VLAAMS BELANG GOES TO WASHINGTON - by Jan Lievens
In February a delegation of the Vlaams Belang took to Washinton, D.C.
The purpose of the journey was to establish contacts and have talks with equal minded politicians, opinion makers, organizations and think tanks. The conservative movement is still the most powerful political movement in the US. That fact alone justifies the trip to the US to clarify the goals of the Vlaams Belang, and to highlight the political prosecution in Belgium and the lack of freedom of speech in Europe. On top of the agenda stood the immigration problem - in particular the islamization of Europe - and promoting Flemish independence. Of course the Vlaams Belang has for years tried to get these views known to a wider public through, amongst others, our English-language newsletter The Flemish Republic, but it was felt that there was a need for more direct and closer contacts.
Party Chairman and European MP Frank Vanhecke and fraction leader in the Flemish Parliament Filip Dewinter first addressed the influential Wednesday Meeting. This group was established by conservative activist Grover Norquist of "Americans for Tax Reform" shortly after Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. When Hillary Clinton in 1998 dubbed her husband's political enemies as a "vast rightwing conspiracy" she undoubtedly also had the Wesnesday Meeting on her mind. Their weekly meetings are meant to coordinate the conservatives' activities and strategies. The day after the delegation was awaited by Guy Vanderjagt, a former Republican member of Congress from Michigan - with Dutch roots - for a visit to the Capitol. After viewing the House of Representatives and the Senate some talks were held in Capitol Hill Club where Republicans meet.
The US is currently facing an ever more serious immigration problem. An estimated 10 million illegal immigrants live in the country. Bush pleads for amnesty, the conservative base revolts. So the Vlaams Belang held talks with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an important organization with around 250,000 members. FAIR wants the immigration policy to serve national interest: "With more than a million legal and illegal immigrants settling in the US every year, immigration has an impact on education, healthcare, government budgets, employment, environment, criminality and countless other aspects of American society. For most Americans it is evident that massive immigration does not serve the needs and interest of the country."
FAIR is politically independent and counts liberals as well as conservatives among its members. They support enhancing border controls, a halt to illegal immigration and plead for a temporary moratorium for all immigration with the exception of spouses and minors of US-citizens and a limited number of refugees. Their focus is mainly on investigation, awareness of public and media, government relations and supporting local initiatives. Academicians and politicians use their publications for preparing new immigration legislation. FAIR is regularly in the media given their expertise. They are also frequently consulted to witness for Congress with regards to immigration legislation, more than any other organization.
Filip Dewinter (left) and Frank Vanhecke (right) listen attentively to Mr. Buchanan.
The peak moment of the journey was undoubtedly the meeting with Patrick Buchanan, author of amongst others "The Death of the West", "Where the Right went Wrong" and recently "State of Emergency". Buchanan was twice a presidential candidate for the Republicans in 1992 and 1996, and a third time for the Reform Party. In 2002 Buchanan was one of the founders of the magazine The American Conservative which serves as a counterweight to the neoconservatives and their campaign for the invasion of Iraq. He is so to say the most important representative of traditional conservatives (also called paleoconservatives - a term used to distinguish themselves of the neoconservatives). The Vlaams Belang-delegation attended the NBC's recording of "The McLaughlin Group" programme, where apart from Buchanan Tony Blankley, a conservative journalist of The Washington Times and author of "The West's last chance", is a political commentator.
After the NBC's talk show The McLaughlin Group was recorded, Frank Vanhecke and Filip Dewinter posed together with talk show host John McLaughlin, journalist Tony Blankley and Patrick Buchanan.
On the last day the Vlaams belang delegates ceossed the Potomac to Arlington, Virginia, to address the Robert A. Taft Club - a debating club named after the conservative senator from Ohio and where traditional conservatives and libertarians meet each other. Their speeches on immigration, multiculturalism and the end of freedom of speech in Europe were well received. Frank Vanhecke expressed his view as follows: "Europe is slowly becoming a totalitarian society. We think that Americans should be aware of his. What happens in our country, can happen in yours too, if you are not watchful. There is, however, a positive way to look at this. The fact that we are constantly harassed with lawsuits against us shows that our enemies regard us as dangerous. They fear the truth, but ultimately the truth will prevail."
Filip Dewinter addresses the Robert A. Taft Club.
The VB's most important message, that Flanders is preparing for independence, was well received too. Filip Dewinter: "We want Flanders to become an independent nation because we believe that Flemish independence offers the best guarantee for the well-being and future of the Flemish people." This Flemish independence must be promoted too overseas. Not once but on a regular basis with regards to future international recognition.
The Vlaams Belang's visit was suspiciously monitored by the Belgian regime. The commentaries in the regime press were as prejudiced as they were predictable. In contrast to what Greet De Keyser claimed in her coverage for the VRT (24 February), as well as the De Standaard newspaper in its 26 February issue, was it not that Buchanan had had a problem with the Vlaams Belang but that he hadn't given authorization to be filmed by a Belgian TV crew. Moreover, the report above disclaims Greet De Keyser's suggestion that the Vlaams Belang had paid a visit to the Ku Klux Klan.
Those who have followed DowneastBlog for some time know that, while I can find myself in 75% of the VB programme, I disagree with the most basic tenet of the party - Flemish Independence. Personally, I think we Flemings have still much more to lose in case of an implosion of Belgium. Belgium is riding - and let us be honest about it, benefiting greatly too - on the waves of the European dynamic towards a USE - a United States of Europe. We have been talking about that before and let us for a while forget the hollow anti-EU rhetoric - if the European peoples are not pleased with European laws, let them elect other European lawmakers instead of breaking the building down. As for Belgium, already, the country's capital, Brussels, is seen throughout the world as the EU's Capital. It is home to hundreds of international organizations and thousands of international companies. The very peculiar geographical situation of Brussels as lying in Flanders while not formally being a part of it - Brussels, like Washington, is an entity on its own - places it in the position of a pin securing the belt of the Belgian federal framework around Flanders and Wallonia. To those unfamiliar with Belgium, these are our country's Flemish-speaking and French-speaking regions respectively. Any attempt of the Flemings to break free would lead to a geopolitical calamity of the first order in the heart of Europe, because the Walloons - so much more shrewder in their negotiations - will never allow Flanders to take Brussels with it. Think a very ugly divorce with the ex-spouses burning the house down. Do we really want that? Then there is also the fact that Belgium boasts both NATO's headquarters in Evere as well as SHAPE in Cambron-Casteau. The country erupting in vicious quarrels at best and civil war at worst is, in the current international climate, the last thing the occupants of the NATO and SHAPE buildings want on their plate.
The reason of course why the VB so fiercely strives for Flemish independence, are the financial woes of poverty-stricken Wallonia, Belgium's French-speaking, socialist dominated southern half. Here the Parti Socialiste, arguably Europes most corrupt party - it is nicknamed "the Party of 1,000,000 scandals", but these days it seems one could add a zero - has managed to completely ruin an economy and industrial assets that were once among the foremost in the world. This near-communist state is in such a dismal condition that it needs a Flemish financial influx of 11 billion EUR annually - some 2,300 US$ for every Fleming from the youngest newborn to the oldest centenarian - just to keep the basics of its decrepit social security system afloat. In fact, the only solution to Wallonia's problems would be the total destruction of the Parti Socialiste. That is not to say there is no place for leftist discourse - in a democratic society, there should be a leftist discourse. But just not from this party. The truth for Belgium's belgicists - those who want to keep the country together at all cost - is not that the VB is the greatest danger for Unity. The greatest danger for Unity is the Parti Socialiste. Had it governed over Wallonia the right way, there would be no need for the Vlaams Belang's call for Flemish Independence - probably not even a need for the VB itself. Personally, I find myself in the strange situation of wishing the VB to keep up its fiery fight - if only for the mere reason of scaring sufficient Walloons that the manna from their northern brothers is not going to last forever.