KOIDU, Sierra Leone - Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla movement is siphoning profits from West Africa's diamond trade, in part by threatening Lebanese diamond merchants, U.S. diplomats charge.
The allegations, supported by independent analysts, describe more pervasive, organized and coercive Hezbollah profiteering from West Africa's diamond trade than most U.S. officials have previously acknowledged.
"One thing that's incontrovertible is the financing of Hezbollah. It's not even an open secret; there is no secret," said Larry Andre, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in diamond-rich Sierra Leone.
Many in the State Department and officials at U.S. embassies in West Africa have long played down any West Africa conduits to Hezbollah, saying any contributions to Hezbollah appeared to be voluntary donations by individuals.
Alex Yearsley, of London-based Global Witness, alleges that the CIA (news - web sites) and FBI long had tried to publicly minimize links between conflict diamonds and Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaida.
The U.S. security agents feared exposure of their own longtime links with Charles Taylor, the ousted Liberian leader who played a main role in West Africa's insurgencies and blood diamond trade, Yearsley said. Taylor received CIA payments until January 2001, Yearsley claimed in a telephone interview.
Here's a thought. In other wars, folks on the homefront have traditionally made personal sacrifices to support the war. Many people disappointed with how Bush is fighting the War on Terror (i.e. shanghai-ing our troops and resources to conquer Iraq) feel helpless, and victimized and would like very much to get personally involved in some way. So why not start with a boycott of diamonds? Hit 'em in the pocketbook, right where it counts! Now granted, many diamonds that hit our market are supposedly certified as "conflict free" and bloodless, but the truth is, overall consumer demand for diamonds (regardless of origin) bolsters the market value of conflict diamonds right along with the "safe" ones. So do your part! Quit buying diamonds!!!