23 June 2004

Liberia: Response to Review of "U.S. Policy Toward Liberia, 1822 to 2003"

book review

As the author of "U.S. Policy Toward Liberia, 1822 to 2003" (Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers), I am saddened and disappointed that Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, in his review of my book felt compelled to resort to mis-statements of fact and baseless innuendo in an attempt to destroy my credibility, rather than to applaud a work that urges upon the United States government a more pro-active policy toward Liberia in its hour of need.

Dr. Dunn writes disparagingly that I "was associated with official Liberia for twelve of the fourteen years of the civil war." That is untrue. My initial representation (in 1991) was of a British businessman who asked me and my law firm, because of our peace resolution expertise, to attempt to bring together the then competing governments of Liberia (Amos Sawyer's IGNU and Charles Taylor's NPRAG). As the direct result of my efforts, former President Carter was invited by both sides to mediate their differences, and he accepted. At that point Charles Taylor, then head of the National Patriotic Reconstruction Government asked us to represent his group in its relations with the U.S. Government, and we did so for one and a half years. After the various Yamoussoukro conferences failed to bring about a peaceful solution, the country relapsed into civil war and we terminated our representation. From 1991 to 1997 we had no connection whatsoever with Liberia.

After Mr. Taylor was elected president of the Republic in August of 1997, in a democratic election that former President Carter and the international community certified as free and fair, President Taylor asked our firm to represent the Republic of Liberia in its dealings with the government of the United States, all of which is described in detail in my book. In addition, lawyers in my firm represented the Republic in a civil litigation before U.S. courts involving the Liberian maritime program. Our representation ceased completely in 1999. For the past five years I have had no association whatsoever with Mr. Taylor or Liberia.

In total, then, I and my law firm were involved with Liberia for 3.5 years, not the 12 years Dr. Dunn incorrectly alleges. The United States Department of Justice (FARA) records confirm the limited extent of my representation, much of which, I should add, was on a pro bono basis.

Then, characterizing me as having been "hired by a warlord", Dr. Dunn states that "that experience apparently impelled him to take up a cause, though one is left wondering whether the cause was that of the Liberian people, as he claims repeatedly, or a hired attorney's brief in the midst of a fratricidal conflict."

Dr. Dunn is too intelligent and experienced a person not to know that one of the responsibilities of an attorney is to represent even unpopular causes, especially when, in doing so, the attorney can bring about an understanding between competing interests. In this particular case, we were able to place before the U.S. government the needs of Liberia and her people while at the same time, informing the Liberian government of the positions of the U.S. government vis-à-vis its actions. I am proud of my representation of the Republic of Liberia, and the record will show that at all times my concern has been exclusively for the welfare of the Liberian people. Because of my even-handedness, both an Eminent Statesman of Liberia and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa publicly praised the book.

Dr. Dunn has every right to disagree with my book's thesis that the United States government did too little too late to help Liberia in its time of need, but I find it offensive when he attempts to impugn my integrity and motives. My record of 49 years of legal, governmental and public service to my state, my country and to the international community bespeaks my motivation. Although a number of Liberian experts have commended my bona fides to Dr. Dunn, he has chosen to ignore those views.

My book (which took 2.5 years to research and write) is not about Charles Taylor - it is about U.S. policy toward Liberia from 1822 to 2003. I fear that Dr. Dunn is so obsessed with the former (Taylor) that he cannot focus on the latter (Liberia). I would hope that, at the very least, he will come to understand that my sole goal in writing the book is to change American policy from inactive to pro-active when it comes to our long-time ally, Liberia. In so doing, I demonstrate that U.S. poli cy toward Liberia - particularly from 1980 to the present - has been counter-productive to the welfare of that country and her people and to urge upon our policy-makers a more forthcoming activist policy that meaningfully assists in the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure and attends to the real needs of the people (education, re-training, rehabilitation, jobs, health care, etc.). To that end, I am proud to say that my book is being read by two former Presidents of the United States, three key members of the United States Senate, current and past leaders of the U.S. State Department and National Security Council, and the highest-ranking United Nations officials with responsibility for Liberia.

These policy-makers now are attempting to correct our flawed policy of past years. The very issues that were mis-handled by the U.S. in the past, such as the refusal to help train the Liberian Army and security forces, with an emphasis on ending human rights abuses; disarmament and rehabilitation; restoration of schools; rebuilding the country's infrastructure and the like currently are being addressed in Liberia at long last. These developments give me great personal satisfaction, and that is why unwarranted ad hom inen attacks upon my book and its author by people such as Dr. Dunn serve only to undercut the effectiveness of the book as a tool to help improve U.S. policy toward Liberia. I cannot imagine that that is the result that Dr. Dunn seeks.

LINK: Review by Dr. Elwood Dunn

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