Wage war to win peace

By Raffique Shah
July 17, 2011

Raffique Shah“‘Tis strange—but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!”
(Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1823)

IN Frederick Forsyth’s 2010 novel, Cobra, the central character, Paul Devereaux, a former CIA agent, is tasked by his President (mucho resemblance to Barack Obama) to put an end to the cocaine menace that is strangling America. Devereaux demands, and is given, $2 billion plus a carte blanche instrument of authority to launch his war on the Colombian Cartel and its global tentacles. He hires as his operations officer a former foe, Calvin Dexter, and within one year they put together a powerful machine of personnel and equipment that attacks Don Diego and his overlords with extreme prejudice, as such exercises are described.

Without denying readers of Forsyth’s thrillers the twists and turns of the plot, the potentially fatal blow to the Cartel comes to a climax in the cocaine-guzzling cities across America and Europe. Gangs that control the distribution trade—all 300 tonnes a year of it—turn the streets of these cities into rivers of blood as they implode. Almost all of the perpetrators and victims are gang members. But there is collateral damage, innocent victims caught in the deadly crossfire. Outrage erupts. The media explode. Politicians scream for the carnage to stop.

Predictably, a new Presidential Order cancels the carte blanche: Operation Cobra is cancelled. “But we were so close,” Dexter says to Devereaux, when he gets the order to fold up the massive machinery that was on the brink of success. “Not close enough,” Devereaux tells him. “Our great nation can kill up to a million people abroad, but not one per cent of that figure of its own gangsters without sustaining a fainting fit.”

Therein lies the great contradiction not just in America, but in countries like ours. We complain about “blood flowing on the streets”. Four men are murdered in downtown Port of Spain in a weekend. Two more are hogtied and executed in the Beetham. The once quiet district of Diego Martin and its environs are turned into virtual battlefields—with the attendant collateral damage. Innocent people felled by stray bullets. The carnage continues, never mind the modest declining numbers of murders when compared with the deadliest years.

How do we respond? The Government and the police come up with a new crime-fighting plan, the umpteenth one in the past two decades. With the greatest respect to my one-time colleague Brigadier John Sandy, more police presence on the streets will not help. Sure, while the cops are on the beat citizens will enjoy a measure of personal safety. But for how long can the police sustain this, even if they are joined by soldiers?

Subtracting Sergeant Ramesar’s threat of a five-day sick parade from the equation, we simply do not have the manpower to deal with what we are up against. If you lock down Port of Spain, Morvant will explode. Or Arouca. Or Tunapuna. Or San Fernando.

Let’s be realistic about where we are in this crime-ridden society. The forces of law and order cannot conceivably cover all the killing fields at the same time. Indeed, even if they rotate their crime clampdowns, they face mission impossible. Criminal gangs have sprung up in just about every community. Boldface gunmen parade openly with their “hardware”. From what I’ve heard, in some crimenests, these guys conduct “range practice” in broad daylight.

What we are dealing with is a hydra-headed monster. And the only way to kill it is to sever its many heads—simultaneously, if that is possible (I think not), or on a well-planned, phased basis. I know many persons who are reading this must be muttering: the mutineer is thirsting for blood again! Let it be known that my revulsion for bloodletting is what saved this country from a huge bloodbath in 1970.

There comes a time, though, when one must face reality. Today is not yesterday. It certainly is not the relatively peaceful 1970, a year in which tens of thousands of people protested on the streets, most of the army mutinied, but very few people met violent deaths. Today, we must deal with multiple “armies”, small in unit-numbers, but heartless when it comes to wanton violence that they inflict on society.

The empire must strike back—and not with kid gloves. Successive governments have resisted calls for the imposition of emergency powers that would enable law enforcement agencies to at least arrest and detain those who are known gangsters.

Before the challenge arises, how do we know who are gangsters? I answer this way. How is it only after some corpse or corpses are found bound, gagged and very dead, can the police say, “He was a known gangster we wanted to question for several murders”?

If, at this stage, the police and state intelligence agencies do not know the perpetrators of this nationwide carnage, then we might as well surrender the country to these two-bit criminals, hand over our balloons, run and hide in the forests, and leave the country to them—whoever they may be.

However, if we are serious about restoring peace, then we must wage war. We cannot sustain a “fainting fit” as described above by Forsyth when it comes to measures we must use to win back our country. That syndrome is akin to the truth, or reality, being stranger than fiction.

3 Responses to “Wage war to win peace”


  • In 1962 and 1963 I was in the Marine Corps stationed in Trinidad.
    It was a great place to be.
    The people were friendly – the scenery was fantastic and the rum was terrific.

    I was planning on going back for a visit – but I’ve read too many bad things about the crime rate.

    Unfortunately,all things change.

  • I agree with the Shah, for there is a time for peace and a time for war. Its time for the war on crime to begin in earnest and we need all the crime fighting machinery we can muster. Can it be that SAUTT was disbanded in an untimely and ill advised manner?
    However fighting crime is not just a police matter but rather a function of society and its various institutions.The writer of the previous comment,Eric Nelson, alludes to a beautiful T&T of the early 1960s, so where did this ugly uncaring careless T&T come from? Well, I was born in 1961 and can remember that wonderful time but I can also remember when the shift began to take place in our society,to me it was post 1970 and the upheavals that happened then. This was a time when a certain brashness entered our society, when respect was no longer respected,when there was an innocence lost. NUFF evolved out of this situation and blood was shed, Guy Harewood went down in the St Joseph river and Randy Boroughs went up in the police service. The individual now took precedence over the society at large.At this juncture oil prices went up, money came in,DEWD was created or expanded, materialism took the place of good work ethic and easy became a way of life. We achieved independence and then stopped achieving as a nation. We became a nation of Government and the people and not government by the people. The Government was Corporation Sole with the bobol and intransigence which accompanied that power. So people became selfish and careless and illicit drugs became available and prevalent. “All ah we tief” replaced “so if the priest could play who is we”. “Money is no problem” replaced “The future of our nation is in the book bags of our children”. We lost our way we strayed from the basics which made us a potentially great nation. As a boy I heard of the Polool brothers, Boysie Sing and Mano Benjamin the whole head in the flower pot incident was terrifying enough but these things were distant not in my milieu. In 1973 my last year at Tunapuna Anglican, a young man who had the misfortune of growing up in the orphanage and becoming a street urchin afterwards, was given the task of selling some weed by one of the older guys on the block, it is said that he was $1.00 short and was beaten and chopped to death. These were guys who we as young boys all knew because they limed a stones through from the school. Violence was at the front door now it was no longer remote. The so called draconian Public Order Act was rejected, “Ah fraid Karl” was the refrain and discipline continued its downward spiral to Abu Backer (Lennox Phillips)and 1990. He and his band of disrespectful merry men invaded our Parliament, shot our PM, killed a Parliamentarian along with many other people and walked free. This was the most disrespectful and despicable crime our nation had ever experienced. Their walking free was a signal to all recalcitrants great and small that “Massah day done” for truth. They have all come out to play now. But how do we put an end to this misery,as indicated earlier I believe that the action outlined by Lt Shah must be pursued. In addition discipline must be reintroduced in our society,not just by policing but by educating and supporting parents and teachers in the pursuit of disciplining their charges. When I was a boy, every morning before classes started we lined up, were inspected for neatness and cleanliness,we sang the National Anthem and said the Pledge (subconsciously learning patriotism) and then proceeded in a quiet orderly fashion to our classes. We were there to listen to our teachers and learn. This should be revisited at the primary level and scouting should be encouraged. Each high school should have a Cadet Unit,as well as a Scout Troupe and civics classes should be mandatory with a curriculum which teaches by discussion, Govt & Politics as well as crime and drug awareness, their causes perpetration and effects on society. Societal responsibility should also be thought. A few years ago during the NAR administration, I was appointed to a committee which reviewed youth education, we recommended the abandonment of youth camps and the establishment of YTEPP. In hindsight that was a mistake. The YTEPP model was good but the disbanding of Youth Camps was a bad idea. Youth Camps should be a catchment facility for at risk youth who need a structured environment and extra discipline, as such I am advocating the reestablishment of Youth Camps under the auspices of the military,where young men and women can spend two years living under quasi military discipline while acquiring life skills as well as a vocational or academic education. These are just some of the simple and easy to institute measures which I believe can result in a better and more forward leaning Trinbago.

  • In the war there are many battles. And any good commander will tell you that in order to win the war you have to be able to identify the battles that would be significant in the turning of the war and focusing on them wining those and thus the war. The west have focussed too much on the insignificant battles. Those that cannot be won. In the process they have destroyed large populations, including their own, and the war goes on.
    We have to see that control is the key. Move away form blanket prohibitions, the USA know that doesn’t work, and instead concentrate on the control and distribution. If the governments can manage the control and distribution the cartels will be toothless. The gun culture will be more manageable and the crime situation will change. When we support the blanket prohibitions we alienate our children and their friends and imprison them creating a whole new gangster class and we become the prey.

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