Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty of crimes against humanity yesterday for his involvement in a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. I wonder if Taylor’s former business partner Pat Robertson will visit him in jail.
Taylor was convicted by a UN-backed special court on 11 counts of aiding murder, rape, terror and conscription of child soldiers and sex slaves. He supported vicious rebels in Sierra Leone during that country’s 1991-2002 civil war, and in return, received blood diamonds.
While the media focused on the verdict, less attention was paid to Taylor’s relationship with Robertson, head of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and founder of the Christian Coalition.
Robertson signed an agreement with Taylor in 1999 to allow the televangelist’s for-profit Freedom Gold Ltd. to mine for gold in Liberia. If any gold was found, 10 percent would go to the Liberian government, and in effect, into the pockets of the loathsome Taylor.
On the stand during his trial, the Liberian leader said Robertson promised to argue for the Liberian government with officials in Washington, and he claimed the TV preacher personally intervened with President George W. Bush.
Taylor was grateful for Robertson’s help. In 2002, he even appeared at a three-day “Liberia for Jesus” rally sponsored by CBN. When the Bush administration pressured Taylor to resign in 2003, Robertson sprang to the dictator’s defense.
On his Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club” program, Robertson said, “We're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country.”
Added Robertson, “And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, ‘You've got to step down.’… He doesn’t work for us.”
Alas for Robertson, his frantic appeals went nowhere, and as far as we know, he found no gold in troubled Liberia. He told The Washington Post that he has "written off in my own mind" the $8 million investment – chump change for the fabulously wealthy broadcaster.
The Taylor episode, of course, isn’t Pat’s only dalliance with despicable dictators.
Robertson cozied up to thuggish strongman Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (now the Republic of the Congo) to mine for diamonds in that desperate country in 1994. He even used his tax-exempt Operation Blessing relief planes to assist with the business project when the aircraft were supposed to be helping the poor.
And then there’s Efrain Rios Montt, a former Guatemalan general and dictator heading for trial for war crimes committed during that nation’s civil war. Rios Montt seized power in a coup in 1982, and he stands accused of wanton brutality, with hundreds killed during his 17-month reign. But because he is a Pentecostal Christian, he received staunch support from Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and other Religious Right figures.
In 1990, long after it was common knowledge that Rios Montt was a monster, Robertson was still singing his praises. He commended the dictator for his "enlightened leadership" and said people danced in the street when Rios Montt seized power “literally fulfilling the words of Solomon who said, 'When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.'"
Robertson no longer heads the Christian Coalition, but he still keeps a heavy hand in Religious Right politics, using his “700 Club” program and “CBN News” to tout favored political figures and his right-wing agenda.
For example, earlier this month, House Budget Chairman U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) did an interview with CBN to claim that his budget plan – which critics say would disproportionately hurt the poor – is supported by Catholic social teaching. (Ninety faculty members and priests at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington, D.C., disagreed this week, calling Ryan’s claim a “misuse of Catholic teaching.” They said his approach “decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.”)
With Robertson’s record of greed, extremism and all-around bad judgment, you have to wonder why anyone chooses to associate with him at all.