Do As We Say…

Do As We Say…
  • PublishedNovember 1, 2006

As I was pouring over my notes, checking how long my column has gone AWOL (absence without leave, in military-speak), I came across the following conversation between John Clarkson, brother of the famous and indefatigable anti-slavery activist, Thomas Clarkson, and a pro-slavery bishop of the Church of England whom the two brothers were lobbying

Clarkson: “My Lord, what makes you so angry with these poor black people?”

Bishop: “Oh, they are a disagreeable set of people. They have such ugly noses.”

Clarkson: “Well, my Lord, you’ll be pleased to recollect they did not make their own noses.”

What a great sense of humour and wit, this John Clarkson! He may well have been the sage direly needed in the portals of the UN Security Council these past few days to bring some sanity to the place after North Korea made an honourable but “unwelcome” entry into the Nuclear Club. I even hear the UN is going to impose sanctions on North Korea for daring to enter a club whose membership includes Good Old Uncle Sam and his little cousin upon whose empire the sun once never set. Well, what a club! Other members include France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel … and now North Korea – nine of them!

As usual, President George Bush has been at his bombastic best, pontificating on the need to teach North Korea a lesson for defying world opinion not to build nuclear weapons. His reaction reminded me of the speech he gave at the UN in November 2001, which prompted a Mr Mike Campbell of Bristol, UK, to write to The Guardian newspaper in these terms:

“History”, President Bush said in his UN speech on terrorism, “will judge or justify every nation in this hall.” In December 1987, the [UN] General Assembly passed a resolution condemning terrorism and urging “effective and resolute measures for the speedy and final elimination of international terrorism”. It was passed by 153 votes to 2, the two being the US and Israel. The US vetoed the resolution. It was not prepared to affirm the right of people to struggle against racist and colonialist regimes and foreign military occupation. If it had supported the resolution, it would have legitimised the resistance to Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and elsewhere.

I have often asked myself what kind of food Bush, Blair and the other Western leaders (now we can add the leaders of Japan, China and Russia) eat? Seeing what they do, and hearing what they say, I tell myself, these leaders can’t be eating the same food as the rest of humanity! Potatoes, vegetables, rice, pastries, beef chops, Christmas pudding, and the like. Please don’t tempt me to include sadza, fufu, yo-ke-gari or plain eba with egusi soup. That would be asking for far stronger stomachs.

But tell me, do Bush and Co. eat the same food as we the mere mortals eat? Food grown in the same soil of the Planet Earth we all live on? I doubt it. Else they would see that what they do and what they say just do not make sense! They would stop the hypocrisy because the sense of shame that overwhelms all of us when we speak at both ends of the mouth would overcome them and force them to stop making the kind of statements we have heard from them since North Korea joined the Nuclear Club.

As Dan Plesch, a fellow at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, wrote in The Guardian on 10 October: “North Korea’s nuclear test is only the latest failure of the West’s proliferation policy… Far from being crazy, the North Korean policy is quite rational. Faced with a US government that believes the communist regime should be removed from the map, the North Koreans pressed ahead with building a deterrent. George Bush stopped the oil supplies to North Korea that had been part of a framework to end its nuclear programme previously agreed with Bill Clinton. Bush had already threatened pre-emptive war – Iraq style – against a regime he dubbed as belonging to ‘the axis of evil’.”

Plesch continued: “The background to North Korea’s test is that, since the end of the Cold War, the nuclear states have tried to impose a double standard, hanging on to nuclear weapons for themselves and their friends, while denying them to others. Like alcoholics condemning teenage drinking, the nuclear powers have made the spread of nuclear weapons the terror of our age, distracting attention from their own behaviour. Western leaders refuse to accept that our [meaning the West’s] own actions encourage others to follow suit.”

Plesch showed how at the end of the Cold War, “everyone thought that with the Soviet Union gone, multilateral disarmament would accelerate. But with public attention elsewhere, the Dr Strangeloves in Washington, Moscow and Paris stopped the disarmament process and invented new ideas requiring new nuclear weapons. Now all the established nuclear states are building new nuclear weapons. [emphasis Baffour’s].

“The Bush administration made things worse. First, it rejected the policy of controlling armaments through treaties, which had been followed by previous presidents since 1918. Second, it proposed to use military – even nuclear – force in a pre-emptive attack to prevent proliferation. This policy was used as a pretext for attacking Iraq and may now be used on either Iran or North Korea. More pre-emptive war will produce suffering and chaos, while nothing is done about India, Israel and Pakistan.”

Plesch’s sound argument was supported by Marion Birch, director of Medact, UK. “When nuclear-weapons states undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as they did at the meeting in New York in 2005,” he wrote to The Guardian on 11 October, “and when the UK government talks of replacing Trident [its nuclear arsenal with better ones] for reasons of national security, it is hardly surprising that other states seek to acquire these weapons.”

These sentiments were, again, supported by David Traynier of Colchester, UK, in another letter to The Guardian: “Last September, “he wrote, “North Korea committed to abandon all nuclear weapons on the condition that it and the US would ‘respect each other’s sovereignty and take steps to normalise their relations’. The US agreed, but some four days later, it, according to Newsweek, ‘imposed financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country’s access to the international banking system, branding it a criminal state guilty of money-laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. North Korea’s [nuclear] test is a direct response to the US reneging on its commitments. Indirectly, it is a response to the message the US has been sending out ever since its attack on Afghanistan; only nuclear weapons will deter us from attacking any country we choose.” 

Now, can you see why I think Bush and Co. do not eat the same food as the rest of us? It beats any rational thinking that you can make for yourself what Bush himself calls “the world’s worst weapon” and then turn round and tell others that they cannot do the same. If they did, you would pre-emptively smash them off the face of the Earth with the same “worst weapon” you don’t want people to have. Well, perhaps they have stopped teaching history in American and other Western schools. For their information, the “powerless” states are still teaching their children history and the meaning of the dictum, “Whatever they do, we have the Maxim gun and they have not”.

Throughout the history of the domination of the “powerless states” by Europe (and now the West), the issue of big guns has been paramount. Africa was subdued by the European colonialists largely via the might of big guns. It wasn’t superior military tactics that saw the Asantes finally defeated in 1900 by the British. It was the Maxim gun. The Asantes had not, the British had plenty!

The same thinking has ruled the corridors of Western power since America dropped the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. “We will make the big nuclear weapons and keep them, while, using our supine media to soften the world that nuclear weapons are bad for the world, and that any nation that attempts to make them, apart from us and our friends, should be ostracised and even pre-emptively attacked.”  And so, in the last decade, it has become an article of faith that no one makes nuclear weapons (or “weapons of mass destruction”) apart from Uncle Sam and its friends. And as I write, Uncle Sam and its friends are making the latest generation nuclear weapons (including bunker-bursting ones) while barking at North Korea and the others not to follow suit, or…

Thank God, the North Koreans are not Africans. Just look at how Presidents Nelson Mandela and Muammar AlGathafi have behaved in this regard. Before Mandela became president, America, Britain and their friends had given Apartheid South Africa, an odious regime of indescribable proportions, the technology and materiel to produce nuclear weapons. They gave the apartheid killers the technology knowing full well that the apartheid bomb would not be used on the animals in the Kruger National Park. They knew the weapons would be used on Africans – our people! And yet, when the time came for the tables to be turned – when Mandela and the Africans were about to gain power in South Africa, the same Western countries that had helped the apartheid regime to make nuclear weapons, convinced Mandela to dismantle South Africa’s nuclear capability. And he did!

Remember Munya Mardoch, director of Israel’s Weapons Development Programme, who said in 1994: “The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of vassal states. All those states that feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states.”

North Korea and Iran know this and understand it perfectly.  After all, we are all human beings living on the same planet as the Americans, the British, the French, the Israelis, the Russians, the Indians, the Pakistanis and the Chinese. If national security concerns prompt them to manufacture their damned nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran and the others equally have the right, on account of national security, to make their own nuclear weapons to safeguard their safety.

Written By
Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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