Diamond Dogs

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

Diamond Dogs

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

Diamond Dogs
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 18 2000 11:11 AM

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

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OK, Bart, I've finished reading W and am ready to get back to business.

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I suppose I am the only one in the world who manages to wonder about the character of people like Foday Sankoh, evil gray eminence behind the rebels/diamond dealers/machete-wielding amputators in Sierra Leone (do you know, by the way, that some of the Orthodox Jewish diamond dealers down in the 40s in Manhattan actually trade with these guys? What a cultural mix!).

How did Sankoh bargain his way out of the clutches of his former friend (now worst enemy) Lt. Col. Johnny Koroma? I mean, Sankoh was stripped stark naked by his captors, according to the New York Times report, so clearly he could make no idle threats. I assume he pointed out that there are still about 200 U.N. peacekeepers in the hands of his men, and speculated about their fate if he should turn up naked and dead outside Col. Koroma's compound. Probably he also made some mention of the diamond trade, but I'm sure that as we speak, former associates and assistants of Sankoh are divvying up that business.

But one thing Sankoh must know: In desperate times, when a man's fortune changes, it's completely overturned (especially if he doesn't have any diamonds on him).

He's such a brash, brash guy. You can tell how arrogant he is. He thought he could just present himself to the shantytown dwellers behind his house and they would bow down and aid and succor him. But obviously he hadn't been doing the kind of community development you need to do to keep control of shantytowns (distributing money; keeping your people among the people--so you know what's happening; going among them yourself, giving out favors and privileges and power, etc.). If he had, he might have known that there were many supporters of Col. Koroma living in his own backyard, and might have dealt with that situation already (Stalin's motto: No person, no problem!).

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Poor Foday. He asked them to call a cab, and instead they arrested him. (Of course, to African-Americans in New York, this would come as no surprise ...)

I was pleased to see that the PRD in the Dominican Republic finally seems to have won a real out-and-out victory over the right-wingers and blind Balaguer's misnamed Reformist Party. They've been having a big economic boom on their half of the island (the other half of the island is Haiti--uh, no boom there); in fact the Republic (as they call themselves) had the fastest growing economy in Latin America last year. The Republic starts from pretty far down on the economic list, but still, fastest growing is something, and the problem was, in this country where the elite is deeply entrenched--even more so than in Manhattan--the moolah was not trickling down, hence the election of the lefties.

One wonders what will happen in the neighboring republic. Haiti's legislative and municipal elections are "scheduled" (for at least the third time) for May 21, which is Sunday. In Haiti, as usual, the issues are not so clear-cut: It's mostly self-proclaimed leftist against self-proclaimed leftist in the elections, while the really very morally repugnant elite sits around enjoying the chaos, confident of its continuing dominance.

See? No W, no Victoria's Secret.

Bye for now,
A.

A former Pentagon, Middle East, and diplomatic correspondent, Barton Gellman is special projects reporter for the Washington Post. Amy Wilentz is the author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. She writes frequently about the Middle East and is finishing a novel about Jerusalem.