Every year when I watch the annual Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day in California, I am struck by the power and wealth and magnificence of the United States of America.
There is something that you will not know about the American people, however, unless you live there for a while. With all their power, wealth and magnificence, the American people are a touchy people, a jealous people.a The American people want to be loved by the rest of the world, and when this does not prove to be the case, many Americans are puzzled by the hostility from other parts of the world.
The unfortunate case of Marion Jones has always intrigued me, because she was treated manifestly more harshly than other American athletes who were using performance-enhancing drugs. It has been said that Marion went to jail because she lied to federal investigators, but I look at her case from another standpoint.
At the moment of her absolute triumph at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Marion Jones grabbed a Belizean flag the Belizean side of her family had brought to the stadium for her to display. She ran around the track with it, and many thousands of miles around the world in little Belize, we were oh so proud of Marion and oh so happy. This was an unforgettable moment for Belizeans.
I don’t think Americans liked that display of love for Belize by Marion. It was America which had “made” Marion Jones. Belize had contributed nothing except one half of her DNA, on her mother’s side. From the standpoint of Belizeans, we could not have visualized Marion’s waving of the Belizean flag as being resented in any way by America, precisely because America is so powerful, so wealthy, and so magnificent. But, the United States is what the French would call nouveau riche: America is a new kid on the block, uncultured compared to the European nations like France, Britain, and Germany, which are centuries older than the United States. And, Americans, it seems to me, are a touchy, jealous people.
How did America become such a powerful, wealthy, and magnificent nation, an empire indeed? This is, of course, a long, long story, but there is an aspect of that story the average American knows almost nothing about. The political leaders of the United States, advised by America’s foreign policy experts, have been making foreign policy decisions ever since the United States became a nation in 1776, and sometimes these foreign policy decisions have involved enforcement of America’s will by America’s military, which has been the most impressive and sophisticated military on planet earth since World War II.
One of these innumerable foreign policy decisions had to do with the monarchy which rules Saudi Arabia, the Middle East nation which has the world’s greatest petroleum deposits, petroleum being a raw material which is vital for almost every aspect of American life. Eighty years ago or more, the United States decided that the Saudi monarchy had to be America’s friends and allies. And, so it has been ever since.
The politics of the Middle East has Sunni Muslim majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite Muslim majority Iran as deadly enemies. Sunni Saudi Arabia is, to repeat, America’s friend: Shiite Iran, following the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in 1979, became America’s enemy. This is the reality of America’s foreign policy in that region. On Saturday, January 2, the Saudi monarchy executed 47 people accused of terrorist acts, but amongst those executed was a Shiite cleric whose crime was not terrorism: his crime was public criticism of the Saudi monarchy. The execution of the Shiite cleric has sparked a firestorm in the Shiite world, which includes Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and the populations of other Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Syria, and so on. Washington cannot condemn the medieval cruelty of the Saudi rulers, as Washington should, because friendship with Saudi Arabia means cheap gasoline for American drivers. The United States will be blamed by the Shiite world for the Saudi monarchy’s crimes and cruelty. This is the price American drivers will pay for their cheap gasoline, but most of them don’t know it. When the next terrorism atrocity occurs, Americans will ask: why don’t they like us?
In Central America, American foreign policy has supported Guatemalan governments and regimes since Carlos Castillo Armas overthrew Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. The Guatemalans have it in their constitution that Belize belongs to Guatemala. Such a decision was an arbitrary one on their part. In 1968, a United States-appointed mediator in the dispute over Belize between Great Britain and Guatemala, an attorney named Bethuel Webster, released the Seventeen Proposals, which represented America’s solution to the dispute.
Belizeans demonstrated violently against the Seventeen Proposals. Since that time, there has been nothing coming out of America’s foreign policy chambers in Washington which gives Belizeans reason to believe that the United States has changed the line taken by Webster in the Seventeen Proposals.
This means that Belizeans who love the United States are in a dilemma. They love a country which loves Belize’s enemy. The good thing about America is that it is a democracy which allows its citizens to express opinions publicly without risking state persecution. It is the responsibility of Belizeans in America to seek change in the United States’ foreign policy position vis-à-vis the Guatemalan claim to Belize.
Last year between February and August there were several incidents in which members of the Guatemalan armed forces behaved in an aggressive and intimidating manner towards Belizeans, in Belizean territory. The chances are that after the new Guatemalan president is inaugurated in two weeks time (in the presence of the Vice-President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden), the Guatemalan games will begin again. These games have featured Belizeans as clowns in our own sovereign territory. The situation was worse on September 25, 2014. On that day, a young Belizean tourist policeman, Danny Conorquie, was shot dead by invading Guatemalan villagers.
Remember Danny. Fight for Belize!