Friday, July 11, 2003

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Pat Robertson acting like a foreign policy jackass -- again.

Michael Totten and David Adesnik have already commented on this, but it's worth going into more detail.

Televangelist Pat Robertson's most notable contribution to the foreign policy debate since 9/11 was to say that Muslims were worse than Nazis, so we shouldn't expect much of use to come from his lips.

However, he's hit a new low -- defending Liberia's Charles Taylor. Here's a sample of what he's said on the subject (click here for more):

July 7: We have given money to a Muslim country, Guinea, and the rebels who are coming against Taylor are Muslims, and the fighting in Africa that's taking place right now is an example of the Muslims trying to overrun the Christian countries, and they're being funded out of Saudi Arabia. A huge amount of money is now going into what's now called the Democratic Republic of Congo to overturn and undermine. Same thing is happening in Ivory Coast.

It's country after country, but the State Department doesn't wake up, they don't understand what the game is, and consequently they make bad decisions. So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country.

July 9: Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind the senators that we sent our troops to Kosovo to back up a Muslim group over there, to help them against the Christian Serbs. In this case, we're looking at Muslim rebels trying to overthrow a Christian nation.

Charles Taylor may be a Baptist, but he's also an indicted war criminal whose primary hobbies over the past decade were exporting war to the rest of West Africa and cooperating with Al Qaeda (link via Radley Balko). As Ryan Lizza observes in The New Republic:

Name the following despot: In 1991, he invaded a neighboring country, where his men committed wholesale looting and massive atrocities. In 1998, he personally met with a senior Al Qaeda operative now listed as one of the FBI's 25 "Most Wanted" terrorists. He is the single greatest threat to the stability of one of the most important oil-producing regions in the world. Saddam Hussein? No, Charles Taylor of Liberia.

What makes Robertson's advocacy for Taylor even more galling is his financial dealings with Taylor. According to Christianity Today:

In 1998, Robertson formed a $15 million company, Freedom Gold Limited, to look for gold in Liberia. In 1999, the company signed an agreement with the government of Liberia to begin gold-mining operations....

In a letter to the editor [in the Washington Post], Robertson denied that the Liberian government owned part of the company....

[Freedom Gold's manager James] Mathews acknowledged that the Liberian government will receive 10 percent of Freedom Gold's stock when the company goes public.

Mother Jones has the story as well.

The one potential upside to all of this is that Robertson has become so toxic that the evangelical community has started to distance themselves from him [UPDATE: some social conservatives have already distanced themselves from Robertson]. According to today's Post:

Other Baptist and evangelical Christian leaders said they do not share either Robertson's support for Taylor or his criticism of President Bush's call for the Liberian leader to go into exile. "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one," said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm.

Allen Hertzke, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and the author of a forthcoming book on evangelicals and human rights, said many religious conservatives "will be horrified" by Robertson's stance. "His comments really feed into the media critique of Christian conservatives, that they are not sophisticated, they don't care about others, all they care about are Christians around the world -- when in fact that is a caricature of the faith-based human rights movement," Hertzke said.

In his broadcasts, Robertson has portrayed the Liberian civil war as primarily a fight between Christians and Muslims. Serge Duss, director of public policy for the international Christian relief group World Vision, called that a gross oversimplification.

World Vision and other Christian organizations lobbied successfully this year for legislation banning the importation into the United States of diamonds from war-torn African countries. Taylor has been indicted by a United Nations-established tribunal for allegedly backing militias -- funded largely by the sale of diamonds -- that raped and maimed civilians during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Is the country finally at the point when Pat Robertson can just be ignored?

posted by Dan on 07.11.03 at 05:15 PM