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Dublin Opinion >>
Irish Army Ranger killed in Liberia
Derek Mooney 33 , a single man from Blackrock county Dublin died today while serving with the United Nations' peace enforcement mission in Liberia. Another soldier is being treated onboard an Irish navy ship offshore, for injuries sustained in what was described as a "road accident."
Their jeep was travelling as part of a UN patrol south of Monrovia and it is not clear if they were attacked.
A colony created by America, Liberia had no strategic interest to the US after the Cold War. Nor is it one of the new West African oil producers that are becoming increasingly important to America. Liberia once had the world's largest rubber plantation but production has almost stopped.
Liberia is the hub of the region's wars, feeding conflicts in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. President Charles Taylor backed rebel groups in these countries and their governments armed and supplied Taylor's enemies in Liberia. The dense West African forests and scattered villages are perfect guerrilla country. But the most important element creating and perpetuating the gangs that kill, rape and loot their way across West Africa is the vast number of semi-literate young men with no future and no hope.
With enough access to Western culture to see the dream of wealth and power, but no hope of ever achieving it, they are easily swept up by gangs, given drugs and guns and sent out into the bush. Draped in bullets and fetishes, often initiated in killing and even cannibalism by modernised forms of ancient rituals, they become the wolves of West Africa's wars.
There are estimated to be over forty large gangs containing between hundreds and thousands of crack-cocaine addicted youths roaming the vastness of Liberias badlands and attempting to control the major CIA drug running route from the US into west Africa and further afield.
America has been dodging it's responsiblility for the situation in Liberia for decades and has now declared the situation "calm" and the "war over"! Just like Iraq May 2003!
It is however a neat let-off for the US to abdicate it's responsibility for Liberia and leave it to a UN mission. The outsiders' solution to these wars has been to let them fester, then send in peacekeepers, stop the fighting, hold an election, hand over to a democratic government and walk away. That sounds good but it is wrong.
Such a process led to Taylor being elected President of Liberia with 75 per cent of the vote six years ago. In such broken, impoverished societies warlords can easily transfer power from the gun barrel to the ballot box. Officials are easily bribed, people bullied, votes bought. But UN observers declared that election "free and fair", just as the United States gave Taylor's butcher predecessor, Samuel Doe, an all-clear when he fixed the election in 1985. "Good, by African standards," they patronisingly described it.
The runner-up in that election, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, said in London that Liberia needs "a total re-ordering of our society".
That is not going to happen with the arrival of peacekeepers.
Minister Michael Smith , Colm Mangan and all the wise brass and politicos who sent this young man to his death were careful to assist the US in keeping the true facts of the situation in Liberia a secret .