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Who's your oppressor?
James Skinner - international terror and corruption

Another great gulf between the USA and Europe is the attitude taken by both sides towards modern day dictators. If we skip common bygone enemies such as Hitler and Stalin during WWII and take into consideration the subsequent battle against Communism during the Cold War a very different scenario emerges. In fact as we enter the XXI century, there are political factions within Europe that consider President George Bush a dictator who is spreading a new era of American imperialism throughout the world.

So what is a dictator anyway! Whenever I face a complex essay I revert to a basic definition to kick off the debate. I quote from the Oxford Dictionary. Dictator: ‘a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.’ Wow! Have we got a can of human worms out there running the universe! How about starting with the most recent demise in the Middle East, Yasser Arafat.

I am not going to elaborate on this particular ruler as James Campion has already sorted him out in another article in Hacks. I will only add that in the eyes of half the world he was a ruthless dictator dominating the Palestinians and to others he was a charismatic ‘freedom fighter’ trying to liberate the same downtrodden lot the Israeli’s were bashing the hell out of. On to Israeli then. Is Ariel Sharon a dictator? Again, the same old argument. It depends who likes or hates Israel, although Sharon was elected democratically into office. And this is the crux of the matter. When does an elected ruler become a ruthless one and thus labelled as a dictator? Let’s hit the history trail starting with Latin America.

Cuba, pearl of the Caribbean, land of tropical fruit, sandy beaches, beautiful people, cigars and Fidel. Yes, good old bearded Fidel Castro, the one and only. Here we have a genuine case of a so-called ruthless ruler that forced his way into power by ousting yet another corrupt dictator, Batista and imposed his authoritarian brand of socialism to feed and educate his people. He made one mistake, he rattled Uncle Sam’s chain once too often and has been ostracized by the yanks ever since. But what about Europe? The Pope’s been there to visit him, Spain’s King has been there, and a great deal of European business is carried out with the old guy. So why the difference in attitude? Does Europe consider him a dictator? Officially yes, but then it depends on whom you talk to. Let’s move on to another couple of geezers that took over by force, Chile’s Pinochet and Argentina’s Galtieri.

Now here you have the opposite effect. Apart from Britain’s Maggie Thatcher who ironically loved the former and hated the latter, the US administration buttered up to both of them in the so called ‘purge’ of communism in Latin America back in the 70’s. Pinochet shot his way into power, ousting the then elected Chilean President Allende whilst Galtieri just took over from a succession of former military dictators ruling Argentina since the 40’s. Uncle Sam loved them both. Europe, on the other, not only condemned them, or their regimes, they actually started a whole set of court proceedings to put the bastards behind bars. Yet there is a subtle difference between the two. Despite Pinochet’s rule of iron, he did put Chile’s economy back into the black and together with Galtieri rid the Southern Cone of communist terrorism. But Argentina was far from being financially solvent. Instead Galtieri decided to invade the Falkland Islands and ended up going to war with Britain in 1982. Isn’t that a mixed bag of dictators and a ‘love-hate’ relationship with superpowers, namely USA and Europe? What about General Noriega dominating Panama in the 80’s?

This guy was becoming too hot to handle as a drug dealer, sexual maniac and general piss artist. Being a small country with not much to offer, Europe hardly knew his name; there was no commotion on this side of the pond. But the USA had other thoughts on their mind. The Panama canal! Thanks to Jimmy Carter striking a deal with the then dictator Omar Torrijos, the canal was due to be handed over to the Panamanians and the hand over date was not far off. They could not allow a cuckoo to be in charge. America soon took care of the guy by sending in the 7th cavalry and whisking him back behind bars in a US prison. He is still rotting in jail and the country is now back to so-called democracy. Where was Europe? As long as the off shore banking system was intact, they could not care less. How about the ones who get democratically elected and then turn into dictators? Who judges this lot? ! Ah democracy! That wonderful word misused by all and sundry.

We have poor old Arestide in Haiti, who in the 90’s was supposedly elected by the people only to be forced out some years later by US backed UN forces and sent packing to some unknown African state to rot. He had turned from a democratic leader to an authoritarian one. Haiti was too close to the USA for comfort, and like Cuba was a geographic problem. Once again, Europe was not too interested although it gave Spain an excuse to butter up to the US, following the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. It sent Spanish ‘peacekeepers’ together with Moroccan ones to help restore law and order once the Haitian priest, come president was banished from office. Hold it right there! Morocco? A King, Hassan II, rules this country. He is not elected to office through suffrage but by inheritance. Are kingdoms considered as dictatorships or not? This is a good question. What was the Shah of Iran then? When he was ruling over this oil–producing Middle Eastern country, he decided in the early 70’s to treble the price of oil. The backlash was that both Europe and the USA bent over backwards to pick up the lucrative business contracts the bastard was handing out. Yet they never tried to overthrow him? I wonder why? Hum! This time it was oil that kept him in power. All nice and dandy until the French decided to pull the rug from under the rest of the greedy European and US money makers. They sent in the Ayatollah Khomeini who had been scheming a religious coupe for years in his luxurious flat in Paris. This country from the ‘old’ continent actually thought that they would be considered heroes and take over in Tehran. We all know what happened in the end. Khomeini gave two fingers to everyone.

This now opens the door to the whole gambit of Islamic governments. Kings, Sheiks, Ayatollahs, Mullahs, Talibans and all sorts of non-democratic rule are going on in this part of the world. Are they considered as dictatorships? Again, depends on what looking glass European and American society uses.

Finally we can name a similar number of African and Far Eastern governments that fall into the category of ruthless dictatorships and once again are treated differently by both Europe and the USA depending on each power’s interest in the region. What is my conclusion? Hypocrisy, one man’s beast is another’s hero. Whichever way you analyse it, the history of world control will always remain dependant on what drives one nation to befriend or befoul another, regardless of its rulers. It usually boils down to money, plain old greenbacks.’
(And now England will be playing cricket against Mugabe’s team – Sport for Dictators now there’s a tale) Ed
© James Skinner. November 17th 2004.
Deconstructing Gigi
James Skinner on the 1958 musical

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