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Podcast: Firestone's Secret History in Liberia

For Mary Pollee, Firestone’s plantation in Liberia has been the scene of love, loss and enduring anger. (Ashley Gilbertson for ProPublica)

In 1989, African warlord Charles Taylor launched an uprising in Liberia that eventually killed over 200,000 people and left half the country's population as refugees -- a state of anarchy built in part on the resources of one of America's most iconic companies: Firestone.

On this week's podcast, senior reporter T. Christian Miller offers a behind-the-scenes look into ProPublica and PBS Frontline's investigation on the relationship between Firestone and Taylor. The multimedia project reveals how the company struck a deal with the warlord in order to protect its assets in Liberia -- ultimately channeling millions of dollars to Taylor in taxes that, in his own words, provided "the financial assistance that we needed for the revolution."

"Keep in mind that Charles Taylor is running a rebel army. This is not a state," Miller tells editor-in-chief Steve Engelberg. "So essentially Firestone is hiring a guerrilla army to protect their investments. And they are paying money to a guerrilla army which is attempting to take over a country."

Today, Taylor is locked up for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone, the first head of state to be convicted of crimes against humanity since the Nazi era. Neither he, nor anyone else, has ever been punished in Liberia for the civil war that crippled a nation.

"The very people who destroyed the country are now in charge of rebuilding it," Miller says. "You've heard the term that war is politics by other means. In this case, politics is war by other means."

You can listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. And join ProPublica's book club to discuss "Firestone and the Warlord" with Miller, chapter by chapter.

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