THE Edinburgh International Book Festival is to be used as a platform to accuse the US of double standards over its failure to deal with the increasingly desperate situation in Liberia.
Aidan Hartley, an author and acclaimed African-based war correspondent, will launch a bitter attack on President George W Bush’s administration, which he says has abandoned Liberia because there are no votes to be won by intervening.
Despite going against the wishes of the United Nations Security Council to invade Iraq earlier this year, the US has said it will hold out for UN backing before deploying troops to end the bloodshed in Liberia.
According to Hartley, who is in Edinburgh to take part in a debate on terrorism and to read from his new book, unimaginable suffering is taking place in a war that could, he said, be “stopped in a week by a couple of thousand marines in an operation that would amount to little more than a jolly”.
“In Iraq the US disregarded the UN and acted unilaterally ,” he said. “In Liberia, instead of acting unilaterally and stopping this war, they have suddenly decided that an international consensus is needed. People are being killed every day and it’s a horrendous situation, but they are refusing to act.
“The US couldn’t give a damn about Africa. They know it’s not going to win Bush any votes.”
In the past two weeks, intense fighting in the capital, Monrovia, has left hundreds dead and the city starved of food and water. Although Bush last week ordered US warships to take up position off Liberia’s coast, he has refused to commit troops to the increasingly bloody civil war between rebels and government forces. Liberians and international relief workers have since June urged the White House to deploy a peacekeeping force.
Hartley added: “Bush should put his money where his mouth is, otherwise his entire foreign policy, including in the Middle East, cannot be seen as credible. Action needs to be taken now, and every day that goes by is another day of suffering.”
Aidan Hartley will take part in the debate War And Terrorism: Where To Now? at the Spiegeltent, Edinburgh, on August 11 at 7.30pm. He will read from his acclaimed new book, The Zanzibar Chest, at the Field & Lawn Marquee on August 9 at 4pm. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is supported by the Sunday Herald.
©2003 Newsquest (Sunday Herald) Limited