As the Clock Ticks…

While the death toll rises and famine and disease spread, President Bush is still taking his time to put a meaningful number of troops on the ground in Liberia. For weeks the President has promised to send in the troops as soon as Liberian warlord turned president, Charles Taylor resigns. Lucky for desperate Liberians, Taylor has said his tearful farewell and boarded a plane bound for exile. As Taylor waved goodbye he pledged to come back soon, a promise many Liberians hope he’ll break.

With two thousand US marines on board three ships off the coast, the moment is ripe for international assistance: Moses Blah has been appointed as interim president, fighting is minimal and people are starving. Rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) are controlling access to UN food warehouses, and have expressed a willingness to give up rebel-held parts of Monrovia. International groups are pressuring Bush to send in the troops, but movement still isn’t forthcoming. On Wednesday the Pentagon made a new, adjusted promise that two hundred US troops would be deployed if rebels abandon Monrovia’s port. That means two hundred might make it ashore by today, since the LURD has signed an agreement promising to leave the capitol by Thursday at noon. Two hundred is better than none, they could offer great assistance to West African troops on the ground. But two hundred is still a small number in comparison to the thousands sitting just a few miles off shore.

Wedneday’s editorial in the Washington Post reminded the Bush administration of the need to assist Liberia now.

“The administration should quickly commit sufficient U.S. troops to assist the peacekeepers in securing the port area and delivering relief supplies to Liberia’s famished, sick and wounded.

The United States and leaders of the Economic Community of West African States who helped broker Mr. Taylor’s resignation must push hard on the diplomatic front. Every effort must be expended to maintain the truce between remnants of the Taylor regime and the rebel factions.”

Meanwhile the United Nations sent a whopping 11-person team into Monrovia to work towards distributing food and water to the city’s population. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will also be flying new supplies into Monrovia to replenish UN foodstocks.

President Bush’s spokeswoman promised that the U.S. would work with ECOWAS to ensure that humanitarian aid reached the desperate people of Libera, but didn’t give any hard information about when or how. When asked whether the 2,000 Marines still on their boats were on standby for possible deployment, she dodged a specific answer. And when a reporter asked, “What does the administration say to the people in Monrovia who are saying, okay, Charles Taylor did what the President asked, he’s gone — where is the United States, why aren’t they here to help us?” she said:

    “We are working to ensure that humanitarian relief gets to those who need it. The people of Liberia have endured a great suffering and we will work with ECOWAS partners to help ensure that that humanitarian relief gets to the people.”

For the Liberians, sooner would be better than later, they need the diplomacy to get started and the international dilly-dallying to end.


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