Firestone and the Liberian Warlord: Blood, Profits and War Crimes

Charles Taylor, the former warlord and president of Liberia, “sponsored” by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, left a swath of death and destruction through the country in the 1980s and 1990s.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Visit today to get 10% off your first month of therapy.

Charles and Chuckie Taylor left a swath of death and destruction through the country of Liberia in the 1980s and 1990s, which culminated in both of them being run out of political office and tried and convicted of war crimes. If you like our content please become a patron to get all of our public episodes ad-free.

Charles Taylor was the son of an Americo-Liberian judge from Monrovia, Liberia, and his privileged upbringing in private American schools prepared him for the future that would see him befriend the Firestone Tire and Rubber country, and orchestrate a bloody revolution which killed over 250,000 people and exiled a million more from his home country. 1

Taylor's rise began with a post in the administration of the dictator who came to power from a prior coup in Liberia. During that time Taylor was head of purchasing and procurement, and skimming the contracts in that office for personal profit landed him in jail in the US awaiting extradition back to Liberia, after he fled from fraud charges in Monrovia. But he struck a deal with the American intelligence agencies and Firestone to overthrow the current Liberian dictator, and the CIA helped him escape from the American jail and start his genocidal revolution on the borders of Liberia and neighboring countries like Guinea and the Ivory Coast. 2

Taylor's violent revolution ultimately failed to capture Monrovia, but he was elected to the country's presidency anyway. His revolution sponsored by Firestone had given him far better access to mass media facilities than his competitors, so despite running ads with the crazy slogan "he killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I'm voting for Charles Taylor," Taylor won the presidency of Liberia by an election in 1997. But his success would not last. Just a few short years after his election he was run out of office just as he had overthrown his predecessor, Sergeant Samuel Doe, a former Liberian army soldier who had in turn overthrown the government of his predecessor, William Tolbert.

All of this is very well documented in an excellent series of articles published by PBS and ProPublica, which was later turned into a documentary for PBS as well.

Charles Taylor is now serving a life sentence in prison for war crimes after having been convicted by the international court at the Hague. Chuckie Taylor is now serving a life sentence after having been convicted on a similar charge in the US, he's the first American citizen to be convicted of torture abroad. As of the writing of these articles we're citing from the early 2000s, Chuckie's sadistic commander Bill Horace, who was known for crucifying villagers he caught looting abandoned plantations, was still living a free life in Toronto, Canada. 3

1. T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones. Firestone and the Warlord. ProPublica. November 2014. 

2. Charles Taylor 'worked' for CIA in Liberia. BBC. January 2012. 

3. Michael Petrou. Safe haven for an alleged killer. MacLeans. March 2010. 

You must be logged in and have a username in your profile to view comments.