The Liberia Seven




From the gitgo, President Bush has only committed himself to limited support for peacekeepers in war-torn Liberia. The West African nations hoping for US leadership may still have been taken aback by just how limited “limited” can be, as seven marines — as in you can count them on two hands — landed in Monrovia on Wednesday.

While visiting his favorite coffee shop in Crawford, Texas, the President told reporters that he was still waiting for Liberian President, Charles Taylor to step down. Taylor has promised to leave Liberia by mid-August, but many doubt if he will keep his word.

Bush’s “support” came on the second day without fighting in the Liberian capitol of Monrovia. Although the gunfire has stopped, civilians are desperate for food as prices have skyrocketed and stocks are running low. The cease-fire is fragile and observers are wondering just how long the pause in the bloodshed will be.

South of Monrovia in Buchanan, fighting between government and rebel forces is raging. West African troops have been stationed at the Monrovian airport since Monday, and more troops are expected within the week.

While Liberians are begging Bush for support, the President is doing his own cajoling and trying the bribe the rest of the world to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

On Wednesday, President Bush sent a letter to the government of Ukraine, to thank them for sending troops to Iraq. As a little bonus, he pledged that he would now help the Eastern European nation join NATO. Ukraine and many of its regional neighbors — Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Hungary — are sending troops to Iraq. But it’s not just European (or proto-European) states; Spain, Thailand, Holland, Italy, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Nicaragua are all committing troops, usually under heavy political pressure from the US. Poland is leading a 9,000 strong coalition while much of its own public is less than enthusiastic about the mission. (Although some of these forces are not very large — Kazakhstan is only sending 27 men — none are as small as the support team America just landed in Liberia.)

For weeks the President has been saying that before the US will send troops, Nigeria must send peacekeepers and the Liberian leader must resign. If Taylor keeps his promise and packs his bags then Bush may just have to put his words into action. But then again maybe not, one US defense official has already hinted that at the possibility that the seven men would be the sum total of US peacekeepers sent to Liberia. “Do not look at this as a vanguard of more people to come,” said an anonymous official.

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