May 2, 2000
Considering how long they can be, I am very grateful that you read my columns to the end, and I really do not want to push my luck too far. I usually try to change the subject of my columns from one week to the next. This week it is different. Last week I wrote about Zimbabwe, and this week I am writing about Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is going to be the scene of the next Western invasion, and it is going to come soon.
Very soon, according to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. In a report this week, they claim that the British Army is going to go in to Zimbabwe, ostensibly to protect the White population. Interestingly the newspaper reports that British troops will launch from Mozambique, which has a heavy military presence due to the relief efforts after the flood. The other point it makes is that the British special forces, the SAS, are supposedly already in the area, although it does not say whether they are in Zimbabwe itself. After a few days' denial, they have admitted that a force is ready, but only to evacuate the British Citizens. Do they really think we will believe them? I speculated before that Britain was being built up for an invasion in Zimbabwe, and this weeks events are baring this out.
We have had the press frenzy, the tantalising hints, the masked military build up and another part of this aggression by numbers came in to place this week, the failed talks. The British and Zimbabweans sat down for a day’s talks (wow, a whole day, this was obviously more of a formality than even Rambouillet). In return for the British offer of £36 million for land reform, the British wanted the power to decide how that money was spent. Reasonable enough, but to be honest did Britain need a summit over this? Will the summit be seen in the future as an attempt to hammer out an aid package or as the Zimbabwean government’s last chance to be reasonable? I have grown far too old and far too cynical.
The ritual before we invade usually involves some sort of election, and conveniently, one is coming up. The way in which we are being preached at by our media is that the ruling ZANU-PF party has no chance in a free election. The fact that Mugabe has the tribal loyalty of the Shona people, many of who still live in the countryside and dream of taking land for themselves, is just not considered relevant. An alliance of the Ndebele, the city dwellers and the workers on white farms may out vote ZANU-PF, but that is not certain; after all this is what elections are all about. However, to the Western media a win by the governing party will be seen ispso facto as fraud. I am not saying that there will not be fraud; or that there has not been intimidation and one-sided use of the state owned media. Recently there have been reports that the opposition is a broken reed. Even if the dead don't vote and the boxes aren't stuffed, we now have an excuse to invade after Mugabe wins a fair election. This is quite simply not a reason for invasion, although it will be made out to be one. When the British government stop appointing their supporters to positions in the BBC and stop using the Police to intimidate opponents then the British government may cast the first stone.
Of course, there is one person to blame for much of this, and this is Robert Mugabe. Now I am not going to claim that this was because of the economic crucifixion that he is subjecting his country to in the hope of terrorising the opposition. This is reprehensible, no doubt, but that is merely an excuse. The west had far more cause for concern in the early 1980s when thousands of the Ndebele people were being massacred because of their ethnicity. Obviously drawing attention to this would have been impolitic when we were trying to make out that Apartheid was one step off the holocaust, and something far worse was going on over the border. Nevertheless, Mugabe is to blame because of his reliance on foreign aid. When will the third world leaders learn that independence is a mere formality when you are relying on foreign government aid year in, year out? Zimbabwe does not need British aid to get on with land reform; the government has a large amount of land already. It merely has to take it off the party bureaucrats and generals who have squandered it. No money needs to change hands; no troops need to be flown in. The fact is that the neo-colonialism that the left bleated on about has happened, but because we followed the policies of the left. By making many of our ex-colonies supplicants, we denied them the ability to take their economic independence. It was not the multinational companies that denied Africa real independence. Western governments and African "leaders" like Comrade Mugabe are guilty of this.
It will be a miserable time to be anti war in Britain (although preferable to being in Zimbabwe). For those of us right wing sorts, it usually is, but with a war in Zimbabwe, it will be more so. The fact that there will be an invasion of an old colony will make many in the right exultant. The right in Britain often sincerely believes the Empire was a good thing, both for Britain and for those who were ruled. The idea that the people who are being terrorised are white even though by far the largest number of victims are in fact black, will also play a part. This theme is being stressed by the normally scrupulously colour blind BBC. The ease of identification with English speaking people of British ancestry is obviously far stronger than it is with Kosovan Albanians. Instead of looking at whether this foreign adventure is in British interests they will instead exult that it is not in our interests, this makes it morally right. The left do not have a monopoly on tortuous logic.
On the left the picture is, if anything, bleaker. Most of the left wingers who oppose the war will mutate into apologists for Mugabe, arguing that he saved Zimbabwe from the strife of multi-party politics and that land reform was a just cause rather than thuggish economic self-mutilation. The amount of meetings I've sat through since the gulf war when I realised that yet another well meaning organisation had been taken over by one or other Trotskyite cult for the purposes of recruitment is too depressing to recall. I expect to be a minority of one in these meetings, but I usually find myself to be derided as the cause of the adventure in the first place. Britain really needs a peace movement that talks about national interest rather than class war, but I, for one, am not holding my breath.
The last column I wrote generated, by my standards at least, a large amount of e-mail, most of it hostile. I will not call it hate mail, for they were rational and neatly argued. Those who are either stuck in Zimbabwe or used to live there write in a far more polite and measured tone than NORAID supporting college students from Maine who write en-masse after a column against American intervention in Ulster. Considering who has most to lose this is startling. The fact is that life in Zimbabwe, especially for the ethnic minorities, is terrifying. The terror that is being unleashed against opposition supporters is inexcusable. The betrayal of Rhodesia by the British was a major cause of the predicament that Zimbabwe finds itself. However stating that does not mean that Britain has a moral imperative to interfere again. Wasn't it the previous interference in the sixties and seventies that caused the problem in the first place? Why do people think that it will be better a second time?
The article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine does not mention American troops. In fact in this election year, I can not see American troops in southern Africa. This does not mean that America will not be involved. In maintaining investor confidence in Africa and in weakening the pro-government forces in Zaire, the interests of America are being met. It only stands to reason that American "logistical" support and "advice" will be called for. There may be a speedy resolution to this, a quick evacuation of British citizens with the British troops stepping in to destabilise Zimbabwe - and call it people power. If the resolution is less swift then it is only a matter of time before American sons, husband and fathers are patrolling the Limpopo.
There is of course another option for Zimbabwe, and that is a South African intervention. Although unlikely, it makes perfect sense for South Africa. The killings and occupations are spreading to South Africa, and any government has the right to intervene to stop disorder spreading in to their own country. Furthermore, the investor confidence in southern Africa is very low and a Government that sees salvation in the capital markets would see this as a reason to intervene. I have little opinion on this one way or the other, as long as Britain is unaffected, more than to say that what the regional superpower does to an imploding rival is little concern of ours.
It is still vital that we do not go in to Zimbabwe. There is no reason to go in, no strategic purpose is fulfilled by this. Despite the desperation of the victims of Mugabe, we have no business there and an awful lot to lose. To do nothing is callous; to do something is suicidal. Keep calling me callous.
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