Saturday, June 26, 2010

There is Something Even Worse Than the Vuvuzela

I get it that the quadrennial over-the-top World Cup soccer enthusiasm is an outlet for suppressed nationalism, but I just hope someone is keeping a eye on it so all that excitement doesn't boil over.

The Vuvuzela actually isn't the worst thing that can come out of the World Cup, even though it is plenty bad, and not only because it seems designed to "make a Neapolitan traffic jam sound like Mozart" but also due to the potential for hearing loss and the propagation of airborne diseases.

What could be worse than the Vuvuzela? How about the 1969 Football War between San Salvador and Honduras? That nasty little conflict caused thousands of deaths in about 100 hours of fighting, and it wasn't finally settled until 1980. It saw the last combat between propeller-driven warplanes in history, and also the incitement of thousands of civilians with machetes (not for the last time in history).

You can read declassified contemporary intelligence reporting about the Football War at Unredacted, the National Security Archive's blog, which posted this introduction:

While in South Africa to watch the World Cup, US Vice President Joe Biden extolled that football had the “power to bring communities and nations together.” It also contributed to a four-day war fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Declassified Central Intelligence Bulletins provide a pretty exciting day-by-day account of what is now know as “The Football War.”

-- snip --

After losing the first football match, El Salvadorian nationalist fervor erupted. The fans were so riled that when the Honduran team came to El Salvador to play the second match, the Salvadorian Security Service had to hide the Honduran team at an undisclosed location. As Honduran fans travelled home after losing the match, some Salvadorians threw rocks at their cars.

Due in large part to exaggerated media reports, unorganized mobs in Honduras retaliated against the Salvadorian immigrants living on Honduran territory. Salvadorian business were destroyed, refugees fled, people were killed. The Salvadorian government accused Honduras of genocide. After intermittent border clashes, the military of El Salvador invaded Honduras on 14 July. According to a CIA report, “a nationwide Honduran radio network…exhorted civilians in the western highway area to grab machetes or other weapons and move to the front to assist the army.” This was a nasty –albeit brief– war. The CIA cited more than 1,500 Hondurans deaths during the war, it did not estimate the number of Salvadorians killed.

-- snip --

The Football War is yet another example of the dangers of nationalism. It is also an example of international competition inflaming –not improving– political conflict. And be honest, after writing this, I’m quite relieved that North Korea and South Korea won’t be matched up in the World Cup final.

But back to the Vuvuzela. Why won't FIFA ban those things? Even Hitler hates them:


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