Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

The Trump Statues: Nudity, Castration and the Punishment of Slaves

April 9, 2018

I sent this piece below off to the left-wing American website and magazine, Counterpunch. It’s a reply to a previous article they put up about the satirical statues of Trump, which appeared when he was campaigning for the presidency. These showed him naked, with a small penis and no testicles. One of their female writers compared this humiliating portrayal with the way nudity has been frequently historically used to punish women. She also cited the Fantasy series Game of Thrones and one of the punishments inflicted on a female character in that. But the statues’ genital deficiencies point to another way nudity was also used. Along with castration, it was also used in South American colonial society to punish captured runaway slaves. The Statues’ portrayal of Trump thus seems very fitting, given his aggressive masculinity and support for racists and White supremacists.

The magazine hasn’t used the article, and I don’t think they ever will. So here it is.

Nudity, Emasculation and the Humiliation of Slaves:
The Hidden Politics of the Anti-Trump Statues

Remember those statues of Trump which appeared in various cities across America about a year or so ago, when the Orange Generalissimo of reality TV was strutting about stadiums across America trying to get people to elect him? These were life-size statues of him, naked, with a tiny penis and no testicles. Today, Wednesday 28th March, the British papers reported that the last remaining one of a set that wasn’t destroyed, was put up for sale at Julien’s Auction in New Jersey. The statues were a subversive comment on a man, whose personal behaviour and style of government is one of aggressive masculinity and misogyny. One of the female contributors to Counterpunch published a piece a year or so ago when these statues first appeared. Written from a feminist perspective, it commented on this sculptural humiliation of the future president, and in particular its similarity to the methods used in the past to humiliate women. The statues’ nudity recalled the way errant women were also humiliated by being paraded naked.

It’s true that public nudity has been most used to humiliate women, but it wasn’t exclusively so. Men have also been humiliated on occasion by being exhibited naked by their enemies. In the culture of the Hebrew Bible, nudity was a badge of shame, and there’s a plaque from ancient Egypt showing a group of Asian prisoners being led, naked, by their Egyptian captors. And during the 18th century heyday of the transatlantic slave trade, public nudity and mutilation, including castration were used to humiliate enslaved Africans, who ran away or otherwise resisted their White masters. The slave societies of the New World was gripped by the fear of slave resistance, which itself took various forms. Enslaved Africans revolted in armed rebellions. They also ran away from their masters, or confined themselves to less dramatic forms of resistance, such as eating dirt, sabotage, or finding ways not to perform, or perform badly, their allotted work. To combat this, the slave masters punished their slaves with a variety of brutal measures, ranging from whipping to execution. These included various forms of mutilation, including castration.

This fear intensified during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when the British and other European colonial nations feared that the slaves would follow Toussaint L’Ouverture and Black Jacobins of Haiti, and rise up against their masters to found free Black states. And so they resorted to increasingly brutal methods to discourage them. In one British Caribbean colony, one enslaved man was forced to sit on a cannon as it was fired, which understandably left him shaken and terrified. A female planter was also awarded five pounds by the local legislative assembly in another British colony, for having her male slaves castrated as a deterrent to further resistance.

It wasn’t just in the British colonies that emasculation was used to crush rebellious slaves. The Spanish slave code provided that runaway male slaves should be punished through the amputation of their member, and then exhibited naked to the public, a further punishment intended to humiliate them further after the horror of the mutilation itself, as well as dire warning to others also considering absconding. And it is this punishment, which the Trump statues, with their nudity and lack of genital endowment most closely resemble.

As a caricature of the President, it’s very appropriate indeed. Not only is Trump keen to project aggressive masculinity and sexuality, his regime is also notorious for its racism and connection to White supremacism. Trump tried and failed to pass legislation banning Muslim immigration from specific countries, largely those where he has no business dealings. He’s promised to build a wall to stop Mexicans and other Latino/as getting into the country illegally. And his supporters and staff have included members of the Alt Right, determined to preserve White dominance as America rapidly becomes racially diverse. One of the most notorious examples of this racist support base came when Richard Spencer, the founder and leader of the Alt Right, greeted Trump’s election at a meeting at the Ronald Reagan room with the cry of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race!’ and a raised right arm in something that looked very much like the Fascist salute, despite his claims to the contrary later.

And some right-wing extremists in the Republicans have gone further. Not only do they defend slavery, but some of them have advocated it, or something close to it. A few years ago, one Republican politician recommended that illegal Mexican immigrants should be held captive by the state, and forced to work on public works. This is forced labour, which comes under the UN definition of slavery. Michelle Bachman, during her 2011 presidential campaign recommended a biography of General Robert E. Lee by J. Stephen Wilkins, which blamed the ‘radical abolitionists’ of the north for starting the Civil War, claimed that Southern slave masters treated their slaves with respect, and gave them enough food and personal possession to live a ‘comfortable but spare’ existence. The book even claimed that American slaves were fortunate in being brought out of their own, pagan homelands, and their godless brutality to Christian America. The Victorian English explorer, Sir Richard Burton, made the same argument nearly 250 years ago in his Wanderings in West Africa. It was also repeated by a number of Trump supporters during his presidential campaign back in 2016.

The disgraced former anchor of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, also repeated it, claiming that the slaves, who worked on the White House were well treated and fed. The Texas school board also tried indoctrinating their children with a carefully sanitized view of it. Back in 2015 one Texas mom was horrified to find that her child’s geography textbook described the enslaved people ripped from their homes in Africa to toil in American plantations as ‘workers’. The protestors, who turned up to demonstrate against the removal of the statue to Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, also argued that slavery had been beneficial. And some Libertarians also resent anti-slavery legislation. One confused Libertarian caller to Sam Seder’s internet news show back in 2013 also tried arguing that the anti-slavery laws were a tyrannical infringement of his liberty. Why? Because they deprived him of his right to own slaves. It’s an argument which shows how dangerous and demented at least some Libertarians are.

This shows there’s considerable nostalgia for slavery amongst some Republican supporters, who were very encouraged by Trump’s election and his racist policies. It’s true that during the 18th century some paternalistic slave masters, like George Washington, were concerned to treat their slaves well. Archaeologists working on Benjamin Franklin’s estate found that many of his slaves had very good material possessions. Some had fine china, and played the violin, for example. But for others, the reality was grinding poverty and the tyranny of the whip. In the British Caribbean, the slave codes provided only that male slaves should be given a pair of drawers, and women shifts once a year. Even in the 19th century visitors to these colonies remarked on seeing slaves toiling naked in the fields. As for benefiting from being taken to America, many Africans instead naturally desperately yearned to return to their homes. Some threw themselves into the sea on their arrival in the Caribbean in attempts to swim back to Africa. And if they couldn’t return to Africa, some of them dreamed of recreating an African society in the New World. In one late sixteenth century rebellion in the British Caribbean, the slaves planned on creating a new social order based on the type of monarchies, with a king and queen mother, they had known in Africa.

The subversive statues of Trump not only comment on and invert his projected image of potent masculine leadership. They also attack and undermine the racism at the heart of his administration by subjecting him in image to the humiliation meted out to runaways in the Latin south. Since then, the statues have nearly all vanished, while unfortunately their real-life model remains at large in his occupancy of the White House.

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Counterpunch on America’s Long Racist Hatred of Haiti

January 17, 2018

I blogged earlier this week about how Haiti was the first Black republic, where its enslaved people threw off their chains under the Black revolutionary, Toussaint Louverture, and threw out their French colonial overlords at the time of the French Revolution. The country became an inspiration to slaves struggling for their freedom in America and the Caribbean, and created panic among the European masters. They feared that their slaves were in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries, and that the next Black revolt would succeed where the others had been suppressed. And from the late 18th through the early 19th century, there were a series of revolts in the Caribbean by slaves, impatient for their freedom.

Mark Schuller, the Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University, and affiliate at the Faculte d’Anthroplogie, l’Universitat d’Etat d’Haiti, wrote a piece discussing Haiti and America’s obsessive hatred of the country. Put simply, it’s because the American plantation masters were terrified of the example the Black republic gave to their slaves, and so they did everything they could to limit discussion of it and ultimately to conquer and dominate it. And not just America, but also France, and the exploitation and class rule imposed by the Americans under neoliberalism after the overthrow of the last Haitian president. He writes

What is behind Trump – and white America’s – obsession with Haiti?

Haiti has been targeted for its decisive role in challenging what Southern planters – including eight U.S. Presidents – called a “peculiar institution.” The Haitian Revolution was the first time slaves were able to permanently end slavery and forge an independent nation. It also was a tipping point in U.S. history, leading to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, paving the way for U.S. “Manifest Destiny” stretching from sea to shining sea and eventual dominance. Chicago, the country’s third largest city, was founded by a Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who Haitian historian Marc Rosier called an “agent” of the Haitian government to pursue a pro-freedom international policy.

Haiti’s contribution to U.S. “greatness” has long been unacknowledged. The pivotal Haitian Revolution was literally “unthinkable,” as Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot argued. The demonization of Haiti was so strong, its inspiration to slaves so dangerous, that Congress imposed a gag order in 1824, preventing the word Haiti from being uttered in Congress, a year after the imperialist Monroe Doctrine.

White supremacy was not defeated in the Appatomox Court House in 1865, nor the 13th Amendment that allowed for a back-door legalization of slavery, nor in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, nor in the 1965 Voting Rights Act following “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, nor in the 2008 election of the first African American President.

Through it all, as Haitian anthropologist Gina Athena Ulysse analyzed, Haiti has served as the “bête noir” in a deliberate smear campaign against the descendants of the people who said no to white supremacy.

These narratives of Haiti continued throughout the initial response to the 2010 earthquake, from the likes of televangelist Pat Robertson and the New York Times’ David Brooks. As New Yorker contributing writer Doreen St. Felix pointed out, this obsession with Haiti has to do with white society’s rejection of black self-determination.

These discourses have definite and powerful material consequences.

France, which in 2001 declared slavery a “crime against humanity,” extorted 150 million francs from Haiti as a condition of recognition of Haitian independence, plunging Haiti into a 120-year debt that consumed up to 80% of Haiti’s tax base. Socialist president Jacques Chirac scoffed at Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s demand for reparations before being the first to call for his resignation in 2004.

Calling Haiti “ungovernable” provided justification for U.S. intervention: The United States invaded Haiti twenty-six times from 1849 to 1915, when U.S. Marines landed and occupied the country for nineteen years. During the U.S. Occupation, the Marines set up the modern army, opened up land for foreign ownership, solidified class and racial inequality, laying the groundwork for the 1957-1971 Duvalier dictatorship.

Incorrectly blaming Haiti for its role in the AIDS epidemic killed the tourist industry, which, along with the deliberate destruction of Haiti’s pig population, sent the economy in a nosedive. Neoliberal capitalist interests seized the opportunity to take advantage of the massive rural exodus to build sweatshops, exploiting people’s misery by offering the lowest wages in the world. With poverty wages, and a crippling foreign debt that according to the IMF’s own recordkeeping went to the paramilitary tonton makout, Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns had no services and no government oversight. These foreign interventions were the main killer in the 2010 earthquake.

He also makes the point that the accusation that indigenous Haitians were ‘looters’, along with other racist claims, meant that the efforts of the Haitian people themselves in combating the disasters that beset their country were ignored. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission was chaired by Bill Clinton, and the humanitarian aid coordinated by the UN. Native Haitians were excluded from these meetings either by foreign soldiers, or by the simple fact that they were in English, while Haiti itself is a bilingual country, speaking French and a French-based creole. The NGOs themselves had a top down, hierarchical structure, excluding people in the refugee camps from their decisions. The result was the break-up of Haitian families, and increasing violence against women.

His article ends:

Calling the world’s beacon of freedom a “shithole” sullies not only Haiti’s ten million residents on the island and three million in the U.S., but is an affront to human freedom and equality.

As award-winning Haitian author Edwidge Danticat argued, “today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.”

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/16/what-is-a-shithole-country-and-why-is-trump-so-obsessed-with-haiti/

Proud Haitians Defend Country as Free Black Republic after Trump’s ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Comments

January 14, 2018

Yesterday there were mass demonstrations in America, and expressions of outrage around the rest of the world at Trump’s grotesque comments about immigrants to America from ‘sh*thole countries’. As Mike put up on his blog, one of the countries that was most definitely not impressed was Botswana in Africa. This tiny African state, with a population of 2 million, has, as Mike pointed out, the highest growth rate in Africa, and a tradition of stable democratic government. It’s a developing nation, but definitely not a ‘sh*thole’. And the country’s authorities seemed determined to make that point when they called the American ambassador in to explain if their nation was one of the countries Trump was sneering at.

I was particularly impressed by a young Haitian woman, who appeared on the BBC news yesterday when the Corporation covered a demonstration against Trump and his racist comments in Florida. She stated that Haitians were a proud people, and that their country became the first Black republic, where the slaves overthrew their masters. She’s absolutely right. Modern Haiti was created by the ‘Black Jacobins’ under Toussaint Louverture, who organised a slave revolt inspired by the Revolution in France. Haiti had been a French colony, but they toppled colonial rule, and threw the French out. Louverture then renamed the country ‘Haiti’, rather than continue using the old French/ European colonial name, justifying the change by claiming that this was the indigenous name for it.

Lourverture’s revolution sent a shock wave throughout the Caribbean and America. It was an inspiration to Blacks struggling for their freedom, and alarmed the colonial authorities. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw a series of slave revolts break out in the Caribbean, by enslaved people impatient for their freedom. These were ruthlessly and brutally suppressed, as the colonial authorities feared the influence of Haiti upon their enslaved subjects, and that the slaves would be in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries. And some free Black Americans moved to Haiti after they obtained their freedom. Major Moody, a British army officer, who was sent to the Caribbean in the 1820s to produce a report on whether the enslaved people of the British colonies were ready for emancipation, includes in his report correspondence between a Black American, who had done this, and his former mistress in America, who had freed him.

Haiti is a desperately poor country, as has been shown by the suffering and destruction it has sustained in recent years through a series of disasters. But much of this poverty and deprivation comes from American imperial intervention. The Americans invaded in the 1920s as part of their campaign to assert their dominance over the Caribbean, and defend their economic interests. And they’ve done the same thing at various intervals throughout the 20th and now the 21st century. A little while ago I found a piece on YouTube – I think it might have been by Abby Martin of TeleSur English’s The Empire Files, or it could have been the Real News people, which made the point that when the Americans invaded again a few years ago to overthrow the latest dictator, it wasn’t because of his human rights record. Rather, it was because he was redistributing wealth, which threatened American corporate interests once again. And the dictator’s left-wing opponent was kept from standing and taking over office through armed soldiers posted outside his house. It was the same pattern of invasion and coup that has been repeated over and over again, around the world, whenever a smaller, weaker country elects anyone remotely left-wing, or otherwise threatens the dominance of the big American corporations in their country’s economy. Just like Hillary Clinton five years ago in 2012 gave her backing to the Fascist coup which overthrew the liberal regime in Honduras.

One peculiar consequence of the American invasion of Haiti has been the rise of the zombie movie. The first of these appeared shortly after the 1920s American invasion, and left-wing, anti-colonial critics have argued that the movies represent an attempt by the country’s new colonial masters to present a picture of it as a terrifying land, steeped in superstition and black magic. Since then the zombie movie has moved away from Haiti to America itself, and under George A. Romero also developed satirical overtones criticising contemporary American society and capitalism. Like in one of his movies, the survivors seeks refuge in a mall.

Trump’s comments were offensive, and they clearly stung the pride of migrants to America, who nevertheless still felt strong bonds with their countries of origin, as well as the other peoples in the Developing World. But the young Haitian woman speaking up for her mother country made a very good point about how important it was for Black history. And if many of these countries are poor, ruled over by brutal, corrupt governments responsible for human rights abuses, one of the reasons is because the Americans have assisted these thugs into power to stop any redistribution of wealth or growth of democracy. All under the guise of protecting the world from the threat of Communism, and upholding American corporate interests. People around the world have been demanding that Trump apologise for his comments. They’re right, but it’s not just his comments that need to be critically analysed and opposed. It’s American imperialism itself, and the underlying cynical contempt for the nations of the Developing World and their people, who are there to be abused and sneered at in the interests of American corporate capitalism.

Blum’s List of Country In Which US Has Interfered with their Elections

February 18, 2017

A few days ago I posted up a list of the nations in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower where the US had interfered in its politics to block the election of a left-wing or liberal candidate, have them overthrown, or colluding and gave material assistance to a Fascist dictator and their death squads. As well as outright invasions, such as that of Grenada and Panama under Reagan and Bush in the 1980s, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under George Dubya.

Blum also has a list of countries, where the US has interfered with their domestic politics to pervert their elections. These include

The Philippines 1950s

Setting up by the CIA of a front organisation, the National Movement for Free Elections to promote its favoured politicians and policies, giving finance and other assistance to those candidates, disinformation, and drugging and plotting to assassinate their opponents.

Italy 1948-1970s

Long-running campaigns against the Communist party and to assist the conservative Christian Democrats.

Lebanon 1950s

CIA funding of President Camille Chamoun and other pro-American politicians; sabotaging of campaigns of politicos sceptical of American interference in their country.

Indonesia 1955

CIA donated a million dollars to Centrist Coalition to attack the electoral chances of President Sukarno and the Communist party.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64

Campaign to oust prime minister Cheddi Jagan, using general strikes, terrorism, disinformation and legal challenges by Britain.

Japan 1958-1970s

CIA funding of conservative Liberal Democratic Party against the Japanese Socialist Party, allowing the Liberal Democrats to stay in power continuously for 38 years.

Nepal 1959

CIA operation to help B.P. Koirala’s Nepali Congress Party to win the country’s first ever election.

Laos 1960

CIA arranged for massive fraudulent voting to ensure electoral victor of local dictator Phoumi Nosavan.

Brazil 1962

CIA and Agency for International Development funded politicos opposed to President Joao Goulart, as well as other dirty tricks against various other candidates.

Dominican Republic 1962

US ambassador John Bartlow Martin instructs the heads of the two major parties before general election that the loser would call on his supporters to support the winner, and that the winner would offer seats to the loser’s party. Also worked with the government to deport 125 people, including supporters of previous dictator Trujillo and Cuba.

Guatemala 1963

Overthrow of General Miguel Ydigoras, as they feared he was about to step down and call a general election, which would be won by previous reforming president and opponent of American foreign policy, Juan Jose Arevalo.

Bolivia 1966

Funding by CIA and Gulf Oil of campaign of president Rene Barrientos. The CIA also funded other rightwing parties.

Chile 1964-70

Interference in the 1964 and 1970s elections to prevent the election of Salvador Allende, democratic Marxist, to the presidency.

Portugal 1974-5

CIA funded moderates, including Mario Soares and the Socialist Party, and persuaded the other democratic socialist parties of Europe to fund them in order to block radical programme of generals, who had overthrown Fascist dictator Salazar.

Australia 1974-5

CIA funding of opposition parties and use of legal methods to arrange overthrow of prime minister Gough Whitlam because he opposed Vietnam War.

Jamaica 1976

Long CIA campaign, including economic destabilisation, industrial unrest, supplying armaments to his opponent and attempted assassination to prevent re-election of Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Panama 1984, 1989

CIA-funded campaigns first of all to support Noriega, and then against him in 1989, when the CIA also used secret radio and TV broadcasts.

Nicaragua 1984, 1990

1984: Attempt to discredit the Sandinista government by CIA. The opposition coalition was persuaded not to take part in the elections. Other opposition parties also encouraged to drop out; attempts to split Sandinistas once in power.

1990: Funding and partial organisation of opposition coalition, UNO, and its constituent groups by National Endowment for Democracy to prevent election of Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega; Nicaraguans also made aware that US intended to continue proxy war waged by Contras if they elected him.

Haiti 1987-88

CIA supported for selected candidates after end of Duvalier dictatorship. Country’s main trade union leader claimed US aid organisations were smearing left-wing candidates as Communists and trying to persuade rural people not to vote for them.

Bulgaria 1990-1, Albania 1991-2

Interference in both countries election to prevent re-election of Communists.

Russia 1996

Extensive backing and support to Yeltsin to defeat Communists.

Mongolia 1996

National Endowment for Democracy funded and helped form the opposition National Democratic Union, and drafted its platform, a Contract with the Mongolian Voter, based Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. The goal here was to accelerate the regime’s privatisation programme and create government favourable to the establishment of American corporations and intelligence agencies in the country.

Bosnia 1998

US turns country into ‘American protectorate’ by appointing Carlos Westendorp as high representative in 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. Before 1998 elections Westendorp removed 14 Bosnian Croatian candidates, claiming reporting by Croatian television biased. After election removes president of Bosnia Serb republic on grounds that he was causing instability.

In 2001 and 2005 high representative also removed one of the three joint presidents of the country. In 2005 high representative Paddy Ashdown, who sacked Dragan Covic.

Nicaragua 2001

US smears against Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, accused of human rights violations and terrorism. US ambassador openly campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolanos. US also pressurised Conservative party to withdraw from the elections so as not to split right-wing vote. There were also adds in the papers signed by Jeb Bush, claiming that Dubya supported Bolanos. Bolanos himself also stated that the Americans had told him that if Ortega won, they would cease all aid to the country.

Bolivia 2002

Extensive campaign against socialist candidate Evo Morales because he was against neoliberalism and big business, as well as the attempts to eradicate the coca plant, the source of cocaine.

US ambassador smeared him with accusations of connections to drug cartels and terrorism. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere also said America could cut off aid if Morales elected. Meetings between US ambassador and officials and leading figures in rival parties to support Morales’ rival, Sanchez de Lozada.

Slovakia 2002

Warnings by US ambassador to the country and the US ambassador to NATO that if they elected Vladimir Meciar, former president running on anti-globalisation campaign, this would damage chances of their country entering EU and NATO. Also interference by National Endowment for Democracy against Meciar.

El Salvador 2004

Campaigning by US ambassador and three US Republican members of congress, including Thomas Tancredo of California, threatening cessations of aid and work permits for the countries’ people to work in America, in order to prevent election of FMLN candidate Schafik Handal and win victory of Tony Saca of the Arena party. FMLN former guerilla group. Handal stated he would withdraw Salvadorean troops from Iraq, re-examination privatisations and renew diplomatic contacts with Cuba. Arena extreme rightwing party, pro-US, free market, responsible for death squads and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Afghanistan 2004

Pressure placed by US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, on political candidates to withdraw in favour of Washington’s preferred candidate, Hamid Karzai.

Palestine 2005-6

Massive pressure by the Americans to prevent the election of Hamas, including funding of the Palestinian Authority by the National Endowment for Democracy.

This last country is my own suggestion, not Blum’s.

Great Britain?

Go and read various articles in Lobster, which describe the way the US and its various front organisations collaborated with the right-wing of the Labour party to stop possible Communist influence. In the 1980s Reagan also created the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, alias BAP, to cultivate rising politicians of both the left and the right, and make them more favourable towards America and the Atlantic alliance. These included Tony Blair and Ed Balls, but you won’t read about it in the Times, because it’s editor was also a BAP alumnus.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

The Guardian’s Attack on the Kuenssberg Petition and the Myth of the Liberal Media

May 14, 2016

Yesterday Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece reporting that one of the hacks at the Guardian had published a piece attacking the petition for Laura Kuenssberg to be sacked. Kuenssberg is the Beeb’s political editor, whose hatred of the Labour Party is so overt that an internet petition was launched demanding her removal. It garnered 35,000 signatures. The petition was briefly taken down for the alleged reason that some of the comments were abusive and misogynist. In fact, this has been shown to be very largely not the case. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the Groan accusing the petition of carrying such sexist abuse, just like the Independent last weekend also carried a piece, also quoting a former Guardian journo, claiming that it did.

The Groaniad is one of the few left-wing papers in this country, the others being the Independent, the Mirror and the Observer. The problem is that despite the newspaper’s notoriety as a mouthpiece of the hard left in the 1970s, it’s actually questionable how liberal the British liberal press actually is. This scepticism also extends to the BBC, whose pro-Tory bias in its news reporting has been discussed and criticised by academics at Edinburgh university. Nine years ago Lobster carried a review by Richard Alexander of the book, Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media, by David Edwards and David Cromwell (London: Pluto Press 2006). The review begins

Since 2001 the two authors have run the website MediaLens, with its watching brief on the British mass media, putting out media alerts which encourage readers to contact the media to take issue with what they perceive to be inaccuracies, distortions, and omissions, in particular related to political and environmental matters. They take their inspiration from media analysts like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and campaigning journalists such as John Pilger.

Their main, but not exclusive, focus is on the liberal newspapers, such as The Guardian and The Independent and the BBC. This is because the papers are allegedly writing from a viewpoint that is in some way critical of the powers that be, and the latter because it aspires to be accurate and public service broadcaster, not beholden to commercial pressure.

The book is structured around several key episodes in modern history: the second Gulf War and the build-up to it; NATO intervention in Kosovo and Serbia; US involvement in Haiti; the western invasion of Afghanistan; the Indonesian invasion and repression in East Timor and the West’s lack of critical response to it; coupled with global warming – or ‘climate change’ as it’s called to downplay the seriousness of the situation. These case studies say pretty much what anyone who has followed the stories would expect: the interests of the domestic state and capital are assumed to be paramount, mainstream criticism is muted and, generally, the role of the mass media in relaying what government and big business want their readers and viewers to see and hear is clearly outlined. Lobster 52, pp. 39-40.

The rest of the review describes how the writers wish to encourage the general public to change this situation by writing into the papers and the Beeb, and complaining. Alexander sees this as useless. All it accomplishes is that the letter writer is ultimately dismissed as a nuisance and a crank. Only a complete fundamental transformation of society is likely to change this situation, in Alexander’s view. He concludes pessimistically by saying that the people, who should read the book, won’t, and those who will largely won’t need to.

However, the book and its review does show that the liberal media in Britain largely isn’t that liberal, which puts into perspective the Groan’s attack on the petition against Kuenssberg. As for the Guardian, it urged its readers to go out and vote Liberal at the 2010 elections, showing that it was not quite the left-wing firebrand that it had been, but a centrist newspaper. And so it rushes to attack a petition, just on the basis on unsupported allegations, because it is supposed to contain misogynistic comments about an overtly Conservative broadcaster.

Mike’s piece about the Guardian’s attack on the petition can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/13/this-guardian-opinion-piece-is-so-wrong-it-borders-on-sickness/

Libertarian Socialist Rants on ‘Why America Must Be Strong’

April 30, 2016

This is another excellent video by Libertarian Socialist Rants. In this piece, he takes apart a video made by the British Conservative historian, Andrew Roberts, for the Right-wing Prager University. Roberts tries to argue that American military power has been a force protecting and advancing freedom around the globe. American military intervention has been crucially important in defending freedom and democracy against the threat of Fascism, Communism and now militant Islam. Roberts further tries to argue that American intervention in the First World War was part of this campaign against Fascism, as the German Empire was a Fascist state. He then goes on to describe Communism as ‘Red Fascism’, and militant Islam as Fascism’s ‘fourth incarnation’. Libertarian Socialist Rants takes these arguments apart one by one.

He starts off by pointing out that in very many cases, America has not advanced the cause of freedom at all by installing in power brutally repressive, Fascist regimes on behalf of American corporations. As for Roberts’ subtly-worded association of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ with the American constitution, LSR shows that at the time it was written, the Founding Fathers were rich, White, slave-owners, and the Constitution included a clause stating that it should protect the opulent minority against the majority.

Roberts argues that Woodrow Wilson entered the First World War thanks to the Zimmerman telegram, which showed that Germany was going to extend the War to America by encouraging Mexico to annex Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Libertarian Socialist argues that, to the contrary, America only entered the War when Germany proved to be a threat to American commercial interests. For example, much of Haiti was owned by German Corporations. It was only when the Haitians refused to pass a law allowing American corporations to buy up Haitian property, that America invaded and had the law passed at gunpoint. The Americans occupied the country for the next 19 years, during which tens of thousands of Haitians were killed.

Next LSR tackles Roberts’ contention that America stood up for freedom in joining the Second World War against the Nazis. He shows instead that the American elite and big business were pro-German right up to the Second World War, because Hitler was anti-Communist. He also makes the point that America is quite capable of supporting Fascist regimes when it suits them. He quotes the Spanish Anarchist Durutti, who said that when the bourgeoisie feel their power slipping away, they abandon democracy and support Fascism.

The Libertarian Socialist Rants doesn’t defend the USSR and Soviet Communism, because, as he says, he’s not a Leninist. However, Marxist Communism is not the only form of Communism. By this he means Anarchist Communism, such as that advocated by Peter Kropotkin. He also says that while the Soviet bloc was a threat, this was exaggerated by the country’s military-industrial complex.

He then goes on to tackle Roberts’ statement that America is busy defending the world against militant jihadi Islam. Roberts states that radical Islam hates democracy and Christianity, just as Fascism does. Here LSR states that while Mussolini hated Christianity, Hitler was brought up a Roman Catholic, and claimed Nazism was a Christian movement. In fact, the truth here is rather more complicated. Mussolini did hate Christianity, but signed the Lateran Accords with the Vatican, which gave the state of Italy official recognition by the Church in return for Roman Catholic religious education in schools. Hitler was indeed brought up a Roman Catholic, but hated Christianity and said in his Table Talk that he’d wanted to blow up the Mass with dynamite since the age of twelve. He did indeed tried to present Nazism as a Christian movement but Christians had the right to resign from the civil service if they thought their faith was incompatible with the Nazi regime. He also wanted Nazi atheists to infiltrate the seminars to bring down Christianity from within. Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi ideologue, was shifted away from power by Hitler because he was viciously anti-Christian. And in the eastern districts of the Reich the Nazis persecuted Christianity. However, it is also true that far too many Christians have supported Fascism because they saw it as a threat against Communism, materialism and atheism.

The Libertarian Socialist also points out that in many ways, America has vigorously promoted radical Islam. They supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, are close allies of the Saudis, who are hard-line Islamic fundamentalists, and in Pakistan they supported General Zia ul-Haqq. Zia pursued a policy of radical Islamisation, that has turned the country into a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. LSR also points out that America has actually increased support for Islamist regimes through supporting corrupt dictators like Saddam Hussein, and by bombing and invading Muslim countries. In the absence of secular forms of opposition, their rage finds expression in militant Islam.

He ends the video by arguing that war, corruption and exploitation are intrinsic functions of the state, and that only Anarchist movements by the workers, such as those in Spain during the Civil War, can truly be described as standing for freedom. This is the basic Anarchist view of the state. I don’t agree with it, but as the Libertarian Socialist shows, unfortunately there is no shortage of evidence to support it.

As well as being a serious, intelligent deconstruction of Robert’s lecture, the video is at time very funny. There’s particularly hilarious footage of a chinchilla or some other rodent, standing up on its hind legs and looking alarmed when the term ‘Communism’ is mentioned, which goes with the ‘bells and whistles’ the American system makes whenever Communism is mentioned.

I’ve reblogged it because it’s such an excellent demolition of Roberts’ arguments. Roberts is one of Britain’s leading historians, but after watching this, you start wondering why he believes this rubbish. As the Libertarian Socialist himself says, ‘Does anyone else feel they’re being brainwashed watching this?’ Yes, I think they do. Very much.

Pax Christi and Christian Anti-War Groups

December 27, 2015

Several of my relatives are Roman Catholics. I was at their parish church yesterday, as I’d been invited to join them for a special family service. Looking around one of the stalls in their church carrying the church’s religious and devotional literature, I found several newsletters from Pax Christi. They’re the official Roman Catholic peace movement, and are part of a broader Christian organisation, the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. The other Christian peace groups in the Network include the following:

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Baptist Peace Fellowship
Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Christian International Peace Service
Church and Peace
Community of Reconciliation
Congregational Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation England
Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation
Martin Luther King Peace Committee
Methodist Peace Fellowship
Northern Friends Peace Board
Pax Christi
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Student Christian Movement
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship.

Pax Christi in Britain publishes a monthly newsletter, Justpeace. The April 2015 edition gives a brief history of Pax Christi International and an overview of their activities across the world. According to the newsletter, it was

founded in France in March 1945 as Catholic movement for peace and reconciliation following World War II, Pax Christi International is now a network of 115 member organisations on five continents with over a hundred thousand members worldwide.

Recognised by Pope Pius XII as the official Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi has also always been autonomous, with members of the hierarchy, clergy and laypeople working together as equals for peace and reconciliation in situations of violence and war around the world. The presidency of Pax Christi International, for example, is shared by a bishop, Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa, and a lay woman, Marie Dennis from the United States, both of whom were elected by Pax Christi member organisations.

Pax Christi International has held consultative status at the United Nations since 1979 and is working at the UN in Geneva, New York, Vienna and Paris. It is also officially represented at the African Union and the Council of Europe and has regular access to the European Parliament, the European Commission and NATO.

Among its activities across the world, Pax Christi is involved in

* a multi-year strategy to address deep-seated racism in the United States

* dynamic ‘sports for peace’ programs in South Sudan and Haiti

* strategies to integrate former combatants back into their own communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

* courses in preventive reconciliation using the principles of haikido in the Philippines.

* efforts to address destructive mining practices in Colombia and Peru;

* advocacy and campaigning at a national and international level for the abolition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; for a meaningful arms trade treaty; for an end to the use of depleted uranium in weapons.

* ‘peace week’ initiatives, many of them annual, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, the African Great Lakes region, Kosovo, Russia, Croatia, the Philippines and Colombia.

* collaboration with local partners to support active nonviolence in southern Mexico.

* excellent grassroots peace education programs in Lebanon and Philippines.

* exchanges of experience between civil society from the Middle East and from Central Europe on their role in bringing about nonviolent social change

* work with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), our partner in Brazil, in response to growing conflict over land – and

* ongoing work with civil society groups in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations and Trident at the General Election

The NCPO also produced a General Election Briefing for this last year’s election in order to promote disarmament and specifically to tackle the government’s intention to introduce Trident. Their very short – four page! – pamphlet outlined the way Christians and church groups could work to promote peace, and had short sections on the issues of Military Spending and Human Security, Renewal of Trident, the UK Arms Trade , the UK Armed Drones Programme and Britain’s Role in the World. It included questions and requests that should be asked of politicians respecting these issues. The pamphlet also carried details of other organisations dealing with those specific issues and their websites.

Pax Christi and Atomic Weapons

Pax Christi also produced a little pamphlet outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. This included statements by the Church, including papacy, condemning them. Pope Francis last year (2014) declared that ‘Nuclear deterrence cannot be the basis for an ethics of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among people and states’.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2007 was much stronger in his condemnation. He said, ‘What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries?… that nuclear weapons have any place in civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’.

The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World in 1965 states in article 80 that

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

This is all enough to have Pat Robertson and the right-wing American evangelicals start screaming ‘Social gospel! Social gospel!’ at the top of their lungs, before launching into a long tirade about how ‘cultural Marxism’ is undermining society. And just to show you how ‘Christian’ some of these right-wingers are, a few of them flew into a rage this past year when Pope Francis said something rather left-wing. They like Christianity, but only when it appears to support their prejudices and policies.

I’m not a member of Pax Christi or any of the other organisations. But if you’re a Christian and would like to join their witness for peace, their address is:

NCPO, c/o Pax Christi,
St Joseph’s, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY

and their website is http://www.ncpo.org.uk

Pax Christi is also on the web. Their address is http://www.paxchristi.net.

May God bless them and their work.

Financial Times Review of Book on Origins of American Financial Imperialism

October 27, 2015

Also looking through the pile of past newspaper clippings I’ve collected, I found this review by David Honigmann of Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy 1900-1930, by Emily S. Rosenberg, published by Harvard, in the FT’s weekend supplement for 11th/12th March 2000.

The Real Costs of an Empire on Loan

At the end of the 19th century, the US was acquiring an empire by default, picking up colonial possessions and exerting a sphere of influence it did not quite know how to handle. When the 1896 selection turned on the question of currency reform and the gold-standard advocates won, the next step to export the gold standard to the scattered territories under US control. It spread from Puerto Rico to the Philippines, then Panama, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Mexico. Eventually, US financial advisers would by plying their trade as far afield as China, Germany and Persia.

Dollar diplomacy was the term coined for an arrangement under which struggling economies would receive loans from US banks in return for accepting “supervision” from American economic advisers. The story of the public-private partnership that tried to bring this about is the subject of Emily Rosenberg’s meticulously researched book.

She traces the three parties involved in pushing dollar diplomacy. Investment banks, anxious for new markets, provided the loans. Academics made, in some cases, small fortunes from providing the advice: Edwin Kemmerer, who became the high priest of dollar diplomacy, made many times his already generous Princeton salary from grateful client governments. (Rosenberg cites personal correspondence to show that Kemmerer was obsessed with the inadequacy of his salary and what this meant for his manliness.

The third party underpinning all this was the US State Department, which played an ambiguous role in approving the loans. Each loan went to the State Department for approval, and when approval was granted there was at least a tacit expectation by lenders that the US government was backing it, protection which could take any form from ambassadorial murmurings to the dispatch of the Marines.

Banking was a contested area at the time. The gold standard, with its tendency to deflation, was inimical to small farmers and small businessmen. Marxists condemned it as materialism in action, and opposition to it also drew on a strain of populist anti-Semitism. (In the 1896 election, the Democrats warned against “crucifying mankind upon a Cross of Gold”.)

Attitudes to dollar diplomacy did not split evenly along political lines, however. When President (Theodore) Roosevelt, in 1905, halted the Dominican Republic’s slide towards bankruptcy by turning it into a US fiscal protectorate, and then built it into a model of dollar diplomacy, there was little anti-imperialist protest. The plan was seen essentially as extending “assistance without annexation”.

It was only as client countries began to rebel against the conditions and policies imposed to accompany loans (the Sandino rebellion in Nicaragua in the late 1920s being the most visible) that progressive domestic opposition and the Comintern rallied to denounce it.

Rosenberg dives deepest into the professional advisers and their search for respectability. this was the foundation of the whole system: the professionalism of the advisers reduced the perceived risk of the loans, lowering their price and making them affordable for the client countries. The advisers presented themselves as impartial third parties, aloof from both US governmental interests and the banks, responsible only to client governments. In fact, they received considerable support behind the scenes from the State Department, and Kemmerer was also kept on a secret annual retainer by Dillon Read, one of the investment banks: not so much Chinese walls as Hall of Mirrors.

Despite the technocratic claims of the advisers, dollar diplomacy was not a clean, value-free exercise. Rosenberg locates its roots in the cultural debates of the early 20th century. The Tarzan books and films were only one example of the ways in which other nations and peoples were framed as “primitive” and in need of western assistance.

Dollar diplomacy even became the subject of poplar entertainment, as in Edison’s 1917 film Billy and the Big Stick, whose hero was an American customs officer in Haiti, denied his salary by the Haitian president until he threatens the dispatch of gunboats. All very explicit, it might seem; in fact, as Rosenberg notes, it was the US financial adviser in Haiti who sopped the wages of Haitian officials until they agreed to his proposals.

The crux of Rosenberg’s argument is that dollar diplomacy cloaked geo-politics in the guise of market contracts, but with the iron first ill-concealed in the velvet glove. She draws a parallel with Victorian marriage contracts: “the dominant (male) party promised monetary support (loans) and supervision in return for obedience and acceptance of regulation. Yet, also like marriage, the status inequalities were embedded in the controlled loan contracts of dollar diplomacy, even as the contracts tended to be culturally presented as freely negotiated and based on mutual attraction.”

Financial Missionaries to the World is not easy reading. It is full enough of fiscal minutiae that even fairly central concepts, such as financing currency conversion through seniorage, go unexplained. There is no argument that is not a discourse, no assumption that is not a paradigm, no subordination that is not a “feminization”.

But it works well in explaining how this policy of arm’s length financial administration arose, how it was sustained by cultural pressures in the teeth of growing opposition from both isolationist Right and anti-colonialist Left, and how it eventually collapsed in the gale of the 1929 Crash and a series of armed rebellions.

Rosenberg does briefly trace the evolution of dollar diplomacy through Bretton Woods and the rise of the IMF, although a less scholarly book might have drawn even more explicit parallels with the financial regimens imposed by today’s multinational institutions. But perhaps the warnings are all too clear.

That last paragraph is important. The IMF and the World Bank certainly do act as instruments of American economic imperialism. When countries go for them for loan, these are given with a set prescribed conditions to rectify those nations’ ailing economies: they are to private the state industries and cut down on state expenditure generally, including removing or cutting back on any welfare support they may provide their citizens. The privatised industries are to be sold to American companies.

And the Americans haven’t just tried this with Developing Nations. They’ve done it to us as well. The British Empire was dismembered partly due to pressure from the Americans for their help during the Second World War, as they wanted to open up the closed imperial trading bloc to American companies. And they’ve continued interfering in our economic affairs afterwards. According to Lobster, one of the chiefs and head executives at the Bank of England under Bliar was Deanne Julius, a high ranking official within the American banking system. She believed that Britain should abandon its role as a manufacturer and concentrate instead on servicing American global financial interests.