross Jr. had been trying to develop a gold mining operation there along with a former campaign worker for California Gov. Jerry Brown, William Burke. Ten years later, a local gold rush of sorts began , but the stampede for riches was interrupted by the 1990 civil war.
Once Taylor had secured power, Ross was approached by the new Liberian leader saying that he wanted to talk to Pat Robertson. He likely knew about Robertson's earlier forays in the Congo when the televangelist started his African Development Corporation, and become the foremost supporter of Zairian strong man Mobutu Sese Seko. Like Taylor, Mobutu had a miserable record of human rights abuses, and even missionary groups in Zaire were dismayed by the close association between Robertson and the dictator. In 1989, for instance, Mobutu“s government cracked down on “unrecognized” religious groups. Evelyn Millman of the American Baptists Churches complained than Robertson's first visit to Zaire was “an endorsement and another instance of the U.S. supporting a terrible dictator.”
Robertson and his wife were flown to Zaire on Mobutu's official jet, entertained on his personal yacht, and spent time at Mobutu's lavish presidential retreat. Out of this soiree, Robertson gained extensive land and mining concessions for his African Development Corporation. One observer who participated in meetings at CBN's studio headquarters described reports of a potential $1 billion cash payout.
At one meeting was a Liberian-born lawyer named Gerald Padmore. He ushered the December, 1998 incorporation of Freedom Gold Ltd., a company owned totally by the Pat Robertson Charitable Remainder Trust. An article in Fortune Magazine traces Padmore and a former mining engineer, Joe Mathews, to a May, 1999 meeting with Charles Taylor at the presidential mansion in Monrovia. Journalist Daniel Roth wrote: “In Taylor's temporary office, a room covered with heavy curtains concealing bare concrete walls, the three worked out mining agreements. While there was back and forth over wording and tax issues, there was one agreement that Freedom Gold couldn't get out of. Like any other mining operation in Liberia, Freedom Gold would be required to give the government the right to exerciseat no cost -- options worth 10% of the company. Robertson's and Taylor's fortunes would now be linked.”
Today, Charles Taylor is also spreading his gospel. The Religious Freedom Report on Liberia issued last year by the U.S. Department of States that while Liberia's constitution provides for “freedom of religion” and does not endorse on paper a particular faith, “government ceremonies invariably open and close with prayer and may include the singing of hymns. The prayers and hymns usually are Christian but occasionally are Muslim.”
The Robertson-backed prayer rally, “Liberia For Jesus” was organized by Bishop John Gimenez of the Rock Church in Virginia Beach, VA. Gimenez had staged a similar event in 1996 which brought nearly 75,000 evangelicals to the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building for “Washington For Jesus.” As part of the $1.5 million spectacle, Gimenez hosted a “leadership conference” in Constitution Hall along with Oral Roberts University president Richard Roberts, Jerry Falwell of Liberty University, and Pastor John Arnott of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.
At the “Washington For Jesus” rally, controversial faith-healer Benny Hinn performed his theatrics. Gimenez told the crowd that the United States was “guilty” of allowing “seven giant sins”religious persecution, homosexuality, racism, abortion, drug use, occultism and AIDSto spread. He urged followers to “convict and execute these giant evils at large in our country.” During a mock trial, various Christian officials played the role of “prosecuting attorneys,” and the crowd enthusiastically “convicted” America guilty of sin.
“Liberia For Jesus” was a joint operation between Gimenez and Robertson's CBN ministry, all made possible with the help of Charles Taylor.
“I believe that this rally is the atomic bomb of peace,” gushed an excited Pastor Gimenez.
The country's businesses and churches were ordered closed by Taylor for what a CBN press release described as “three days of prayer, praise and repentance.” The prayer rally attracted 75,000 worshippers who packed the Samuel Doe Stadium in Monrovia. Taylor was at his theatrical best, avoiding any talk about guerilla raids, amputation or self-dealing with al Qaeda.
“I can see the angels moving through this stadium!” Taylor shouted into the microphone. “And they went back to God and said, 'Lord, Liberia is knocking on the door.' And I can hear Him say, 'Open the door and let Liberia in!” (CBN story by Victor Oladokun, March 8, 2002). Taylor then laid prostrate on the ground, “slain in the spirit.”
“I tell you: over me is one greater than I,” added Taylor. “This authority is Jesus Christ. Not I am your President, but Jesus.”
It was spectacular theater, a command performance by Taylor whose profuse public religiosity impressed fellow crusaders and worshippers. “I have never before seen a President dedicate his nation to God and lie on the ground in front of such a crowd, ” declared one evangelist from the United States.
Liberia's Vice President, Moses Zelba, said that the “Liberia for Jesus” rally was “the largest event I have seen in my life.”
“Other leading government officials openly acknowledge that Jesus is the only answer for the trouble that has engulfed Liberia,” reported CBN. Robertson's network praised Taylor's antics on stage as “a symbol of the nation's corporate surrender to the sovereignty of Jesus.”
“When the President asked us to pray, I cried like I had never before,” wept Pastor Gregory Simmons of South Carolina who attended the “Liberia For Jesus” event. “I really believe God is going to do something awesome in this country.”
Just days before the lavish religious spectacle, though, something else of an awesome nature was going on. Ibrahim Bah, Taylor's close friend and associate, was meeting with al Qaeda operatives Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who traveled frequently between Liberia and the RUF diamond mines. Other operatives such as Lebanese diamond dealer Allie Darwish were also active in the scheme. As for Ibrahim Bah, he is Senegalese, and according to intelligence reports trained in Libya and fought during the 1980s with the Islamic Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and later participated in Hezbollah operations in Lebanon. He then moved on to Liberia becoming the main weapons buyer and diamond dealer for Taylor and the RUF.
Others have reportedly found a safe haven in Liberia for their activities. Along with the influx of Protestant American evangelicals who seem to provide favorable camouflage for Charles Taylor, there have been drug lords from South American, Ukrainian and Russian mobsters, even rogue mercenaries from South Africa. As the New Republic piece noted, it was no surprise when Islamic fanatics in search of weapons and diamonds showed up. None of this has stopped either Rev. Jackson or Rev. Robertson from defending the rogue regime It is indeed a strange nexus linking those who say that they serve God, but are also able to do business with Mammon.
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/roberts5.htm (“Robertson in gold mining deal with Liberian strong man; part of 'Christian ministry” exploitation?” 6/4/99)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/robert11.htm (“Robertson rush plan for California power plant rejected...” 7/1/01)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/robert10.htm (“Robertson again calls for Christian 'revolt' over Supreme Court prayer, abortion rulings,” 6/22/00)