Monday, June 1, 2015

the last book I ever read (American Warlord by Johnny Dwyer, excerpt three)

from American Warlord: A True Story by Johnny Dwyer:

The leader of the coup, Samuel Kanyon Doe, could not have been a starker deviation from Liberia’s traditional government leaders. He was young—just thirty—educated only through eleventh grade, and coming from the Krahn tribe. He hailed from Tuzon, a village in Liberia’s Grand Gedeh County, along the southeastern border with Ivory Coast. Though he was from a relatively remote corner of the country, American influences reached him from an early age. His village benefited from a stream of Peace Corps volunteers from the early 1970s, and by the time Doe joined the Armed Forces of Liberia in 1969, the military was an American-style force, supplied, trained, and in part funded by American taxpayers.

As president, Doe morphed from a suggestible and illiterate soldier into a paranoid, superstitious, and insular despot. He relied on two sources of power, in arguably equal parts: the Reagan administration and tribal magic (juju). Among his earliest orders of business, as the first indigenous Liberian head of state, was the public execution of thirteen largely Americo-Liberian government ministers charged with treason (only four of who received even perfunctory trials). In April 1980, before a crowd of international press and other observers who had been invited hours earlier at a government press conference, the men died facing a firing squad of drunken soldiers. In the first fusillade, many of the gunmen missed their mark, and the survivors had to be executed at close range. The soldiers then implored the media to photograph the corpses. One State Department official described it as “one of the most grisly and horrifying things ever seen.”

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