Denis Johnson’s The Civil War in Hell: On Liberia Assignment

Denis Johnson’s The Civil War in Hell: On Liberia Assignment Words: 2438

Civil war Hell” “Where is Liberia? Does anyone out there care? “00hnson, 16). In “The Civil War in Hell” Denis Johnson tells us about a civil war in the West-African country Liberia, reveals the truth about how cruel and ruthless people can be during the war and how people of the same country savagely kill its remaining inhabitants harrowed by cholera, warring and hunger. “Pilling their bodies on the street -as many as two hundred one night. A gutted landscape of unrelieved starvation, where the dwindling group robs and loots and burns” Oohnson, 2).

The Author shows how the pursuit of aterial enrichment, the seizure of power, and unbridled greed that guide the authorities of the country, led to disastrous results taking away the lives of thousands of innocent people and even worse, the omission and apathy of the U. S in termination of bloodshed. In the interview held with Taylor, he was surrounded by a band of child-orphans bearing guns, prove that they are ready to take drastic action. Boys from Gio and Mano tribes armed with AK-47s and M-16s -had dedicated themselves to separating out and killing anyone from Krahn or Mandingo’ Oohnson, 8) . There are many discussions on whether the U. S. hould have become more involved in the Liberian civil war, and how much assistance the U. S. should provide to Liberia. There are three major reasons why the U. S had moral responsibilities to intervene in Liberia’s civil war, instead of Britain or France. If we look back in history, Liberia and America have shared history and democratic ideas. They were freed American slaves returning to the continent of their origins” Oohnson, 5)lt will be remembered that the interest of the United States in the Republic of Liberia springs from the foundation of the Republic as a colony for former African American slaves, o it is possible to say that Liberia was founded under the patronage of the U. S government. “As most Liberian’s see it, their history is wedded to America’s. ” Oohnson, 5)”For the first 25 years of their existence, the ACS colony was guided by white agents from the United States.

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In an early negotiation with Liberia there was a previous agreement which states that the United States may be called on for advice or assistance according to this agreement and in the spirit of the moral relationship of the United States to Liberia. Monrovia, capital city of Liberia, was named in honor of James Monroe, America’s president at the time. “Monrovia lies in ruins”. Oohnson, 2). Its flag, the red, white with blue colors and its government structure are similar to that of the United States. Its constitution was written by an American professor and it is almost a replica of the famous US document.

So in this view Liberia is like America’s “step child”. Liberians refer to the United States as Liberia’s “motherland” or its “big brother,” and spoke about the “special place the United States has in the hearts of Liberians. ” Even more, they see Liberia as a “51st”state. So it would be aturally logical to assume that the establishment of Liberia as an independent state responsibility to prevent the massive destruction that took place in a country. “Liberians do not want another coup like one in 1980,when Samuel K. Doe took over and executed the cabinet before TV cameras on the beach”00hnson, 4).

On the other hand, let us have a look at America’s attitude toward Liberia . The U. S has treated Liberia as an outsider to be tolerated by circumstances and treated Liberia just like any other country, and even worse indicated that the U. S has no interest in being associated with Liberia. Like the deserted child, Liberia wanted its parents’ love and protection. Liberia has always made herself available and willing to please America. For example, whenever it has been to America’s advantage, the US let the world know that Liberia was in her possession and under her protection. “The U.

S enjoys an almost mystical veneration in the region”00hnson,5) But at a time when Liberia experienced some difficulties and a stroke of bad luck, her mother, the U. S usually left her. For example, after the “Declaration of Independence”, Britain recognized the newly independent country but America did not extend diplomatic ecognition to Liberia because U. S. leaders would not accept a black ambassador in Washington. “Even among black congressmen they have few advocates” Oohnson, 5) Secondly, The U. S should have intervened because they had shared economic and commercial interests which benefited both of them in the past. There’s a little bit of commerce, perhaps with the British and American embassies” Oohnson,9) In the early years of independence, Liberia was getting financial support from The United States. The Liberian economy expanded from its original agriculture to the rubber industry nd exploitation of mineral resources. “Bong Iron mining Company down. Liberian Nail factory. ” Liberia received millions of dollars of foreign investment mainly from the U. S. , the greatest level of the U. S. aid to any African country on a per capita basis at the time which boosted Liberian economy greatly.

Liberia restored its trade relations with Germany, Britain and France. In the mid 19th century Liberia become the world’s largest rubber industry and third largest exporter of iron ore. But why did America help Liberia in the time of the Cold war, why not in the time of civil war? At one point, The United States actually did support Liberia with foreign aid because it had a specific interest in doing so. The United States exploited of one of Liberia’s natural resources: rubber, a main component of tires, which was strategically important in the Cold war.

That’s why America did its best in investing in Liberian economy since it was beneficial for America. Supported by the U. S. government, The American Tire companies acquired a rubber plantation in Liberia so America, in return, could lend its hand in the time of crisis. An agreement was a disadvantage for Liberia because in return Liberia would get a loan from Firestone that covers Just outstanding foreign loans, in effect taking on new debt to pay off old debt. The company made huge profits and Liberia drowned in debt.

As we see from an economic point of view, mostly America benefited, and thanks to Liberian effort, a recourse provided strength to its position. Also, in the time of the Cold war, Liberia offered to use its land for free for U. S. facilities, permitted the U. S. construct military bases, use its territory for transports of soldiers, airports, the Freeport of Monrovia, land at Freeport, Monrovia’s waterfront” roadsoohnson, 8) and communication lines , monitored broadcasts in the region through the Voice of America facilities and other took great pain in providing the U.

S with war supplies and supporting the U. S policy objectives. So by giving lavish loan, America kept Liberia under control, exploited its resources and kept it on a short leash. The results of this loan were disastrous for the country and Liberian people in the long run. And it was more advantageous for Americans rather than for Liberians. America did help during the war, by providing ood and humanitarian aid, but it was not enough. “The ECOWAS start unloading the two hundred tons of relief food. It is not nearly enough”. The US could do more, and prevent people from dying of hunger.

The situation was so desperate, people could buy two gallons of gasoline for eight cups of rice. The Monrovian Street was full of weak women holding their comatose infants because they hadn’t eaten for weeks. “People eat anything. Vomiting out that did not work as a food”00hnson,6). Another example is “The dogs look healthy, because nobody eats dogs, but they feed on human corpse” Oohnson,9) . Then the U. S foreign service arrived, but came to pick up and save only the US citizens and embassy workers, which shows American apathy “The U.

S foreign service remained. Set up machine-gun positions around the embassy’00hnson, 6). Thirdly, America and Liberia had shared political interests. During WW2, Liberia was an ally of the U. S and voted with the U. S. on Cold War matters at the United Nations, supporting, for example, the U. S. in its position on Vietnam. On account of this relationship the U. S. gained a strong place to stand on as an African region. Doe defends the interests of The United States to protect mportant U. S. ssets in Liberia and prevent the spread of socialism and to counteract the influence of the Ethiopians, Libyans, and Russians. Liberia broke diplomatic relations with Germany, because America wanted to do so, which resulted in economic disaster for Liberia, because at that point, Germany controlled most of Liberia’s prewar trade. By taking this decision, a collapse of commercial trade and economic crisis was inevitable. So, why did Liberia do all of this? Because her “mother country”, America wanted it that way and the stepchild was eager to please her mother.

Liberia shared and supported the U. S political objectives in its hard time, so in return America should have helped Liberia. But what America did instead, was to support the rigged and unfair presidential election of Doe. “Liberians do not want another coup like the one in 1980″00hnson,4). America closed its eyes to dishonest and fraudulent election, making excuses by saying “But at that time all West African elections were rigged – it was a very normal thing for the government to win the election although they may have had less than a majority of the votes. (Hodge, America Has a Moral Duty to Help Liberia). nstead of being on the side of fair elections and to help create a democratic state, the US acted immorally by receiving and endorsing reciprocal treatment from Doe, by saying “The Cold War tilted us in favor of supporting him(Doe)because we got reciprocal treatment… “(Hodge, America Has a Moral Duty to Help Liberia) On the other hand, the U. S could not predict behavior of the new president.

After becoming assured of power, Doe assassinated Tolbert, executed many of the Cabinet members, and imprisoned dozens of other government officials. Despite the violent way of Doe’s coming to power, many people ccepted him as a right leader who could finally help to establish a democratic country and give equal rights to the entire population, and who would put an end to by supporting Doe, America could at least help to save Liberians life in gratitude for all that Liberia had done to please America in the past; the U.

S should have put forth effort to terminate mass massacre. “The only people capable of installing an interim government of reasonable types are the American Marines”00hnson,4) But we see the U. S had done nothing and even worse, kept supporting Doe’s increasingly corrupt and repressive government. Doe ruled in a way generally agreed to have been both stupid and cruel”. Another example was when Doe was captured, Johnson kept asking “What did you do with Liberian people money. What did you do to economic”00hnson, 1 5).

Also, banning political opposition and shutting down newspapers where violations of human rights were frequent which at the end led the country to tribal conflicts, tribal division and discrimination of the Mano and Gio tribal group. People got so mad at the Krahn group, in the interview Johnson says” nobodys out of revenge, but Kahn, the president’s tribe, have to be pursued”00hnson,12) . Eventually, Doe’s tribal-based regime went on to perpetrate horrific crimes of genocide and terror, leading toa bloody civil war. A dozen half-naked Liberian men now stood in a line with their hands bound behind them”00hnson, 7) Doe was finally captured and awaited the same merciless fate that he had impressed upon Tolbert; he was brutally murdered at the hands of rebel leader Prince Johnson who says “l cut off his ears and made him eat them”00hnson, 12) Prince Johnson did not have any regrets about doing so, he even seems to enjoy watching, over and over, the recorded oment of execution and humiliation “l have a videotape of this interrogation. Would you like to see it? 00hnson, 12) . Instead of closing its eyes to cruelty and inhumanity, American government should have done more to save innocent lives, who waited eagerly for its mother’s help. “They do not know why American’s making them wait”00hnson, 4). Finally, The U. S. government and many of its most prominent politicians became responsible for the establishment of the nation known as Liberia. In the decades since, the United States has, by turns, welcomed, assisted, exploited, nd deserted Liberia and Liberians which displays a complex relationship over time.

Given the numerous historical and cultural facts, economic and political ties between Liberia and America show that the establishment of “small America in Africa” places a moral duty on America to Liberia. Analyzing all of these factors, we see the attitude of Liberia toward “her mother”, the U. S. , and given reasons shows us why America should have intervened at the beginning of the war and, having not done so, should now at least be providing greater assistance to help promote a democratic ystem and stop the abuse of human rights.

A good example of that are Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo in which the U. S. had minimal ties and yet offered significant postwar reconstruction aid. By not proving needed aid at the right time, the U. S. ‘ inactions and omissions have led to disastrous results for Liberians where people were shot, beheaded, drowned in the Mano River and set on fire with fuel oil. Liberians expect and wait for their mother to come and help. “They cannot understand why Americans won’t send in troops, or call for an interim government, or ffer to host peace talks”00hnson,5). f America could intervene and provide military and humanitarian assistance, all of this slaughter and killing could be stopped with minimum loss. This example clearly shows that people were indeed merciless and men slaughtered a young woman and drank her blood and ate her heart. The raping and slaughter of this conflict were no more awful than those of other civil war”00hnson, 8) America should remember that it is impossible to hide and reject long history, and remember its friends in good times as well as bad times. That’s real friendship.

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