Will Charles Taylor sing?

The evil warlord, who also allegedly worked as a U.S. informant, prepares to take the stand.

Michael Scherer
March 30, 2006 9:20PM (UTC)

A bad man is no longer free. Yesterday's arrest of indicted war criminal Charles Ghankay Taylor, Liberia's former president, signals the end of a bloody era in West Africa. He stands accused of overseeing nearly a decade of mass murder, rape, mutilation and immolation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. He was famous for keeping his own "Small Boys Unit," a creepy cabal of adolescent war orphans who served as his personal guards.

But his delivery to the Special Court in Sierra Leone raises new risks of exposure for the United States. That's because Taylor lived a double life. During the height of his power as an evil warlord, he was also an alleged business partner of the U.S. government. As former Washington Post correspondent Douglas Farah told the New Republic last year:


"Taylor was a paid informant of the U.S. Defense Department intelligence service and reported regularly on his trips to Libya from at least 1992 to 1995. Debriefings took place in Ouagadougou. It was at a time when the United States had very little access to Muammar Qaddafi, and Taylor was traveling to Libya twice a month and meeting regularly with Qaddafi and Qaddafi's senior people ... I know this from folks on the U.S. side and people on the ground in Africa. They delivered attaché cases of cash [to Taylor] in return. It was clearly a paid relationship. This was the period when the worst abuses were being committed by Taylor's child soldiers in the war in Liberia."

The United Nations later found, in a leaked report, that Taylor had worked closely with members of al-Qaida in a money-laundering operation that used West Africa's diamond mines.

In the past, Taylor has bragged about his ties to the Central Intelligence Agency. Now he is on the block. Let the testimony begin.

Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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