“It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days, to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous … We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s-eye of disaster.”
– pg. 16, THE SECOND WORLD WAR, Volume I: THE GATHERING STORM, by Winston S. Churchill, Houghton Mifflin, 1948
It may be argued that the British have planet earth’s most successful and glorious record in warfare. But, it is the undeniable fact that, until May of 1940, the views of appeasing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain represented the views of the British people. Although the history of the world is famously marked by “wars and rumors of wars,” even a warrior people can go to great lengths to avoid conflict and combat. That is what the British decided to do, go to great lengths to avoid conflict and combat, even after Adolf Hitler’s Germany began to prepare for another “world war” in the mid-1930s.
When the British came to the conclusion that their existence as a sovereign people was in mortal danger in World War II, a desperation set in amongst the British which led Great Britain to accept many of their “British subjects” into their fighting military. This had not been the case in World War I (1914-1918). Those men from British colonies and possessions who waged war for Britain against Germany between 1939 and 1945 included notable Belizeans, and some of these Belizeans paid the ultimate price.
Ours is a strange country where important matters are not researched, recorded, and taught in our schools. The efforts of Belizeans in the United Kingdom to lobby with British political leaders to make sure Belize was not abandoned by Whitehall, particularly during the 1960s, have not been properly researched and recorded, much less taught to Belizean children. It may well be that such as Nadia Cattouse did work in London on behalf of Belize which should have earned her “national hero” honors.
Belizean politics in the 1960s were different from Belize’s politics in 2016. If one fought in London to make sure British Honduras was not abandoned by Britain in the post-colonial 1960s, it was possible for one to be considered anti-nationalist, or even pro-colonial. For most of the 1960s, in fact, Nadia Cattouse’s father, Hon. Albert Cattouse, was a Cabinet Minister of Government of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP). In fact, Mr. Cattouse was Deputy Leader of the PUP, and second in rank only to Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price.
The 1950s had featured an anti-colonial militancy on the Belizean people which is most often ascribed to the British devaluation of the British Honduras dollar on December 31, 1949. But devaluation may be seen as the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back. The camel had been under heavy strain before devaluation. The bourgeois historians who have dominated Belizean academia have never taken into account, that is if they even know of it, the ferment at the base of Belize’s socio-economic pyramid which had been occasioned by the return home of many hundreds of Belizean workers from Panama after World War II ended in 1945. In Panama, which showcased in the Panama Canal Zone the awesome, free-handed power of the juggernaut which the United States had become, the vast majority of those Belizeans had become anti-British and pro-American. Workers returning from Panama had a radical effect on Belizean politics. They were forceful in their support of the PUP, established in September of 1950.
The anti-British feeling amongst the roots Belizeans masses was such that the flirtation of PUP leaders with Guatemalan governments, especially during the reformist presidency of Jacobo Arbenz between 1951 and 1954, did not damage PUP popularity to any great extent.
But after Arbenz was violently overthrown by a golpe supported by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the next two Guatemalan presidents – Carlos Castillo Armas (1954-1957) and Ydigoras Fuentes (1958-1963), were brutal, old-style military dictators who represented Guatemala’s oligarchy. And under Fuentes, Guatemala began rattling sabers next door with respect to the Guatemalan claim to the territory of Belize.
Fuentes’ threats forced the PUP to begin calling in 1959 for independence “within the British Commonwealth.” Before that, PUP leaders were touting unconditional independence. In return for allowing Guatemala to be used to train Cuban exiles for their abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the Americans promised Fuentes support for the Guatemalan claim to Belize. Thus, Fuentes’ claim rhetoric became more strident and aggressive. Belizeans became more nervous, and in the United Kingdom, Belizeans like Nadia Cattouse lobbied for British protection. Since it was not the public position of PUP governments to so lobby in the 1960s, Nadia Cattouse and her PUP Minister/father became more and more estranged.
Back then, Belizeans in the United Kingdom did what they could to protect Belize. By contrast, the silence of Belizeans in the United States has been deafening since the morning of Saturday, February 27, 2016. On that date, the military of the republic of Guatemala violated the sovereignty of Belize at the Sarstoon River for all of Belize and indeed all of the world, to see.
Belizeans in the United States may apologize for their passivity by saying that they are not getting any kind of call to arms from this democratically-elected United Democratic Party (UDP) Government of Belize. But the Belizeans in England were not getting any such call from the democratically-elected PUP Government of Belize in the 1960s. It was the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), led by Hon. Philip Goldson, which was carrying the anti-Guatemalan torch in the 1960s. So that, the efforts of Nadia and other Belizeans in the U.K. were never properly recognized because of the confusion of PUP vs NIP electoral politics.
Last week the new Leader of the Opposition PUP, Hon. John Briceño, made a statement to the effect that his party would “revisit” the “no ICJ” position which had been taken by his predecessor as PUP Leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca. To a significant extent, Mr. Briceño’s statement took much wind out of the sails of a demonstration against Guatemalan aggression being organized this Tuesday, March 8, by the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) and the Belize Progressive Party (BPP). In his previous stint as PUP Leader (March 2008-October 2011), Mr. Briceño made a similar move when he decided that his party would not support a January 2010 demonstration in Belize City against the December 2008 compromis and UDP Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington’s “artificial border” remarks in December of 2009. In fact, in the days leading up to this Tuesday’s demonstration in Belmopan, PUP propagandists on their party radio station were warning many PUP members and supporters not to be distracted by the Sarstoon River demonstration, but to focus on Prime Minister Barrow’s budget speech in the House the same Tuesday morning.
The compromis of December 2008 signed in Washington between Guatemala and Belize was essentially about this same ICJ (international Court of Justice) issue which has been somewhat controversial in Belize the last several years. So controversial was the ICJ issue that then PUP Leader Fonseca, never known for any kind of policy derring-do, decided to piggyback on it a couple years ago by declaring “no ICJ.” With respect to various acts of aggression and disrespect by the Guatemalan armed forces, the position of the Barrow/Elrington UDP governments has appeared to be: let the Guatemalans do anything; all we want is for you Belizeans to vote for an ICJ settlement. Last week, John Briceño’s PUP opened the door for the ICJ. So, Belizeans in the U.S. can perhaps rightfully say, if the UDP and the PUP are saying the same thing, why should we get all hot and bothered about the Sarstoon?
It is said, you know, that when Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded oil-rich Kuwait, young, upper-class Kuwaitis did not try to defend their country. They were on cocaine, you see, and life was one big party. So they flew to Cairo, the Egyptian capital, and continued their snorting and partying in the Cairo discos.
After the Americans and their allies drove Saddam out of Kuwait, the partying Kuwaitis flew back home. They hadn’t really skipped a beat.
If you think we Belizeans would be that lucky, you are missing the point we have been making to you for many, many years. Guatemala is Washington’s Central American surrogate. To love America, is to love Guatemala. To love the eagle, is to love the quetzal bird. If Guatemala invaded Belize, the United States would just turn its head and pretend that it did not see.
History may record that Guatemala declared war on Belize on February 27, 2016. In fact, history may record that Guatemala declared war on Belize on February 28, 2015, when the Guatemalan armed forces kidnapped a boatload of Belizeans and forced them to overnight in Livingston. According to Belize’s Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, “The Guatemalans should not be taken lightly.” We agree. It is because we do not take the Guatemalans lightly that we say, once more unto the breach, Belizeans at home and abroad, or eternal shame be on our name.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Big up, Wil.