The Charles Taylor Rogues’ Gallery
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Taylor made fortunes colluding with ex-CIA Agent Roger D’Onofrio Ruggiero. According to the ‘Economic Crimes and the Conflict, Exploitation and Abuse’ section of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia report, the blood diamond merchant smuggled weapons into Liberia in exchange for precious gems.
After a 40-year career with the CIA, and with his dual American/Italian citizenship, D’Onofrio worked himself in the darkest depths of the arms market, trafficking arms across the Middle East, Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Singapore, and to the cocaine kingpins of Latin America.
D’Onofrio was busted laundering money between Switzerland and the Vatican in 1995, and Italian police charged him with multiple offenses including assassination financing, weapons smuggling, and illegally trafficking stolen gold, counterfeit currencies, stolen bonds, and radioactive materials. He told the courts he acted as the CIA’s money man, laundering in excess of $2.5 billion for numerous international intelligence agencies, and that he made $3 million in 1993 alone, smuggling blood diamonds stashed in shipments of oranges and olives in exchange for weapons caches through a Liberian-based shell-company, the International Business Consultant Ltd.
Authorities claimed Charles Taylor successfully made it from Massachusetts to Mexico before returning to Africa. Once across the Atlantic, he reportedly evaded arrest attempts in Ghana and Sierra Leone before arriving in Libya, where Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was using his vast oil wealth to spread his bizarre and bloody take on Pan-African revolution.
Gaddafi turned Libya into a nucleus of international terrorism training and funding in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1986, US President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in response to the La Belle Discotheque bombing and hit Gaddafi hard, but not hard enough to deter the antagonistic leader from sheltering Taylor.
Gaddafi provided his fugitive friend with a former US military base to train his rebel army, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Made up of persecuted native Liberians, The NPFL was a fierce guerrilla force of 168 men and women hellbent on President Samuel Doe’s downfall. As the Washington Post later reported, “Gaddafi continued his support of Taylor, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, when Taylor’s forces were at their most vicious. Taylor would fly to meet with Gaddafi or other senior Libyan leaders two or three times a month, right through the war and his own 1997 election as president.”
“[Gaddafi] provided the tons of weapons and ammunition that stoked the wars that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed most of an entire sub-region that is still reeling from his ego-driven destruction.”
Former-Liberian Vice President Moses Blah provided the Hague with testimony that directly connected Taylor to Tripoli. Blah recounted Taylor recruiting him as one of the original NPFL rebels who received “full military training” from Libyans, including AK-47 101 and guidance on the use of surface-to-air missiles.
Blah said Taylor would visit the trainees in Libya for inspection and deliver inspirational speeches, and that Taylor would shrug off reports of killings, rapes, and looting directed at civilians by his forces in Sierra Leone. Blah told the Hague the Liberian militiamen ransacked and raided as they pleased, despite being vastly outnumbered by members of Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front.
Sankoh contacted Blah to report that NPFL soldiers “were committing a lot of atrocities in Sierra Leone: raping women, killing people and looting. But Blah testified that “Taylor told him, ‘This type of thing happens in war. You are not eating bread and butter. You are fighting.’” Rather than bread and butter, Blah said eating human flesh was required before anyone could join Taylor’s Executive Mansion Guard Unit, and reported witnessing the head of the unit eating roasted human hands.
Liberia served as a strategic launchpoint for the international covert clusterfuck known as the Iran-Contra affair. In 1985, Lt. Colonel Ollie North of the US National Security Council diverted millions from a weapons deal with Iran to liberate American hostages in Beirut, Lebanon. More than 1,500 missiles were shipped to Iran in exchange for hostages, while other resources funded CIA covert operations in Nicaragua, clandestine wars against the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) revolutionary government in that country, and attacks on leftist military groups in El Salvador.
Willard Zucker, an American tax lawyer living in Geneva, told investigators in exchange for immunity that more than $3 million went through a shell company registered in Liberia, according to the “Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters.”
Meanwhile, the United States provided approximately $434 million in assistance to the Liberian government, including $66 million in military aid, between 1980 and 1986. Per a US General Accounting Office letter addressed to former-Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy in July 1987 titled “Need to Improve Accountability and Control Over U.S. Assistance,” “Excluding the Peace Corps, U.S. assistance to the Liberian government increased from about $24 million in 1980, when the Liberian military staged a coup and assumed control of the government, to about $78 million in fiscal year 1986.”
Taylor’s chief military adviser, Johnson went to school at Berea Elementary School and the Newman Preparatory School in Boston, and earned his undergraduate at Boston University and a master’s degree from Suffolk University. A former-US Army sergeant during the invasion of Grenada, he worked as an evaluator in the US General Accounting Office and the Department of Employment and Training in Boston.
In January 1990, he took an unpaid leave of absence due to “family problems to settle in Liberia.” According to his obituary in the Patriot Ledger, Johnson, “whom neighbors in Quincy described as meek and mild-mannered, became the chief military strategist and disciplinarian for the National Patriotic Front.”
Johnson was killed as he led insurgents into battle for the plantation and nearby airfield, which housed about 75,000 people and 10,000 refugees. “The army have chopped Elmer up into little pieces by now,” a rebel said after they failed to recover his body.
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