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WHEN YOU CAN'T SAY NO TO THE BANKER: A PARABLE ON THE WORLD BANKING CRISIS

Parable on the World Banking Crisis By Gordon C. Thomasson
World History Faculty
THOMASSON_G@SUNYBROOME.EDU

Gordon C. Thomasson, Ph.D.                                        

     Note: This essay is reproduced as it was first circulated in 1992.
           It has not been updated to take into account the Clinton
           administrations, since little or nothing has changed for the
           better with regard to these matters.
           This material is copyrighted, and the author only gives
           permission for it to be forwarded unedited, in its entirety, on
           internet lists for non-commercial, educational purposes.
           To reproduce or distribute this essay wholly or in part,
           in print form requires written permission from the author, who
           can be reached at THOMASSON_G@SUNYBROOME.EDU.

Part I

Picture yourself sitting quietly in your living room, reading the _New Republic_, a CD of a Bach cantata playing softly on the stereo, minding your own business. Unexpectedly there is a knock on the door. Since your condo complex employs a guard, you go calmly to the door and open it, thinking it must be a neighbor. In moments you are overpowered by heavily armed urban terrorists. You and your family are tied up, being released under armed guard only to do work around the house, cook for your captors, and be subjected to exploitation and every kind of abuse at their whim. Your captivity and terror continue, days and weeks pass. Your own, your wife and daughter's screams must be audible to the neighbors when you are beaten or abused during the night. The complex guards never seem to question the terrorists' comings and goings, using your cars. But no one seems to notice or care, or want to get involved. You find yourself falling into an abyss of despair. The unthinkable, and often the unspeakable seem to have become the everyday. Your own home has become a miniature Dachau of sorts, even starvation is your lot, as you are reduced to eating the scraps and leavings of the meals you must prepare for your captors. The terrorists leave, one or two at a time, using the condo pool, jacuzzi and sauna as if they belonged there, going out shopping, taking away and apparently selling some of your paintings, jewelry and books for money to buy food, and doing who knows what else.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, your oldest son comes home from college on a surprise visit, late at night. Approaching the door he hears what seem to be his mother and sister screaming. Alarmed, but thinking it may only be an argument about a new boy friend, and not wanting to embarrass anyone he comes up to the front door and knocks, rather than using his key. A total stranger, carrying a gun, answers the door and asks what he wants. Sensing that something is wrong, he mumbles that "all the condos look alike," and that he has come to the wrong unit. Since he has grown a beard while at college the terrorists do not recognize him from the high school graduation photo hanging in the hall. Excusing himself, he pretends to leave, but hides in some nearby bushes. Several minutes later he slips back and by eavesdropping at first one window and then another gets a good idea of what is happening. Horrified and angered he runs to the condominium guard house, but the guard not only expresses unconcern but tells him to leave, since he obviously "doesn't belong" there. He then goes to the police station and asks their help. They reject his pleas and make threatening remarks about how he looks like a Communist troublemaker himself, and how he must be crazy, asking them to bust in upon "good respectable families." He quickly leaves.

In desperation he goes to a neighborhood he was always taught to avoid as a boy, pawns his typewriter, backpack and down sleeping bag, and buys an old automatic shotgun and a "Saturday-night special" short-barrelled .38 revolver. Using his credit card he buys a case of whiskey which he has a delivery service take to the condo, signing a distant uncle's name to the card. After a couple of hours he sneaks back into the complex and waits. He endures several more hours of noisy revelling, punctuated occasionally by his mother's and sister's screams. At one point he sees you, through an open window, being struck with a rifle butt and staggering into the wall, while carrying a tray of dishes into the kitchen. Anger mounts into fury, but still he waits. Gradually the house grows quiet. About 2:00AM he uses his own key to let himself in the front door. In searching the house he finds and unties you, giving you the shotgun. You collect other weapons. Then one of the terrorists awakes, and alerts the others with a shout. As they jump to arm themselves you both shoot them down. Finally attracted by the gunfire, the condominium guard arrives with his pistol drawn. As he challenges you, you disarm him and tie him up. Then the police arrive, alerted by neighbors who didn't concern themselves with what was going on until the shooting started. Seeing that you both are heavily armed now, and very angry, they hesitate. They call a priest--your family having been known to be very religious--to act as an intermediary. He is allowed into the house, discovers the facts, and goes out to inform the media and police what has happened to cause the massacre, but the newscasts end and the media crews leave without giving out that part of the story, and one tv station even portrays the priest as being some kind of radical himself. The bodies are removed and the guard freed, though with little grace on the part of the police or neighbors, who now consider you dangerous troublemakers. Your claims that the guard was in collusion with the terrorists are dismissed as rantings.

The next morning you set out to clean up the house and rebuild your lives. That afternoon a bank statement arrives in the mail. You discover that your savings accounts are empty, there are huge unpaid balances on your credit cards and your checking account is overdrawn. There is also a letter threatening foreclosure against unpaid loans taken out using your cars, home and other holdings as collateral. You storm off to the bank, demanding an explanation. They show you cancelled checks, credit card charges and savings withdrawal slips with what are blatantly obvious unauthorized forgeries of your signature, loan documents with more forged signatures and a transfer of funds to a Bahamian bank in the name of one of the terrorists who was not in the house at the time of your liberation and is known to be in the Bahamas now, apparently living on your money. There is obviously very little chance of extradition or recovery of your money from him. There is also a forged power-of-attorney. Adding insult to injury, the bank's lawyer insists that you are obligated for all the debts, and that they are not responsible for replacing the money removed from your checking and savings accounts without your permission. "If you objected, it was your obligation to stop them, not ours," says the lawyer, "and furthermore, if you don't make up all the late loan payments tomorrow, we'll take over all the collateral." Your family's finances are wiped out, and to make matters worse, all the while that you were held captive you were unable to work, and you find that your boss has replaced you, and with your new notoriety they have no interest in taking you back. You leave the bank in fury and despair.

You then visit a few lawyers, all of whom tell you that you have no chance of winning against the bank, though they will take the case for a healthy fee--in advance. You go to Legal Aid, but they look at your home, cars (which have been badly abused by the terrorists, needing overhauls, new tires, etc.), and paper assets, and in doing a credit check find that you have also had a $100,000 small business loan taken out in your name by the terrorists, and so these poverty lawyers tell you that you do not qualify. You return home even more disheartened than you were while being held captive. The next morning a marshal comes to the door with an eviction notice. You and your son chase him away with the weapons you took from the terrorists. Soon the police and heavily armed S.W.A.T. teams surround the house. You hear on the radio that you are the real criminals, and those you shot, the victims. Neighbors are interviewed on television who bemoan how nice and quiet the complex was before you regained your freedom. You talk with the police and the media over the telephone, but find your version of the story never gets onto the radio or TV. It seems they may storm the house in a few minutes. Now you are being described as murderers for freeing yourselves from the terrorists, as well as resisting the marshal. The phone rings again. A college roommate of your son has heard of your plight and offers the assistance of some radical North African friends he has gotten to know. They will arrive soon ... but the call is broken-off in mid sentence, power is cut and lights go out, the front door crashes in ...

Part II

The foregoing, almost tediously detailed "fantasy," may seem silly sitting in your easy chair. But it is not fiction. It may not have happened in your neighborhood, but it takes place all the time. We don't see it because the parasitical "terrorists" in the real world are called military committees for "national salvation," juntas, "presidents," emperors, or whatever, and the "loans" and exploitation come in the form of "development loans," "arms credits," and other international "aid" from the U.S., the IMF, World Bank, and other countries and agencies. Private banks also make such "loans," their capital and profits guaranteed and thereby subsidized at U.S. taxpayer's expense, just as in the case of the up-till recently suspended U.S. loan guarantees to Israel. Banks such as Citicorp are insured against loss in their loans to such "governments" by sweetheart laws lobbied through Congress by the banking industry so that the American public and not the banks will lose in case of a victim nation is impoverished into default or repudiation of the loans it has been "given" without its consent. The "loan guarantees" the Bush administration withheld in 1992 to restrain Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories are of this type. The atrocities that are suffered by the peoples of these nations under totalitarian rule are called Human Rights violations and then ignored--you can fill in many of the details--every event in our "story" has a direct analogue in "real life" (the condo complex itself, for example, could be compared to the U.N., which uncritically accepts some of the worst dictatorships, or with regional organizations such as the O.A.S. and O.A.U.).

The point of all this is that the continuing international "banking crisis" is the result, not of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of poorer nations, but rather because of a DOUBLE STANDARD practiced by the banking industry. What happened in my story could not happen to you in the real world--you hope--but every day, non-representative, un-elected governments come to power or stay in power through force (usually using arms supplied by the lending nations), committing gross violations of human rights against the citizens of their countries (see, even I fall into the trap--using the possessive "their" to describe countries taken over by dictators). They spend the monies from national treasuries, take out "development loans" in the name of the oppressed that may or may not be in their best interest and over which they have no control--to say nothing of how much of the money actually gets to its supposed destination, rather than to Swiss bank accounts. They get arms credits with which they buy "counter-insurgency" weapons in order to maintain their control, and do other things that make our story seem tame. And the bankers and diplomats who allow and in some cases encourage these dictators and uniformed terrorists to use up and divert what should have been public monies to their own use, not giving the kind of loan supervision any bank would be required to provide in the U.S., have the gall to insist that such nations be required to repay the "debts" after freeing themselves from such internationally subsidized oppression. And they not only demand, they threaten and carry out threats. A few of their options are 1) the drying up of future credit, preventing rebuilding, 2) the seizure of assets (Chinese assets in America after 1949), 3) "de-stabilization" of new governments (Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973, Nicaragua in the 1980s), 4) manipulating "debt" to undermine existing elected governments (a classic example is the IMF's requiring crushing concessions from Jamaica in 1980 to depress the economy, leading directly to Michael Manly's loss of the election to the right-wing Siage in 1981, to whom they then granted new loans on much easier terms), 5) illegal trade embargoes (Cuba), 6) cutting off aid, 7) backing the invasion and conquest of nations who threaten not to honor debts that were entered into without the consent of the governed (the earliest of many modern cases of first-world armies serving as strong-arm loan-enforcers or collection agencies against a government involved Great Britain, France, and Spain invading Mexico on 14 Dec. 1861,because the populist Benito Juarez suspended payment on $80,000,000 of undemocratically incurred foreign "debt," not including $15,000,000 of disputed French debts contracted by previous dictatorships), etc.

To make matters worse, first Ronald Reagan, and then George Bush were committed to supporting autocratic/totalitarian non-representative governments solely on the basis of their "anti-communism," because "communism destroys freedom." They did this based on Jeane Kirkpatrick's specious self- and special interest-serving rationalization that "authoritarian" regimes were not identical to "totalitarian" governments. Totally contrary to Kirkpatrick's fantasies, however, the "totalitarian" bad guys have attempted to turn democratic while many of the pro-American "authoritarian" dictatorships generally remain ensconced, however firmly, based on their American-trained and armed troops (but that could lead to another very detailed essay). Reagan supported Ferdinand Marcos up to the very end ("fixed elections indicate a healthy two-party system" indeed!). This was the same kind of self-serving rhetoric which allowed the State Department's Chester Crocker to compliment Samuel Doe for only claiming 51% victory rather than 90%+, in the fixed 1985 elections in Liberia and then representing this as a move toward democracy. In the same way, George Bush was almost literally the last Republican to desert Richard Nixon,being rewarded for that loyalty with the directorship of the C.I.A., where he supported even more vicious governments. And as President Bush supported other equally evil unrepresentative governments, just as he did the murderously farcical comic-opera Samuel K. Doe in Liberia. Both administrations supported Mobuto in Zaire--the world champion of kleptocratic dictators in terms of the amount and percentage of aid and loans diverted to himself while bankrupting a country--a small quid pro quo the U.S. allowed him in exchange for its use of Zairian territory for support of UNITA's depredations in Angola. Presidents Ford and Carter also did not hesitate to send weapons that are designed for internal repression to Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. France also has a consistent record of post-colonial intervention in Africa--their first supporting and crassly profiteering on and then deposing the "emperor-for-life" Bokhassa was hardly an exceptional incident--that is clearly fiscal in motive. The French, playing by the "rules" of international graft, permitted Bokhassa to graciously retire to their client state of the Ivory Coast, of course, without troubling him to return "his wealth" to the Central African Republic. The U.S. initially did the same with Marcos, and France and the U.S. collaborated in harboring Baby Doc. Even the Saudis, though relative newcomers to international "finance," welcomed the likes of Idi Amin Dada with open arms.

George Bush proclaimed the "end of the Cold War," and to have "won" it. Both claims are historically naive, and clearly short-term, since the underlying problems which are re-emerging in the former Soviet block--which are now being sucked into the same international loan traps--will cycle the world through more terror in the future. The U.S., through Reagan's (never-could-work but enriched his military/ industrial cronies) Star Wars farce, spent the Soviet Union to death. So much of the Soviet economic pie had to go to military spending that the consumer sector broke down. Virtually no-one in what was Eastern Europe would have abandoned their economic system if military spending had been a "rational" 10% to 20& of their GNP. It would have been a consumer paradise by those peoples' standards, and the infrastructure would have developed. But it never had a chance. But Bush naively claimed a pyrrhic victory. The American economy itself has broken down, spent into ruin for military toys, leaving unborn generations saddled with insurmountable debt and a destroyed industrial sector. America's "recession" has generated worse unemployment, on top of historically worse social services for the lower classes, than exist in the former Soviet Union.

As the U.S. economy imploded, the Bush administration, citing the end of the cold war, suddenly cut "aid" to many of our "anti-Communist" client/puppets. Those kleptomaniacal governments are falling, one by one, with the U.S. refusing to assume any responsibility for the causes, let alone the consequences--often starvation and death. And it will get worse, since America will not "forgive" those "debts."

Even when the U.S. turns on its former puppets, as it did by invading Panama and kidnapping Noriega to create a scapegoat for its failed "war on drugs," there is a banking component. Noriega's lawyers, in the farce of a show trial, were forbidden to even enter all the "political" evidence which proves he was Washington's lackey in his own defense. And the Reagan-Bush "Supreme" court, in one of the most blatantly political and totally illegal decisions in history, went so far as to rule that the U.S. had the right to kidnap accused "criminals" from foreign countries (in this case Mexico, but Panama was implicitly written all through the decision), without that country's permission. Perhaps, if humanity is lucky, Libya will exercise the same "right" to kidnap and hire thugs to take Reagan and Bush there to try them for their crimes against that nation and people. Noriega profiteered from drugs no more than did the CIA out of Laos or Ollie North's profitable Iran-contra network. But Noriega became expendable, and even a decoy, diverting attention at the time of his capture from the even-then growing U.S. S&L scandals. Panamanian banks are now as much in the drug money-laundering business now as before.

As the Reagan administration cut its ties with Noriega beginning in 1987, however, a parallel industry grew up. Liberia's economy under Samuel Doe was bankrupt at the time, but U.S. dollars were still legal currency. At the worst depths of economic chaos, from when it fell under the ax of the Brooke amendment--cutting off funds (and the U.S. even put the Liberian government into receivership, forcibly installing 17 American "opex" [operational experts] into Liberian ministries to control corruption)--until the death of Doe, eleven new banking corporations opened up shop in Liberia. I have personal contacts who saw money bags in some of those banks from Medellin, Columbia. Liberia, a short air-flight across the Atlantic, was to be the new Panama if Panama closed down. And it still may be that in the future. Some of those Liberian bankers (a few have even been identified with their shadow partners, at least one of whom has a drug money-laundering past), support Charles Taylor's would-be dictatorship of Liberia today.

Historically, at least since the Anglo/French/American military pressure on Mexico in the mid-19th century for the repayment of "loans," the threat of force has consistently been behind international banking and investment practices. There has also been political, financial, and armaments support for those who would overthrow a government that might threaten to repudiate such debts. And there has been every encouragement for non-representative governments to accrue such indebtedness. For example, from the time that Ferdinand Marcos, with the support of Kissinger and Nixon, refused to leave office by proclaiming martial law in 1972, Philippine indebtedness rose from $600+ millions to over U.S. $30 billion dollars in 1986, when the Marcos family fled, taking their Swiss bank accounts and international investments with them. Some of those assets came as arms credits for counter-insurgency which Marcos siphoned off, more went to "development projects" that never developed anything except that they almost invariably enriched the Marcos family and clique. Like the Samoza family and the deposed Argentine junta, Marcos used his people's "credit" to enrich himself, impoverish and repress the Filipinos, and mortgage their future. And the various lenders expect repayment, whatever becomes of Marcos, his American real estate and his Swiss bank-accounts. But the Suharto family of Indonesia has, of course, set the record for kleptocratic government in Southeast Asia, far exceeding the Marcos' wildest dreams.

When Mexico appeared about to default, this sent shock waves through the international banking community. "Arrangements" were made and Mexico still made a pretense of paying--while economically crippled internally, even though the ruling PRI is no more democratically elected than was Marcos, despite the sextennial facade of sham elections. Should the PRI ever be overthrown, I would argue that the people of Mexico will have every right to repudiate the debts they "owe," as Argentina has the right to repudiate "debts" contracted by the junta, and the Philippines can those of Marcos, even if some minute fraction of that money did accidentally benefit the people. But the new civilian governments know that if they should ever attempt to repudiate the "debts" the people of Argentina or the Philippines never entered into, the military under American direction would quickly come back to power. The same problem prevails throughout the "borrowing Third World" (though I realize there is something almost obscene in calling the relatively affluent developed and essentially European nation of Argentina a "Third World" country).

Part III

To international lenders, the fact that a non-representative government has no more right to unilaterally bind a captive people in debt than I do to sign and cash your checks or take out a loan in your name is irrelevant. What is legal is what you can get away with, with the U.S. military and CIA serving as enforcers and collection agents who are quite willing and even enthusiastic to see borrowers dead if they resist repayment. In the Philippines, the key American bases of Clark Field and Subic Bay were an active police presence, symbolic threats that any attempt to repudiate illegally contracted "debts" would be suppressed, until Mount Pinatubo suddenly made responding to Philippine democratic sentiments economically practical.

And so it goes, around the world. Nevertheless, the point of my parable is that every "debtor" nation, upon freeing itself from a non-representative government, has the right to repudiate any and all such "debts" contracted without the consent of the governed, without fear of economic or military/political reprisal. Monies "loaned" to non-representative governments are really GIFTS to the people in power. There should be an international prohibition, with pre-established penalties modeled along those established in the Nuremberg trials, against any private or public agency PRETENDING TO LEND money to non-representative governments. If an undemocratic seizure of power or sham election would automatically lead to a drying-up of international credit, this also would be a powerful dis-incentive to military cliques or other groups that are often tempted to seek to take power. Moreover, lending agencies should be held financially responsible for the damage and suffering caused by the use of monies they lend to undemocratic governments, as when loans or credits are used to fund "counter- insurgency," for example. Bank officials should be arrested and held by officers of the World Court until fines are paid. Similarly, nations that harbor personnel from repressive non-democratic governments under the fraudulent guise of a grant of "political asylum" (a perversion of the doctrine that only was intended to protect the VICTIMS of oppressive governments, not the perpetrators of oppression) should forfeit their assets in the victim country, as should banks that do not immediately surrender any assets belonging to the ex-despots (Liberian assets controlled by surviving members of the Tolbert family in the U.S. are an obvious case in point.). "Laws" of diplomatic immunity should also be amended to permit the arrest and detention of officials from countries like Switzerland and the Bahamas that profiteer from the business of banking for dictators, until reparations are made. This would be another real and effective check, discouraging many anti-democratic coups and seizures of power by making it more difficult for non- representative would-be governments to steal more than they could carry on their persons. Banks operating internationally must also take at least the same precautions they do in making domestic business loans to insure that the loan is a safe and productive investment for all concerned parties. [Note 1]

_Caveat_ _emptor_ (let the buyer beware), cannot be argued by a bank or government lender which proclaims itself as an agency for development of a poor nation, or that either provides funds for buying or directly supplies counter-insurgency arms with which an anti-democratic government can remain in power. Thus, the $500 million plus in debt which Liberia accrued under Sgt. Doe was accompanied by $52 million in direct U.S. military aid to keep Doe in power. This was in direct if implicit exchange, of course, for Doe keeping secure U.S. security interests in Liberia--the largest collocation of such facilities anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. [Note 2] If you cloak your profit-making activities in the guise of helping people, you have the responsibility to know what the supposed beneficiaries actually want and need, and to deal only with their legally authorized representatives, not just the current bunch of armed thugs and bandits that hold them hostage. Power-of-Attorney can be given, but never taken by force. And the U.S. Congress should be forced, by the voters, to immediately rescind all programs whereby U.S. taxpayers are currently forced to insure loans by private banks to non-representative governments. In the Philippine case, by funding Marcos' corruption, 14 years of desperately needed development did not take place, and the country is consequently the most bankrupt and indebted major nation in the Pacific. The lenders, who knew exactly what was happening all along, are solely responsible. Not only do the people of the Philippines have the right to repudiate those debts, but they have the right to demand future development assistance as reparations from the lenders for the abuse they funded and perpetuated. [Note 3]

Current efforts to arrange "debt for nature" land swaps, in order to preserve tropical ecosystems, are unacceptable as an alternative to repudiation of unauthorized debts, precisely because they (unintentionally?) serve to legitimize the process whereby such debts were created in the first place. If developed nations are concerned about making tropical ecosystems preservable, then they must recognize that servicing illegally imposed debt is one of the prime forces that coerces nations to raze even more land in the interest of cash cropping. [Note 4]

If the justifiable repudiation of loans by countries like Liberia,If the justifiable repudiation of loans by countries like Liberia, Argentina and the Philippines (or someday by a free Mexico, Zaire, or Indonesia) leads to American bank collapses or even a world-wide depression, this is in fact the fault of the various lenders, and not the so-called "debtor" nations. And even world-wide depression might lead to a net gain for humanity as a whole. Perhaps with such a consequence we might learn to rethink the current pattern of support and subsidization for non-representative governments, and in the future look more toward working with peoples, rather than exploiting or allowing and assisting others to exploit them under duress. And it is more than a little hypocritical to sit back and say the peoples of such nations shouldn't have allowed the debts to be contracted, and that if they didn't want to incur the debt they should have "thrown the rascals out" and overthrown a dictatorship which we were, not coincidentally, supplying the most sophisticated of killing technologies to so that they could remain in power. And for those who protest that requiring lending institutions to make a good faith effort to insure that the people to whom they lend monies are in fact the legitimate representatives of a people, it is fair to point out that this sort of care has not inhibited domestic banking, and is simply a cost of doing business.

Domestically, the parable with which I began this essay is fiction,but internationally it is fact, and has been so for too long. Whatever the consequences to us who have benefitted from the status quo, it is time it ended, and that the Third World be freed from debts that are no more legitimate than a forged check. "No taxation without representation" was a good slogan once, it can be again, as repudiation of debts becomes the reality it should be, and freedom from oppression by undemocratically imposed debt is achieved. [Note 5]

NOTES

[1] Recent successful media campaigns by Phil Sokolof against "poisonous" (fat saturated palm and coconut) "tropical oils" raise yet another perspective on this issue. While nine of eleven major food producing corporations had, by 17 January 1989, "taken the pledge" and promised to cease to use these products, no such easy product substitution is possible for the Third World, where, under World Bank/IMF pressure to cash crop, millions of hectares of rainforest and other valuable lands had been razed and put into the production of precisely these "poisonous" crops. Similarly, the, for at least a decade, patently bad advice which agencies such as AID gave, encouraging nations to borrow to produce such crops at the expense of food self- sufficiency will not be taken into account when these nations are asked to repay the debts incurred. Lest the manufacturers' switching be thought too altruistic, it should also be remembered that they already face huge product-liability lawsuits for decades of use of these substances despite their awareness of the medical risks to which they were exposing consumers.

[2] See my op-ed essay "Liberian Disaster: Made in the U.S.A." _New York Times_ 14 July 1990:A21, and my 1989 Liberian Studies Association presentation "First Taste The Palmwine Before You Give It To Someone Else: Health and Security Implications of the OMEGA Navigation Station."

[3] Unfortunately, freeing themselves from one puppet does not mean that a people achieve freedom. Just as the United States supported both Diem and those who killed him in Vietnam, they also supported Samuel K. Doe and those who opposed him. There is conclusive testimony that, despite his Libyan training and supposed "ties," from as early as May- June of 1990 the liaison person through whom contact could be made with Charles Taylor from the Ivory Coast was a U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officer posted to Man, Ivory Coast, near the Liberian border. Despite Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman J. Cohen's assurances that the U.S. will only support a democratic government in Liberia, continuous covert U.S. support to Charles Taylor has been the crucial factor in his persistent claim of entitlement to be "president" (which is to say dictator) over Liberia by right of conquest, as well as his opposing as far as he can a coalition civilian transition government he cannot control, free elections, the dis-arming of his supporters and reconstruction of the country. Any and all ties between Libya and Taylor dissolved irrevocably, in fact, after the latter's forces began the systematic extermination of indigenous Liberian Mandingo Islamic populations.

[4] While it may be true, as a friend suggests, that repudiating debts incurred by non-representative governments would undermine the entire foundation of the way in which international relations are "normally" conducted between what traditionally have been defined as sovereign governments, legitimate or otherwise, constructing a new foundation is a small price when the alternative is the perpetuation of gross injustice.

[5] For an alternate prescription see Susan George, _A Fate Worse than Debt_ (London: Penguin, 1988).


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