When a massive earthquake hit the Haitian capital eleven years ago, the American evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that this catastrophe took place because the Haitian leader, Boukman, and his slave followers had “made a deal with the Devil” the night when they began their rebellion in 1791 with various rites and vows.
Personally, I consider Robertson an irrelevant Christian fanatic, but I don’t want to discuss him presently. I mention the earthquake of eleven years ago because I need for you to pay attention to the recent earthquake in Haiti, because the Haitians are our African brothers and sisters. Their blood is our blood. Straight like that. I urge you to pay attention to this Caribbean situation.
The subject I want to focus on today, however, is the wild situation in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, where the Taliban have regained power after twenty years, and all those Afghani who had allied themselves with the occupying forces of the United States are fleeing for their lives. The situation in Kabul is eerily reminiscent of the scenes in 1975 in Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, when the Americans were pulling out and their Vietnamese allies were trying to flee the oncoming Viet Cong.
The Vietnam War consumes my soul, as my regular readers know, because I was given an American State Department scholarship in 1965, the very year when the Americans were escalating their military involvement in Vietnam. So that, the same time I was drinking beer and throwing frisbees at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire between 1965 and 1968, there were Belizeans my age who were fighting, being maimed, killing Vietnamese, and being killed in Southeast Asia. These were Belizeans who were risking their lives in the hope of achieving a better life in America. The longer I live, the more I realize how fortunate I was back then.
A whole generation has grown up since Hurricane Mitch frightened the hell out of Belizeans in 1998. On a Tuesday morning in late October, if I remember correctly, many of us Belizeans were driving bumper-to-bumper along the Western Highway, fleeing Belize City for Belmopan or various parts of Cayo. It took more than two hours from the old capital to Belmopan that morning/afternoon. If you were so unfortunate as to have vehicle problems, no one was jumping out to assist. No one. Dawg eat yu suppa. Myself, my pickup had been giving me radiator problems for weeks. I was scared to death of my engine running hot.
So, I have a very small idea of how terrified the Afghani who were American allies are. So do those of you who were running from Mitch that day.
What was the United States of America doing militarily in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s and in Afghanistan over the last twenty years? The Americans were defending their strategic interests in these areas. Well now, Belize is in America’s backyard, so the Americans have a strategic interest in The Jewel. It is not a large strategic interest, but once Belize achieved political independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, we became America’s baby.
The forty years since independence have not been good ones for the masses of the Belizean people. You can ask the stevedores. But, a small class of very rich people have emerged in Belize. Some of these very rich people are native Belizeans, including politicians.
There are no Viet Cong in Belize, as there were in Vietnam. There are no Taliban in Belize, as there are in Afghanistan. We are in a strange place in Belize, socio-economically speaking. The masses are disorganized, divided, in the first instance, by ethnic diversity.
I’ve included an archival photograph of the United States Consulate on Gabourel Lane in Belize City before independence. Look at it. A wooden building, two stories and an attic, and a fairly large yard to the back, next to St. Catherine’s Academy and convent. Things have changed. Haven’t they? Washington sees things differently. Consider the monster building in Belmopan which is now the American center of operations. Gossip says it can withstand a nuclear attack. Wow.
Washington will never withdraw from Belize, as they did from Vietnam in 1975 and are now doing from Afghanistan. The Jewel now belongs to the Americans. And Belizeans love America. Whom do the Americans love more, Guatemala or Belize? That is the question, dear Hamlet.
Power to the people.