[ The Rev. Pat Robertson — a man whose confusion and influence together make him a threat to justice, democracy, and intelligent discourse — has done it again. This time he is calling for the assassination of a democratically elected leader who dares threaten U.S. hemispheric hegemony. What’s interesting is that Robertson has no problem supporting violent dictators (see below) and investment under repressive regimes (see below) in order to make a buck. ]
Pat Robertson, host of Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
From the August 22 broadcast of The 700 Club:
Robertson: There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he’s going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.
You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United … This is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
The Dictator and the Televangelist
Poor Charles Taylor. These are dark days for the Liberian dictator. Rebels control most of the country, he’s under indictment for war crimes, and George W. Bush has called for his ouster, though the White House hasn’t yet committed troops to the effort. Everyone, it seems, has abandoned West Africa’s most notorious warlord.
Everyone, that is, except Pat Robertson. Indeed, the televangelist and GOP stalwart is loudly defending Taylor — a human-rights nightmare known for recruiting child soldiers to help him with the massacre and mutilation of thousands, whose regime is linked not just to the “conflict diamond” trade in neighboring Sierra Leone but to Al Qaeda and destabilization campaigns against its neighbors. Robertson, however, is having none of it. As he declared on his TV show, the 700 Club, last month:
“‘This country has had a close relationship with the United States over the years, but of late — the last oh, four, five, six years — the United States State Department has tried as hard as it can to destabilize Liberia and to bring about the very outcome we’re seeing now. They had no endgame, they have no plan of what to do, they only wanted to destroy the sitting president and his government, and as a result, the place is being plunged into chaos.'”
Why would Robertson defend such a man? Well, perhaps Robertson is simply standing up for a fellow evangelical. After all, Taylor is a born-again Christian, an ex-con turned Baptist preacher who frequently compares himself to Jesus (“Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time,” he told the BBC in defense of his human rights record). To be sure, Robertson’s ministry has a history in Liberia. Last year, his Christian Broadcasting Network held a massive, three-day rally in Monrovia, the capital city, an event described (rather puzzlingly) by one of Robertson’s ministers as “the atomic bomb of peace.” And in recent broadcasts of the 700 Club, Robertson has characterized Liberia’s civil war as a battle between Taylor’s God-fearing regime and fanatical Islamic rebels — a gross oversimplification, the Washington Post‘s Alan Cooperman reports.
There’s something else at work besides the Christian connection, though — something Robertson hasn’t mentioned in his broadcasts. As it turns out, Robertson and Taylor are business partners. Robertson’s mining company, Freedom Gold, holds the prospecting rights to a large swath of Liberian jungle, and over the years Robertson has poured millions of dollars into his investment. So far, that investment hasn’t panned out, but as Robertson told the Post, “Hope springs eternal”:
“‘Once the dust has cleared on this thing, chances are there will be some investors from someplace who want to invest. If I could find some people to sell it to, I’d be more than delighted.'”
This isn’t Robertson’s first foray into the world of African dictators and diamond mines. Depite recent condemnations of Zaire (now Congo)’s late strongman, Mobutu Sese Seko, Robertson cut a deal with Mobutu’s dying regime in 1994. As Bob Drury and Aram Roston reported for GQ, Robertson was so enthusiastic about his new diamonds-and-timber business that he diverted cargo planes intended to help alleviate the crisis brought on by Rwanda’s genocide to his mines in Zaire.
“According to an investigation by the Virginia attorney general’s office, Robertson employed airplanes from one of his charitable, not-for-profit organizations, Operation Blessing, to improperly ferry supplies in and out of his diamond camps. The attorney general’s investigation found that while Robertson was appealing for donations to Operation Blessing to aid the victims of the Rwandan genocide on The 700 Club, Operation Blessing’s fleet of aircraft was in fact flying a total of forty-four hours for the charity while logging 272 hours for Robertson’s for-profit African Development Company. Virginia law-enforcement officials declined to prosecute when Robertson — who had contributed $35,000 to the attorney general’s election campaign — agreed to reimburse Operation Blessing for the flight time.”
Given Robertson’s history, it seems likely that he will defend Taylor — a “sincere” Christian (despite the crimes against humanity charges) who just happens to have a lot of gold — to the end. All of which leaves just one question, Drury and Roston write.
“What is Pat Robertson, self-professed Christian leader and American patriot, doing in bed with a dictator who may soon face an international war-crimes tribunal? In doing business with this warlord even as the noose tightens around Taylor, is Robertson guilty of something more than mere alleged contract manipulation? Some might even say that as a man of God, Robertson has committed an unforgivable sin.”
Pat Robertson and His Business Buddies
by Colbert I. King
Joseph Mathews is Pat Robertson’s point man in a Liberian mining venture called Freedom Gold Limited. Mathews doesn’t much care for what has appeared in this column about his boss’s business dealings in Liberia, so he’s trying to put a little distance between the televangelist and that West African nation’s strongman, Charles Taylor.
Wrote Mathews in a fax sent from Freedom Gold’s headquarters in Virginia Beach last week: “Dr. Robertson has no more of a relationship with President Taylor than any foreign business investor in the United States can be said to have with President Bush.”
Let’s see. Has President Bush — or any American president, for that matter — personally signed an agreement with a foreign mining company that gives his administration a 10 percent equity interest in the investment with a right to purchase at least 15 percent of the shares after the exploration period? Have I missed something?
This much is known, however, based primarily on information obtained from Freedom Gold Limited. Pat Robertson did learn about the gold mining investment opportunity from a visiting Liberian delegation. Robertson did subsequently create the for-profit Freedom Gold Limited in the Cayman Islands in December 1998 in which he was listed as the president and the company’s sole director. He did conclude a mining agreement signed personally by him, Charles Taylor and key members of Taylor’s cabinet on May 18, 1999. And the deal does give the Taylor regime a cut of the action.
Mathews also has a fertile imagination.
He implied that Robertson’s gold mine deal with Taylor doesn’t faze the U.S. government. “The US State Department has not discouraged or prohibited dealings in Liberia nor are any US national security interests adversely affected by an investment in Liberia,” Mathews wrote.
Shown the Mathews fax, a State Department official said yesterday, “As you know, the United Nations has imposed sanctions on Liberia. In addition, the United States has imposed a set of travel restrictions. Though there are no legal prohibitions on U.S. investment in Liberia, the State Department has not encouraged either trade or investment in Liberia due to the absence of the rule of law and President Charles Taylor’s support for armed insurgencies.”
Now why is a freedom-loving, God-fearing man such as Pat Robertson signing on the dotted line with Taylor, a U.S. prison escapee, Libyan terrorist training camp graduate, human rights violator, and pillager of his own country and his neighbor, Sierra Leone?
What’s there to like about Charles Taylor?
He was once an ally of the equally repulsive Samuel Doe, the semi-literate master sergeant who led a bloody coup in April 1980 against Liberian President William Tolbert. The late Tolbert ended up dead and disemboweled in the executive mansion — a fate shared 10 years later by election-rigger par excellence Doe who, while wearing the mantle of president, was tortured, mutilated and done in by rebels.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Time was Taylor and Doe were good buddies. The relationship landed Taylor a top spot in Doe’s government. But then word got around that Taylor had developed sticky fingers and had taken unscheduled leave of Liberia for America with more than $900,000 of his government’s money. Charged with embezzlement by Liberia, Taylor was picked up and jailed in Plymouth County, Mass., to await extradition.
But Taylor, impatient fellow that he is, didn’t much care to wait around for safe passage back into the arms of Doe. So he broke jail. Well, not exactly.
As the story goes, Taylor and some other petty crooks cut through the bars and climbed out the window with knotted sheets. The future president of Liberia was last seen moving out smartly, his shirttails parallel to the ground.
Eventually, Taylor made his way to Libya, where he hooked up with the Great Jamahiriyah, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Taylor wasn’t just passing through.
In Libya, Taylor and future West African rebel leaders — Sierra Leone’s Foday Sankoh and Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore — received military and terrorist training that prepared them to launch attacks on their governments. Shaped by Gadhafi, Taylor went after Doe in 1989, Sankoh led his Revolutionary United Front against Sierra Leone, and Compaore fought his way to power in Burkina Faso. Seven years, and 500,000 broken and destroyed lives later, Taylor’s now president. He’s still up to no good.
His government and Compaore’s have been charged with running guns into and smuggling diamonds out of Sierra Leone. An alleged al Qaeda connection has even surfaced.
The rest is history. But one that’s not well known.
Thanks to an American foreign policy that — until Sept. 11 — treated NATO and Europe as the main event and Africa as a sideshow, Gadhafi was able to quietly recruit and nurture proteges to export his revolution throughout West Africa. It was Gadhafi money that helped stoke the effort to overthrow Sierra Leone’s first democratically elected government. Gadhafi, to this day, is still Taylor’s benefactor.
Taylor would have Americans believe he is their best friend in Africa. Hah! He and Gadhafi are closer than two pages in a book.
Check out this excerpt from a Nov. 18, 2000, Libyan TV report in Tripoli on Taylor’s visit to Libya a year ago, translated from Arabic by the BBC: “President Charles Taylor made a statement to the Libyan news agency in which he expressed his joy on visiting the Great Jamahiriyah. Charles Taylor said: ‘I am very pleased to be here in my second country, Libya, in order to consult with my brother the leader on bilateral issues and on issues regarding African unity.’ ” “My second country, Libya”? Explain that, Liberian Ministry of Information and Culture.
Speaking of relationships, what about Robertson’s? I’ll say this for him: There’s nothing Eurocentric in his choice of business buddies.
Before Taylor, Robertson was in cahoots with the late brutal and rapacious dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, alias the “President of Kleptocracy.” Mobutu gave Robertson’s privately formed African Development Co. concessions to hunt for diamonds and gold in Zaire in the ’90s. That venture, alas, went bust.
Undeterred, Robertson has formed a for-profit Internet portal, Global Business Development Network, that’s out to make big bucks in that great bastion of liberty, religious freedom and land of forced abortions, the People’s Republic of China.
Mobutu. Beijing. Robertson should be right at home with Charles Taylor.
Bless the ol’ reverend’s heart.