Reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft roar across the sky, attack helicopters continuously circle overhead, fleets of battleships are parked in the Bay, thousands of armed-to-the-teeth police and paramilitaries stand menacingly on street corners, undercover CIA and MI5 operatives lurk everywhere, 10 miles of heavy-duty steel fencing render the city centre a no-go zone, businesses are being bled of customers, major roads are closed making travel across the city impossible, public land is out of bounds, every keyboard stroke I make is being monitored by a guy with a crew-cut in the Pentagon (Howdy Hank)…and the Nato summit isn’t even being held in Cardiff!
NATO’s 26th junket takes place this week at the Celtic Manor hotel in Newport, a depressed ex-coal port on the Severn 12 miles east of Cardiff. If Cardiff has been turned into a police state for the sake of one extravagant banquet, sorry “working dinner”, at the Castle on Thursday night, one dreads to imagine what’s happening in poor old Casnewydd (like Rome it was built on seven hills, but that’s where the similarity ends). In any event I have absolutely no intention of going there to find out.
If we are to believe the apologists for this obscene, over-the-top and alarming imposition of martial law on the people of Newport and Cardiff, all these “security measures” are necessary because there’s a real and present danger of a “terrorist” attack – presumably from one of the many, many enemies NATO has made around the world since it was founded as the warmongering outrider of western capitalism in Washington DC in 1949. Taking the dire warnings and threat level alerts at their face value, this means that Newport and Cardiff are currently acting as the bullseye for every jihadist, suicide bomber and itchy-fingered despot, and thus right now are the most dangerous places on Earth. Gee thanks NATO, we are so very grateful for the privilege. I can see the Western Mail headline now: “Jobs boost for Wales: Newport nuked”…
First Minister Carwyn Jones says the summit will be “a momentous occasion in the history of Wales”, and Wales’ colonial governor in London, Secretary of State Stephen Crabb, also blathers on and on about how “historic” the two-day talking shop is going to be for Wales. As usual, especially when they agree with each other, they’re both very wrong. The summit has nothing to do with Wales, it has been inflicted by the US and UK governments without consulting the Welsh government at all, Wales is not on the agenda, nobody representing Wales will be present, and Welsh involvement will be limited to serving the drinks and unblocking the drains. This is just the familiar old story of Wales as location not setting, as venue not act, as backdrop not foreground, as object not subject, as spectator not participant, and as passive recipient not active agent. So ingrained is this attitude that neither Jones nor Crabb can hear how embarrassing they sound, coming across like pathetically awestruck groupies hanging around the stage-door in the vain hope of some second-hand stardust. To them, Wales doesn’t make it’s own history, it’s made for us, and Wales doesn’t have a national life of its own, we’re just an empty vacuum for others to fill – not so much always the bridesmaid never the bride, more like always the usher never the best man.
As the various heads of state of NATO’s 28 members and their client regimes assemble at Celtic Manor, the bullshitometer is reaching boiling point – the peerless Carwyn Jones leading the way, naturally. His latest pearl is declaring that the shindig will “put Wales on the map” – and thus he inadvertently admits that Wales is currently off the map (or else it wouldn’t need putting on it – do keep up Carwyn). Anyhow, this is all just more bogus double-speak: if Jones genuinely wanted Wales to have an international profile he would support independence, the solitary guaranteed way to get it. Instead the British nationalist has made it his life’s work to oppose Welsh autonomy. So it’s just another lie then, meaning the precise opposite of what it postures.
Over at Celtic Manor, the gloweringly ugly, vulgar, 5-star ‘resort’ of microchip billionaire Terry Matthews (he loves Wales so much he lives in Canada), director Simon Gibson runs Jones and Crabb close for weasel words, saying that the summit is “a massive opportunity for Wales’ economy,” by which he means “a massive opportunity for Celtic Manor’s economy”. The 403 bedrooms, 32 luxury suites and two “presidential suites” will be fully booked for the first time since it opened in 1982 – and will billet a real president for once. That’s another few million into Terry’s pension pot, some of which might eventually trickle down to the Lliswerry chambermaid demographic. The fact that Celtic Manor happens to be in Wales is purely incidental of course. It was not selected in order to recognise Wales but simply because the Yanks had heard of it, the Ryder Cup having been played there in 2010 (they like their golf and Celtic Manor has three courses). Mr Gibson also informs us that there could be “lucrative benefits if Wales showcases itself correctly,” although he doesn’t say what we are supposed to do to get our grasping hands on that lucre. Lie prostrate on our bellies along the length of Newport Road with our tongues hanging out perhaps?
And apparently all the massive disruption is going to be worth it for Newport, because “the eyes of the world” will be fixed upon Wales’ third-largest city (although it might be wiser to keep Corporation Road under wraps). Is there anyone out there who remembers the last NATO summit? (Chicago 2012 – I Googled it). If so, are they intending to go on a spending spree in the Windy City because a cabal of “world leaders” happened to hold a conference there once? And, one more question, did the senators and congressmen of Illinois describe that summit as “historic” for their State? Answers: no, no and no. After the circus has departed on Saturday morning, Newport will have forgotten it by teatime.
Here’s the awful truth: the NATO summit is a global humiliation for Wales. We are rolling out the red carpet for a despicable military bloc that has had a hand in every single war since WW2, holds 90% of the planet’s nuclear weapons and is responsible for 90% of all armaments’ manufacturing and sales (their last mission in Afghanistan went well, didn’t it?). NATO is the real-politik embodiment of a set of criminal international principles: that disagreements should be properly settled by violence, that might is right, that power deserves more power, and that war is good for business. The slathering, uncritical welcome from Wales’ milksop politicians, toadying establishment and brain-dead media is to be expected; but what’s worse is the almost complete absence of outrage from the Welsh people. If NATO summits are remembered for anything, it’s their ability to draw mass street protests wherever they are held. The best Wales can muster is a ‘Peace Camp’ out of sight in Tredegar Park, where a handful of well-meaning old hippies are singing We Shall Overcome in a teepee. I’ve heard people in Cardiff actually wax lyrical at the sight of all the military hardware and machine-gun toting cops, like it was some sort of Boys Own train-spotting adventure. This is what has happened to the Welsh. We are so thoroughly defeated a people we welcome repression and the erosion of our liberties, so thoroughly abused we’ve taken to self-harm, so thoroughly brainwashed we brandish our ignorance. We are the colony’s colony. If the defence specialists and counter-terrorist wonks who organised this ring of steel around Newport and Cardiff had only done their research, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and effort. Barack Obama and co don’t need this protection in Wales; we’re just a pussy-footing, harmless, pissy little principality with a big yellow streak down our back, otherwise engaged getting anaesthetised and updating the Facebook status. And, on the 4th and 5th of September 2014, we will be displaying this debasement to a global audience. We’ve hit rock bottom.
I would like to follow this train of thought further, but right now there’s a SWAT team in black balaclavas abseiling through the window…