Editorial — 12 January 2016

December 1975 was a busy month in a busy year for Henry Kissinger. Just about ten days after okaying Suharto’s assault on East Timor, Kissinger met with Iraq’s foreign minister, Sa’dun Hammadi. Hoping to turn Baghdad against Moscow, Kissinger promised Hammadi that in exchange for toning down Iraq’s Baathist radicalism and moving away from the Soviet Union, Ford (U.S. President, Gerald Ford) would bring Israel to heel and force it to give up its occupied territories. “Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world,” Kissinger said to Iraq’s foreign minister. “We can’t negotiate about the existence of Israel, but we can reduce its size to historical proportions.”

Notwithstanding what he had told Hammadi, Kissinger was not going to reduce Israel to “historical proportions.” But he did have a more expendable people he could offer up and keep his word: the Kurds. Just three years earlier, he had schemed with Iran to destabilize Baathist Iraq by supporting the Kurds, providing them with weapons (supplied by Israel so as not to alert the State Department) to wage an insurgent war for independence in northern Iraq. Kissinger didn’t expect the Kurds to triumph. He often complained about the unworkable size of the United Nations and the last thing he wanted was yet another member state (Bangladesh was bad enough). He just needed the Kurdish insurgency to provide enough pressure on Baghdad to give him leverage.

But now in 1975, believing he had worked out a lasting pro-American balance of power between Iran and Iraq, Kissinger withdrew US support from the Kurds. Baghdad moved quickly, launching an assault that killed thousands and implementing a program of ethnic cleansing. Arabs were moved into the region and hundreds of thousands of Kurds were rounded up and forcibly relocated. According to a congressional committee that later investigated Kissinger’s policy, Kissinger and Iran “hoped that our clients” – the Kurds – “would not prevail.” Rather, they wanted that “the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources” of Iraq. The prose of such committee reports is often bland, but the next two sentences convey a cutting mordancy: “This policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting … Even in the context of covert action ours was a cynical enterprise.”

- pgs. 124-126, KISSINGER’S SHADOW, by Greg Grandin, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2015

Later this week in Guatemala City, the republic’s new President, Jimmy Morales, will be inaugurated. Where the immediate future of Belize is concerned, this is an important inauguration. The Guatemalan armed forces were very aggressive towards Belizeans between February and August of last year, during the presidency of Otto Perez Molina, a former army general who is now in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges. Jimmy Morales made inflammatory comments with respect to the Belize question during his campaign, and he was considered the presidential candidate most favored by the Guatemalan military.

A few months ago, Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) Senator Lisa Shoman, a former Foreign Minister of Belize, expressed the opinion on KREM Radio’s Sunday Review that the Guatemalan business sector had become more influential than the Guatemalan military in recent years. While we respect the good Senator’s expertise in matters diplomatic, we listened carefully to China’s Chairman Mao Tse-tung when he said, “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun.” Not only that, it is for sure that the masses of the Belizean people are more concerned about the danger to our territory posed by the Guatemalan military than we are about the power of the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce. It is what it is.

We have said to you that politicians tell people what they want to hear, while we at this newspaper, on the other hand, consider it our responsibility to tell the Belizean people what they need to know. This newspaper has survived and grown over the last 46 plus years because we have provided reliable information for the Belizean people and, in fact, we educated Belizeans in several vital areas. When Belizeans are better informed, Belizeans make better decisions. And when Belizeans are better educated, we are a stronger people. We believe this.

This newspaper’s road has not been a smooth one. In fact, just a couple weeks ago when we named Senior Superintendent of Police, Chester Williams, as the 2015 Man Of The Year, the television station owned by the British billionaire referred to us as a “random media house.” The insult was calculated, and, except for the fact that it was thrown out for public consumption, the insult was routine. We have grown accustomed to this sort of disrespect over the years, and we have had to teach ourselves to use insult as motivation.

Kremandala does not belong to the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, and we do not belong to the Rotary Club. Kremandala does, however, publish Belize’s leading newspaper, and it is on that basis that we demand the right to be in Guatemala City for this important inauguration. We would be representing the people of Belize: it is their longstanding support which has made Amandala the newspaper leader.

It is often said that hindsight is 20/20 vision. When we human beings look back, we can usually see things more clearly. When we have to analyze the present, in real time, sometimes our sight is clouded. In the now, space can be tight. And, it is exponentially more difficult to see into the future. When the fight for self-rule in Belize began with the founding of the PUP in September of 1950, Belizeans then could hardly have foreseen that in 2016, almost 66 years later and more than 34 years after sovereign independence and membership in the United Kingdom, the existence of Belize would still be as delicate an issue as it is today.

The issue today is that Belizeans are being pressured to take the Guatemalan claim to Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final adjudication. The gut feeling of many Belizeans is that to roll the ICJ dice would be a dangerous choice. In the eyes of the foreign policy experts of the world superpower, the United States of America, Guatemala is a much more important nation than is Belize. Belizeans are expendable, like the Kurds. Guatemala has written in its constitution that Belize belongs to Guatemala, and Jimmy Morales later this week will swear, in the presence of the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, to uphold the Guatemalan constitution.

At this juncture, this newspaper declares categorically that we did not understand the November 4 general election in Belize to be any kind of referendum on the ICJ proposal. We understand that this has been the suggestion of a ranking member of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Cabinet.

The Guatemalan claim to Belize is the single most important issue for Belizeans, because the claim is an existential issue for Belize. From the time of the foundation of the UDP in September of 1973, however, there have been initiatives by their electoral politicians and neoliberal businessmen supporters to put the Guatemalan claim on the backburner in Belize.

This is where the Americans have always wanted the claim to be in the politics of Belize – out of sight and out of mind. Guatemala? No problem. The intention has been for Belizeans to relax, become drowsy and fall asleep.

If Guatemala were Sweden, say, or some kind, benevolent democracy with a history of justice and peace, it would perhaps be possible to lull Belizeans with respect to our neighbor’s claim to half of our territory. If you talk to the Indigenous Maya people of Guatemala, however, and they are likely the majority of Guatemala’s citizens, they will tell you that Guatemala is no Sweden: Guatemala is no kind, benevolent democracy with a history of justice and peace. This is real. Be careful, Belizean people. Be always vigilant.

Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.

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