“Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our house to aliens … Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest … Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand …”
(LAMENTATIONS 5: 1, 2, 5 and 8)
At a glance and even beyond, North Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK) and Belize have nothing in common. One is a brutal dictatorship and therefore not democratic, despite its name. It is also a nuclear armed state, which has calmly thumbed its nose at the entire world. With a 25-million strong population and sandwiched between China and South Korea, the DPRK’s enemies are all external, the greatest being the US. Belize, despite being about the size of Israel, has a population of just under 400,000. Its northern neighbour is Mexico and to its west is an implacable, paranoid and expansionist foe, Guatemala.
Guatemala is America’s closest ally in Latin America, and enjoys extremely warm relations with Israel, to the point of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the US also proposes doing. This is a highly controversial action that has earned general global disapproval. Unlike North Korea, Belize’s enemies are both external and internal.
These enemies have virtually taken over this nation economically, politically, ideologically, and culturally, reducing its politicians to a non-threatening gaggle of house-boys and messengers. These enemies now own Belizean passports, residencies, the best real estate, cayes, beauty spots, waterways, ports, natural resources, banks, hotels, farms, other commercial enterprises and almost all the industries, including tourism. They are accountable to no one, but themselves.
Belize is number one on the list of the best countries globally to invest in real estate and to buy a house. This, however, is a privilege far outside the general reach of “the natives” or “blood Belizeans”. Indeed, Belize’s slim foreign reserves are virtually mortgaged to an ex-postman, barman, factory hand, and pop group manager, who does not possess a single university degree, and was given a life peerage by a cash strapped ex-imperial power under controversial circumstances. Clearly, Belize’s servile political apparatchiks do not believe they have to live with the consequences of their malfeasance and betrayal of the Belizean people, and are singularly concerned with being set for life in lucrative retirement.
One of the greatest failings of US foreign policy is the American inability, reluctance or arrogance to “understand” and “know” the enemy, its interests and what motivates it to do what it does. President Vladimir Putin, that grandmaster of Russian politics, only last September warned that harsher sanctions against Pyongyang were in essence futile, adding that North Koreans “will eat grass but they won’t give up their nuclear programme if they don’t feel safe”. What most analysts also forget is that the 33-year-old maximum ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, was favoured by his father, Kim Jong-lL, over his two older brothers to succeed him, because he UNDERSTOOD and RESPECTED history, political and military strategy, as well as military studies. He also possessed a ruthless streak and an uncanny resemblance to his grandfather, the nation’s founder, Supreme Leader Kim IL-Sung.
History had taught the young Kim that Korean interests too often had been sacrificed to larger powers such as Japan, China and the US. Korea had been annexed and occupied by Japan since 1910 until 1945, and was a pawn for centuries of various Chinese dynasties. In fact, its feuds with them date to before the time Genghis Khan conquered China. It was only after World War 11 that in 1945, Stalin’s Soviet Union liberated Korea from Japan, with Kim IL-Sung becoming the North’s ruler and the South coming under American influence.
Chinese influence over North Korea is limited despite the latter’s apparent economic dependence on China. Kim continues to ignore warnings from China’s Xi Jinping, because in his heart of hearts he hates the Chinese and resents his nation’s historical and contemporary ties with them. This, the Chinese know only too well. Kim also remembers the Chinese betrayal of his grandfather who, in the 1930s, fought alongside the Chinese Communists against Japanese invaders; the Chinese pogrom against almost a thousand of his Korean guerrillas, which was based on Chinese racism and paranoia; and how he barely escaped with his life. Then, there were the insults and criticisms he bore from Chairman Mao and General Peng Dehuai, who rescued him from being virtually wiped out by the US-led coalition and UN force when he invaded the South with initial Soviet assistance, which led to the 1950s Korean War. Later, Kim IL-Sung totally erased any mention of Chinese collaboration in the official history of his nation.
What led to the advent of a nuclear North Korea was Kim IL-Sung’s remembering that during the Korean War, the American general who led the pro-South coalition against him, Douglas MacArthur, wanted to use nuclear weapons against his nation and China, which had come to his aid. MacArthur was, however, prevented from doing so. From then on, Kim IL-Sung and his successors dedicated all their nation’s resources to a North Korea that would achieve nuclear capability in order to guarantee its independence, deter attack, feel secure, and exert internal control of the Kim family dynasty over the population.
Moreover, the North Koreans not only do not trust the Americans, but consider them unreliable and treacherous, and argue that no treaty with them is foolproof. They point to the fact that the Americans failed to honour the treaties they made with the various Indian nations they met in North America, as well as their agreement with Hawaii’s Queen Litiuokalani. America, they warn, has rubbished even recent international agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change; the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement; has decided that it can and will ignore the rulings of the World Trade Organization (WTO); consistently warned that it may drop out of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); and has overturned arrangements with Iran that both the Europeans and it had patiently taken years to hammer out.
The entire structure of the North Korean state is built on self-reliance or the national ideology of “Juche”. This is a mixture of radical ethno-nationalism, the myth of the Kim dynasty and Korean racial superiority. North Korea also regards South Korea with intense contempt for its capitulation to the US and adopting its economic and political models, even as it rejects those of China’s and Russia’s. What Donald Trump fails to understand, but Putin does, is that Kim sees North Korea’s “right” to be a nuclear nation as non-negotiable. No amount of money or aid will allow it to cease being a nuclear nation as are Israel, (population 8.5 million) Pakistan, Russia, India, China, France, Britain, the US and NATO member states sharing nuclear weapons, such as Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey. In fact, Kim’s reaction to Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” has been more and more nuclear tests, regular missile launches, intended to eventually being capable of delivering nuclear payloads to the American mainland.
In addition, North Korea employs cyber power to steal money from international banks and companies, as it is severely cash strapped. This is the first time in history that a state does this. The North Koreans have also gained much with their forays and attacks into Bitcoin exchanges. In 2016, they made away with $81 million from the Bangladesh Central Bank, and almost got away with $1 billion from New York’s Federal Reserve that same year, but for a spelling glitch. Since 2012, the nation has an army of more than 6,000 hackers all stationed abroad, and a cyber programme that steals hundreds of millions from countries such as Mexico, Poland, Brazil, the US, Estonia, Chile, Armenia, South Korea and the Philippines.
After viewing the 2003 American “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq on CNN, Kim Jong-IL decided to give priority to cyber warfare in addition to achieving nuclear capability. He said: “If warfare was about bullets and oil until now, warfare in the 21st century is about information.” In 2011, when young Kim took over, he expanded his father’s cyber vision beyond being a tool of war to one that would manipulate, profiteer, warn, harass and settle political scores. He recently stated that his nation gains most when the enemy possesses internet-connected banks, dams, oil and water pipelines, hospitals, and an entirely rich, urban landscape that can be targeted. Note how in November 2014, North Korea humiliated Sony Pictures Entertainment over its release of the comedy, “The Interview,” which it thought had insulted Kim, by destroying 70 per cent of the company’s laptops and computers, reducing it to communicating for a while with pens, paper and phones.
A close scrutiny of Kim’s overall policy shows a 33-year-old who is a clever tactician with a logic of his own. He is adept at finding ways to confront and confound traditional responses to his actions. And, while he has played an asymmetric power game that is linear and predictable to some degree, the overall American strategy ranging from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump has been non-linear, inconsistent, and with varying degrees of bad results.The real lesson to be learnt from North Korea, rogue state and pariah that it may be, is that people who forget, ignore or misinterpret their past are doomed to an undignified present and a highly precarious future.
There is a huge difference between being “schooled” and being “educated”. Because of this, it was not surprising that Belize’s politicians were tongue-tied at the recent historic revelation that a foremost political icon and a father of the Belizean nation, the Honourable Philip Goldson, was forced to think outside the box and turn to Cuba in the face of British and American partisanship towards Guatemala and the imminent threat this created for Belize. It would, therefore, be unrealistic in a sense to expect the UDP, who benefited most from Goldson’s comeuppance and being superseded as party leader by Dean Lindo, a former member of the Tory party when he was a student in Britain reading law, to make any meaningful contribution to this rewriting of our political history. I never comment on what I have not read and studied. Nonetheless, after perusing the recently released documents available under the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992, it is obvious that the people of Belize have always been pawns in a deadly power game over our beautiful and richly endowed nation.
A tragic fallout of all the treachery and high wire shenanigans was the eventual breakup of UBAD. For those who do not know much about Belize’s political history, particularly the period spanning the late 1960s and early 1970s, UBAD under Evan X Hyde, writer, publisher, political historian, and activist, was the only viable mass movement and ideological organization that inspired and mobilized a generation of largely Creole youths in a positive way. That it failed is now more clear, thanks to these recently released documents, and represents a crime against my generation that history will never absolve. The documents in which the role of certain actors is clearly delineated make the present situation of appeasement and culpable ambivalence towards Guatemala by key players in our body politic understandable, as well as the neoliberal course our economy has taken since Independence. Unfortunately, we are not endowed with visionary leaders, not since George Price and Philip Goldson, none of whom were perfect, left this earthly plane.
Although Goldson was physically blind towards the end of his life, his career was characterized throughout by remarkable spiritual and political insights. He was dogged and courageous in his anti-Guatemala stance to the end, and came close to shutting down Belize more than once with the people of Belize marching behind him in their thousands against Guatemalan hegemony. Price was anti-British and pro-American thanks to the influence of his Jesuit friends, most of them who came to Belize being German, Irish and Italian American, and understandably anti-British. There was also the influence of his former employer, the local magnate, Bob Turton, who resented the British for commercial and personal reasons.
According to Belizean old timers born at the turn of the 20th century, there was a time in Belize’s social history when Creole discrimination towards Mayan and Mestizos who married into Creole families was rife. This clearly explains Price’s fixation and nostalgia for the Mayan civilization reflected in his maternal family, and his dream of a huge Mayan nation stretching from southern Mexico down into Belize and across Central America, hence names such as: “Belmopan, Belikin Beer and Belcan Bridge”. It also explains why the strident, nationalistic poem of Sam Haynes, “Land of the gods,” was the preferred anthem of the PUP and eventually became our national anthem.
Price was a highly complex individual, and at times divisive, but in the end he saw very clearly the path Belize had to take and he achieved its independence in 1981 by sensibly reaching out to the Cubans and a host of others. Belizean Independence was achieved with all of Belize’s territory, cayes, rivers and waterways intact, and UN recognition of its sovereignty. There was no talk then of ICJ mediation and whether borders were unfixed or fluid. Price strongly disapproved of tourism for Belize, and as the path most Caribbean nations had taken. He consistently warned: “Belize must not become a nation of waiters”. And, again, he was prescient.
Neither George Cadle Price nor Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson; one, Mestizo in appearance; the other, African; who both fathered our nation-state, would recognize the travesty that Belize is today. Kim Jong-un is half the age of most of the lawyer/politicians who have bedeviled Belize’s political landscape with their conceit, arrogance, overwhelming ineptitude, mindless corruption and nepotism. They are minions compared to this youth who is prepared, whether the world approves of him or not, to defend, uphold and extend the legacy of his ancestors.
As for the minions being “sons of the Baymen clan”, this is a misnomer and an insult to the motley band of Welsh, Scottish, English and Irish characters with their colourful past. The Baymen were a right murderous group of ex-pirates, ex-buccaneers, adventurers and hustlers who had settled down to being wood-cutters, loggers and slave-owners, as their former occupations were no longer lucrative. Still, they defended their piece of real estate – the Settlement of Belize – with might and main against hostile intruders and enemy incursions – an act that would be totally out of character with the current fraudsters and pretenders to Baymen descent.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
“Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing and as a thing of nought …”
(Isaiah 41: 10 – 12)
(The writer resides in Lagos, Nigeria.)