This entry is part 7 in the series The Imperial History of Earth-Regency


Pieces Of Creation is an occasional recurring column at Campaign Mastery in which Mike offers game reference and other materials that he has created for his own campaigns.

All images used to illustrate this article are public-domain works hosted by Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons, or derivations of such works, except for the “Civil Service Uniform” illustration which is by Me!
 

Continuing the alternate history right from where we left off in the early 70s, these three years were a watershed period in Imperial History. Problems were solved (at least in theory), new problems arose, consequences of old solutions became new nightmares, and some solved problems became unsolved. Some situations improved, but others became worse than was thought possible. An era of instability and bloodshed, it began a transfiguration of the administrative and social concepts at the very heart of the Empire.

General Augusto Pinochet, photo courtesy Archivo Clarin Argentina, taken 19 Jan 1978

1973

’73 was a case of same old same old. Israeli fighter planes shot down a Libyan 747, Palestinian terrorists murdered the Imperial representative to Sudan, Israeli Commandos invaded Beirut and killed three Palestinian guerilla leaders, a violent military Junta in Chile seized power in the name of General Pinochet, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in retaliation for the Israeli aggression earlier in the year; Israel declared war over Imperial protests, leading eleven Arab nations to cut oil production and raise prices in protest over the perceived Imperial support for Israel, a military coup in Greece ousted the established Government, and the Invasion of Afghanistan continued to flounder.

Profile photo of Richard M Nixon for official portrait, taken 2 sept 1970

Watergate

Irregularities in the conduct of the recent USK† elections led to the impeaching of Prime Minister Nixon. The “Watergate” affair had first come to light in late 1972 thanks to the investigative work of two reporters, Woodward & Bernstein. It was widely believed that they had an inside source, who came to be nicknamed “Deep Throat”.

Some speculate that “Deep Throat” was a member of Imperial Intelligence, who leaked enough details of the bungled attempt to bug the opposition political offices under the direct orders of the Empress, a covert action to bring to heel another US head-of-state before he became an embarrassment to the Monarch. It was not the first time that untoward political events in the USK would be attributed to the Monarchy (refer “John F. Kennedy” in the previous chapter), and it would not be the last event interpreted in this way by conspiracy theorists.

†USK = “Kingsom Of The United States Of America”. Refer previous chapters of the series.

Northern Ireland

Attempts were made to reach a peaceful settlement of the unrest in Ireland, producing a government that would be representative of all the interested parties. This settlement had been approved by a general referendum in Ireland but only 59% of the populace had bothered to vote, despite it being compulsory under the law. At the first attempted sitting of the new Government, proceedings were disrupted by militant Protestants.

Map of Chile, Image by Scansculotte

The Chilean Revolution

Pinochet’s coup was accompanied with a new approach to the problem of relations with the Empire: the Chileans simply ignored it and waited for it to go away. There was no dramatic ultimatum, no attempted secession, no request for recognition; in fact there was no recognition of Imperial authority at all. If this tactic had been attempted a year or two earlier, it might have posed a significant development; but the Pakistan resolution had provided a precedent, which the Imperial authorities proceeded to implement – give them what they want to such an extent that they don’t want it any more.

The instructions given to the various civil servants involved were concise and specific – all Chilean citizens had to obtain citizenship of another country before they would be acknowledged. No trade licenses or agreements with Chile would be honored. No payments promised to the Government of Chile would be honored. No defense of Chile would be mounted in the event of aggression – which had some of Pinochet’s neighbors salivating. No Chilean border controls would be recognized. All expatriot Chileans not seeking citizenship in another country would be deported – with a full and specific explanation of the reasons. The entire country was up for grabs if anyone wanted it; and if Chile fought back, the object of their military action would receive full Imperial Military support.

Within a week, troops were approaching the (former) Chilean border on three sides, and a Chilean Ambassador was desperately trying to arrange diplomatic talks about the Chilean membership of the Empire with diplomats who refused to acknowledge their existence. When the invading ground forces were only minutes from entering Chile, the diplomats got their meeting… at which point, their options had narrowed to two: either petition for recognition, on any terms the Empire chose, or cease to exist as a nation.

Pinochet chose the former, and almost immediately reports of human rights violations began to surface; Chile was consequently downgraded in Imperial Membership repeatedly, and more direct controls were put in place by the Empire. On readmission to the Empire they had been assessed as a Class VII nation; by the end of the year, they were a Class X, and Imperial Administrators had taken control of virtually all public functions.

Pinochet repeatedly failed to learn from his mistakes, however, and continued to take his displeasure out on the public; Chile remains a backwater in the Empire to this day (2055).

Dirty Politics in the Aegean

The Greek uprising presented a more difficult problem.

This was not exactly a fringe nation; while not in the Heart of the Empire, they were not far removed from it. In addition, Imperial Intelligence had uncovered the fact that the coup was secretly sponsored by the opposition to the established government with the deliberate intention of weakening their control over the country, and thereby improving the opposition’s chances of gaining office legitimately, by forcing a downgrading of Imperial Citizenship – ostensibly as a consequence of the current government’s policies. It would be months before the Empire decided how to react to this attempt to take political advantage of its policies by undermining a member in good standing within its borders.

The Three-Day Week Experiment

The year ended as industrial troubles deepened throughout the Empire. While the lessons of the Coal Strike of ’72 (refer ’1972′ in the preceeding chapter) had not been lost on the leaders of the Unions concerned, they could and did authorize go-slows, ‘blue flus’, and other more passive disruptions of their industries. If the Government were to accede to the union demands, it would produce an inflationary spike that would almost certainly plunge the Empire into a recession; if they did not, the cumulative impact of lost production would produce a deeper, longer-lasting recession after a lengthier waiting period.

Suddenly, all the new policies which had seemed to meet the challenges being posed of Imperial Government were being shown as lacking.

In desperation, the British Prime Minister imposed a three-day working week in a bid to cushion the impact of granting the pay rises demanded; but it was widely recognized for what it was, and the Stock Market continued to decline. After only three months, the shorter working week would be rescinded.

Ein Fiq, Golan Heights - photograph by Roybb95 taken 23 Feb 2004. Click the thumbnail for a larger image.

1974

Imperial Diplomats made further headway in the Middle East, persuading Israel & Egypt to accept a peace plan partitioning their forces on either side of the Suez Canal. The Israeli Prime Minister would later resign when his constituency became bitterly divided over both the War and the acceptance of the peace plan. The Empire monitored the dissention between hardliners and moderates closely, and drew up tentative plans to further reduce the Israeli citizenship status if it escalated, which would have the effect of placing the military and police forces under direct Imperial control.

This was acknowledged as a move to be resisted if possible, as it would undoubtedly spark terrorist reprisals by hard-liners; but, argued the supporters of the plan, it could also have the effect of taking much of the wind out of the Arab Nation’s sails, and might ultimately reduce the level of bloodshed. They were all guessing, really – tapdancing through a policy minefield at the edge of a cliff in total blackness.

The caretaker Government continued to pursue diplomatic resolutions in a bid to stave off this new indignity, and in May reached a settlement with Syria over their territorial claims in the Golan Heights. When the new government was elected in mid-year, they found their choices to be an acceptance of this fait accompli or of being perceived as responsible for their nation becoming a third-world country in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Hatfield Main Colliery, one of many mines whose workers were involved in the 1970s industrial activity. Photo © Paul Glazzard, licenced under the creative commons attribution-sharealike licence version 2.0

A softening of Industrial Relations

In late February, the coal mining industry began a full-scale strike in a bid for better working conditions and a protest for the heavy-handed actions in breaking the strike of two years earlier.

Agreement for the strike was virtually unanimous, and that made the consequences of enforcing that policy the equivalent of extending the strike in perpetuity.

One key difference was that this time they waited until the worst of Winter was past, and sufficient stockpiles had been accumulated to make the action little more than an inconvenience – in the short term. This was a compromise to social responsibility that helped garner them public support, or at least reduced the levels of public alienation, and had a marked impact on the Official response; instead of wading in with all guns blazing, the civic-mindedness of the industry was taken into account. The “essential services” decree was softened in consequence, and a moderate pay rise was granted, despite the knowledge that doing so would sponsor a new wave of wage claims in other industries, and an inevitable rise in inflation.

This was a compromise, there is no question of that; that it was viewed as a just and necessary compromise did not change the impact that it had on the various levels of governance throughout the Empire. Certainty that policy, once established, would be applied consistently was replaced with a seed of doubt. Whatever short-term banefits accrued, the long-term repercussions would outweigh them – but it takes a heart of stone to ignore those in difficulty, and (contrary to public opinion), bureaucrats are not insensitive to the impact of their decisions. Sometimes, it was felt, the long-term pain was a justifiable price for a little short-term relief.

Marcello Caetano of Portugal, photo by UNEO, licenced under creative commons 2.5 general licence

The Portuguese Catch-22

Unfortunately, few people can predict the future with any accuracy, and the true cost of this decision was one that none of the bureaucrats who had made the decision could see coming.

An almost bloodless coup ousted the Prime Minister Marcello Caetano of Portugal. This was a direct result of dissatisfaction with the public service, and reflected the growing impotence of elected officials to make sustentative changes in domestic policy, and signaled the growing public dissatisfaction with their leaders that resulted; but because the coup did nothing to replace the bureaucrats who were now the true masters of the Empire, little changed in consequence.

It should have been viewed as a warning signal of troubles to come, but the reports to the Empress by the Civil Service were so sanitized that the correct interpretation was of events was almost impossible. Instead, the report ascribed the coup to dissatisfaction with the politicians’ ability to deliver on their promises.

Prime Ministers Willy Brandt and Richard Nixon, photo by de:Benutzer:Wolpertinger

The Coup is Complete

In Germany, Prime Minister Willy Brandt was forced to resign following a spy scandal, while the military coup in Greece ended with a raid by the Australian-based Imperial Special Forces which captured or killed the leaders of the revolutionary uprising.

The former leader of the Government was then reinstated, and informed that if two conditions were met, Greek Citizenship in the Empire would not be affected. The first was that he regain control of his country – without violating Imperial edicts on human rights or civil liberties – and the second, that he act to address the causes of the internal dissent that had led to the coup in the first place.

This was a new step for the Empire, and completed the cycle of finger-pointing. For any given domestic problem, there was now always someone else who any involved body could accuse as the source of the trouble. It therefore became impossible to act to correct the real problems, and only superficial symptoms remained addressable. Power had been distributed so evenly through the Empire that no-one had both the authority and the knowledge to change anything. The civil servants were in command.

Chairman Yasser Araffat of the PLO, photo taken in 1974, image provided by www.comunismulinromania.ro/

The Howling Storm

This was most clearly demonstrated a few months later (in retrospect) when the Empire recognized the PLO as representatives of the Palestinian people, and began the process of making Palestine a sovereign nation.

This angered most of the Middle East, to be frank; the rival Arab tribes protested loudly, while the Israelis felt that the entire peace process had been sabotaged and demanded guarantees for their citizens living there.

The Empress was furious; the decree had been made without consultation, and all the Civil Service protests that the recognition was simply to accredit the PLO as local spokesmen and that the sovereignty of Palestine was merely under investigation as a possible solution, could not disguise the fact that they had showed their hand and usurped the Empress’ authority.

Wheels within wheels

This development placed the Empress in quandary; the Empire was perceived as too vast, too complex, for it to be administered without a Public Service of some kind, and she had based her entire rule on the premise that while politicians represented the people, and the peers represented industry, they were all essentially amateurs, and the most valuable advice would come from experts recruited into the Service.

Now the Experts and Bureaucrats were beginning to dictate policy, even if only by painting an unflattering picture of the alternatives, while quietly setting the wheels in motion for whatever solution they favored this week. Furthermore, the first suggestions of corruption within the service were beginning to become apparent. She could not abolish the Service, and any reform would have to be carried out by the very people it was aimed at, and she could not do nothing.

At the same time, she knew that there could be no half-measures; this was a battle for control over the Empire itself, and she would get only one opportunity. Until it came, she would have to bide her time and endure the situation – and take advantage of any lesser chances to keep them from further consolidating their power in the meantime.

1975

If there was no solution at hand for these new problems, at least there was progress being made in solving the old ones.

The equal pay and sex discrimination acts came into force at the beginning of the year, removing the last legal race and gender-based inequities. Tough new laws also came into effect that forced industry to bear the responsibilities of the environmental impact of their operations, which would hopefully begin the long process of correcting the Empire’s pollution problems.

Hopes and Hopes Dashed

The stalemated invasion of Afghanistan continued despite tremendous losses. King Fasail of Saudi Arabia was assassinated by his nephew, permitting his son to gain the throne. This was seen as the first good news to come out of the Middle East in some time, tragic though the circumstances were; Prince Khalid ibn Abdul Aziz was widely known as an Imperialist, while his father was suspected of subtly derailing many of the attempts at a negotiated peace in the region. But hopes of a further improvement in the level of turmoil were short-lived; only three weeks later, civil war again tore Lebanon, and especially Beirut, apart. This was another conflict of ideologies, the division between Christian Evangelists and Muslims being at the heart of the conflict.

Nigerian Soldier, photo by SSGT. Paul R. Caron, USAF.

Even Civil Servants Make Mistakes

Nor was the rest of Africa all that peaceful. In July, a bloodless military coup deposed former General Yakubu Gowan as Prime Minister of Nigeria. The Civil Service had completely misread the signs of the impending revolution, and several of the more influential members had publicly backed the stability of the existing Government.

This gave the Empress a small opportunity which she was quick to exploit; she sacked the offending members for incompetence. There was, of course, an immediate response by the Civil Service, who threatened strike action; but the Empress responded by defining the Civil Service as an “essential industry”, and threatened to invoke the Coal Act against any striking worker.

Nor was the Service entirely united over the issue; in particular, those who stood to gain promotions through the dismissal of the sacked were not wedded to the notion of industrial action. It was entirely likely that Elizabeth would be able to maintain basic services with a much slimmer public service, though the influence they had slowly accumulated would certainly be lost.

The legendary 'uniform' of the British Civil Servant - Bowler, Briefcase, Suit, Tie, and Umbrella (Brolly), Cup of tea optional.


A Life In The Service
By now, a career path through the civil service was reasonably well established. After a classical education through one of a small handful of Universities, one would be recruited into a junior position (for which the individual was grossly overqualified), and would then be indoctrinated into the culture of the Service.

As one gained experience and a satisfactory record of achievement (within the Service definition of the term), one would rise through the ranks. As he individual rose in authority, he would be cultivated as a ‘friend’ by various influential bodies. If he chose the right mix of patrons, he would be helped in his career – introductions made, consultancies arranged, and so on. These would, in select cases, lead to a senior official taking the prospect under his wing, and placing him on the “fast track”.

That official would train the individual in the various aspects of the senior bureaucracy, and groom him to eventually become his replacement. Eventually, the up-and-comer would become a senior official himself, or even a department head. He would then serve for a number of years, repaying those who had sponsored him during his rise; he would argue the position of the moneyed interests who had backed him, he would arrange special favors and memberships of various committees for his former superior, and he would, eventually, select and train his own successor.

After a few years in various civic roles, arranged to his benefit by his hand-picked replacement, he would accumulate enough Brownie Points to be nominated for a minor peerage, which would enable him to take his place as a captain of industry, earning exorbitant remuneration. He would then be steered into the House Of Lords, where he would again work through the ranks, gaining seniority as he represented his backers on various committees and review boards, before retiring, an extremely wealthy man with a long list of honors and privileges.

The benefits of a career in the Civil Service was entirely too much to lose in a single stroke, which would be the result of the Empress following through on her threats. Her willingness to do so was uncertain, but the risks were just too great for the matter to be left to chance.

Ultimately, it was better to accept the principle that Civil Servants could be sacked for incompetence – and then to ensure that the review process was entirely within their control. This was not a decisive victory in the undeclared conflict between the Civil Service and the Empress, but it at least threw them into some disarray and pegged back their confidence.

King Carlos I of Spain (image cropped and edited). Photograph taken 1977.

The Rules Change

In October, Crown Prince Juan Carlos of Spain made history by running for the position of Prime Minister – and winning.

In theory, this was forbidden under the rules of peerage within the Empire, but because he was not yet King, he was able to renounce the privileges that came with membership of the peerage, except for the one privilege that he was not permitted to rescind – that he would one day inherit the throne. That day was not long in coming, as his father succumbed after a lengthy illness less than two months later. This blurred the lines between commons and peers, lines which past rulers within the Empire had been careful to delineate very clearly.

It is likely that had the gap between election and ascension to the throne been lengthier, the Empress would have forced him to either renounce the throne or step down as Prime Minister; but the timing was such that by the time a decision had been made, it was too late to do anything about it.

That said, the new King was undoubtedly popular, and hence there were clear advantages in uniting the two roles. He appeared to be that rarest of animals, a popular and enlightened Dictator. Before she passed judgment over the situation, Elizabeth decided to interview the young King. What was said at that meeting is not a matter of public record, but afterwards, the Palace announced that in this particular case the Empress had seen fit to make an exception to the usual rules – this being one of the few areas in which she still had unconditional authority.

King Carlos announced in his New Year’s speech of 1976 that he did not view the two roles as incompatible; he viewed his position as Prime Minister as representing a perpetual vote of confidence in his rule by his subjects. He also explained that there were conditions attached to the exception granted by Her Wisdom, specifically that his position as Prime Minister was not to be construed as a hereditary office, and that should he ever be defeated electorally, he would not stand for elected office subsequently, and that he would accede to the will of the people if his policies were rejected.

The beautiful mountains of Argentina, photograph by Alps. Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.

1976

The events of 1976 had a familiar ring to them.

A bloodless coup deposed Prime Minister Isabel Peron, widow of former PM Juan Peron, over electoral fraud charges, whose investigation she had blocked using the power of her office. Race relations in South Africa continued to deteriorate. The ceasefire in Lebanon collapsed, only to be restored after 6 days of bloodshed that accomplished nothing for anyone. Idi Amin began to show his true colors, restricting the right to vote in national elections in such a way that only his supporters and aides were eligible; in effect, he rewrote the law to make himself Prime Minister for life.
 

Entebbe Airport, Uganda, scene of the hostage drama that unravelled a Dictator. Photo by SSGT. Chris U. Putman. Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.

The Devil’s Choice at Entebbe

Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France jet and forced it to fly to Entebbe, Uganda – the first hints of an accommodation between the Amin regime and the Arab rebels. This put both Prime Minister Amin in a difficult position; Amin did not want outsiders in Uganda, fearing that they would cause trouble for his regime; but if he did not permit the Imperial Military to deal with this new problem, he would confirm the allegations, and bring down on his head the very trouble that he hoped to avoid.

He took the only way out that he could see, deliberately misunderstanding the instructions he received. He was supposed to prepare accommodations and briefings for specialist Israeli anti-terrorist troops who were to be on-hand to storm the aircraft if the terrorists made unreasonable demands; instead, he “misheard” this to say that he was to use the Imperial Troops stationed in Uganda (and nominally under his command) to storm the aircraft because the terrorist’s demands were unreasonable.

In theory, most of the hostages would have been rescued had the task been left to the Israeli experts; instead, the B-grade Ugandan military botched the operation appallingly, and all but 3 hostages were killed outright. Prime Minister Amin was suitably apologetic afterwards, blaming the poor state of communications equipment throughout Africa and requesting £735 million to upgrade telecommunications throughout the continent in a programme to be administered by Uganda on behalf of the Empire.

The audacity of this request in a fiscally-restrained climate was breathtaking, and initially it served its purpose of distracting the Imperial Bureaucracy from any investigation of the Entebbe massacre; the proposal won considerable support in a number of quarters, especially France and Germany, whose industries would almost certainly be subcontracted for the job. It fell to “The Whisperer” to raise the red flags and begin the downfall of Amin.

The Whisperer

“The Whisperer” was an opinion/gossip column in the London Times which every now and then was the medium of choice for “official” leaks.

The column of July 7th is widely believed to be an example of this usage; it stated that the author had heard a recording of the conversation with Prime Minister Amin prior to the Entebbe disaster which showed no signs of communications problems. It then argued that this suggested that the competence – or lack thereof – of the Prime Minster was more likely to have created any misunderstandings; and then asked the very pointed question, “These people couldn’t organize barracks and lunch for the specialist soldiers being dispatched to deal with the crisis; now they want to organize a 735 million Pound pan-African telecommunications programme?”

With the distraction eliminated from the agenda, and the implication that Amin was lying about the cause of the misunderstanding, the very issue that he had hoped to deflect again took centre stage. Journalists began to investigate his regime with a thoroughness and tenacity that were in the highest ideals of journalism.

Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia. Photograph taken in 1990 by Cliftonian and made available under the creative commons licence 3.0.

A Rhodesian Diversion

This investigation was interrupted briefly by a dramatic development in nearby Rhodesia. For 6 years, they had tried to go it alone as an independent nation in the centre of Imperial-controlled Africa.

On September 24th, President Ian Smith stunned the populace by announcing a two-year plan for transition to Black Rule, and readmission into the Empire as the “Kingdom of Tribal Africa”.

This proposal was almost farcical; the native tribes of Africa were no more capable of union than the Arabs, and for essentially the same reasons. Perhaps in 30 or 50 or 100 years, this might be a realistic goal; but the concept at the current time was sheerest fantasy. Nevertheless, Smith was completely serious.

His concept was to take a leaf out of the Israeli political handbook: Rhodesia would form the central administration for an empire-within-the-Empire; any native African would be eligible for citizenship in the new political unit, in addition to any national citizenship they might retain locally.

In particular, Smith wanted to try and avoid Central and Southern Africa degenerating into the kind of senseless hatred that consumed the Middle East. They were laudable and lofty ambitions, and the generated many columns of interesting newspaper ink, but no-one expected it to work.

Bosco delle Querce ('Wood Of Oaks'), the park built to commemorate the Seveso Disaster. Two tanks of contaminated waste are buried here. Photo taken 20 March 2011 by Massimiliano Mariani and licenced under the creative commons 3.0 licence.

The Incident At Seveso

The newspapers always find something to print, but 1976 was an excellent news year by any standards. The ongoing Middle East crisis, the Entebbe crisis and its aftermath, and the Spanish succession were all good for headlines for weeks. As was the first of a new type of story that would become all too common in future years – the first ecological disaster.

This story broke less than a week after the Entebbe disaster, and centered on the town of Seveso (near Milan) in Northern Italy, which was devastated by the accidental release of poisonous dioxin gas from a nearby pesticide plant.

Subsequent investigation showed that the pesticide concern had been losing money for some time, and that as a result of cost-cutting, safety measures had been neglected, which permitted an accidental fire to develop into a major catastrophe. This was the first serious test of the Imperial legislation on pollution and if found guilty of placing the environment at risk, several Italian nobles faced potential jail terms.

The prosecution case fell apart when private settlements conditional on a denial of liability were reached with the survivors; to protect their compensation, they refused to testify. In theory, their testimony could have been compelled, but in practice they would have been unconvincing. Also in theory, the nobles involved had committed the even graver offences of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, bribery, and interfering with witnesses; but unless the survivors testified, those charges would not succeed either, and even then it would be touch and go.

Thus the management received a reprimand, a rap over the knuckles, and a financial loss that would certainly have been much greater when the legal fees for defending against the charges were included. The newspapers had a field day on several occasions as this succession of scandals emerged.

The Seveso Legacy

There were immediate repercussions to these controversial events. In particular, there were three consequences:

  • the links between the Civil Service and the Peerage, who in turn were directly connected to big business, came in for considerable (and unwelcome) scrutiny;
  • manufacturers throughout the Empire came under harsh scrutiny by both environmentalists and investigative journalists whenever there was a slow news day;
  • and the public discontent grew even stronger.

The events confirmed in the Empress mind that the Civil Service now posed a grave threat to the Empire. It had become a recruiting ground for the Peerage, and in the process, had become partisan. She was still unable to force a confrontation, however; the biggest weapons at hand against the Peerage were the labor unions, but using them would only replace one problem with a bigger one, and nothing less would be enough. The wedge she needed was still missing.

1977

1977 was always going to be significant year in Imperial History. Not only were there still ramifications of ’76 to fill the headlines, but this was the year of the Empress’ silver anniversary. While the week-long official celebrations were not scheduled to begin until June 1, the year would be full of lesser events – dedications, public appearances, and so on. In many ways, this was time the Empress would have preferred to spend addressing the problems still facing her rule, but the calendar could not be denied, and there were undeniable advantages in the longer term to reinforcing public support for her rule.

Photograph of Haile Selassie taken October 1, 1963, during a visit to Washington, by Cecil Stoughton.

The African Dilemmna

Those problems continued to be hot news items. Africa continued to disintegrate politically, for example.

In February, Prime Minister Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was murdered. There were three political theories of the crime, none of which were ever disproven; the simplest was that this was a coup attempt that went horribly wrong; the second, that it was a terrorist act; but the third, and favorite amongst the ever-present conspiracy theorists, that Ethiopia had been opposed to the Rhodesian “Grand Plan” and had been removed to make way for someone more inclined to the will of Ian Smith.

Only two weeks later, Archbishop of Uganda Janinin Luwum, a civil rights activist, was murdered by security forces before he could keep an appointment with a British Journalist; and with each such act, the world edged closer to discovering the truth behind the Amin Regime.

In July, Somali forces invaded Ethiopia in a dispute over the Ogaden area, while in September, the militant Black South Africa leader Steve Biko was killed while in police custody; but when everyone involved was acquitted by an obviously partisan investigation, it became one violation too many for the Empire.

The ongoing violations of human rights in the Kingdom’s war of oppression against the Native Tribes had been public policy for some time, and tolerance of extremism anywhere on the continent was wearing extremely thin. In November, the Empire prohibited weapons sales to or within South Africa.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, photograph taken during a visit to the White House by the White House Press Office.

From Bad to Worse

The Middle East was no less disastrous. The Afghan meat-grinder continued to chew up men and material.

In March, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto claimed a massive victory in the Pakistan General Elections, maintaining the existing government despite the ill-fated rebellion against Imperial Rule. Within days, the kingdom had erupted in widespread violent protests and uprisings over allegations of vote-rigging.

After almost two weeks of riots, and after the Empire had promised an impartial investigation of the allegations, the violence quietened down; after receiving the reports of the investigators, Imperial General Zia ul-Huq arrested Prime Minister Bhutto, seized power, and declared Martial Law.

He publicly thanked the investigators and ensured that they were not molested by the Press on their way to the airport; in fact, they were ushered out of the country with unseemly haste. Only when their jet landed at Heathrow were they able to reveal that their investigation had uncovered vote-rigging and massive corruption by both major parties.

The General had, in the meantime, passed this news to Her Majesty and advised that as neither party could be trusted to form a legal government, rule of Pakistan had to be placed in the hands of a third party, of necessity; his military dictatorship would control all government functions until such time as the parties held a proper election, under the gaze of international inspectors, which showed no fraud or malfeasance.

He then established rules of governance that made such elections virtually impossible, in particular placing restrictions on the right of citizens to gather in numbers – not unreasonable, in terms of maintaining law and order, and given the violent unrest of recent times, but of a certainty they made organising a general election all-but-imposssible.

This was a fundamental breakdown in the Imperial Model, which assumed that Governments would always be democratically elected. Nevertheless, under the conditions described, there was little choice; at least ul-Huq was considered to be loyal to the Empire. The Imperial concern was that this set a precedent for others to follow; by interfering on behalf of both sides in an election, in a way that was manifestly apparent to the citizens, it was possible for a military to seize power indefinitely on a more-or-less permanent basis. It was the ultimate distillation of the Military Coup.

Anwar Sadat (L) and Menachem Begin (R), Photograph by White House Staff Photographers.

The Birth Of Hope

By mid-year, there were finally promising signs from the region that there might be a return of peace in the Middle East, with the election of a known Moderate to office in Israel, Menachem Begin.

After months of effort by Imperial diplomats and go-betweens, Prime Minister Sadat of Egypt signaled his willingness to negotiate peace terms with the Israelis. Once this willingness had been stated, the Empire broke diplomatic speed records in arranging a face-to-face meeting between the two; less than two weeks after his initial offer of negotiations, Sadat had addressed the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and was engaged in top-level discussions, and meaningful progress was underway.

Sadat immediately came under political fire from his neighbors for this stance; but he refused to have the policies of his nation dictated by others, and responded in December by breaking off diplomatic ties with Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, and South Yemen. Another major power in the region had returned to the Imperial fold; but would the consequences increase or decrease the resiliance of the fragile stability of the region? Only time would tell…

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