Bianca Jagger on war and terrorism
> > 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
>> 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
>> children and was often discriminated against because of her sex and
>> status. As a teenager I too felt powerless when I saw the student
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> countries which were client states of the Big Brother to the north.
>> And the Nicaragua effect represented a huge potential loss of
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> Nicaragua, now the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere,
>> has never recovered from that war. There were 40,000 Nicaraguan dead,
>> 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.
>> · This is an extract from the 2001 lecture of the Bar human rights
> > committee of England and Wales