Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An imagined response of Aziz Parhad to David Aaronovitch's column on Zimbabwe

(Communicated to me by telepathy, on the occasion of this column.

Dear Dave,

Fuck off.

Sorry, that was a hasty and emotional response. Let me explain in a little more detail.

Fuck off, David.

You know, David, every week for the last two years, you've been writing that column in the London Times, and one of your biggest themes has been how very complicated the business of politics is. So when your Tony Blair introduces pass laws, sorry "identity cards" or banned persons - sorry, "anti social behaviour orders", you're all over claiming that it's a dangerous world and people have to take these tradeoffs very seriously. When your friend Patricia Hewitt gets in trouble over her job, or your Labour Party starts selling seats in the legislature - oh sorry, "honours", then you're always there with the lecture about how these are difficult problems, and we need to realise that they don't have easy solutions.

But when an old comrade has a civil war on his borders? I am apparently meant to pull out my magic wand and make everything all right, and the fact I haven't done so means that I am morally corrupt, and have betrayed all the values we used to share and which you, by getting a well paid job on the Times, have maintained and I, by taking a difficult political role in a developing country, have not. Fuck off, David.

" It may not be what we expected back in ’76, but the cause of liberation demands only one thing — you must get rid of Mugabe."

Thank you for the advice, "Comrade". But humour me a little more - how do you propose that I should achieve this? I have sat on my Woolworth's Harry Potter Vibrating Broomstick till my arse was sore, but still the magic does not work. Perhaps you could get out your own obeah stick and do a war dance round Gospel Oak, if you think that these things can be achieved just by willing them.

Things are awful in Zimbabwe, David. But they could be a lot worse. There is not, at present, a civil war. Do you know how bad a civil war can be, David? Look at Iraq (by the way, if you are going to compare me to David Owen, perhaps you would do better to do so from a position other than the exact same Labour Party Atlanticism which he has always occupied and where you now find yourself).

If there is a civil war in Zimbabwe, David, it will be my problem, not yours. You will probably write a few columns about it, and how it shows that the United Nations is irrelevant, or something. I will be pulling my remaining hair out, trying to house refugees, taking money out of all our other budgets and hoping against hope that the damn war stays within the boundaries of Zimbabwe. African civil wars have this habit of spreading, you know?

So when I "appeal to leaders of opposition political parties to work towards a climate that is conducive to finding a lasting solution to the current challenges faced by the people of Zimbabwe", that's what I'm talking about, in my dry diplomat's language, Comrade. I'm trying to say to everyone that they have to continue to work within the democratic framework. Specifically, I'm trying to communicate to the hotter tempers within Morgan's party that there is no crack squad of South African troops just waiting to steam in and help them if they decide to start a civil war. There are plenty of people in the Zimbabwean opposition who want to pick up the rifles and return to the bush, and who can blame them?

Well, me for one. Civil war is never the answer to any question a sane man might ask. While there is a chance that Mugabe can be persuaded to fuck off peacefully, to Saudi Arabia or Libya or something, to take the next door mansion to Idi, that's the option we go for. You might have noticed this, but we South Africans know a thing or two about the business of changing governments without setting the whole country on fire.

Maybe we should have dinner, David. All of us old comrades. You, me, Peter Hain. Bring all of your journalist friends round, we'll hire out a hall and I'll cook you all up a nice steaming pot of shut the fuck up. You see, the British really aren't all that popular out in this corner of Africa. Every time you lot make a speech about Mugabe, it reminds people that the MDC is supported by a whole load of white colonial arseholes and Mugabe gets another ten thousand votes. Make a really fulminating condemnation and Hugo Chavez gives him a tanker of oil, on the basis that anyone with you lot as enemies can't be all bad. Max Hastings, of all people, understands this - why don't you?

Do you know why you're unpopular? Let me tell you, that from my perspective at the richer end of the Third World, that it's got a lot to do with those wars of yours. Yes, the way you chucked away the United Nations, told all of us to lump it, and went off and presided over a bloodbath that even Mugabe would have found it hard to achieve. So why don't you clear up the mess on your own front doorstep, rather than dropping a bucket of shit onto mine? Go around telling people to hang their heads over Iraq, and demand that someone "gets rid of him". And I'll stay here worrying about Zimbabwe. It worries me every single day I get up, you know - unlike you, I won't be thinking about something else next week.

Look, old comrade, maybe I'm right or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's past time for the diplomatic option and war is inevitable. Maybe a firmer line from us would not be such a huge risk and could achieve something. That's the thing about politics, you never can tell; a point you have often made yourself. But are you really so god damned sure that I'm wrong, that you're prepared to take the pulpit and damn me six ways to Sunday for disagreeing with you? It is not as if your judgement on these things has been all that great in the recent past, is it?




Blogger ejh said...

Also see

3/21/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger the management said...

that's a very good article (though worth remembering that De Waal is a little bit closer to the JEM faction than the others, and other people don't share his broadly favourable assessment of their contribution to the peace talks).

3/21/2007 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are killing it at the moment, dude. That was spot on.

One wonders what the hell Dave wants. Some sort of war, one presumes. The Decents have grasped the idea that all of the world's problems can be solved with bombs and they're not letting it go.

3/21/2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Fucking A+ ! Brilliant.

3/21/2007 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woah! I just noticed. Dave-o has a go at Brian Haw. That's becoming a meme for the Decents. Typically, his criticism is that Haw doesn't show his outrage about Zimbabwe.

3/21/2007 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What strikes me as wierd is that in the old Anti Apartheid Movement, the principle was - we act in support of those fighting Apartheid. Our priorities will be determined by what South african's fighting apartheid want. If the ANC (or maybe COSATU or perhaps even sometimes the PAC) make a call, we back it. It was all based on what the South African militants wanted - this is called solidarity. Yet now, making Zim the issue, at no point does Dave Aaronovitch (or any similar minded decent) actually refer to what the MDC is requesting or demanding. It can't be impossible to 'phone up their london office ? And if we were motivated by solidarity, like in the old AAM days, wouldn't our first actions be raising money for the MDC, hosting meetings adressed by the MDC or Zimbabwean Trade Unions (the TUC does this ocassioally) , not just plucking demands out of our own arse ?

Ann On

3/21/2007 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you actually KNOW what the pass laws were?

3/22/2007 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And it may just be that Mugabe was persuaded to bugger off without the need for an invasion....

4/01/2008 05:05:00 PM  

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