Editorial — 18 January 2013

“Maybe we can find a reason
to send a child off to war.
So why if we’re controlling all the oil,
is it worth a child dying for?
Is it worth it?”
– Prince, in “Money don’t matter tonight”

“Throughout the seventeenth century, European soldiers were still only slightly removed from thugs; they raped, robbed, and pillaged civilians as assiduously as they fought the enemy. Whole towns would be massacred without much thought, and even when soldiers attempted to behave with a measure of humanity, they still pillaged wherever they went, because pillaging was the only way to support their operations, especially on long campaigns. Since most of Europe lived harvest to harvest, an army often left famine in its wake.”

– pg. 124, THE BLACK COUNT, Tom Reiss, Crown Publishers, New York, 2012

The newspaper has recently been running a few excerpts from Adam Hochschild’s book about Belgium’s King Leopold II and the atrocities he committed in the Congo state in the last part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Leopold became a criminal and murderer because he was greedy for money, and ivory and rubber fetched very high prices on the world market in those days.

There were African people living in the Congo before the Europeans came, and they had certain ways of life which suited them, and had suited them for centuries. The Europeans disrupted the Congo ways of life with violence, and then they sponsored missionaries so that God and religion could be used as a cover for their criminal greed.

In the independent Congo state today, a great deal of violence continues. Wars are being fought by opposing factions of politicians and soldiers in the Congo. There are usually no Europeans visibly involved in these wars, but the economies of African states like the Congo are dominated in the modern era by the European demand for strategically important natural resources, such as petroleum, cobalt, copper, coltan, uranium, gold, diamonds, and the like.

In the decades of the so-called Cold War, warring factions in African states would usually be pro-NATO and the United States, on the one hand, or pro-Russia and pro-China, on the other. NATO is a military alliance of European states which includes Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, while Russia and China were communist states which were competing with the NATO states for world hegemony. The Cold War lasted from after the end of World War II in 1945 until 1989. By the early 1960s, China, which had gone communist in 1949, had begun to compete with Russia, which had gone communist in 1917.

The wars in Africa, then, are directly or indirectly financed by large foreign states and transnational companies which require specific natural resources. On the ground, this is not a matter of concern for the combatants. All they know is that they are fighting for survival, and it is a case of kill or be killed.

Belize is a small state which became independent in 1981 amidst controversy and under martial law. The incidents leading up to the declaration of martial law in early April of 1981 were the most frightening ever in the post-World War II history of Belize, because the country actually went to the brink of civil war, and for a while it actually appeared that we were cut off from the outside world. The proposals which had divided Belizeans were called the “Heads of Agreement.”

The situation in Belize today is different from the situation in April of 1981, but the issue is the same. Guatemala has revived a nineteenth century claim to Belize, and those states and companies which want to exploit Belize’s natural resources, primarily petroleum, need for this claim to be settled so they can do their business in peace. The states and companies are proposing that the matter be settled in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Presently the general mood amongst Belizeans is that we already have independence with all our territory intact, so why do we need the ICJ? It is therefore a popular position in Belize to declare that one is opposed to the ICJ. The states and companies which support the ICJ arbitration, however, are extremely rich and powerful, and they know that money talks. Money changes minds. Money makes friends become enemies.

At this newspaper, it appears to us that Belizeans are afraid of the ICJ. We think, then, that there will be an attempt by the relevant states and companies to make Belizeans become more afraid of other things than they are afraid of the ICJ. This means that there will be increased turmoil and instability here. Two incidents have already occurred this year which are unprecedented and unusual: one was the slaughtering of four gang affiliates at the corner of Plues and Dean last Tuesday, and the other was the gunfire directed at the home and vehicles of a former Prime Minister and his wife this week Tuesday.

In the 1960s, when Belize was threatened by the Guatemalan claim, Belizeans in the United Kingdom, led by Nadia Cattouse, organized an important and influential lobby in London. In 2013, it is Washington, D.C. where Belizeans need to establish clout. All Belizeans in the United States need to become organized, as Belizeans in the United Kingdom once did, in order to protect the interests of Belize. This is a matter of urgency, but this is an age of modern telecommunications. It can be done. It has to be done, because Belize and Belizeans will be coming under worse attacks before October. The intention is to scare us, and we in Belize can’t fight this battle alone. We need our brethren and sistren in the United States.

Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

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