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Bianca Jagger on war and terrorism

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  • Joan Sekler
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 12, 2001
      > > Selective justice
      >> The US has been sponsoring terror in my native Latin America for decades
      >> Bianca Jagger
      >> Saturday December 8, 2001
      >> The Guardian
      >> My involvement in human rights issues and my commitment to justice
      >> was inevitable, for I was born in Nicaragua, a country which endured
      >> almost 50
      >> years of despotic rule. In the early 20th century it suffered
      >> invasion and repeated occupation by US forces. In 1932 they helped
      >> General Anastasio
      >> Somoza to seize power. The oligarchy that followed pillaged the
      >> country of its natural resources while following a policy which
      >> opened the door for US
      >> business.
      >> I was born into a well-to-do family but my parents divorced when I
      >> was 10. This changed my life. My mother, now single, had to support
      >> three
      >> children and was often discriminated against because of her sex and
      >> status. As a teenager I too felt powerless when I saw the student
      >> massacres
      >> perpetrated by Somoza's national guard. From a very early age I
      >> wanted to make a difference, to demonstrate against state brutality,
      >> to become an
      >> instrument for change.
      >> I wanted an education which would protect me from my mother's fate.
      >> Never would I be a second-class citizen because of my gender. Never
      >> would I feel
      >> powerless when forced to witness atrocity at first hand. Armed with a
      >> French government scholarship, I left Nicaragua to study political
      >> science in
      >> Paris.
      >> In my native land, liberty and equality were the stuff of dreams. But
      >> in Paris, where I arrived on July 14, I discovered the value of those
      >> words; the
      >> true weight of their precious meaning. In 1971, I entered my
      >> well-known marriage - and that marriage, along with its consequences,
      >> changed my life
      >> profoundly. My marriage placed me under the glare of the world media.
      >> No longer was I a person in my own right, able to articulate my own
      >> thoughts,
      >> and to live my own life.
      >> It was ironic that I had left Nicaragua in order to escape its narrow
      >> view of women. Now I faced the same prejudice in the world of supposed
      >> enlightenment. I was changed by what I endured - and my political
      >> consciousness was heightened. I had to fight for my rights and for my
      >> identity - and
      >> to establish myself in a public context. Later on I would have to
      >> learn how to change my public image into a force for justice.
      >> My divorce coincided with the fall of Somoza, when a popular uprising
      >> ousted the tyrant. In 1979 the Sandanistas seized power. But the
      >> revolution was
      >> also a problem for the US government. Here was a third world country
      >> daring to break away from subservience.
      >> In 1981 I travelled to Honduras with a US congressional fact finding
      >> mission and we visited a Salvadorean refugee camp in Honduran
      >> territory. During
      >> my visit, an armed death squad of some 35 men marched across the
      >> border from El Salvador, rounded up about 40 refugees and took them
      >> back to El
      >> Salvador, with their thumbs tied behind their backs. And all of this
      >> was done with the blessing of the Honduran army.
      >> The relief workers and the delegation I was with decided to give
      >> chase. We ran behind them along a river bed accompanied by the
      >> mothers, the wives and
      >> the children of the prisoners. As we neared the border the fear that
      >> both the refugees and ourselves would be shot seized us. We came
      >> within ear shot.
      >> The guards turned round, pointing their M-16s towards us. Then they
      >> yelled "These sons of bitches have caught up with us." We screamed
      >> back at them
      >> that they would have to kill all of us. For some unknown reason -
      >> perhaps, as I believe, we were in the hand of God - they let both us
      >> and their captives
      >> go.
      >> This moment was an existentialist experience. I realised there and
      >> then that even the smallest act of courage can save a life - even,
      >> perhaps, change the
      >> direction of history.
      >> In 1982 I began to speak out against the Contra war and the series of
      > > US sponsored military interventions in Central America. It was a
      >> policy of
      >> wholesale state-sponsored terrorism which continues to astonish in
      >> its scale and repression. At first the Nicaraguan revolution had
      >> presented a
      >> feasible, third world alternative. It was a popular policy which also
      >> encouraged the virtues of independence, of self-reliance. It was
      >> obvious that if the
      >> Nicaraguan experiment flourished there would a knock-on, domino,
      >> effect. For the US it was a bad example - endangering other Latin
      >> American
      >> countries which were client states of the Big Brother to the north.
      >> And the Nicaragua effect represented a huge potential loss of
      >> investment.
      >> It was on another memorable September 11 - that of 1973 - that Hunter
      >> jets attacked the presidential palace in Santiago. With the backing
      >> of the CIA
      >> and of the Nixon administration, Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador
      >> Allende. It was only the first stage of what would prove to be a
      >> 17-year
      >> protracted terror. And in El Salvador the US supported a series of
      >> governments from 1979 to 1992 who were directly responsible for the
      >> deaths of
      >> over 70,000 people. It was the Salvadorean army which murdered in
      >> cold blood the martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero.
      >> In 1989 the US invaded Panama to overthrow the former CIA agent,
      >> General Manuel Noriega - a man who had now become an enemy; 5,000
      >> civilians
      >> were killed by American forces and buried in mass graves. And in 1982
      >> the US began funding the Contra war against the Sandinista government.
      >> Corinto harbour was mined in 1984 and the court of world opinion
      >> recognised that the policy of the United States was that of a war
      >> criminal.
      >> Nicaragua, now the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere,
      >> has never recovered from that war. There were 40,000 Nicaraguan dead,
      >> the
      >> innocent who were categorised as "soft targets".
      >> Monday is the anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human
      >> Rights. It is a document which reminds us that law is the basis of all
      >> civilisation, of respect for human dignity, in both the domestic and
      >> the international arena.
      >> But in George Bush we have a president who thinks that it is the
      >> rights of America that must take pre-eminence over that of any other
      >> country. His
      >> government has been prepared to wage all-out war on the people of
      >> Afghanistan. But the killers of the thousands of Latin and Central
      >> America dead have
      >> never been apprehended. Indeed, the new American ambassador to the UN
      >> is John D Negroponte. As ambassador to Honduras, he was the official
      >> face of
      >> American repression. And why are we so slow in bringing to justice
      >> those convicted of the terrible genocide in Srebrenica, when 8,000
      >> civilians, the
      >> town's entire male population, were slaughtered - and delivered to
      >> their murderers by an indifferent international community?
      >> We will not eradicate terrorism by waging war on the oppressed and
      >> the ravaged nations, the wretched of the earth. And it will certainly
      >> not be
      >> achieved by drafting legislation depriving us of civil liberties,
      >> which gives away so carelessly both due process and judicial review.
      >> Coexistence and
      >> dialogue between nations, races and faiths is not just a vision - it
      >> is a practical goal and one enshrined in the language of the UN
      >> declaration. It remains
      >> the true beacon for humanity.
      >> ยท This is an extract from the 2001 lecture of the Bar human rights
      > > committee of England and Wales
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