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and the band played on
July 31, 2003 10:24 AM   Subscribe

"The morning started again with a series of four mortar shells exploding with a muffled thump in the ocean behind our hospital..." Reports from Monrovia, Liberia by Dr. Andrew Schechtman, a volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres -- graphic but compelling.
posted by serafinapekkala (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
And another Monrovia diary, from an Oxfam worker there.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2003


The news footage I've seen is just plain chaos in the streets. People shouting: America Please Come Help Us Now!!! We Die If You Don't Come. Then they run out in the streets and shot off several rounds and plea for more help. Very sad. Where is the UN?
posted by thomcatspike at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2003


World Watches While We Die, Say Liberians
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2003


Where is the UN?

maybe on the way...also setting up a floating humanitarian headquarters.
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:07 AM on July 31, 2003


Why does everyone suddenly care oh so deeply about Liberia? Things have been terrible there and in many other places in Africa (and around the world) for a long time, but suddenly there are front page articles and deeply moving eyewitness reports chronicling the suffering in Monrovia and environs.

This focus began after the Bush administration decided to say we might, or might not, send a token handful of troops there -- a non-commitment they've been hemming and hawing about ever since. This drawn-out and very public decision-making process seems like a calculated attempt to create a compelling media meme that will crowd more politically-volatile stories off the front page and out of the 22-minute evening news. This is something they've done before with the endless, endless "hmmm... stem cells, the President is so torn" drama and other things. Seeing it in that light, it strikes me as a false, cynical and politically motivated concern on the part of the government. Yet the media and some of the public seems to have taken this sudden focus and concern at face value and then adopted it as their own.

I do honestly feel for the people in Liberia, and those in other wartorn regions of Africa, and the many other folks across the world suffering from dictators, civil war, poverty, and violence. But again, why are the Liberians suddenly so much important than everybody else?
posted by eyebeam at 12:33 PM on July 31, 2003


Let me add that it's unequivocally a good thing that Liberia is getting some attention, any attention, and it will be even better if this attention results in the United Nations successfully stabilizing the country and alleviating the violence and suffering.

This kind of focus, even if it's politically motivated, certainly beats the near-total media blackout on African suffering that's the status quo the rest of the time.

However, the sudden media spotlight and my suspicion of its political motivations has been gnawing at me for some time anyway -- hence my ranting above.
posted by eyebeam at 12:40 PM on July 31, 2003


Why are the Liberians suddenly so much important than everybody else?

uh, to whom, the Bush Administration, or to the general public, or to concerned citizens? if you mean why is there so much coverage right now, i think it's because this latest conflict with Charles Taylor is happening, and there is direct shelling of civilians, as opposed to general unrest. i agree it's a problem that the media seems to only have room for one humanitarian crisis at a time -- as if nothing's going on in Congo, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or the Solomon Islands right now, to name a few -- but you ask "Why do people care" as if the better alternative is not to care and ignore it all...it seems to me that would also be a shame.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:40 PM on July 31, 2003


on belated preview -- gotcha, eyebeam. i agree that the Bushies will probably latch onto this as a stalling tactic for Iraq, which is just pathetic.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2003


Sierra Leone's actually calmed down at the moment. The UN peacekeepers are withdrawing, and Pakistan seems stable enough to actually be commiting troops in support. Similarly the Nigerians have pledged troops for Liberia, and don't appear to be at war with themselves at the moment. Bangladeshi women are turning the corner, and their Cricket team is doing quite well, and their major problems appear to be natural in origin. American troops are already one of Afghanistans major problems. Peacekeepers are already on the way to Congo, and they've already arrived at the Solomon Islands.

Real international news is out there, if you can be bothered to look for it.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:48 PM on July 31, 2003


Let me add that it's unequivocally a good thing that Liberia is getting some attention

We were there in 1996. Right after Commerce Secretary (then) Ron Brown was killed in Dubrovnik. My unit worked the crash site for RB, then rolled on down to Liberia for evac flights. Didn't help then, won't help now, I think. Liberia is in the midst of a civil war. If Liberians want peace, I think they will have to choose sides and duke it out to the finish. Otherwise they will wind up with a UN (?) mandated compromise, which won't stop anything, just delay it.
Tough scene down there, that is for sure. I don't envy anyone that has to go there to play referee.
posted by a3matrix at 2:58 PM on July 31, 2003


There's actually been some interesting game-play and statistical analysis conducted in PoliSci departments about this sort of conflict. a3matric is right, statistically, these sorts of thing never end with a UN mandated peace. Someone needs to win, and win decisively. That's what civil wars are about, someone winning. Look at Europe in WWI and WWII for another example. The allies "won" WWI, but really, it was just a ceasefire, no combatant, other than Russia, was significantly destroyed. It took the brutality and finality of conquering Berlin in WWII to put an end to German militancy.
posted by pjgulliver at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2003


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