Zimbabwe - divide and fool
The US, Europe, the UK, and the UN all issued all issued statements deploring the assault upon the Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai whilst in custody, and suddenly Zimbabwe is given centre stage in the media as the number one rogue state run by a tin pot dictator. In the West, Mugabe is more disliked for disappropriating white farmers than for the economic hardship his people have to endure. Far be it from me to condone police brutality, but I detest the moral high ground so readily assumed by Western politicians calling upon the African Union to intervene urgently as if this was the biggest issue going on that large continent, dwarfing the US orchestrated invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops, for example.
After meeting the chairman of the African Union, Ghanaian president John Kufuor, British prime minister Tony Blair offered the platitudes that the Zimbabwean people "should be able to express their political views without harrassment or intimidation or violence", adding that what was happening was "truly tragic". He surely must live in cloud cuckoo land. Unbiased observers might point to the fact that the UK's own human rights record is anything but impressive, considering that the UK found it necessary to derogate from its obligations under article 5 of the European Community's Human Rights Act in order to hold so-called terror suspects indefinitely without trial.
Nor is police brutality against people in custody an African thing. In 2003 a British Muslim, Babar Ahmad, was arrested and later released without charge. He emerged from the police station with more than 50 injuries to his body. In typical Mugabe style an internal police misconduct tribunal found that the officers had acted impeccably, adding: "We are satisfied that there is no case to answer. In fact, the officer acted professionally and with great bravery. We support his actions: he should be commended and not castigated." The EU did not mind and the US added insult to injury by getting Babar Ahmad re-arrested on an extradition warrant. The African Union should have demanded that the EU urgently intervene in this tragic case. They should also have asked for sanctions following the brutal police assassination of innocent Brazilian Chales de Menezes on the London Underground.
The sun has long set on the British Empire, but the Anglo-American establishment continues to act as if they can make the rules and break them at will. Divide and rule may have become more illusive these days, but divide and fool is alive and kicking, particularly in the mass media who thrive in this age of shameless impudence. For the war-mongering moralists in Western governments the beating of an African opposition spokesman is a global outrage whereas the torture and sexual intimidation at Abu Ghraib prison remains merely an operational anomality.
The British people are continually fed a stale diet of two-party politics, only to find both "opposing" parties to unite when it comes to the crunch. To head of a backbench rebellion amongst its own supporters the governing Labour party relied on the opposition Conservative Party to approve a renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine system at the same time as they are lecturing other countries on nuclear disarmament. Whilst trying to make their own people feel guilty every day of their lives with the new mantra of "you're leaving too large a carbon foot print behind", they chastise Iran for wanting to develop peaceful nuclear power, arguing that a country with large oil reserves like Iran does not need nuclear energy for peaceful reasons.
For now, everybody outside the Anglo-American world (maybe with the exception of China) remains apologetic whenever an accusation of wrong-doing is levelled at a lesser country belonging to the third world. Maybe it is because their elites were educated in the West. Meanwhile the Western powers have already lost both the intellectual and moral arguments. Will the world be fooled much longer by double standards passed off as political finesse, or has the time finally come to turn the tables?