The BBC Does Colonialism

The History of the World Part 5 – Age of Plunder

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This episode concerns the role of  plunder (ie colonialism) in the founding of the capitalist economic system. The major weakness of the fifth episode is its promotion of two notorious myths about Columbus that historians debunked several decades ago. The first maintains that most of Europe regarded the Earth as flat prior to Columbus. Untrue. Europeans sailors had known for centuries that the Earth was round from the way a ship disappears over the horizon (hull first and sails last). The other myth is that Columbus died believing he had reached India. This myth, traced to an 1828 biography by Washington Irving, is debunked by the explorer’s own writings.*

The primary outcome of Columbus’s voyage to the new world was the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans and the pilfering of 45,000 tons of gold and silver (valued at £10 trillion in modern currency). The precious metals would be used to decorate churches and noble palaces and to fund religious wars during the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church obtained their share of these riches (used to build St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) by selling “indulgences,” paper certificates that guaranteed Catholics entry to eternal life. It was mainly opposition to this corrupt practice that led Martin Luther to break with the Church in 1517.

In 1580 Ivan the Terrible hired Cossack warriors to invade Siberia, which was still ruled by a descendant of Genghis Khan. His goal: plundering 5,000 Siberian pelts from traders. With the start of the 300 year Little Ice Age in 1530, there was a thriving market for furs in Western Europe.

In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company captured and enslaved the Banda spice islands in South East Asia for their nutmeg crop. Believed to be a cure for plague, it was the most valuable commodity in the world. As the British East Indian Company also claimed the spice islands, this would lead to four Anglo-Dutch wars beginning in 1652. In 1667, the wars ended when the Dutch agreed to trade Manhattan Island for the main nutmeg islands.

The fifth episode ends with the creation of the world’s first stock exchange in Holland in 1608 and the resulting speculation in tulip bulbs. The world’s first recorded speculative bubble burst in 1637, ruining thousands of Dutch investors.


*Both myths are debunked in James Loewen’s 1995 Lies My Teacher Told Me

 

Al Jazeera vs Blackwater Founder Erik Prince

Erik Prince Acknowledges 2016 Trump Tower Meeting for First Time

Al Jazeera (2019)

Interview

This is a most revealing interview/debate in which Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan confronts Blackwater founder Erik Prince over his current proposal to replace 50,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan with 8,000 private military contractors – from Prince’s Hong Kong-based company Frontier Services Group.

In response to highly specific confrontations concerning Blackwater’s fraudulent billing and war crimes, Prince literally oozes sociopathy. In addition to blaming the US State Department for Blackwater’s well-documented war crimes, he blames a Blackwater contractor’s 2018 murder conviction on a Washington DC jury (DC has a majority Black population).

In 2012, Blackwater paid a $7.5 million settlement to resolve other criminal charges, including billing fraud

Prince has compared his proposed Afghanistan project to the notorious British East Indian Company that colonized India and Southeast Asia. When reminded that Ashraf Ghani, the current president of Afghanistan, opposes his proposal, Prince smugly assures Hasan that Ghani faces defeat at the next election.

When asked about his current contract with China’s government to build a training camp in Xinjiang (to help Beijing crack down on minority Uighers), Prince asserts his company is merely providing construction services and security training for overseas-bound Chinese officials. A recent article in the Guardian suggests otherwise: Blackwater’s Erik Prince to Build China Training Camp

Hasan also asks Prince about lying to the US Congressional Intelligence Committee about his involvement in a 2016 Trump campaign meeting with a Russian oligarch. Prince admits to the meeting but denies lying about it. When Hasan confronts him with the hearing transcript, Prince contends the transcriber got it wrong.

The interview can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at the Al Jazeera website: Erik Prince Acknowledges Trump Tower Meeting For First Time

 

MK-Ultra, LSD and the CIA War on Musicians and Activists

Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA War on Musicians and Activists

https://www.drugsasweaponsmovie.com/

Film Review

On January 29, John Potash will release his film Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA War on Musicians and Activists – based on his 2015 book Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists. A virtual encyclopedia of illegal government drug trafficking, the film begins with the involvement of the JP Morgan, Russell and other first families with the British East India Company and the opium wars that forced China to allow their opium trade.

Potash crams a massive amount of detail in his two-hour film, tracing how these and other powerful Wall Street families were instrumental in launching he CIA to protect their financial and political interests and how illegal drug trafficking (initially heroin trafficking from Southeast Asia) was essential to the CIA’s MO from its very inception in 1947.

He goes on to explore how the CIA/FBI assisted 9,000 Nazi war criminals to secretly settle in South America after World War II – where they helped establish paramilitary death squads to assassinate labor and human rights leaders who threatened US-installed dictators. Under the leadership of Klaus Barbie, they would also link up with local cocaine barons in establishing CIA-supported networks to smuggle the to the US.

Potash next details the probable role of the CIA/FBI in a host of suspicious OD’s, suicides and “lone nut” assassinations of activist rock stars and political figures who posed a threat to Wall Street interests. The list (as the book’s title suggests) includes John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Janis Joplin, Jim Hendrix, Tupac Shakur and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, among others.

For me the most fascinating part of the 2015 book concerns the extensive distribution of the hallucinogen LSD via the CIA’s MK-Ultra program in the sixties and seventies. Potash documents how CIA drug agents deliberately sought out targeted civil rights and anti-war activists and activist rock stars (eg John Lennon, George Harrison and Mick Jagger) in the hope of “neutralizing” any threat they might pose to corporate interests.

Although a two-hour film can’t possibly offer the same level of documentation as a 440-page book, the evidence this documentary presents paints a cogent and credible picture of the CIA as an immoral criminal enterprise dedicated to serving the interests of a tiny US financial elite.

About the Filmmaker

John Potash first came across evidence of the CIA role in disseminating LSD to activists and rock musicians in FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in the Media) co-founder Martin Lee’s book Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion (Grove Press 1985). The book details a high level Italian investigation of US intelligence officer Ronald Stark, who oversaw the trafficking of tens-to-hundreds of million of acid hits world wide. This led Potash to Operation Julie (W.H. Allen 1978), a book by high level British detective Dick Lee. Lee also investigated Stark’s operation and its network of intelligence links. Later Potash, a drug and alcohol counselor, would deal with clients who obtained LSD from the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a Stark-linked operation in the US.

Potash is also the author of the FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders (Progressive Left Press 2008) and has made a prior documentary (by the same title) based on the book.

Full interview with John Potash at Drugs as Weapons Against Us – Interview with John Potash

 

Hidden History: Spices, Colonization and the East India Companies

nathaniels-nutmeg

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: How One Man’s Courage Changed the Course of History

By Giles Milton (1999)

Book Review

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg is about the conquest of the the Banda Islands in the East Indies (aka the “Spice Islands”), the enslavement of the indigenous Bandanese and the ferocious 17th century wars between Holland and Britain over the nutmeg monopoly. Milton’s book is derived mainly from original journals, diaries and letters of explorers and merchant seaman, and official British and Dutch East India Company archives.

It’s always puzzled me why spices such as pepper, cloves, mace and nutmeg were so highly valued when Europeans already had the ability to preserve meat and fish with salt? Milton clears this up by reminding us that salting meat without benefit of preservatives or aromatic spices leaves the unpleasant tang of putrefied flesh. Nutmeg was especially prized after Elizabethan physicians began prescribing it as the only certain cure for bubonic plague.

Shipping nutmeg overland resulted in a 60,000 percent mark-up – after Turkish traders and Venetian middlemen took their cut. This price gouging was the main impetus driving Europeans determination to find a sea route to the “Spice Islands.”

Competing Claims on the Spice Islands

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg traces the expeditions of all the Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch explorers seeking an ocean route to the East Indies and the merchant bankers who financed them. Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to set foot in the Banda Islands in 1511. However, unlike the English and Dutch, they lacked financial backing to set up permanent trading posts and settlements.

What I found most striking about Milton’s accounts of these voyages was the massive mortality rate (from scurvy caused by vitamin C deficiency). Any expedition lasting longer than three months could count on losing 50-75% of their sailors. James Lancaster, commander of the first expedition organized by the Britishc East India Company, accidentally found a cure for scurvy (oranges and lemons or their juices) in 1601. Owing to his failure to publicize this discovery, it would be another 170 years before Captain James Cook officially “discovered” it.

The British and Dutch East India Companies

The charter Elizabeth I signed in 1600 granted the British East India Company a total monopoly of trade over the East Indies and all the countries and ports of Asia and Africa and America. It awarded the Company massive powers, including the right to set up foreign trading posts and settlements and protect them with military force. In 1602, Holland granted the Dutch East India Company comparable privileges. Intense rivalry between the two would lead to four Anglo-Dutch wars beginning in 1652. All were fought entirely at sea between the English and Dutch navies.

England Takes Possession of Manhattan

In 1667, England and Netherlands ended the so-called “Nutmeg Wars” by signing the Treaty of Breda. The Treaty allowed the English to retain New Netherlands (Manhattan Island) and the Dutch to retain Europe’s primary source of nutmeg, the Banadanese island of Run. Henry Hudson had claimed Manhattan Island for the Dutch during an unsuccessful 1609 expedition to find a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean.

By 1667, the English were happy to relinquish Run, after successfully transplanting nutmeg seedlings to their territories in Ceylon and on the eastern coast of India.