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March 29, 2006

Comments

Further note, about the second picture: I found it here. I looked (fairly hard, actually) for some clue as to who took it, so that I could credit that person, without success.

I don't think this sets a precedent beyond the specific country at issue. After all, just because country X breaks its word, that really doesn't tell a hypothetical dictator whether he can trust country Y.

"I have no ambivalence whatsoever about this:"

Broken link there.

"...which, if true, would be one more reason to be suspicious about how he escaped in the first place."

On the one hand, he's supposed to have had billions of dollars at his disposal (how much in liquid assets, I have no idea; rather obviously, he's not carrying it all around in cash); on the other hand, one would think that if Obasanjo had been serious about not wanting him to escape in the first place, he could have made sure he wouldn't.

My cynical suspicion is that Obasanjo was initially willing to let Taylor go, but the pressure in the face of the actual "escape" was more than he anticipated. But I could be entirely wrong, of course; it's just a guess.

On the other hand...

Um, Hilzoy, that particular phrase may be interpreted in a way that you may not wish, given its positioning just below that second photograph.

Gary: thanks; fixed.

dpu: ugh. Double plus thanks for pointing out that utterly unintended possible interpretation. Will update immediately.

I'd say just silently correct the post (or append "Slightly edited to remove double entendre, timestamp"). This way makes it more not less likely people will notice the original unfortunate phrasing.

I'd say just silently correct the post ...

Seconded, and please delete my post about it, and this one too. It should distract from your message.

Damnit. SHOULDN'T distract from your post...

EH, I hate deleting comments. Why not try this instead:

Hey, everyone: do you think it was good or bad that Charles Taylor was turned over to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone?

Am I right to be having second thoughts?

Please weigh in!

Well, my only thought on hearing about Taylor was to worry how this would affect Johnson Sirleaf, who I gather from the recent New Yorker article is a good person, faces extraordinary challenges, and has links to Taylor.

I vote that it is bad because we want to encourage situations where you can get rid of dictators without requiring a multi-year bloody revolution. See also Pinochet.

The major mitigating factor would be if he wasn't really retired. If he was still causing problems in the country it might not be a bad precedent--the Napolean problem needs to be avoided too.

Sebastian: I think he was still causing problems. That was one source of my ambivalence. Still, just as I have a hard time actually feeling bad when hostages are released after negotiations that I do not believe people should engage in, I have a hard time feeling bad about this one. If anyone deserves to find justice, he'd be high on the list.

Don't "retired dictators" have a funny way of coming out of retirement?

Hilzoy,

You're acknowledging a deterrent effect here It's just as possible that if the deal for his asylum deters him for remaining in power, perhaps abrogating that deal and making Taylor face justice will make another dictator wannabee have second thoughts about taking power and/or abusing the human rights of his citizens. I think that's a better deterrent than possibly sending the message to dictator wannabees that one can rule brutally with impunity provided one makes a deal to step down when the time is right.

FWIW, part of Taylor's asylum deal was to not meddle in Liberia's affairs. If anything Obasanjo was lax in enforcing that.

Sebastian is wrong about Pinochet, by the way. He made no deal to leave with impunity. He decreed an amnesty for himself, created the position of senator for life for himself (a position which no longer exists) and imposed these policies upon his nation with the full force of his military behind his threat. In other words, whatever deal Pinochet made was under duress. No contract made under duress is binding. he also left office kicking and screaming. When he lost the plebsicite, he wanted to send the troops out on the street. The commanders of the air force, navy and carabineros all said no.

Finally, as I wrote here dictators, by their very nature seldom leave office voluntarily. They are all too often pushed in varying degrees of force. I cite a few examples in that post.

Randy: I didn't know that part of the deal was that he not meddle in Liberia. That changes things significantly, I think, and I hope they emphasize that.

Your post is good. The value of actually punishing the dictators, along of course with the thought of Taylor in particular facing the music, is what accounts for the ambivalence of this post. I would very much like for it to turn out that seeking justice is the best course on all counts, and I hope you're right.

I mean: I agree with you about both the psychology of dictators and the record. On the other hand, some part of me thinks: they may well have to have their fingernails pried off the carcasses of their countries, but might there not be some bit of their determination to hold on that would be altered by the possibility of exile?

I don't know; nor do I know, really, whether that would be outweighed by the aid bringing them to justice would provide to the (immensely important, I think) task of making repressive and brutal dictatorship routinely punishable. I do know that I was too quick in my first post; I don't know whether I wouldn't end up coming, more slowly, around to the same position.

Thanks, Hilzoy. Bear in mind that justice for the crimes of those like Taylor is still in its infancy. I think it has to be gven a chance.

I understand the ambivalence, Hilzoy, and am sort of torn too. But I like the idea of accountability so in the end I'll probabely sway that way. Also for the reasons Randy Paul mentions.

Maybe we should compromise and find an "Elba" for all of the retired dictators. Gold if needs be, but still a cage.

Dutchmarbel,

IIRC, Atlantic Monthly had an article recommending that they all go to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean(this was before it became so heavily used for military purposes).

"Take all your overgrown infants away
And give them a home
A little place of their own
The Jeffrey Memorial
Home for Incurable
Tyrants and Kings..."

Good news for Nigerian football fans.

Diego Garcia has been heavily used for military purposes for at least the last couple (three or more, actually) of decades, so the article is either dated or highly uninformed.

Which is not to say that quite a few former dictators couldn't be housed there. Preferably in close proximity, and with sharp cutlery.

Slartibartfast,

The article was highly speculative and a buit fanciful as I recall.

Also, Diego Garcia is part of an archipelago of 52 islands, so maybe the article (which I read some 20 years ago) referenced the possibility of locating them on some of the other islands.

"Which is not to say that quite a few former dictators couldn't be housed there. "

I seem to have read speculation that Khalid Sheik Mohammad (sp?) is being held there.

Oh my gosh this is soo horrible, i wonder why anyone hasn't done anything about this yet and why the african government is allowing this to go on without an inch of a word. This has to be stopped...

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