Clinton and Bono Buddies Go On Child Rape Spree And Infect Kids With HIV
By FINLAY YOUNG
Published in partnership with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom based in New York.
Katie Meyler, the founder of More Than Me, temporarily stepped down from her position as the American charity’s chief executive officer pending the results of a Liberian panel’s review of an investigation published by ProPublica and TIME last Thursday. The focus of the article was the rapes of girls by a senior employee of the charity Meyler created to protect them from sexual exploitation.
“In reviewing the allegations as published by ProPublica and TIME, we uncovered several statements that were either inconsistent with the information provided to us by More Than Me leadership or that were new information,” the charity’s Liberian advisory board said in a statement.
The charity board’s chairman, Skip Borghese, resigned, calling this an “inflection point” for the organization. And a three-person committee of the organization’s board of directors said in a statement that it will select a law firm with educational and investigatory expertise to conduct its own “in-depth, independent audit of our organization, including our governing structure.”
In response to the story, the charity says it will now provide private, schoolwide HIV testing at its academy. Macintosh Johnson, the former key staffer accused of rape, had AIDS when he died. While 10 girls testified against him, as many as 30 girls were named as potential victims. The 10 who testified were tested for HIV at the time.
In a statement released Monday, a committee of seven Liberian government agencies said it was “greatly concerned” by ProPublica’s findings and had convened two “emergency meetings” since the story published “with the view to taking the appropriate legal actions to protect the children and ensure they are safe.”
The statement noted actions being taken by each of the agencies:
“The Ministry of Justice will reopen the rape case against Johnson ‘to determine any new evidence and further culpability.’ The Ministry of Education will strengthen the monitoring and evaluation, and ensure that the regulation and compliance surrounding all schools are intensified. The Ministry of Health will work to address all health issues relating to the matter. The Ministry of Labor will investigate to determine whether there was strict adherence to the National HIV/AIDS workplace policy at More Than Me Academy, and whether any labor laws were violated. The Ministry of Youth and Sports will lead the anti-stigmatization efforts to ensure the protection of the (survivors) and other unrelated persons, who may have otherwise been affected. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning will work on strengthening the implementation on monitoring, compliance and enforcement to ensure proper processes leading to accreditation of non-governmental organization. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection will ascertain if there were any lapses in the adherence to the provisions of the Child Law of Liberia.”
The government of Liberia wrote, in the statement, that “this will be a full-scale investigation,” and it asked the public for information that would be helpful.
These announcements came within four days of the publication of a story and documentary that brought to light how the charity missed opportunities to prevent the rape of its students by a key employee. In the years that followed, Meyler and the board deflected responsibility, placing blame entirely on Johnson and the systemic problems of operating in Liberia.
Ninety minutes before the article went online, Meyler — who had been informed by ProPublica of what the story would contain — appeared on a radio show in Liberia with host Henry Costa. “They paid to appear,” Costa wrote in response to critics on Facebook, asking why he had given the organization a platform. “What’s the crime in hosting a paying customer to appear and discuss their work?”
In the interview, Meyler and three charity staff members emphasized the good work the organization was doing. Tenneh Johnson, a staffer at the Liberian Ministry of Justice’s sex crimes unit, called in “to confirm what More Than Me is saying. … They are doing a very good work.” The unit failed to successfully prosecute the case against Johnson and was suspected by jurors of bribery, which the unit denied.
Costa then asked Meyler about “this unfortunate incident … where one of your staff was involved … there was some unfortunate sexual encounter with one of the girls. And you took charge of the situation, got ahead of it, had the authorities informed.” Costa went on. “It seems that some people don’t want to let it go. Now there is this report out there; some guy has apparently made a documentary, clearly meant to profit from it, and he’s trying to exploit it, and he’s twisting the facts.”
“Yep,” Meyler said.
“What do you make of it?” Costa asked. “Why don’t they want to let this go?”
“Costa, if you could maybe bring him on the show and ask him. That would be very helpful. I have no idea,” Meyler said. “It was June 12, 2014, that I was alerted about the abuse. The perpetrator was in jail by June 16, and he never walked the streets again. And this will not go away.”
In her closing comments on the show, Meyler repeated the only mistake she had acknowledged to ProPublica, which was that she was sorry for hiring Johnson.
“Come on, Katie,” asked Costa. “How could you have known?”
The interview contrasted with the charity’s official statement, which appeared on its web site the next day:
“We are deeply, profoundly sorry. To all the girls who were raped by Macintosh Johnson in 2014 and before: we failed you. We gave Johnson power that he exploited to abuse children. Those power dynamics broke staff ability to report the abuse to our leadership immediately. Our leadership should have recognized the signs earlier and we have and will continue to employ training and awareness programs so we do not miss this again. …
“We acknowledge the enormous complexity of being responsible for the care of children and that previously we were naive to believe that providing education alone is enough to protect these girls from the abuses they may face — strong institutions, safeguarding policies and vigilance are needed to do that.”
Charity representatives were expected to attend a town hall meeting in the West Point neighborhood of the capital, Monrovia, announced by a Liberian public relations expert. Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor was named as convenor of the discussion involving charity officials, government actors, families of survivors, and “all concerned citizens.” But the event was called off. In a Facebook statement, the vice president called ProPublica’s reporting “a horrific reminder of what continues to happen to the most vulnerable in our society.” Emphasizing the need to care for the victims, she said: “I vehemently denounce this act of exploiting our young girls and putting an organization’s interest before the lives of our children. I will never condone these acts from anyone, be it foreign or domestic.”
Amid a deluge of criticism of the organization and its founder, ProPublica’s story has inspired a wider conversation among some Liberians about the prevalence of violence against women in Liberia, and about the lack of accountability of foreign aid groups operating in the country.
The independent Liberian panel conducting one of the reviews will include representatives of prominent NGOs and the government of Liberia, and will be overseen by Liberian lawyer T. Negbalee Warner. The panel was convened by the charity’s Liberian advisory board, which was formed in 2o15.
In its statement on Sunday, the Liberian advisory board members said they met with three different government agencies — overseeing justice, child welfare and education — the day after the story published and “are willing to fully cooperate with the government in whatever it envisions to do.” Girls supported by the charity reached out to the advisory board, fearful that the charity’s programs and school could be closed.
“They are concerned because they believe that the closure of the program is the end of their hope for a better future,” the advisory board statement said.
Meyler wrote in her own statement: “I support the Advisory Board’s decision and will cooperate fully with the investigative firm, and I believe stepping aside while the investigation is underway will further the goal of a thorough and impartial review. I’m confident that the results from this investigation will outline the best way forward for More Than Me.”
The board of directors, in announcing its own full audit, said the three-member committee conducting it will be made up only of members who joined since 2015.
“We fell short, and we are determined to learn all that we can from this painful chapter and to continue to support the girls who were victimized,” the board said in a statement. It said it would direct auditors and investigators to be sensitive in dealing with the girls at risk of being re-traumatized, and said a mechanism would be established for anyone to anonymously submit information to the investigations.
“We will be transparent in communicating the findings and recommendations we receive,” it said.
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(Michael Howard) At this point we can only assume that the Turkish version of events regarding the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is true. As always, I’m open to being proved wrong, and it’s certainly incumbent upon Ankara to release the audio evidence of which they claim to be in possession (though this, should it come out, will naturally be dismissed by the Saudis as fabricated or doctored), but the list of plausible alternative scenarios currently stands at zero.
Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate and was never seen again. If he had merely been kidnapped and jailed, we’d have heard from him by now. He would have appeared on Saudi state television and delivered some kind of scripted statement like Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri did last November. The House of Saud appears to prefer this time of year, autumn, for abductions and assassinations.
If Khashoggi was, in fact, whacked out by a Saudi hit squad—complete with torture and Goodfellas-style dismemberment—as the Turks maintain he was, then Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is even crazier than we thought. Since being named heir apparent by his senile father, King Salman, the crown prince has been on a mission to establish himself as the region’s chief thug. This is no small task, but MbS, as he’s blithely referred to, seems up to the challenge.
As Patrick Cockburn recently wrote, the crown prince’s list of failures, in so short a span of time, is impressive. His escalation of the war in Yemen has achieved nothing unless you count mass murder and mass famine as achievements. The Houthis are holding fast, and the country has been all but obliterated. Perhaps, though, the Saudis view Yemen’s destruction favorably. Like the US invasion of Vietnam, Saudi Arabia’s overarching goal in Yemen is to demonstrate to the region what happens when populations revolt against their oppressors. You want to upend the status quo and realize a degree of independence and self-government, you’d better be prepared to be pulverized. That’s the warning being issued by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
No sooner had bin Salman been appointed crown prince (June 2017) than the Saudi-led diplomatic and economic war on Qatar commenced. The express purpose of the surprise gambit was to punish Doha for its support for terrorism—pretty rich coming from the epicenter of Wahhabism, that diabolic interpretation of Islam upon which al-Qaeda and its numerous clones base their murderous ideologies. Of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, fifteen were Saudi nationals; none were Qatari.
Which is not to say that Qatar is innocent of the charge. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the UAE, supported the same terrorist elements of the Syrian opposition. Hillary Clinton, in one of her $250,000 speeches to Goldman Sachs, confirmed this in 2013, asserting that Damascus and its allies were “being taken on by indigenous rebels but increasingly a collection of jihadists who are funded by the Saudis, funded by the Emiratis, funded by [Qatar] …” (Emphasis mine.) In a 2014email sent to John Podesta, Clinton wrote: “we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Knowing this, Hillary publicly argued in favor of regime change in Syria. But I’m sick to death of writing about Hillary Clinton.
To call the support-for-terrorism pretext flimsy is generous. Preposterous is the better word. I can’t imagine that even casual observers were taken in by it, Donald Trump being a possible exception (he stupidly spoke in favor of the Saudi blockade, apparently unaware that his country maintains a critical military base in Qatar). Riyadh’s motivation was obvious: Qatar was being disciplined for its pragmatic relationship with Iran, with whom it shares the biggest natural gas field in the world. Also for Al Jazeera’s—Qatar’s state-funded media outlet— unflattering coverage of Saudi policies. What the crown prince was hoping to accomplish here is anyone’s guess. Did he think Doha would surrender its own strategic interests, renounce its cooperation with Tehran and meekly submit to his capricious will? Needless to say that didn’t happen. Qatar responded by reinstating full diplomatic relations with Iran, which, along with Turkey, increased exports to Qatar, diminishing the effect of the embargo.
A few months later, right around the time the crown prince launched his Stalinist purge of the royal family, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was detained on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Soon after, clearly reading from a text that had been prepared for him, he announced his resignation on Saudi state TV. In his statement he hit out at Hezbollah and Iran; he also claimed that an attempt on his life—presumably from Hezbollah or Iran—was imminent (Lebanese intelligence contested this). The charade was absolutely transparent. “The words [Hariri] read out,” Robert Fisk wrote at the time, “are entirely in line with the speeches of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and with the insane president of the United States who speaks of Iran with the same anger, as does the American defense secretary.”
Predictably, the bizarre incident had the effect of uniting the Lebanese people in support of their prime minister and, more importantly, their national sovereignty. Lebanese President Michel Aoun rejected Hariri’s “resignation” and demanded that he return to Lebanon, which he did a couple weeks later. On December 5, one month and one day after resigning, Hariri reassumed the office of prime minister. The crown prince’s stratagem had backfired in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, Hariri, who strikes me as a bit of a wimp, refuses to speak about what exactly took place during that trip to Saudi Arabia, and is now reportedly taking the kingdom’s side in the Khashoggi affair.
From said affair, we can take away a few things. First, I’m happy to see that the US and its allies have suddenly embraced due process, calling as they are for a thorough, independent investigation into the event so as to establish beyond a doubt what actually took place, at which point they can respond accordingly. I trust they will now apply the same evidentiary standards to, say, the next chemical weapons incident in Syria, or the next botched assassination of an ex-spy in Europe. Moreover, it’s good to know where we in the West draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior as regards official allies. Shelling hospitals and mosques and schools and school buses and weddings and funerals is one thing—unfortunate casualties of war, worthy of a few hollow words of regret. Killing a Washington Post columnist, however, will not be brooked. Hence, the mass boycott of the upcoming business conference in Riyadh, and Trump’s talk of “severe punishment.” In the world of American politics, one Khashoggi is worth one million Yemeni lives.
Mohammed bin Salman ought to have understood this. That he didn’t tells us much about the man set to rule Saudi Arabia for the next four or five decades. Such hubris, such vanity, and he’s not even king yet! If I had his ear, I would advise the crown prince to exercise extreme caution moving forward. There’s hell to pay for stepping on Uncle Sam’s toes: once he sours on you, your days are numbered. Our old friend and ally Saddam Hussein can, or could, attest to that. I would also hand him a copy of King Lear as a cautionary tale, as the state of affairs in Saudi Arabia is a sparkling case of life imitating art.
Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.