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U.S. Hands Off Liberia

The Militant, Vol.60, no.20, 20 May 1996

The Clinton administration has deployed three U.S. battleships with 4,000 marines and Navy personnel to Liberia’s shores. Some 300 marines are in Monrovia, the capital. A U.S.-backed peacekeeping army of 8,500 troops from several African countries, led by generals from the Nigerian military dictatorship, has intervened there since 1990. Through these brazen military threats, Washington is trying to impose its will on Liberian workers and farmers.

Oozing with hypocrisy, big-business spokespeople clamor for U.S. intervention in the name of bringing peace, stopping warlords, and ending chaos. As with the 1992-94 U.S. invasion of Somalia, they seek to dehumanize the Liberian people as savages who cannot govern themselves and must be saved by the civilized U.S. of A.

Humanitarian peacekeepers? James Bishop, former U.S. ambassador to Liberia, was more blunt about U.S. capitalists’ real interests in that West African nation. In a recent newspaper column titled A Solution for Liberia: Send in the Marines, the ex- proconsul wrote: At American urging [read: orders], Liberia entered World War I and World War II, facilitating the Allied victory in 1945 by providing crucially needed rubber and welcoming the American troops who built and guarded strategic military transport facilities. During the cold war, Liberia allowed the US to build and operate on its soil major communications, navigational, and foreign broadcast installations. American military aircraft enjoyed unrestricted access.

In other words, Wall Street and Washington have used Liberia as a virtual colony to plunder its raw materials and as a military staging platform for wars abroad. They uttered not a peep until the Liberian people began to fight to end a long dynasty of U.S.-backed dictatorships, which came crashing down in the 1980s. A civil war has unfolded since 1989 between rival armed groups. Imperialism couldn’t care less about the 150,000 people killed and the thousands left homeless—its sole concern has been to bring one or another of these groups under its thumb and get back to profits as usual. The U.S. government is most hostile to the Liberian forces led by Charles Taylor because he has not done Washington’s bidding.

Will U.S. intervention benefit the Liberian people? The verdict is already in: Washington has dominated Liberia for 150 years, perpetuating exploitation, hunger, disease, and government brutality. The entire crisis is of U.S. making. It was Washington that for decades propped up regimes based on a privileged Americo- Liberian caste, reinforcing divisions among various national minorities.

The U.S. government is also intervening to stave off competing imperialist—particularly French—influence in Africa. In recent years Paris has sent its troops repeatedly into some of its former colonies, such as the Central African Republic and Rwanda. Faced with falling profit rates and driven to seek new markets, Washington and rival imperialist predators are increasingly relying on military means to protect their class interests. The Clinton administration has recently deployed troops or threatened military force against Yugoslavia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Libya, and Sudan, as well as backing the Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

The path to peace begins with the U.S. marines and other invading armies getting out of Liberia for good. This is the only way Liberian working people themselves can have the necessary breathing space to fight for national sovereignty and find a road to get the exploiters off their backs. Working people around the world should stand with our brothers and sisters in western Africa by telling Washington to keep its hands off Liberia.