THE DEADLY HARVEST
Liberia At War
THE RUSTING CARCASS of an abandoned Cadillac lay beneath a colonnade at the base of the national bank's multistory headquarters. 1 I heard music playing. I had heard the song many times without knowing who played it. It became the song of the war for me, but nobody could tell me who was singing with the pain of a man who had suffered, who was looking for hope when everything around him seemed hopeless and the rules he had been raised to abide by no longer seemed to apply in the difficult world into which he had been thrust. It was July 1990, and more than a year later I stopped beside the road for a rest in the heart of the Cameroonian rain forest. A truck drove by playing the song, and I chased after the driver and found him in a bar and asked him the name of the singer, and he slowly wrote it down on a piece of paper for me, so I could buy a copy of it and play it, to remind myself of the afternoons spent in Monrovia, the city of the dead.
Prince Johnson's troops sat on deck chairs in the shadow of the national bank. They all smiled and said hello as I walked up to them. Three men in civilian clothes, sitting on the ground nearby, smiled and said hello too, but were then told by the soldiers to be quiet.
"Terrible. Terrible," the militiamen said, shaking their heads, as we talked about the massacre of civilians by Samuel Doe's troops in Monrovia's St. Peter's Lutheran Church a few days beforehand. "That's Doe," they said. Their lack of emotion made it appear almost as if they were not involved in what was