There was a time in human history when almost all substantive leaders were military, or so it appears. Societies were led by their greatest warrior, one of the reasons being that such a man had the ability to enforce his orders, pronto. King David of the Jews led on the battlefield. So did the Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, a few decades before the time of Christ. The Prophet Muhammad led on the battlefield in the seventh century after Christ. So did Henry V of England in the fifteenth century. Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps the greatest military genius ever, led the French on the battlefield in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Mao Tse-tung led the Chinese Revolution on the battlefield in the early part of the twentieth century. Fidel Castro led the Cuban Revolution on the battlefield, then defended Cuba from the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 on the battlefield.
The importance of a leader being on the battlefield is that no matter how superb an army’s or navy’s battle plan, in almost all cases there are adjustments that have to be made during combat. No pre-conflict plan works perfectly. On the battlefield, the leader can see and hear for himself in real time. He can adjust the battle plan.
In modern warfare, societies often feel that it is not wise to risk their greatest generals on the battlefield. Not only that, the leaders of the great nations today are all civilians. Hitler led Germany as a civilian. Mussolini was a civilian leader of Italy. Churchill had military experience, but he led England as a civilian. Stalin was a civilian when he led Russia. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a civilian when he led the United States. These were nations that fought World War II between 1939 and 1945. England, the U.S., and Russia were the Allied powers, while Germany, Italy, and Japan led the so-called Axis side.
Belize will enter a form of combat, legal combat, if Belizeans vote for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the differendum with Guatemala which Belize inherited from Great Britain. The various Belizean experts and political leaders have been assuring us that Belize’s legal case is stronger than strong, and that we have nothing to worry about.
The Amandala columnist, Clinton Canul Luna, is of a different thinking. His opinion is that there are arguments which the Guatemalans will present which will create problems for the Belize side. As the time draws closer for Belizeans to vote “yes” or “no” for the ICJ, this newspaper has already discovered an area where Belizeans are completely unaware of the Guatemalan argument.
Recently, for instance, two prominent Belizean personalities have publicly referred to the Battle of St. George’s Caye in September of 1798 as adding weight to the scale on Belize’s side in the dispute. But the Guatemalans will argue, if Belize goes to the ICJ, that Article IV of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 makes null and void any Belizean claim which is based on conquest arising from the Battle of St. George’s Caye. The Treaty of Amiens was signed between Great Britain, on the one hand, and France and Holland, on the other hand. The Guatemalans will argue that Spain was an ally of France during the hostilities which ended with the Treaty of Amiens, and that Article IV of that Treaty would have returned Belize to Spain even if Belize had been conquered by the British in 1798, which argument the Guatemalans have taken great issue with in the first instance.
Article IV of the Treaty of Amiens stipulated that: “His Britannic Majesty shall restore to the French Republic and her allies: to wit: to His Catholic Majesty and the Batavian Republic, all the possessions and colonies which belonged to them respectively and have been occupied by his forces during the course of the war, excepting the island of Trinidad and the Dutch possessions on the Island of Ceylon.”
The Guatemalans will go on to argue that Article IV of the Treaty of Amiens was confirmed by the treaty of “amity and commerce” agreed to in Madrid between the British and Spanish Crowns on the 24th of August, 1814, wherein the former treaties were revalidated with their entire restrictions, including the treaties of 1783 and 1786 between the British and the Spanish.
We are not saying that the Guatemalans are correct, and in fact we at this newspaper believe that the two most important subjects for argument in the differendum are the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas and the 1859 Treaty between Great Britain and Guatemala. But, we are pointing out the Treaty of Amiens and Treaty of Madrid arguments to give our readers an example of instances of Guatemalan positions where almost all Belizeans are totally ignorant, totally ignorant because we were kept so by the British, and by the Belizeans who succeeded the British.
When slaves in the Settlement of Belize were emancipated in 1838, ours was already a divided society where so-called free colored, on the one hand, and newly freed Blacks, on the other hand, were concerned. The circumstances under which the British administration of British Honduras, in tandem with the Creole elite settlers and the merchant class of Belize, began to construct the Tenth of September 1798 narrative, about ten years before the Battle of St. George’s Caye Centenary in 1898, and embarked on a process of promotion and propaganda, have never been examined and discussed in Belize. As a result of the Centenary hype created at the highest levels of power in British Honduras, the socio-economic plight of the masses of freed Blacks in the colony was left off the front pages of the newspapers and history books of British Honduras. Belize was the only British Caribbean possession where Emancipation Day was never celebrated: it was all about Tenth of September.
It is reasonable to say that Belizeans who are skeptical of the Battle of St. George’s Caye narrative are agreeing with Guatemalan pooh- poohing of the Battle, but we do not agree that 1798-skeptical Belizeans are unpatriotic. The stark, brutal reality is that slavery was in full force here in 1798; as late as 1820 slave revolts were occurring in Belize; and, the question the Creole elite have never addressed and have refused to answer is what really was going on socio-economically with our freed Black brethren and sistren, and why was Emancipation Day so insignificant in the Creole elite’s scheme of things.
Now then, who leads Belize on to the ICJ battlefield, and have they carefully studied all the Guatemalan arguments? The ICJ hearings will not be a cheerleading contest. Two sides will present arguments. Our thesis, even before Belizeans decide on risking half our country in such hearings, is that the Belizeans who will vote “yes” or “no” to the referendum are woefully uninformed where the Guatemalan arguments are concerned. Guatemalans have nothing to lose. Our pro-ICJ proponents here are arguing that the reason the Guatemalans, who have been refusing international legal arbitration from 1937, finally agreed to the ICJ is because they want “the peace” and they want to “settle this thing once and for all.” But at the mouth of the Sarstoon River, it is years now that the Guatemalan armed forces are behaving as if it is confrontation which is on their mind, not peace.
It is difficult and disturbing, under the circumstances where we have to accept that the masses of Belizeans are basically uninformed, when we ask ourselves the question: do the Guatemalan oligarchs and generals at the top know something we roots Belizeans do not? If the answer to that question is yes, then Sandra Coye will have to be a Belizean representative at the ICJ.
Power to the people.