Posts Tagged ‘British Petroleum’

Radical Journalist Chris Hedges and Cartoonist Dwanyne Booth on the True Horror of War

September 2, 2017

I see that the government have started running recruiting ads for the armed forces again. It was the navy a few months ago. Now it seems to be the army. The ads show a greasy, disheveled man, who clearly represents some kind of Latin American Fascist or other butcher, being hunted down and snatched by our brave boys, who then whisk him over the sea in the motorized dinghy to a waiting British warship and justice.

Oh, if that were the reality!

It ain’t, of course. Like the Americans, we seem to have spent the last seventy odd years since the end of the Second World War propping up every Fascist mass murderer we could, so long as he would protect British interests from Communism or local nationalist movements. In 1958 we and the Americans organized a coup against the Iranian prime minister, Mossadeq, because he dared to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which included the equipment and complexes owned by Anglo-Persian Oil, which later became British Petroleum, now BP. Then there was Nasser and Suez, and Mrs. Thatcher’s fave South American buddy, General Pinochet. Quite apart from one of the Libertarian organisations that form part of the Tory party inviting the head of one of the South American death squads over as guest of honour at their annual dinner one year.

As for snatch squads, this ad looks inoffensive over here, but if it was shown on American TV it would actually be very sinister. One of the tactics the American military used to terrorise the Vietnamese during the war there was to use snatch squads to catch Vietnamese peasant farmers during nighttime raids. The farmers would then be killed and their bodies left as a mute message to their compatriots.

Britain’s invasion of Iraq with George Bush, in contravention of the UN legislation against pre-emptive war, and the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, have done precious little except create even more carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. And these wars were not fought to defend America and the West against evil dictators. In the case of Iraq they were fought so that the oil industry and other western countries could loot whatever they thought was profitable in the country’s economic infrastructure. They also managed to wreck the economy by lowering trade tariffs in order to create the magical free trade utopia fantasised about by the Libertarians and Neo-Cons. Added to this was the ethnic and sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the occupation, and the use of mercenaries and Shi’a militias as death squads by the American overlords.

This makes this next video all the more urgently important. It’s not short – over fifty minutes long. It seems to be a film of the American radical journalist Chris Hedges speaking at an American university gathering about his experiences as a war reporter, and the anti-war cartoonist Dwanyne Booth, alias ‘Mr. Fish’, talking about his work. And it’s strong stuff, which doesn’t pull its punches.

Hedges has a degree in Divinity from Harvard. His father was a Presbyterian priest with radical political beliefs, who was strongly involved in the Civil and gay rights movements. Hedges trained in a seminary, but didn’t joint the clergy. After graduating, he joined the New York Times and served as a war journalist in South America in the 1980s, when Reagan was funding Fascists dictators and their death squads, like Contras in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. After that, he then covered the war in Iraq.

And he presents the unvarnished truth about war and the dehumanizing effect it has on those who are involved, whether as combatants or observers. It’s bloody and horrible, and he states that being in a firefight is terrifying beyond imagination. In fact, terror really doesn’t describe the sheer fear felt during these encounters. These are wars fought for the benefit of big business, and the images and stories about it that we are brought up on are lies.

He describes some of the battles in which he was personally involved, and the times he was captured by hostile forces, like Contras in Nicaragua and the Iraqi Republican Army in Iraq, when he really thought they were going to kill him and his companions. He states that before going into battle, everyone, with himself excepted, used to get drunk or high. Particularly the photographers, as they had to do what you really shouldn’t do in a gun battle and stand up. He states he knew many of them, who lost their lives doing their job. He also states that it is not like the movies. He praises Oliver Stone and his movie about Vietnam, Platoon, but says that the battle in that film is not like real firefights. It’s choreographed. Real battles are just chaos, in which you don’t know what’s going or who’s firing. In all the very many battles in which he was personally involved, he only once saw someone firing in his direction.

He describes how the Contras in Nicaragua called the Sandinistas and forces allied or sympathetic to them ‘periacuas’, a Latin American term meaning ‘motherf***er’. The Contras especially despised the press and media as being allied to the Sandinistas, which made his job even more dangerous. They also used to launch night raids, in which they’d murder a couple of peasant farmers. These people, would have had nothing to do with the war or the Sandinistas, but they were killed and a message left for the ‘periacuas’ on their bodies telling them that this was what was going to be done to them next.

They captured Hedges and his team, when he went looking for a group of them, who had gone underground. He found them, and they really weren’t happy. After capturing him, they radioed their headquarters to ask them whether they should kill them. Fortunately, the answer was, ‘No.’ But they were told to release them and say that if they caught them again, they would kill them and burn their jeep. As if they cared what would happen to the vehicle when they themselves were facing death!

He describes how he and another group of journalists were caught in Iraq by the Republican Army, thrown in the back of a jeep, and had guns pointed at their heads. They were then driven out of the city, and were afraid that their captors would stop somewhere in the desert and shoot them. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, and they were captured by proper, regular soldiers rather than the various militias that had sprung up, including companies formed of 14 year old Shi’a boys, who’d been given guns by Iran.

He also talks about the numbing effect war has on its participants, and the way it becomes a drug. Nothing can beat the high experienced by actually surviving a battle. And so he, like the soldiers he covered, became addicted to combat, playing a weird game with God to see if he could survive ever increasingly dangerous situations and battles.

He also talks about the immense alienation former soldiers feel, an alienation that prevents them from fitting back into society when they’ve returned from combat. He describes them as speaking a language no-one can understand, and makes the point that no-one wants to hear what they’re saying. He makes the point that when you find yourself in a war, you realise that everyone, from your government, the media and your educators, has lied to you. He discusses how old soldiers hate being told how well they’ve served their country, and how no-one wants to hear from them what war is really like. Of the troopers who took Iwo Jima, for example, several took their own lives, while a couple of others drank themselves to death. Hedges himself states proudly that he concentrated on talking to ordinary soldiers. He didn’t talk to anyone above the level of lance corporal, because he wanted to get the truth from them, rather than get caught up in the propaganda spouted by the generals and commanding officers. And he was unique in this. Most journalists wanted to see the top people, and so when he went for the job with the Times, he was told that the queue for the job began and ended with him.

As for the brutal reality of war, it is not like it is portrayed on television on the nightly news. He describes how, when he was in Iraq, in one area they visited the Iraqi army had been without water for three days. Dying of thirst, they tried to cross a minefield in the hope that Hedges and the squaddies he was with would give them some. One of the Iraqi troopers had both legs blown off by a mine. It took him six hours to bleed to death.

Hedges says that it’s quite possible now to show incidents like that using a satellite feed, so you can see in real time real soldiers suffering and dying. But no-one wants to see it, or broadcast it, because if they did, there’d never be another war.

Booth in his work is also angry and bitter about war, and the corporations and individuals standing behind it. One of his cartoons shows a little boy pointing into the camera in the classic Uncle Sam/ Lord Kitchener pose in the war recruiting posters. The legend below reads

I want YOU to give me a future not f*cked up by all your crazy bullsh*t about how moral and just the United States of America is when it invades and occupies other countries and how heroic and brave I’d be to kill for you because you’re too f*cking lazy and bigoted and unimaginative to prefer peace to hegemony and terrorism.

Another of his cartoons shows a child’s body in its grave, with corporate logos covering the shroud.

After speaking, there’s also a question and answer session with members of the audience, who include staff at the university. Some of these link the military action of the American empire to the destruction of the environment and other issues.

This is hard-hitting stuff, and it needs to be heard. We still have our politicians telling us lies about Iraq, and the other interventions in the Middle East, like Libya and Syria. And we haven’t been told the whole truth about Afghanistan – that the Taliban were utterly defeated, but the allied occupation was so terrible, and created so much chaos, that they were able to return and actually be welcomed by the people, they’d formerly oppressed.

Despite the fact that he’s a war criminal, Tony Blair’s still at large and desperate to get back into politics.

We need journos like Hedges. But the corporate media aren’t going to allow them to speak. In fact, the New York Times did its best to suppress the truth about what was going on in Iraq. And tens of journalists have died out there in highly suspicious circumstances, which suggests that the American army might have been killing those members of the media, who didn’t follow the approved line and described what they saw, rather than what the military wanted them to.

Don’t believe the corporate claptrap and the rubbish put out in the recruiting films. Support the independent media that dares to say what they won’t. And for heaven’s sake let’s get our young men and women out of the Middle East. Let’s stop wasting the precious lives of courageous people, who are being butchered simply so Haliburton and Aramco can make even bigger, more obscene profits.

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William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 1

February 15, 2017

Yesterday I put up a piece about American hypocrisy in the allegations that Putin was blackmailing Donald Trump, when the Americans themselves interfered in the Russian elections in 1996 in order to secure Boris Yeltsin’s election as Russian president. This was, however, hardly the first time America had intervened in the domestic politics of a foreign country. William Blum devotes two chapters to this in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. In one he lists the various interventions America has made in other countries, including invasions and military coups, and in the other cases where America has interfered with the conduct of elections in order to secure a win for their favoured candidates.

Both of these are very long and ignominious lists. Here’s part 1 of a list of foreign interventions by the US.

American Interventions

China 1945-51
Aiding Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang against Mao’s Communists.

France 1947
Backing French Socialist party against the Communists, using Corsican mobsters to attack Communist party and Communist-aligned trade unionists.

Marshall Islands 1946-58
Indigenous people of Bikini Atoll removed from the island in order to make way for nuclear tests.

Italy 1947-1970s
Backing Conservative Christian Democrats to keep the Socialists and Communists out of power.

Greece 1947-9
Backing neo-Fascists and creating intelligence unit for them in the civil war against the Communists.

Philippines 1945-53
Military actions against the left-wing Huk forces.

Korea 1945-53
Korean War. However, afterwards US backed Conservatives, who had collaborated with the Japanese, and Fascist dictators, also committed atrocities against fleeing civilians.

Albania 1949-53
Backing anti-Communist guerillas, most of whom were collaborators with the Nazis and Italian Fascists.

Eastern Europe 1948-1956
Head of CIA Allen Dulles deliberately heightened paranoia in the eastern bloc, causing hundreds of thousands of imprisonments, purge trials and murders by the Communist regimes.

Germany 1950s
Lengthy campaign of terrorism, dirty tricks and sabotage against East Germany.

Iran 1953
Prime Minister Mossadegh overthrown by CIA and British led coup, as dared nationalise what is now British Petroleum oilfields.

Guatemala 1953-1990s
CIA backed Fascist coup against democratic socialist Jacobo Arbenz for nationalising plantations owned by American company, United Fruit. Result: forty years of terror, with 200,000 people murdered.

Costa Rica mid-1950s and 1970-1
Attempted assassination of liberal democratic president, Jose Figueres, because considered too soft on the left, and for making his nation the first in Central America to establish diplomatic links with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and questioning American foreign policy, like the invasion of Cuba.

Middle East 1956-58
Attempts to overthrow the Syrian government, shows of force in Mediterranean against opposition to US-backed governments in Jordan and Lebanon, landing of 14,000 troops in Lebanon, and attempts to overthrow and assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Nasser.

Indonesia 1957-8
Attempts to manipulate elections, assassinate, blackmail and start a civil war to overthrow President Sukarno. Sukarno neutral in Cold War, went on trips to China and USSR, nationalised private property of Dutch colonialists, and did not crack down on the Communist party, which was then engaged on electoral path to power.

Haiti 1959
Trained troops of notorious dicator Papa Doc Duvalier, and destroy attempted coup against him by Haitians, Cubans and other Latin Americans.

Western Europe 1950s-1960s
Granting of American money through charities and so on to various groups and organisations in pursuit of American anti-Communist, anti-Socialist policies.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64
Attempts to force out of office democratically elected socialist premier, Cheddi Jagan by America and Britain.

Iraq 1958-63

Long campaign against nationalist leader General Abdul Karim Kassem after he overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. USA and Turkey drew up plan to invade; this dropped in favour of arming Kurds, as well as assassination attempts. Kassem helped set up OPEC and created nationalised oil company. Kassem was finally overthrown in a Ba’ath coup, which also led to a clampdown on the Communist party, which was backed by both America and Britain.

Soviet Union 1940s-1960s
Cold War campaigns of espionage, propaganda and sabotage, backing of resistance movements against USSR.

Vietnam 1945-73
Vietnam War.

Cambodia 1945-73
Overthrow of Prince Sihanouk enabling Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge to gain power.

Laos 1957-73
Armed insurrection and bombing against reformist left, led by Pathet Lao party.

Thailand 1965-73
Armed forced against insurgents.

Ecuador 1960-63
Overthrow of president Jose Maria Velasco for not clamping down on left and not following US policy against Cuba.

Congo/Zaire, 1960-65, 1977-8
Overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in favour of dictator and mass-murderer Mobutu Sese Seko.

France/Algeria 1960s
Backed French military coup in Algeria to stop country becoming independent. Also hoped repercussions would overthrow De Gaulle, who was blocking American attempts to dominate NATO.

Brazil, 1961-64
Backed military dictatorship which overthrew President Joao Goulart for being too independent and friendly towards Communists, despite the fact that Goulart millionaire devout Roman Catholic.

Peru 1965
Military action against leftist guerillas

Dominican Republic 1963-5
Overthrow of liberal president, Juan Bosch.

Cuba 1959-Present
Attempts to overthrow Communist regime.

Indonesia 1965
Overthrow of Sukarno and bloody suppression of Communists by successor, General Suharto.

Ghana 1966
Overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah

Uruguay 1969-72
Dirty War against Tupamaro leftists guerillas.

Chile 1964-73
Long campaign against democratic Communist, Salvador Allende, culminating in Fascist coup of General Pinochet.

Greece 1967-74
Intervention against liberal Greek president George Papandreou, as he wanted to take Greece out of NATO and declare Greek neutrality in Cold War. Overthrown in the Fascist coup that inaugurated the rule of the Colonels.

South Africa 1960s-1980s
Assistance to South African apartheid government against African Nationalist Congress, which, amongst other things, led to the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.

Bolivia 1964-75
Military campaign against President Victor Paz for supporting Cuba.

Australia 1972-5
Operations to have Gough Whitlam, the leader of the Aussie Labor party, removed by America and British, ’cause he was opposed to Vietnam.

Iraq 1972-5
CIA backed Kurds, not for them to get autonomy, but to distract Iraqi army and make sure they didn’t overthrow the Shah of Iran.

Portugal 1974-76
comprehensive series of measures, including shows of force by NATO warships, against radical policies proposed by the army officers, who overthrew the previous Fascist dictatorship of General Salazar.

East Timor 1975-99
Backing of Indonesian invasion, which killed 1/3 of the island’s population.

Angola 1975-1980s
Angolan civil war, which was basically proxy war between US, China and South Africa on one hand and USSR and Cuba on the other.

Bernie Sanders’ Speech Attacking US Coups of Foreign Governments

December 29, 2015

This is a superb speech from Bernie Sanders, the Democrat’s presidential candidate. In it he states that his goal is to strengthen America at home and not concentrate on its goals abroad. He does not want to send the country’s young men and young women out to fight wars without end. He also attacks America’s history of organising coups to topple foreign regimes they do not like. He specifically mentions Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Mossadeq in Iran, the 1964 coup against a liberal government in Brazil, the overthrow of Benitez in Guatemala, and Allende in Chile in the 1970s. Such actions are wrong; they have unforeseen consequences and ‘they do not work’.

Everything Senator Sanders said in this clip is absolutely correct. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has just destabilised the country, and facilitated the rise of ISIS and other groups hostile to America and the other regimes in the region. The CIA’s overthrow of premier Mossadeq in Iran led to the assumption of absolute power by the Shah. His regime was so brutal it was ultimately overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. And it need not be stressed how anti-American that regime is. And Britain can’t be smug about this sordid piece of US foreign policy. Britain was also complicit in the overthrow, as Mossadeq had just nationalised British petroleum. This was the raison d’etre for the CIA’s coup.

This does not mean that Sanders is complacent about ISIS or the rise of other extremist groups and regimes. He states that his foreign policy will be to create an international situation that will prevent their emergence. Well, Bush’s War on Terror was supposed to stop that. It didn’t. But with Sanders, we might stand more of a chance.

Sanders describes himself as a ‘democratic Socialist’, which no doubt has the Repugs spitting teeth and raving about Communism. But it looks, at least from this side of the Pond, that he’s the man to restore America as a genuine moral and industrial force in the world. American industry and the country’s middle class have been devastated by three decades of Reaganomics, just as three decades of Thatcherism have done so much to wreck our fair nation over here. And in both America and Britain the poor have got poorer. Welfare programmes are being cut, and the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and disabled demonised or simply erased from public consciousness. If the world does need American leadership, then it needs American leaders like Sanders.

The Young Turks on the CIA Backed 1953 Iran Coup

October 19, 2015

This video comes from 2013. It’s a report by The Young Turks on the release of declassified papers, revealing that the CIA was responsible for the coup, which overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, Mossadeq, and placed the Shah in absolute control of the country. The video discusses the way the CIA orchestrated the coup through bribes to elected members of the Iranian parliament, and staged mass demonstrations against Moddadeq and his National Front. The ostensible purpose of the coup was to prevent Iran becoming vulnerable to Soviet aggression. The reality was that the CIA acted to take over the Iranian oil industry and give it to American companies. It was given away very cheaply by the Shah, who was grateful for them assisting him into power.

Here’s the video:

This another video I’m posting because it is also relevant to Britain. Mossadeq was overthrown because his government nationalised the Iranian oil industry. One of the companies affected was Anglo-Persian Oil, which in the aftermath of the coup was renamed British Petroleum. As well as American secret service personnel like Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf’s father, the British government was also involved. The British Prime Minister at the time was Winston Churchill, who described it as ‘a great venture’. For further information on British involvement, see Mark Curtis’ article ‘A ‘Great Venture’: Overthrowing the Government of Iran’ in Lobster 30, pp. 1-5. The article is an abridged version of chapter 4 of Curtis’ book The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy Since 1945 (Zed Press 1995).

The Young Turks on Fox Lies over Obama Nuclear Deal with Iran

April 9, 2015

I’ve put up a number of videos recently of The Young Turks internet news programme reporting the negotiations between Obama and Iran about stopping the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme. The Americans are understandably worried about the Iranian nuclear programme, which is currently directed towards generating domestic electricity, being turned to developing nuclear weapons instead.

These talks, which are intended to guarantee peace and prevent another nuclear arms race in the Middle East, are extremely unpopular with the Republicans. Several of the Turks’ videos I’ve posted on this report the Repugs stubborn opposition to the talks and their attempts to undermine them with a letter to the Iranian president himself.

In the video below, the Turks’ anchor Cenk Uyghur, explains how the talks have been successful for America. In return for lifting the sanctions, the Iranians have promised to scale back massively their nuclear programme. The plutonium stocks, which could be used to develop bombs, have been removed. The number of centrifuges have been reduced from 19,000 to 6,000. They have also agreed to give up 97 per cent of their stockpile of enriched uranium. The International Energy Authority has also been given full rights of access and inspection.

This is a very, very good deal. And as you’d expect, the Republicans are resolutely against it.

Uyghur here goes on to comment on Fox News’ report on the talks by their expert, Katie MacFarlane. She claims this is merely a paper agreement, and talks about how the Iranians still chant ‘Death to America’ and demand the annihilation of Israel.

Now Uyghur points out that this is far more than ‘a pinkie agreement’. It’s backed by a number of other countries, apart from America and Iran.

But the Repugs don’t want a negotiated peace. They want war, and an invasion of Iran.

There are several reasons why the Repugs want to invade Iran. The country is deeply hostile to both American and Israel. The Iranians, as a Shi’a nation, are backing the Shi’a population in Iraq and aiming to gain influence there through them. There are also reports that they are backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen, though this is unconfirmed.

However, as the Sisters of Mercy sang, ‘The real truth is never spoken’. I think a major reason why the Repugs want to invade Iran is the self-same one that motivated their invasion of Iraq: Iran is an oil-rich country, which won’t allow outsiders to own its industries. The oil industry was nationalised in Iran after the 1979 Revolution. The mullahs involved have massively enriched themselves. The regime has also passed laws preventing foreigners from owning Iranian companies. Forbes have placed Iran at the top of their list of countries that don’t allow free trade.

When Mossadeq, the then prime minister, attempted to nationalise the oil industry in the 1950s, he was overthrown in a CIA backed coup that inaugurated the Shah’s White Revolution. This led to eventual proscription of all opposition parties and autocratic rule by the Shah himself. The Iranian oil industry was dominated by Anglo-Persian Oil, or British Petroleum, now BP. The Iranians themselves received little in return for Britain’s exploitation of their oil wealth, and the Iranian workers were paid much less than their British counterparts.

British domination of the oil industry was massively resented, and Britain’s interference in the country’s affairs since the 19th century has been and continues to be a source of bitterness. There’s an Iranian saying, ‘If you find a stone in your path, it was put there by an Englishman’. Mossadeq’s administration and his nationalisation of the oil companies was extremely popular. His fall, and the political repression that followed, was one of the major factors leading to the Islamic Revolution.

It looks to me very much like Iran’s oil wealth is still coveted by Big Oil, who would like to invade the country and grab it for themselves. All under the guise of safeguarding international peace and bringing the country democracy. Just like they did in Iraq.

And look how successful that was.

The last thing the Middle East, Iran, Britain and America need is another war. The chaos and bloodshed in the region is bad enough as it is, without extending the war into Iran.

Far too many lives have already been lost, and there have been too many coffins going past Royal Wotton Bassett draped with flags, let alone the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, killed and left homeless by the war.

It’s time any talk about war with Iran was shown up as the dangerous nonsense it is.