Economic Colonialism: Who Really Pays for Your Tires?

Rubber Tires: A Dirty Business

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines the brutally exploitive and unsustainable conditions in which tires are produced.

The filmmakers begin by visiting rubber plantations in Thailand, the world’s largest rubber producer. On one of the largest rubber plantations, Cambodian immigrants (Thai workers refuse to work for the starvation wages offered) receive approximately half the minimum wage ($140/month), despite working everyday and four nights a week. They are also exposed to Paraquat, a deadly herbicide causing severe liver and kidney disease and banned in 32 countries.

Pay and working conditions in Thai rubber processing plants are somewhat better. There workers earn $150/month ($250/month in the busy season), plus free accommodation and electricity and 20 kg of rice a month. Unlike plantations workers, they live in shacks provided with kitchens and bathrooms.

The filmmakers also visit Cambodian rubber plantations, where they speak with villagers who have been illegally driven off their land to make way for rubber plantations.

The final segment of the film investigates the tire retread industry, which recycles old tires by putting new tread on them. Studies reveal that modern retreaded tires are just as safe and reliable as new ones, despite using 80% less new rubber than new tires. With global demand for tires increasing by 7% annually, there needs to be a much greater effort to market retreaded tires to sustainability conscious consumers.

The tire manufacturers DW contacted about the atrocious working conditions on their rubber plantations and in their processing plants (Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, and Continental) declined to be interviewed.

The Vietnam War in 1970: GIs Kill Their Own Officers While Government Slays Student Protestors

A Sea of Fire, Episode 8

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

This week Maori TV showed A Sea of Fire, Episode 8 of the Vietnam War series. It covers the period from April 4, 1969 to May 1970 and the massacre of four students at Kent State and two at Jackson State

By April 1969, there were 543,482 US troops fighting in Vietnam, with thousands more on nearby naval vessels and support bases. By that date, 40,794 GIs had died in Vietnam.

In October Nixon, who privately acknowledged the US couldn’t win, replaced a complicated draft deferment system with a more popular lottery based on draftees date of birth. In December, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced the “Vietnamization” of the war (eg a transfer of responsibility to to South Vietnamese troops) and began drawing down US troop numbers (10,000 by the end of 1970).

The move led many serving GIs to become deeply demoralized about being sent to die in an unwinnable war. Accordingly, 1970 would see a big increase in “fragging,” the deliberate murder of officers by men under them. It would also see a big increase in draftees seeking asylum in Canada (30,000 in total).

I was disappointed this episode failed to cover the role of the CIA and South Vietnamese army setting up a thriving trade selling heroin to US GIs. My former partner served in Vietnam from 1967-1969 and returned to the US addicted to it.

The years 1969-70 would also see a big surge in the US peace movement. The October 15th Vietnam Moratorium was actually a general strike, with hundreds of university campuses closing down and tens of thousands of Americans staying off work in cities around the country. It would be the largest mass protest in US history.

In November, independent journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story of the My Lai Massacre, the brutal murder of 400 South Vietnamese civilians, which had occurred 20 months earlier. It would be only one of many civilians massacres in Vietnam.

In 1970, the peace movement, which had died down in response to Nixon’s gradual troop withdrawal, was reignited following the April 30, 1970 invasion of Cambodia by 30,000 US troops. Four million American students protested the invasion, 448 campuses were shut down and 16 states called out the National Guard.

At Kent State, the National Guard fired 67 rounds into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, killing four, including an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) scholarship student who was merely an onlooker.

On the same day, police shot two peaceful African American antiwar protestors at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

 

 

Nixon’s Treason in Vietnam

Chasing Ghosts, Episode 7

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Last night, Maori TV showed Episode 7 of the Vietnam War series, covering the second half of 1968. 1968 was a year of global revolution, when working and oppressed people all over the world revolted against their governments. This happened even in countries like Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay that had nothing to do with the Vietnam War. See 1968

This episode incorporates excellent footage of the antiwar protests at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and the bloody police riot that ensued. Esteemed CBS journalist Walter Cronkite referred to Chicago as a “police state.”

By mid-1968 the new Secretary of Defense Clifford Clark was begging President Johnson to stop bombing North Vietnam. Clark no longer believed the US could win the war, and this was a North Vietnamese condition to begin Paris peace negotiations.

1968 also marked the start of the CIA’s controversial Phoenix program, in which US and South Vietnamese intelligence murdered 20,000 South Vietnamese in an effort to root out the Viet Cong (a secret South Vietnamese revolutionary group) and their supporters.

In the lead-up to elections, Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey also called for an end to the bombing. When Johnson finally halted the bombing on October 31, Humphrey’s poll numbers surged ahead of Nixon’s.

A few days before the election, Nixon sent a secret envoy to South Vietnam promising President Thieu a “better peace deal” if he withdrew from the peace talks – which he did. Because the CIA had caught the conversation on a secret bug in Thieu’s office, Johnson confronted Nixon, who denied it. Viewing it as treason, Johnson chose not to make the incident public. He didn’t want the South Vietnamese government (or the American public) to know how he obtained the information.

Immediately after Nixon’s 1969 inauguration in January, he began secretly (and illegally) bombing Laos and Cambodia. Parts of the Ho Chi Minh trail (which North Vietnam used to send troops, weapons and food south) snaked through Laos, and Cambodia was known to offer sanctuary to North Vietnamese troops.

 

 

“If You’ve Got Dough, You Don’t Have to Go”

Episode 4 – Doubt

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Maori TV showed Episode 4 of the Vietnam War series this week. 1966, Lyndon Johnson’s second year in office, saw a massive escalation of US forces in Vietnam – increasing from 200,000 in January to 500,000 in June 1967. Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea also sent troops to serve in Vietnam. Because both Australia and New Zealand had compulsory conscription until the early 1970s, there was a sizeable anti-Vietnam War movement in both countries.

The UK and Europe, in contrast, opposed the Vietnam War and called for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Johnson also substantially escalated bombing campaigns against North Korea, Laos and Cambodia (the North Vietnamese used a network of jungle roads in Laos and Cambodia to transport arms and personnel to South Vietnam). North Vietnamese civilians, most of them women, worked day and night restoring the so-called “Ho Chi Minh trail following US bombing raids.

Because the US was incapable of gaining territory in Vietnam, it used body counts to measure its success. The latter frequently included civilians and were always exaggerated. The US goal was to reach a “crossover point” – where the US killed more North Vietnamese soldiers than North Vietnam could replace. This never happened.

In May 1966, the US puppet government in South Vietnam nearly collapsed owing to mass demonstrations in Saigon demanding representative democracy and a negotiated settlement to the war.

As US forces swelled in Vietnam, the Pentagon was forced to begin drafting college students, which massively fueled the antiwar movement. It was common for well-to-do families (like the Bushes) to arrange deferments tor their kids. As the saying went, “If you’ve got dough, you don’t have to go.”

In Vietnam, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, a disproportionate number of draftees and casualties were African American.

How the CIA Used LSD to Destroy the New Left

drugs-as-weapons

Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists

by John L Potash

Trine Day LLC (2015)

Book Review

Drugs as Weapons Against Us is a virtual encyclopedia of the global drug trade. Author John L Potash devotes special attention to the long involvement of the British and US government in illegal trafficking – for the political and financial benefit of the elite families who control these governments. Most of the book focuses on MKUltra, the top secret CIA program devoted to developing and experimenting with mind altering drugs such as LSD, MDA (an ecstasy precursor), STP, PCP and scopolamine.

Although CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-Ultra records destroyed in the mid-seventies, 30,000 pages of documents were preserved in the CIA Finance Department. Meticulously researched and footnoted, Drugs as Weapons relies on an extensive variety of sources, including the 30,000 pages, FOIA releases, police files, whistleblower statements, media and alternative media investigations and other prominent researchers such as Peter Dale Scott, Alfred, McCoy, Alex Constantine, Catherine Austin Fitts, and the late Gary Webb and Michael Rupert.

Using MKUltra to Target Leftists and Radical Pop Stars

As the title suggests, Potash is mainly interested in the CIA’s use of LSD (with the help of British intelligence, which ran a parallel MKUltra program at the Tavistock Clinic) to “neutralize” leftists and activist pop stars, such as Paul Robeson, Mick Jagger, Abbie Hoffman, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.*

Like many activists, I am well aware of the CIA’s historic role in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia and in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. However prior to reading Drugs as Weapons, I was totally unaware they were also responsible for most of the LSD produced between 1955 and 1973 – for the specific purpose of “neutralizing” the New Left in Berkeley, at Columbia University and elsewhere. This particular MKUltra project was conceived in response to a 1962 Rand Corporation study recommending that getting left wing leaders hooked on LSD could “cause them to resign or become inactive.”

The Haight Ashbury was a CIA Invention

I was particularly horrified to learn about the LSD distribution network MKUltra agents set up in the Haight Ashbury to lure Berkeley students away from the nationally influential Free Speech movement. The latter, originally formed in 1957 to protest the anti-democratic activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee, went on to inspire the national anti-Vietnam War Movement.

In addition to various MKUltra scientists and agents, the CIA also relied on a number of high profile personalities – LSD guru Timothy Leary (an admitted CIA asset), author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and Grateful Dead band members – to promote and distribute LSD as an alternative to organizing against the Vietnam War.

How the Opium Trade Created America’s First Millionaires

Potash begins his book with important historical background on the origins of the global drug trade, which he traces back to 1500 and which European elites relied on heavily to finance imperial expansion and colonization. He also recounts the history of important Wall Street families – the Cabots, Cushings, Bushes, Astors, Russells, Pierponts (JP Morgan’s family) – who all owe their immense wealth to the opium trade the British involuntarily forced on China via the Opium Wars. The investment of these families in illegal drug trafficking continues to the present day, as evidenced by the involvement of all major US banks in multibillion dollar drug money laundering.

The Russell family, who would go on to found Yale and the Skull and Bones Society, openly used a skull and bones pirate flag on their opium trading ships.

The Vietnam War: Protecting Wall Street Drug Interests

Potash also carefully details the special relationship between these Wall Street families and the intelligence agency they founded during World War II (the OSS, which became the CIA in 1947) to protect their special interests. This comes out really clearly in the chapter in which Potash traces the origins of the Vietnam War. He makes a really strong case that this war (which began in the late fifties as a CIA intervention) stemmed directly from CIA determination to protect Golden Triangle opium production from efforts by nationalist leaders in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to eradicate it.

One of Mao’s first acts after winning control of China was to destroy the country’s vast opium network. With the support of the CIA, the nationalist Chinese generals who had controlled it moved their networks into Burma, Laos and Thailand.

The Link Between CIA-backed Nazi War Criminals and Colombian Cocaine

In a similar vein, the CIA assisted Klaus Barbie and other Nazi war criminals it smuggled out of Germany in setting up a cocaine production and distribution network in Colombia and later the Afghan Mujaheddin in turning their country into the world’s largest producer of heroin.

Potash makes a compelling case that the proximate cause for the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in October 2001 was the Taliban’s successful eradication of opium production earlier that year.


*The cases of radical pop stars and activists targeted with LSD and other drugs (in many cases along with witnesses and key investigators) Potash examines include

  • Paul Robeson – African American singer whose career was destroyed when he was involuntarily dosed with LSD and committed for two years to a psychiatric hospital, where he received 54 electroconvulsive treatments,
  • Richard Wright – African American writer involuntarily dosed with LSD who later died under extremely suspicious circumstances.
  • Elvis Presley – became addicted to amphetamines and narcotics after covert intelligence officer became his manager.
  • Mama Cass Elliott – died under mysterious circumstances at age 32 after starting to date an international drug smuggler with suspected intelligence links.
  • Abbie Hoffman –introduced to LSD by roommate who worked for Army Intelligence research LSD effects on unconsenting GIs.
  • Mick Jagger – involuntarily dosed with LSD and subject to numerous drug frame-ups and two unsuccessful Hell’s Angels (working closely with US intelligence) assassination attempts.
  • Brian Jones – subject to numerous drug frame-ups and intense phone harassment and stalking prior to 1969 murder (which police covered up as “accidental” drowning).
  • Jimi Hendrix – intelligence-linked manager strongly implicated in death related to involuntary drugging.
  • Janis Joplin – introduced to amphetamines and heroine via intelligence-linked boyfriend, died after “friend” slipped her a bolus of pure CIA heroin.
  • John Lennon – involuntarily dosed with LSD and framed on bogus cannabis charge. Lennon’s alleged assassin Mark Chapman had strong intelligence links and appeared to be under influence of scopolamine.
  • Bob Marley – involuntarily injected with the cancer-causing chemical methlychoanthine (via a copper wire hidden in boots gifted to him by CIA asset Carl Colby) and subsequently died of fibrosarcoma.
  • Kurt Cobain – involved in heavy drug use by his wife Courtney Love, who had shadowy underworld and intelligence connections. Cobain allegedly shot himself in the head with a shotgun after consuming so much heroin he would have lost consciousness before he could pull the trigger.
  • Huey Newton – initiated into heavy cocaine use by girlfriend/undercover agent. Witnesses maintain he was shot after a failed attempt to kidnap him, discrediting police disinformation about “a drug deal gone bad.”
  • Tupac Shakur – multiple assassination attempts and police frame ups. Coerced, as part of a bail agreement, into signing with Death Row records (see The FBI War on Rap). The latter was run by Los Angeles police intelligence unit and heavily involved in drug and gun trafficking. Killed in drive-by shooting instigated by US intelligence.
  • Eminem – initiated into heavy drug use via undercover intelligence “friends” after helping Afeni Shakur (following Tupac’s assassination) to record many of Tupac’s songs.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

Untold History of the US – Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam

Part 7 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States concerns the Johnson and Nixon presidencies.

The Johnson Presidency

Johnson continued Kennedy’s glorious tradition of overthrowing foreign democratic governments. He openly admitted the military aggression he authorized wasn’t about fighting communism – but about fighting third world peoples for their resources. He saw no other way 6% of the world’s population could control 50% of its wealth.

  • In 1963 Johnson reversed Kennedy’s order to draw down US “military advisors” and introduced ground troops to Vietnam.
  • In 1964 he ordered US troops to overthrow the democratically elected government of Brazil.
  • In 1965 he invaded the Dominican Republic to crush a popular insurrection against a CIA-inspired right wing coup.
  • In 1966-67 he authorized a bloody CIA coup to oust President Sukarno in Indonesia and replace him with the right wing dictator Suharto.
  • In 1967, he ordered the CIA to (illegally) spy on anti-Vietnam War protestors through Operation Chaos.
  • In 1967, he fired Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara when he opposed escalating the bombing in Vietnam.

When a bipartisan group of elder statesman called for US troop withdrawal from Vietnam, Johnson decided to focus on Vietnam peace negotiations instead of running for a second term in 1968.

The Nixon Presidency

Robert Kennedy was the clear front runner in the 1968 election prior to his assassination in July 1968.

Despite basing his campaign on a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger (who secretly undermined the Paris peace negotiations to help Nixon win the elections) vastly expanded the war, which would last seven more years. More than half the GI deaths in Vietnam occurred under Nixon.

As president, Nixon made 13 separate threats to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Stone believes it was only the massive anti-war protests (which deeply unnerved Nixon) that prevented their use.

Nixon and Kissinger were also responsible for secretly and illegally bombing Cambodia and Laos, the 1973 coup that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected government, and Operation Condor, a secret dirty war against pro-democracy movements in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Part 7:  Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune – Cataclysm in Vietnam