Article Overview:   Liberia West Africa was on the fast track to be our first colony.  President Monroe helped create the American Colonization Society to send freed slaves back to Africa if they so wished.   Today, Liberia is battling the Beast of Terror.  Should we go help our former citizens?   Or, should we turn our heads and pretend Africa doesn't count?


Friday--June 27, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 653
Liberia, West Africa--America's First Colony? Do We Support It As We Did Iraq & Afghanistan?
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

  GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--June 27, 2003-- When I was in Vietnam fighting and writing with the United States Marine Corps, I learned about the toils and troubles of a country called Liberia, West Africa.
      My buddy, Julius Maxwell Belcher, was a dual citizen of Liberia and the United States.  He was a striking man, about as tall as I, 6-feet, 4 inches, with golden skin and mellifluous Voice that boomed with authority and education.   Max was  a Rhodes Scholar Candidate, but elected to join the Marine Corps for the same bizarre reason most of us who had dropped out of college did in 1964--to test our manhood.  To evolve into real men.  To become real, professionally trained killers.

Ready to achieve manhood in the Marine Corps

Ready to achieve manhood in Africa

          Back in his country, Max would have been stripped of all possessions but a loin cloth and a spear, and sent out to single-handedly kill a lion to achieve manhood.  Instead, he enlisted in Marine Corps and ran through its gauntlet, exiting boot camp as Marine Combat Correspondent in our radio and television division.
      I knew nothing of Africa or its culture until I met Max.   For hours he would spin tales of the land and turmoil, all fascinating since his father was a diamond smuggler.
     Max's father was black and his mother Jewish.    His father worked for Shell Oil and was constantly traveling to Africa to make deals.    In college, his father met a radical  African named Kwame Nkrumah, who became a close friend.   Max told us his father thought Nkrumah was mad, but nevertheless they became close friends.
      Max's father, during trips to Liberia, started to smuggle out diamonds.   The country was rich in minerals, and stuffing a few in his pockets made his paycheck soar.    When he got tired of the corporate hassle, he decided to move to West Africa and become a citizen.

Nkrumah wanted Max's father to come to Ghana

      His buddy the African Marxist, Nkrumah,  begged him to come to his country, Ghana, where he said he was going to become "king and ruler."
      Max's father shook his head thankfully "no."
      Max told us how difficult it was to have a white mother and black father in America, but in West Africa, the roles were changed.  A black man with a white wife was given social elevation.   Being "rich" by West African standards, Max lived the great life.  He also walked with two flags, American and African.
       Ian Fleming came to town and talked with Max's dad.    Later, in his book "The Diamond Smugglers," Fleming notes Max's father.    Whenever Max spoke of his father, he would whip out a tattered copy of Fleming's book and open it to the page where his father was mentioned as a key cog in the diamond smuggling machinery.  It was Max's passport to credibility.

My friend Max's father was mention in Ian Fleming's book

       I was fascinated with Max's life in Africa.    Liberia was under constant turmoil.   Governments came and went like Tse Tse flies, and with each change for the worst, Max and his family risked falling out of favor with the new regime.  It became too much for Max's mother and she divorced her husband.  Max, a teenager, elected to stay with his father in Africa while Max's mother and sister went back to live in the U.S.
       Max told us stories of how he and his father escaped government purges by hiding in the jungles of Sierra Leon, the close neighbor to Liberia.  He related how they ate cassava roots and lived like Tarzan of the Jungle, hiding from patrols that ruthlessly searched for the "diamond smugglers."
       When the regime changed back to one of favor, they would crawl out of the jungle and resume their lofty social and political status until the next storm.
        I had known about the atrocities and fragility of the Dark Continent from Max at an early age, but had no further interest in the continent, as most don't.    I remember reading about the reconstruction of Europe, and how there were great arguments made that we should have invested the money from the Marshall Plan in Africa rather than Europe because Africa offered countless resources.  Unfortunately, our European allies won out.  Instead of rebuilding the Dark Continent, we gave the money to France and Germany.  Ooops!
        Max and I fought together in Vietnam.   Some of my fond memories include he and I leaping out of helicopters and engaging the enemy.  Max liked to carry a burp gun and once when we were shot at, he rolled over and smashed his tape recorder while blasting away.

Civil war is rampant in Africa

       As we took over villages to serve as our encampment for the night, he showed us how to eat the entrails of ducks and dug up plants to eat so we could enhance our C-Ration diet.
        But after the war, I lost Max's history.  It vanished.
       Today, when I hear Africa booming in the headlines, and the Terrorism happening in the Congo and Liberia, I think of Max.  
       Civil war rages in his land.   In the Congo, upwards of 3.3 million people have died.  Liberia's streets are washed in blood
       I thought of the stories of Nkrumah and how vicious he was  as a leader, perhaps far more tyrannical than Saddam Hussein or modern tyrants, or at least their equal.  He butchered and slaughtered his people, bragging and boasting as he did.  He was one of many Beasts of Terror to extend the legacy of brutality and genocide in a land most nations in the world have ignored.
      Now, however, the moral dilemma of Vigilance in Africa faces America.
      If our Manifest Destiny in the 21st Century is to be the Global Sentinel of Vigilance--that is, to depose tyrants and free people trapped in oppression as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan--what then is the protocol for Africa?
      If it weren't for my buddy Max, I might not have any connection with Liberia.   I might be simply Complacent as so many Americans and Europeans are regarding Africa.  But I have a personal relationship with a man, a combat buddy, a close friend, who spent countless hours sharing with me the stories and myths of his adventures.   I envied his time spent in the jungles with his father, having not had one I could buddy with of my own.  

Monrovia was named after James Monroe who helped freed slaves return to Africa.

       I knew the capital city of Liberia was Monrovia, and that it was named after President Monroe who was instrumental in offering all  American freed slaves a no cost journey back to their homeland if they so chose.
     Monroe, before he was elected the 5th President of the United States, met
on December 21, 1816 with a group of exclusively white upper-class males including Bushrod Washington, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster at the Davis Hotel in Washington D.C. to form a constitution for the American Colonization Society.   Their purpose was to raise funds to help transport any and all of the freed slaves in America back to the land from which  they had been kidnapped.
        At the time, some 2 million African Americans were in the U.S., and some 200 were free.  Memberships in the American Colonization Society, ACS, were sold for $35 to raise funds.   Congress also allocated funding; individual states as well created their own colonization societies, offering the same transport for those who wished it back to Africa.
         Any slave ship captured at sea by the U.S. federal government, either domestic or foreign, was emptied of its slaves and the slaves were given free passage back to Africa.
         Opponents of the ACS accused its organizers of trying to remove free blacks from America, fearful they could not integrate into "white society."  These advocates fought bitterly against the ACS until following the Civil War they had crippled it.   Many blacks who wished to return home under the free plan had been stranded by the abolitionists' (some might call them liberals) enraged commentaries against the plan.

         I found it fascinating that most Americans think of the U.S. as a slave nation, and not as a people who fought against it, including offering those who had been displaced, a journey back to their homeland.

Copy of American Colonization Society Certificate.  Membership was $35 and funds went to help transport freed black slaves back to Africa if they so wished to go.

       I owe a lot of my understand of the African mentality to Max.   Often, he would talk about the difference between an American black and an African black.    There were distinct differences, he said.   Max felt that American blacks had lost their identity with Africa, especially when many refused to return to their country.  As I recall, he held a less than high opinion of blacks who sought to rub salt into the "race wounds," and was the last to promote the "whites" owed the blacks anything.
        But, perhaps America does own Africa something.  Perhaps it owes it the same consideration we expressed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
        We certainly have a closer national legacy with Liberia than we do any country in the Mid East.  Americans went with the freed slaves and died from yellow fever trying to build a community.   When the colonies grew, America was asked to annex them, but denied becoming what England was--an empire builder.  Instead, America urged the freed slaves to declare their independence and create their own country.  And they did.
        But now the blood is flowing again.   Perhaps America owes a debt to the ACS, not because of any guilt or shame, but because in a way Liberians are defacto Americans.   Many lived here and the descendents carry with them dual citizenships as Max does.
       As a Sentinel of Vigilance, it makes sense to me that America owes Liberia "special consideration" in the War on Terrorism.
       But I wonder if America will remember its allegiance to Liberia, or recall how many were returned to their country by Acts of Vigilance.   Few Americans watching the horror in Africa may realize the people so honored the United States as to name their capital after the president who helped give them passage "home."  Or, that many of the Liberians suffering the claws and jaws of the Beast of Terror are our country's expatriates.
       Finally, I wonder:  Where is Julius Maxwell Belcher ?

Sierre Leone

African girl had arm cut off during an attack on her village

      Is he part of the turmoil there, a leader of it?  Or, is he a Sentinel of Vigilance fighting for the rights of the oppressed?   Maybe he's just smuggling diamonds.
      I have no idea where he is.
      But I do know that Max is half white and half black, half African and half American, half Christian and half Jew.  He also was born with webbing on his toes, so who really knows who he is ....or where?
      With or without Max, I am convinced that America owes special consideration to Liberia.  Whatever our policy, it should include helping out our "friends" and our "former countrymen" remove the Beast of Terror from their land.
  We owe that to them.
      If you're not sure what our role as Global Sentinels of Vigilance should be, go back in history and ask President Monroe.
      He'll probably try to get  you to buy a membership in the ACS, or, urge you to sign the Pledge of Vigilance and think about the future of the Children's Children's Children in Africa.

June 26--When Whites Are Minorities, Will The Supreme Court Remember Affirmative Action?

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