In his Sept. 2 op-ed article, "Not Welcome Here," Gerald S. Rose makes disturbing and dangerous arguments against the United States' welcoming Liberia's President Charles Taylor during his planned visit to the United Nations this month. Although it now seems unlikely that the visit will take place, the flaws in Mr. Rose's article should not go unchallenged.
Mr. Rose accuses President Taylor of supporting Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front and recruiting "child soldiers" during the Liberian civil war. He argues that the United States should not forget Mr. Taylor's "abysmal record during and after the Liberian civil war."
The United States, working in concert with the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States and its peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, as well as the European Union, played a key role in persuading the Liberian faction leaders, including Charles Taylor, to lay down their weapons and pursue a political process to restore a legitimate government for Liberia. The United States provided vital humanitarian assistance and worked with all the faction leaders to overcome hurdles in the peace process. After nearly eight years, elections were finally held in July 1997.
In a field of a dozen candidates, Mr. Taylor and his National Patriotic Party won the election with a margin of nearly 80 percent, and the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia as well as former president Jimmy Carter joined the other international observers in endorsing the elections as free and fair. It therefore defies comprehension that the United States should now shun Mr. Taylor and his government.
Mr. Rose contends that allowing President Taylor to visit Washington might be interpreted in West Africa as U.S. support for Mr. Taylor and could result in "unfortunate repercussions in Africa and contribute to instability in the already potentially unstable West African region."
Yet Mr. Taylor's government is recognized not only by the West African states but also by the entire African continent, as well as by the United States and the United Nations. It is a legitimate government that came to power through free elections. Contrary to Mr. Rose's contention, African countries expect the United States to work with other international partners to fulfill its historical obligations to Liberia, including the promise that it would assist Liberia to rebuild. The lack of U.S. embrace must surely be a factor behind fighting that has erupted in northern Liberia by rebels coming from across the border.
The overriding issue should be Liberia. Ostracizing President Taylor and refusing to help him reconstruct the country, revive the economy and create jobs already is encouraging those elements that are bent on returning Liberia to civil war, prolonging the suffering of the Liberian people and thus destabilizing neighboring countries.
WINSTON A. TUBMAN
Kuwait City, Kuwait
The writer is Liberia's former ambassador to the United Nations and a former justice minister of Liberia.