Posts Tagged ‘Spanish-American War’

Argentina Pulls Out of Friendly with Israel Due to Move to Jerusalem

June 8, 2018

Yet another short video, this time from that noted pro-Arab, Islamist propaganda mouthpiece, Al-Jazeera. Or it is in the minds of American Republicans and the Islamophobic ‘counterjihad’ movement, like the EDL and Pegida.

Argentina was due to play a friendly with Israel, but pulled out after the venue for the match was changed from Haifa to Jerusalem under pressure from the Palestinians. Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, states that this was in response to the Israelis politicising the match. They had said that it was part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, and the 51st anniversary of the ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is supposed to have phoned the Argentinian president, Maurizio Macri to try to get him to change the team’s mind, but he replied that it wasn’t up to him.

Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, issued a statement accusing the Argentinians of politicising the match. This read

It is truly a sad day for soccer fans, including some of my grandchildren, but there are values even bigger than Messi. The politicisation in the Argentinian decision is of great concern. Even in the most difficult times we made every effort to leave considerations that are not purely about sport off the playing field, and it is a pity that the Argentina team did not manage do so on this occasion.

Al-Jazeera’s reporter Bernard Smith concludes the piece by explaining that the Israelis want to normalise Jerusalem as the nation’s capital with the international community, and this was part of their strategy. But it’s backfired this time by reminding everyone how the status of Jerusalem is far from settled.

There are a number of reasons why the Argentinians would side with the Palestinians against the Israelis on this issue. Firstly, South America has long-established links with the Levant going back to the 19th century. Many of the merchants and traders, who supplied imported goods to communities across Latin America were ‘Turks’, actually ethnic Arabs from Lebanon and Syria, which were then provinces of the Turkish Empire. Carlos Menem, the right-wing president of one of the Latin American countries a few years ago, who was embroiled in a corruption scandal, was of Lebanese descent.

It also struck me that there was a possible element of anti-Americanism in this. The Latin American intellectuals, who formed the ideology of Arielismo in the 19th century, came from Argentina. Arielismo is the literary and political critique of US imperialism in Hispanic America. It arose after the US invaded and annexed parts of Mexico, and went to war with Spain in the last years of the 19th century to seize Cuba. It’s based on an anti-colonial reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Arielismo sees the peoples of Latin America as having been cast as Caliban, Prospero’s brutish assistant in the play. They have been presented as a monstrous, backward ‘other’, by the Americans, in order to justify their own imperialism towards the continent.

American and Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East is so closely enmeshed that it’s identical. Trump caused widespread outrage when he moved the location of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The refusal by the Argentinian team to play there may also be partly an attack on Trump and the Americans for doing so.

Also, I read in a review of a book on Israel’s activities supporting the Fascist dictators in South America in Lobster, that the Israeli secret agencies had acted as an American proxies in the parts of the continent where it would be dangerous for the Americans themselves to operate.

If this is correct, then the Argentinians’ decision isn’t just about Israel, but a wider condemnation of American colonialism and imperialism, of which Israel has been a part.

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American Tsarism

December 15, 2017

Going though YouTube the other day, I found a clip, whose title quoted a political analyst, radical or politicians, as saying that the American political elite now regards its own, ordinary citizens as a foreign country. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten who the speaker was, but I will have to check the video out. But looking at the title of what the leader of the Conservative branch of the Polish nationalist movement said about the Russian Empire. He described how the tsars and the autocracy exploited and oppressed ordinary Russians, stating baldly that ‘they treat their people as a foreign, conquered nation’. Which just about describes tsarist rule, with its secret police, anti-union, anti-socialist legislation, the way it ground the peasants and the nascent working class into the ground for the benefit of big business and the country’s industrialisation. The system of internal passports, which were introduced to keep the peasants on the land, and paying compensation to their masters for the freedom they had gained under Tsar Alexander, and to continue working for them for free, doing feudal labour service: the robot, as it was known in Czech. It’s no accident that this is the word, meaning ‘serf’ or ‘slave’, that Karel Capek introduced into the English and other languages as the term for an artificial human in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots.

We’re back to Disraeli’s ‘two nations’ – the rich, and everyone else, who don’t live near each other, don’t have anything in common and who may as well be foreign countries. It’s in the Tory intellectual’s Coningsby, I understand. Disraeli didn’t really have an answer to the problem, except to preach class reconciliation and argue that the two could cooperate in building an empire. Well, imperialism’s technically out of favour, except for right-wing pundits like Niall Ferguson, so it has to be cloaked in terms of ‘humanitarian aid’. Alexander the Great was doing the same thing 2,500 years ago. When he imposed tribute on the conquered nations, like the Egyptians and Persians, it wasn’t called ‘tribute’. It was called ‘contributions to the army of liberation’. Because he’d liberated them from their tyrannical overlords, y’see. The Mongols did the same. Before taking a town or territory, they’d send out propaganda, posing as a force of liberators come to save the populace from the tyrants and despots, who were ruling them.

What a joke. Someone asked Genghis Khan what he though ‘happiness’ was. He’s supposed to have replied that it was massacring the enemy, plundering his property, burning his land, and outraging his women. If you’ve ever seen the 1980s film version of Conan the Barbarian, it’s the speech given by Conan when he’s shown in a cage growing up. I think the film was written by John Milius, who was responsible for Dirty Harry ‘and other acts of testosterone’ as Starburst put it.

And it also describes exactly how the elite here regard our working and lower-middle classes. We’re crushed with taxes, more of us are working in jobs that don’t pay, or forced into something close to serfdom through massive debt and workfare contracts. The last oblige people to give their labour free to immensely profitable firms like Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. And at the same time, the elite have been active in social cleansing – pricing the traditional inhabitants of working class, and often multicultural areas, out of their homes. These are now gentrified, and become the exclusive enclaves of the rich. Homes that should have people in them are bought up by foreigners as an investment and left empty in ‘land-banking’. And you remember the scandal of the ‘poor doors’ in London, right? This was when an apartment block was designed with two doors, one of the rich, and one for us hoi polloi, so the rich didn’t have to mix with horned handed sons and daughters of toil.

I got the impression that for all his Toryism, Disraeli was a genuine reformer. He did extend the vote to the upper working class – the aristocracy of Labour, as it was described by Marx, creating the ‘villa Toryism’ that was to continue into the Twentieth Century and our own. But all the Tories have done since is mouth platitudes and banalities about how ‘one nation’ they are. Ever since John Major. David Cameron, a true-blue blooded toff, who was invited by the Palace to take a job there, claimed to be a ‘one nation Tory’. Yup, this was when he was introducing all the vile, wretched reforms that have reduced this country’s great, proud people, Black, brown, White and all shades in-between – to grinding poverty, with a fury specially reserved for the unemployed, the sick, the disabled. These last have been killed by his welfare reforms. Look at the posts I’ve put up about it, reblogging material from Stilloaks, Another Angry Voice, the Poor Side of Life, Diary of a Food Bank Helper, Johnny Void, et al.

But that’s how the super-rich seem to see us: as moochers, taxing them to indulge ourselves. It was Ayn Rand’s attitude, shown in Atlas Shrugs. And it’s how the upper classes see us, especially the Libertarians infecting the Republican and Conservative parties, whose eyes were aglow with the joys of the unrestrained free market and the delights of South American death squads and the monsters that governed them. Walking atrocities against the human condition like General Pinochet, the Contras, Noriega. All the thugs, monsters and torturers, who raped and butchered their people, while Reagan slavered over them as ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. And you know what? An increasing number of progressives are taking a hard look at the Fathers of the American nation. Patricians to a man, who definitely had no intention of the freeing the slaves, or giving the vote to the ladies. and who explicitly wrote that they were concerned to protect property from the indigent masses. Outright imperialists, who took land from Mexico, and explicitly wrote that they looked forward to the whole of South America falling into the hands of ‘our people’. If you need a reason why many South Americans hate America with a passion, start with that one. It’s the reason behind the creation of ‘Arielismo’. This is the literary and political movement, which started in Argentina in the 19th century, which uses the figure of Caliban in Shakespeare’s the Tempest to criticise and attack European and North American colonialism, with the peoples of the South as the Caliban-esque colonised. It was formed by Argentinian literary intellectuals as a reaction to America’s wars against Mexico and annexation of Mexican territory, and their attempts to conquer Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

That’s how South America responded to colonisation from the North and West. And colonialism – as troublesome ‘natives’ to be kept under control, is very much how the elite see ordinary Brits and Americans, regardless of whether they’re White, Black, Asian or members of the First Nations.

But you can only fool people for so long, before the truth becomes blindingly obvious. You can only print so many lies, broadcast so many news reports telling lies and twisted half-truths, before conditions become so terrible ordinary people start questioning what a corrupt, mendacious media are telling them. The constant scare stories about Muslims, foreign immigration, Black crime and violence; the demonization of the poor and people on benefit. The constant claim that if working people are poor, it’s because they’re ‘feckless’ to use Gordon Brown’s phrase. Because they don’t work hard enough, have too many children, or spend all their money on luxuries like computers – actually in the information age a necessity – or computer games, X-Boxes and the like.

You can only do that before the workers you’ve legislated against joining unions start setting up workers’ and peasants’ councils – soviets. Before the peasants rise up and start burning down all those manor houses, whose denizens we are expected to follow lovingly in shows like Downton Abbey. Which was written by Julian Fellowes, a Tory speechwriter.

Before ordinary people say, in the words of ’80s Heavy Metal band Twisted Sister, ‘We ain’t goin’ to take it’.

Before decent, respectable middle class people of conscience and integrity decide that the establish is irremediably corrupt, and there’s absolutely no point defending it any longer.

A month or so ago, BBC 4 broadcast a great series on Russian history, Empire of the Tsars, present by Lucy Worsley. In the third and last edition, she described the events leading up to the Russian Revolution. She described how Vera Zasulich, one of the 19th century revolutionaries, tried to blow away the governor of St. Petersburg. She was caught and tried. And the jury acquitted her. Not because they didn’t believe she hadn’t tried to murder the governor of St. Petersburg, but because in their view it wasn’t a crime. Zasulich was one of the early Russian Marxists, who turned from peasant anarchism to the new, industrial working classes identified by Marx as the agents of radical social and economic change.

And so before the Revolution finally broke out, the social contract between ruler and ruled, tsarist autocracy and parts of the middle class, had broken down.

I’m not preaching revolution. It tends to lead to nothing but senseless bloodshed and the rise of tyrannies that can be even worse than the regimes they overthrow. Like Stalin, who was as brutal as any of the tsars, and in many cases much more so. But the elites are preparing for civil unrest in the next couple of decades. Policing in America is due to become more militarised, and you can see the same attitude here. After all, Boris Johnson had to have his three water cannons, which are actually illegal in Britain and so a colossal waste of public money.

Don’t let Britain get to that point. Vote Corbyn, and kick May and her gang of profiteers, aristos and exploiters out. Before they kill any more people.

RT: Trump Burned in Effigy in Philippines

November 13, 2017

This is a very short video, of just a minute and a half long, showing the crowds in the Manila protesting against Donald Trump. During the protest they burnt him in effigy. The image is actually really cool – it shows Trump with a Hitler moustache, face contorted into a rictus pout like the Nazi leader’s, while sporting two pairs of arms, bent over so that they form a swastika whirling around him. Each pair of arms holds a symbol of war or military equipment, such as a bomb or a helmet.

I think the effigy’s great, and it’s almost a pity they burnt it, as it was so cool.

Looking down the comments column, I found that it was full of bitter Trumpists outraged that anyone could be dissing their Fuehrer. There’s remarks that the protestors don’t know what they’re protesting against, that they’re all paid, that they’re all Communists. And of course they’re also all in the pay of George Soros.

You don’t have to think very hard to realise why the people of the Philippines are protesting. They’re another Asian country that could be devastated, along with South Korea and Japan, if Trump starts a nuclear war with North Korea.

It also wouldn’t surprise me if there were longer memories at work here as well. Such as some people remembering how the country was seized by the Americans in the late 19th century during the Spanish-American War. And to pacify its people, the American military used terror and committed atrocities against civilians. After they were butchered, the bodies were tied to airbags and floated down the rivers so that as many people as possible living along the river would see them as possible, and take the hint. For more information, see the article in Lobster, ‘The Two Americas’. It thus wouldn’t surprise me if one element of this protest wasn’t against Trump as a symbol of everything the country may have suffered through American imperialism.

Michael Moore’s New Film against US Militarism and Imperialism

June 8, 2016

I don’t know if you’ve seen the posters already, but the Capped Crusader, Michael Moore, has a new film premiering here on Friday. It’s entitled ‘Where To Invade Next’, with slogan ‘Prepare to be Liberated’. Here’s the poster.

Moore Invade Film Pic

I don’t know anything about it, but my guess from simply looking at the poster, is that it’s about America’s wars in the Middle East, and the country’s long history of invading other countries to ‘liberate’ them, which in practice means the exact opposite: installing pliant right-wing dictators to keep the masses down and protect US corporate interests. Like the invasion of the Guatemala that overthrew President Alfredo Benz after he nationalised the banana plantations, which were owned by the US company, United Fruit. The invasion was sold to the American people as a necessary military action to free the country from Communism. Benz, however, was democratic Socialist, not a Communist, and the regime which replaced him was an extreme right-wing military dictatorship, which reduced the peasants on the plantations to virtual slavery. And that’s just one example from a long history of invasion and plunder going back to the 19th century and the war with Spain which gave the US, for a time, the Philippines and Cuba.

Everything Moore does is worth watching, and Moore has rightly won awards for films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. This one should no be no exception. I don’t go to the cinema all that often, but I’ll try and see if this is playing near me.

The Young Turks on Trump Wanting to Kill Muslims with Bullets Dipped in Pig’s Blood

February 23, 2016

Trump & Hitler

More verbal brutality from the prospective generalissimo of America. In this clip from The Young Turks, the anchors Bill Mankiewicz and Elliot Hill discuss another piece of raging, vile rhetoric from the current Republican front runner. In one of his speeches, Trump glowingly recounts an incident from ‘back a bit’ in the early 20th century, when the Americans were faced with a series of terrorist outrages. General Pershing responded by rounding up fifty of the terrorists. 49 of them were shot out of hand with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. The fiftieth was then released to tell his comrades about what happened. ‘And do you know,’ Trump concludes, ‘that for twenty-five years afterwards we didn’t have any problems. We need to do this, or else we’re not going to have a country’.

Trump claims that this story can be found in the history books, but ‘not many, ’cause they don’t like putting it in. Only some.’ Mankiewicz and Elliot point out that the real reason it’s not in the history books is because it didn’t happen. It’s mythical. The incident Trump refers to supposedly happened during the Spanish-American War, when America took the Philippines from Spain. The Philippino people resisted. Mankiewicz points out that as they were the original people, they wouldn’t have wanted either Spanish or Americans. Trump calls the resistance fighters terrorists, but if they had been Americans fighting for America, or on the side of America, they would have been called ‘freedom fighters’. It’s horrible story, but it didn’t happen. He compares the incident, and the way it’s been left out of conventional history books because of its entirely fictional nature, with the way Republicans are trying to sanitise American history. In Texas, for example, the school board has voted to use books that don’t mention slavery, or don’t call it what it was, because it makes America look bad. This is one case where an incident that makes America look bad isn’t in the history books. Mankiewicz points out that if historians really were intent on putting in material just to denigrate America, that incident would be in there.

Mankiewicz and Elliot also discuss the way Trump’s brutal rhetoric, combined with his confidence and easy oratorical style – for example, he asks his audience if they want to hear the tale – is actually desensitising people to the viciousness of what he says. He describes waterboarding as only a very small torture, for example. They point out that this is actually worse than if he’d said it actually was torture, but he believed that it worked and so was justified to protect America from terrorism. This wouldn’t justify it to them – it would still be horrible, but not as vile as simply calling it ‘a very small torture’. But there’s a tendency for people just to laugh it off, and say, well, it’s only Trump being Trump. And that’s dangerous, because it makes light of what he says and what he could clearly do.

It’s a good point. Regarding the supposed use of bullets dipped in pig’s blood, or other pork products, the Israelis were supposed to be using them against the Palestinians. The idea is that some Muslims feel that they will go to hell if they eat even a scrap of pork. And so one of the newspapers over here reported that the Israeli army was using bullets containing small pieces of pork as part of a psychological weapon against them.

As for its use in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, that may be entirely mythical, but the Americans did carry out atrocities there with the intention of spreading terror. For example, after shooting Philippino freedom fighters, they tied inflatable bladders to the corpses and set them floating down rivers in order to make an example of those shot.

And the warning about not taking Trump’s brutal rhetoric is also entirely correct. We’re back to Godwin’s Law again, but it needs to be brought up. During the Weimar period, there were Germans, who went to see Hitler speak simply because it was laugh. They wanted to see who he’d attack next. And very many Germans, and the British politicos too, really didn’t believe that he’d actually do what he said he would, in his speeches and Mein Kampf. Once in power, they thought he could be tamed and controlled into becoming a responsible, conventional politician. They were wrong. And in the resulting War that followed, forty millions died.

There’s a bit in the Bertolucci film, The Conformist, where one of the characters tells the other that when he was in Austria, there was a man, who used to go round bars ranting. No-one took him seriously. ‘We all threw beer bottles at him’. The speaker abruptly concludes, ‘That man was Adolf Hitler’.
It’s the same with Trump now. The temptation is not to take him seriously, because what he says is so outrageous, and the man himself so much a buffoon. But that’s underestimating him. The danger is, he means exactly what he says.

Mark Twain: American Anti-Imperialist

February 25, 2014

Mark Twain is truly one of the giants of American literature. Millions of children throughout the world have been brought up on Tow Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, though he wrote much, much more, all with his warm, dry wit. I can remember reading his travel book, The Innocents Abroad, at college, which describes his adventures touring Europe, with its wry observations of the countries, ships and hotels he journey through. His folksy style has become one of the fundamental characteristics of America’s image. Way back in the 1980s, for example, the cartoon strip, Bloom County, had two of its characters, Milo and Owen Wendelle Jones lying down, looking up at the night’s sky and arguing whether the universe was created or ‘just made’, just like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

What is less well known is that Twain was a fierce critic of American imperialism. At the end of the 19th century the doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ led America into a war with Spain for the remains of the latter’s possessions in the New World. Spain was defeated, and a victorious America took over the former colonies of Guam, Cuban, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. These conquered territories were not colonies, however, but designated as ‘protectorates’.

Twain was appalled at his country’s transformation into an imperial power, and formed the Anti-Imperialist League of the United States to protest this. He used his characteristic dry wit to satirise the US’ new status of imperial overlord and oppressor. Of the changes to be made to the Philippine flag, he said

it is easily managed. We can have a special one – our states do it: we can just have our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

There’s an attitude in parts of the American Right that sees any criticism of America and its global imperial power as coming from a deep-seated hatred of America, ignoring the fact that some of the greatest figures of American history and literature, like Twain, have been sharply critical of such policies.