Correlation does not mean causation: A response to Jerome Pajibo’s letter of July 23, 2007


By Joseph S. Fallah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 28, 2007


Dear Editor:

I am compelled to write this letter in response to that written by Jerome Pajibo:”Are TPS beneficiaries behind coup Plot?” ( I am motivated to respond to his letter first because I am a concerned Liberian, and second because I am afraid of the potential negative consequences of the misconception that characterizes Mr.Pajibo’s letter. To suggest a causal relationship between the alleged coup plot in Liberia and the U.S. Immigration policy on TPS is a fundamental weakness of his argument that must be dismissed in the strongest possible terms. It is unfortunate that Mr. Pajibo does not understand that correlation does not necessarily mean causation; because two events occur together does not mean that one has caused the other.

My intention is neither to engage Mr. Pajibo in a fruitless academic debate nor to educate him on the elements of argumentation. Instead, my purpose is to engage Mr. Pajibo in a reflective dialogue; to enable him see beyond his writings, and to help him understand that he is speaking about thousand of our brothers and sisters. Many of our people are here in the U.S. not because of their antipathy for Liberia; rather, many are here for reasons beyond their control. I want Mr. Pajibo and his likes to know that the immigration quandary of our fellow Liberians in the U.S. has far-reaching consequences here and at home. Remember this: One Liberian here in the U.S. benefits many more of our compatriots back home. WE ARE A FAMILY PEOPLE!

In his letter, which you published as “Letter of the Day” on 23 July, Mr. Pajibo is troubled by recent news of an alleged coup plot to topple the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government. Like every meaningful Liberian, Mr. Pajibo’s reaction to this unfortunate development is commendable. I am sure that it will please him to know that a majority of Liberians share his concern. Unfortunately, Mr. Pajibo, in an attempt to vent his anger, makes an argument that violates a fundamental element of argumentation at least. The thrust of any good argument is to convince an audience to accept the writer’s position. In this context, the writer presents an issue, acknowledges an opposing point of view, takes a position, and supports that position with “facts.” The important element to note here is the” facts.” Facts are the justifications for the conclusion reached. Any conclusion reached in an argumentation, void of the facts, invalidates that conclusion and characterizes the argument as a loaded argument.

Mr. Pajibo draws parallels between successive conflicts in Liberia and the TPS program for Liberian in the U.S. Mr. Pajibo, for example, links Liberians on TPS to financing the alleged coup plot recently announced by the Liberian government. He writes, “The other aspect of the worries has to do with the names and groups that are funding this operation. It has been reported in Monrovia that the alleged coup plotters received the initial amount of $5,000.” It is clear from his writing that Mr. Pajibo is suggesting that the $5,000 allegedly received by the coup plotters was remitted by Liberians on TPS in the U.S. Although he asserts that this information is on record, he fails to provide that source or list any names. I believe Mr. Pajibo will serve Liberia right if he could make that information, the one he may be privy to, available to the government. In the mean, however, I can assure Mr. Pajibo that many of my friends on TPS are highly productive members of society. Many of them have earned advanced degrees, have responsible jobs, and are engaged in constructive enterprising activities to help build our war-ravaged country.

Another point of Mr. Pajibo’s letter seems to draw a cause and effect relationship between The U.S.immigartion policy on TPS with past conflicts in Liberia. He justifies his assertion this way, “The nation Liberia is on record to been thrown in crisis just about this time of the year. I mean when ever the Liberians in the states are threatened with mass deportation as a result of TPS-termination.” I really do not understand Mr. Pajibo’s argument here. Liberians in the U.S. have not been threatened with mass deportation; this is a complete misinterpretation of the fact. The TPS status of Liberians in the U.S. will not be renewed as of October 31, 2007, simply. There remain a few more options for Liberians here in the U.S. There are pending bills in the House and Senate, if passed, would qualify those on TPS to apply for permanent residency. Equally, it is more likely that President Bush will invoke executive order and declare a DED order for Liberians. Already, a few influential senators and representatives have demonstrated their willingness to lobby President Busch. President Sirleaf, through the Liberian Embassy, has also asked for immigration protection for Liberians. To assume that the door of opportunity is closed on our fellow Liberians, as suggested in Mr. Pajibo’s letter, is being insensitive to the plight of our compatriots.

I am more troubled by the leading questions Mr. Pajibo asked: “Do you know that TPS beneficiaries recent time associate themselves with similar operations in the past in exchange of their status-quo extension? Do you know the history of Liberia WAR-I, War-2 and War-3 that was prosecuted by LURD?” I am confused again. Is Mr. Pajibo suggesting that the U.S. government rewards rebel Liberians with immigration status? I assume, for the sake of tolerance, that he does not mean that. Assuming that I am incorrect, than who are those rebel Liberians that have received immigration rewards? This is a question for Mr.Pajibo to answer. Meanwhile, here are my answers to his questions. I know of no Liberian that has supported rebellious activities in Liberia in exchange for immigration status here in the U.S. About the history of the numerical characterization of the series of wars, my answerer is yes. I know the history of the Liberian civil conflicts, but I am ignorant to the history that links those wars to the TPS program. Notwithstanding, I will be glad to read the one Mr. Pajibo has read or maybe will be writing. Better, if Mr.Pajibo knows those Liberians that have supported rebellious activities in Liberia for the primary purpose of receiving immigration status, than he should publish those names for our collective benefit. Meanwhile, Mr. Pajibo needs to recognize that American immigration policy is not formulated on the basis of rumors or staged conflicts; instead it is a more complex process that requires legislative debates. In fact, the recent procedural defeat of the comprehensive immigration bill is a testimony.

Mr. Pajibo letter concludes with a recommendation that common sense should have told him is impossible to implement. “As we approach October 1, 2007, I want to admonish the (NSA) to extend her covert operation mission even into the USA too”; Mr. Pajibo recommends. Does Mr. Pajibo sincerely believe that the NSA can execute covert operation in the U.S.? Maybe Mr. Pajibo recommendation is that the NSA should collaborate with the CIA. If this is his intention, than I resonate with his view; assuming that security collaboration is always prudent. Meanwhile, I recommend that Mr. Pajibo files an application with the NSA to become the first covert agent assigned to the United States. Although from all indications he appears to have the credentials to be an excellent covert agent for another country (UTOPIA), not Liberia. Mr. Pajibo’s recommendation has no practical relevance because it is far removed from the facts. This is a fundamental weakness of arguments, like Mr. Pajibo’s, that are based on highly conjecture opinions rather than facts. Perhaps a more sensible recommendation, given his world view, would have been the expulsion of those Liberians on TPS that support conflicts in Liberia. Given the present relationship existing between the two governments, this would be easy to implement. Unfortunately, such a recommendation could not be made because the facts are not available.

Mr.Pajibo and his likes out there should know that it is irresponsible to make sweeping statements without facts, under the disguise of free speech. I have often said to many of my friends, when asked about developments in Liberia, that my greatest fear remains the level of “irrational expectations” harbored by the public. Given the rate of illiteracy, the negative consequences of statements like these are grave. Unfortunately, a few educated Liberians continue to use their brain space to promote confusion through the media than using words for constructive dialogue. In my opinion, pens and minds used for unproductive causes are equally dangerous as guns. This is particularly true in the case of Liberia. The advent of the Internet is compounding this problem. Today, it is disgusting to read some of the comments posted on the Internet. Unfortunately, many of news editors have proven insensitive to this realty by allowing their platforms to be used irresponsibly. The publication of this letter by Front Page Africa (FPA) is regrettable.

Following Mr. Pajibo’s arguments suggest that the U.S. government can stop all conflicts in Liberia through its immigration policy on TPS. Here is a simple deductive reasoning that forms the basis of Mr. Pajibo’s reasoning: Every time TPS residents are about to be deported, conflicts begin in Liberia. For example, WAR-1., WAR-2, and LURD incursion. Now, since the U.S. has terminated the TPS designation for Liberians, there is an alleged coup. As a result of these occurrences, it is clear that Liberians on TPS are responsible for successive conflicts in Liberia including the present plot. This is a fallacy of causation! Mr. Pajibo, occurrences like these are just coincidences. Drawing a conclusion like yours from these events is an attempt to simplify the complex nature of a conflict like ours. For your information, however, these kinds of occurrences often produce what is called spurious conclusion-a nonsense result; and this is just what your conclusion is! Assuming that your conclusion is correct, being gracious, then conflicts in Liberia would be very simple to solve. I am sure that there are great minds out there with conflict management skills that would have pursued this option many years ago. On the contrary, this is not the realty. Past and present conflicts in Liberia have been and will continue to be Liberian problems, caused by our own political and economic greed. For example, the April 980 (military coup), November 1985 (Quiwonkpa invasion), the September 1996 (Roosevelt Johnson) fiasco, and the December 1989

(NPFL invasion) had no connection to the TPS program. Like these, the present alleged coup plot has nothing to do with TPS. It is a sad that we jumped to conclusion so early without a genuine appreciation of the facts.

My final advice to Mr. Pajibo and many more out there, seeking a few minutes of fame, is to apply sound judgment when you write for a mass audience. Simply put, think before you write. There are many intelligent Liberians out there that expense valuable time to read stories about Liberia on a daily basis. Letters like Mr. Pajibo’s are not the kinds we want to waste valuable resource on; trust me! To the editors of FPA, please reconsider your editorial criteria for selecting your “letter of the day.” I believe that your mission will be served well by promoting peace and reconciliation in Liberia, not chaos.

Thank you,

Joseph S. Fallah
Illinois, U.S.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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