No oil, no help

President Bush’s trip to Africa is noteworthy more for where he is not going as for where he is going. Not included on his itinerary are the two places—Congo and Liberia—where the United States could do the most in carrying forth the doctrine he has expostulated in regard to Iraq: that ending humanitarian crises through the use of force is good policy.

That, after all, is now the stated main reason why the United States went to war: to rescue “the people of Iraq from the clutches of Saddam Hussein,” in the president’s own words. Now that the original justification, that Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the region and the world, has been revealed as questionable at best, the president has gone to great lengths to portray Saddam as a monster, a “torturer” and “murderer” of his own people. “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning,” he’s said.

Well, there is evil aplenty in Congo. Human-rights groups estimate that as many as 3.3 million people have died there in the past five years as a result of civil war—including thousands of mothers and babies hacked to death with machetes. And in Liberia some 200,000 have died and a million more been displaced because of war, largely because of the greed and bloodthirstiness of the country’s dictator, Charles Taylor, a man who could teach Saddam a thing or two about cruelty.

Though from the standpoint of suffering Liberia and Congo are as needful of U.S. help as Iraq, there is of course a difference in their strategic importance. Unlike Iraq, they have no oil reserves. So it’s little wonder that the president is bypassing them during his trip to Africa and giving only lip-service to the possibility of sending peacekeepers to Liberia. His actions speak volumes about the real reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.