A lot of this has already been covered, but at the end, highlighted by me, is the real news:
In 1821 a group of freed American slaves retraced the steps of their forebears to West Africa to start a new country. At first the Africans didn't want to turn over a huge hunk of land to the American blacks, but when a U.S. naval officer accompanying the group ordered the Africans at gunpoint to knock it off, they agreed to give it up for baubles and biscuits worth $300. The country of Liberia was founded.
The emigrants proceeded to organize a society around the only social structure they had experienced, that of the antebellum South. So just like Southern whites, they set up plantations, adopted the formal dress of Southern gentry, joined the Masons, sipped bourbon on the verandas, and sent their kids abroad to school. Liberia's main city, Monrovia, is named after President Monroe. As for the Africans who worked the plantations, the transplanted former American slaves called them "aborigines."
This is an admittedly thumbnail sketch of what President Bush last week referred to as Liberia's "unique history," which he said had created "a certain sense of expectations" about the U.S. getting involved in trying to stabilize it. During the 2000 election Bush came out against so-called nation building, but last week his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said the president thinks the stability of West Africa is "important" to our interests. Last week Rice told reporters Bush felt it necessary to "bring about reconciliation" between Africa and America due to their odd ties, i.e., slavery, which she has termed America's "birth defect."
For more than a century, the bizarre experiment of Liberia, described in animated detail by David Lamb in his book The Africans
An increased supply of natural gas is a cardinal part of Bush's energy program. That in turn would mean carrying frozen natural gas across the ocean on special liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers and building ports and processing stations. This is a highly controversial venture because an LNG explosion, either accidental or deliberate, would be devastating.
Any sort of regular LNG tanker operations across the Atlantic from West Africa to the East Coast inevitably would be accompanied by vastly increased military operations in the sea and air to protect the fuel from terrorists' attacks.
Finally, Bush's foray into Africa carries meaning for his re-election campaign.
The religious right is taking credit for getting the president into Africa. Moreover, for 20 years the GOP right wing has drooled over the idea of breaking the Democratic Party's grip on the black vote. Despite all his talk, Clinton did little for Africa, and indeed had to apologize for not acting in the Rwanda disaster. Should Bush actually get seriously involved in combating AIDS and poverty, and if he succeeds in stabilizing West Africa, he may at long last begin the process of pulling black votes from the Democrats.
Diamonds in the Rough