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When a Liar Tells theTruth

By Tarty Teh

Special to
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
The Black BusinessJournal


It happens more often than we can tell. Liars do tell the truth. However, they usually speak the truth not for truth's sake butfor the sake of some as yet undeclared strategic purpose.  Tothat end, I believe that politics and diplomacy are branches of theaccepted craft of the strategic management or avoidance of the truth. But whereas diplomacy packages truth in less painful dosages,politics minimizes, ignores, and at times avoids the truth. 

Truthin its pure state is the stuff of which political naiveté ismade.  An example: among the herd of Democratic liberals who ranin the 1988 U.S presidential primaries was Bruce Babbitt, formergovernor of Arizona who later served as President Clinton's InteriorSecretary.  During a forum intended the liberal Democrats toshowcase their political ware in the form of a debate, Babbitt stoodup, raised his right hand, and asked other Democrats to join him inreciting what later turned out to be a suicide credo: "Let's befrank, gentlemen. There is no way we can turn the economy aroundwithout raising taxes."  

He was asking those who shared his belief to raise their hands. None did, and former Gov. Babbitt was out of the race in a fewdays.  He was later quoted as saying, "I knew that the truthcould set you free. But not this early."

Another credo that same year went like this: "Read my lips; no newtaxes."  The guy who uttered this was not a Democrat, which isto say he wasn't a liberal.  Liberals are often encumbered bythe truth to take full advantage of expedience.  The man whopromised "no new taxes" won the U.S presidency.  By the way, hisname was George Herbert Walker Bush, Sr.  It therefore follows,politically, that President Bush did raise the taxes.

These are not liars in the classic sense of the word. Instead these are people who seek to take advantage of some orany knowledge gaps they feel among the voting population.  Theywould highlight that knowledge or obscure it, depending on itsanticipated consequences on their chances of being elected. 

Now, back home in Liberia where politicians don't have to worry somuch about what the voters think.  On top of that lies thepresumption that the voters are both stupid and lack any kind ofrecourse about an obvious lie.  That's why it was possible forone politician to promise rice to the potential voters at half itsgoing price, and to claim that the then current administration wasinflating the cost of the staple food item.  The result of thislie proved deadly for a sitting president and 13 of his cabinetmembers.  Liberia has never been the same since.

A combination of odioU.S circumstances brought about the seeminglylegitimate election of a person more adept at avoiding the truth:Charles Taylor.  But when Taylor was being singled out as theonly person who brought about the destruction of Liberia, he told thetruth.  He named his sponsors as Dr. Amos Sawyer and Ms. EllenJohnson-Sirleaf.  Because Taylor's claims were verifiable, itwas his sponsors who lied by their denial.

Manyalliances have been formed and broken over the 12-year period sinceTaylor was contracted to attack Liberia.  The currentanti-Taylor forces are not a solid bloc.  The oppositionpoliticians do not yet have an armed wing to their struggle againstPresident Charles Taylor (inpicture, left).  The group thatposes some threat to Taylor's grip on power does not yet have avisible political wing.  The absence of a political componenthas tempted more than a half dozen opposition politicians to courtthe group for the favor of heading it.  

Acknowledging the futility of taking over the armed group calledLiberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), thescheming political opposition has come together behind a lie. They claim that LURD does not exist in any degree sufficient toearn credit for the deterioration of President Taylor's grip onpower.  They contend that Taylor has set up a brigade to harasshis own forces to give the appearance of helplessness of his army. They argue further that the helpless state was meant to incursympathy with Great Britain, the United States, and the UnitedNations to lift the sanctions sponsored by Britain and the U.Sagainst Taylor and Liberia.

So if Taylor is truly helpless, only the LURD knows - if LURDexists.  But the many who are made homeless by Taylor'scounter-offensives against LURD could not be more certain that thereis a war beyond Taylor's ability to orchestrate or control.  Butas in the political arena, the victims' circumstances, let alonetheir opinions, don't matter as long as opposition politicians seethe potential of some political capital in ignoring the truth asbeing told by a liar named Charles Taylor.
Teh, a contributing editor and columnist for,is a Liberian based in Washington, D.C. March 31, 2002

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