Mumia Abu Jamal: Murder Incorporated

Murder Incorporated: Dreaming of Empire Book 1 (Empire, Genocide and Manifest Destiny)

By Mumia Abu Jamal* and Stephen Vittoria

Prison Radio (2018)

Inspired by Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, this book is a carefully compiled history of the genocidal racism that forms the bedrock of US history and culture.

Murder Incorporated begins by exploring the Aryan and New Israel mythology embedded in the writings of the early colonists and so-called founding fathers. This was the same Aryan mythology Hitler would borrow to justify the attempted extermination of European Jews. According to the myth,  a selected subgroup of Aryans  reportedly originating near modern day Iran) migrated north to Germany and west to England. They purposely kept their bloodline pure by annihilating all the inferior tribes they crossed paths with.

The writings of North American settlers are also full of New Israel “Manifest Destiny” mythology. The latter regards the continent as a “new Israel” promised to them by divine Providence – Just as Palestine was promised to Jewish slaves escaping Egypt.

Mumia and Vittoria quote extensively from  Thomas Jefferson, the founding father most commonly extolled for his “liberalism.” His writings are full of these myths, which he uses to justify both the extermination of Native Americans and the immensely profitable institution of African slavery. In his business journal about whipping boys as young as 10 to force them to work in his nail factory.

The authors also definitively settle the question of whether he “raped” Sally Hemings, the slave who bore him six additional slaves. They also refute modern accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “love affair” with Hemings – by pointing a 16-year-old slave girl is incapable of consenting to have intercourse with her 47-year-old master.

Moving on, the book describes the founding fathers’ deliberate decimation of dozens of indigenous civilizations over the next 75 years. They provide an equally graphic analysis of the western slave trade, which would cost the lives and/or freedom of 60 million Africans. This sections includes a fascinating discussion of the Arab trade in African slaves that preceded it.

The following chapter covers the brutal class war between farmers and workers and wealthy planters and merchants who forced them to fight in the War of Independence and later wrote the Constitution to strip them of their basic political and economic rights. Citing Zinn and others, the authors detail scores of food and debtor prison riots that began 50 years before the Declaration of Independence.

Setting the stage for two centuries of bloody foreign conquest, a long chapter on the Monroe Doctrine (1824) leaves no doubt the founding fathers knew they were building an empire from the outset. The Monroe Doctrine would be used to justify the US invasion of Mexico in 1846, of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, of Colombia in 1983 (leading to the US occupation and annexation of Panama), of multiple Latin American invasions under Wilson and his successors and the 56 successful or attempted CIA coups to overthrow democratically elected governments.***


*In 1982 Mumia Abu Jamal was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia police offer, despite a local gang member’s confession to committing the murder. In 2011 his sentence was commuted to life without parole. He continues to fight for a new trial. See Mumia Wins Right to Re-Open Appeals

**Allowing the US to occupy and annex more than half of Mexico (which at the time included California, Nevada, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma).

***Including Australia in 1975. See John Pilger: Gough Whitlam 1975 Coup that Ended Australian Independence

 

 

 

Oral History: CIA Contractor Reveals Role in JFK Assassination

Inside the JFK Assassination

Secret History Productions (2003)

Film Review

This fascinating documentary is the oral history of Chauncy Holt, one of the infamous three tramps arrested in Dealey Plaza plaza following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Although it was recorded in 1997, it would be six years before Holt’s interview was released. He died eight days after its filming. Assassination researcher Jim Fetzer has uncovered evidence that Holt, while hospitalized, was deliberately overdosed on Coumadin by someone posing as a doctor.

The first hour of the video focuses on Holt’s early life as a bootlegger and petty criminal in Kentucky. He was a mathematical genius and firearms expert, with a pilot’s license and expertise in oil painting and forgery. It was his math skills that brought him to the attention of Florida mobster Meyer Lansky. After a brief spell as Lansky’s accountant, the latter referred him to the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division. Holt’s primary function was to oversee the Los Angeles  Stamp and Stationary Company, a CIA front that produced fake IDs and reconditioned firearms for Operation Mongoose, the CIA/Mob operation formed to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. His immediate CIA supervisor was William King Harvey.

In April 1963, he was ordered to produce fake IDs for Lee Harvey Oswald under various aliases and deliver them to Guy Bannister, who Holt identifies as Oswald’s New Orleans control.

On November 22, 1963, Holt was ordered to deliver forged Secret Service IDs and lapel pins and refurbished rifles and ammunition to Dealey Plaza. He was also ordered to deliver fake Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF) IDs and handguns to CIA operatives Charles Harrelson (father of actor Willy Harrelson) and Richard Montoya.

Holt identifies Harrelson and Rogers as the two other tramps. The FBI ordered them released as they were carrying forged ATF IDs.

Holt claims he had no foreknowledge of the assassination prior to arriving in Dealey Plaza. His CIA handlers told him that Operation Mongoose had organized a violent pro-Castro protest to drum up popular support for a US invasion of Cuba.

How to Have a Revolution

Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon (1961)

Free PDF:Wretched of the Earth

Book Review

Wretched of the Earth is a sociopolitical analysis of how revolution happens, based on the author’s personal experience in Algeria and his study of nationalist revolutions in sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, Latin America and Cuba.

Many Marxist scholars consider Fanon’s work to be the first major expansion of Marxist theory after Lenin. His primary contribution is to delineate the potential revolutionary forces of third world countries. His chief disagreement with Marx concerns the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat, the urban beggars, petty criminals, prostitutes and gang members who lack access to formal work. According to Fanon, the lumpenproletariat make up the majority of the population in third world countries (and increasingly, in 2017, the industrialized world)  thanks to first world colonizers who have driven them off their land.

Marx believed the lumpenproletariat were incapable of achieving class consciousness and thus of no use in the revolutionary struggle. In contrast, Fanon feels they help to instigate revolution owing to their high proportion of young people and their belief they had nothing to lose.

Unlike Marx, Fanon believes third world revolutionary struggles must originate with rural peasants (like the Chiapas uprising in Mexico), that city dwellers are too “colonized,” ie too invested in existing political and economic structures to want to dismantle them.

Wretched of the Earth also describes the phenomenon of economic colonialism, as manifested in Latin America (and later South Africa). In these cases, a country achieves political independence but continues to be economically (and militarily) oppressed by first world multinational corporations.

Fanon makes a number of recommendations for preventing this, including

  1. immediate nationalization and decentralization (via the creation of wholesale and retail cooperatives) of the economy
  2. mass political education aimed at enabling the masses to govern themselves,
  3. rapid economic restructuring aimed at developing soil and other natural resources for national use (as opposed to first world benefit),
  4. land reform to stem the migration of peasants to the city,
  5. guarding against feudal traditions that view men as superior to women, and
  6. avoiding the trap of political parties.

Frantz Fanon was born in 1925 of mixed heritage in Martinique. He fought with the French resistance during World War II and received a scholarship to study medicine and psychiatry in France. In 1953, he was offered a hospital position in Algeria, where he joined the Algerian National Liberation Front. He died of leukemia in 1961, shortly after the publication of Wretched of the Earth.

 

The Origins of American Empire – What They Didn’t Teach You in School

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States – Prequel A

Directed by Oliver Stone (2014)

Film Review

Owing to the series’ great success, Oliver Stone has produced two prequels to his  Untold History of the United States. The first traces the origins of America’s present empire-building spree at the end of the 19th Century.

Stone credits Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward (1861-69) for the launch of America’s imperialist ambitions. Following the US conquest of half of Mexico in 1848, Seward sought to expand US empire even further by conquering Alaska, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Midway.The US would eventually succeed in annexing all of these territories, except for Canada, Haiti and the Dominican Republic – although they only formally possessed the northern section of Columbia, which they renamed Panama.

Then, as now, the US undertook these military adventures at the behest of Rockefeller, JP Morgan, William Randolph Hearst and other Wall Street robber barons. After the severe depression of 1893 (which caused 20% unemployment), they were convinced the only way to prevent further economic instability was to conquer foreign countries for their resources, cheap labor and markets for surplus US products.

During this period, US troops also invaded Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and China for the benefit of Standard Oil, United Fruit and other US corporations. Stone quotes extensively from General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket. Butler participated in nearly all of these invasions.

Stone goes on to trace the British, French, US and czarist designs on Middle Eastern oil that were the true basis for World War I and the invasion of Russia by British, French, US and Japanese troops following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. I was unaware the US refused to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933, when Roosevelt took office.

My favorite parts of this film concern the brave rebels who opposed this US imperialist aggression despite a brutal federal crackdown on all protest activity: Mark Twain and other in the Anti-Imperialist League, Eugene Debs, Bill Haywood and International Workers of the World, Emma Goldman and Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones).

Relocalization: Opting Out of Corporate Society

Diversidad: A Road Trip to Reconstruct Dinner

Solutionary Pictures (2010)

Film Review

Diversidad tells the story of a 35-day bicycle trip the Sierra Youth Coalition took from Vancouver to Tijuana in 2003. Their goal was to visit West Coast rural farming communities as a prelude to their participation in the 2003 anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico.

The goal of the fifth ministerial round of WTO negotiations was to resolve a dispute between developed and developing countries over agricultural trade. North American and Europe hoped to use the WTO to force developing countries to drop all trade barriers that were blocking US and EU agrobusinesses from dumping cheap food on agricultural nations. By 2003, NAFTA*, the precursor to the WTO, had allowed US agrobusiness to put two million Mexican farmers out of work by flooding their markets with cheap corn.

Building Alternatives to the Corporate Economy

The most surprising aspect of the cycle trip was the discovery of a vast network of rural communities and urban neighborhoods that are busily creating an alternative to the capitalist economic system by consciously decreasing consumption, changing consumption choices and building strong local economies

In Olympia, Washington, for example, they discover that Evergreen State College is training students in organic agriculture techniques, as well as new economic models, such as Community Supported Agriculture, to increase access to cheap, locally produced organic foods. In 2003 Thurston County (where Olympia is located) already held a national record as the country with the most CSAs.**

In Oakland, they stay with an African American group which had started a large organic garden in the Oakland ghetto. Likewise in Watts, they stay with the “Seed Lady,” an African American woman who got a scholarship to study organic farming in Cuba. After learning how to grow organic food in containers on concrete, as they do in Havana, she returned to engage her neighborhood in launching the Watts Garden Club.

This is in stark contrast to what the fifteen cyclists discover in Salinas, where they meet with Hispanic farm workers and and discover the corporate farms they work on have lost all their topsoil. Because the remaining soil has been destroyed through mismanagement, it no longer supports crop growth without heavy application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Cancun WTO Negotiations Collapse

Diversidad ends with dramatic footage of the anti-WTO protests in Cancun, attended by farmers from all over the world. The protest would attract global media attention after one of the Korean farmers mounted the heavy iron fence barricading the protest area and killed himself with a knife.

Buoyed by the ferocity of the protests outside, the third world WTO delegates refused to cave in, as they had in 1999. (See This is What Democracy Looks Like)

Why TPP Was Negotiated in Secret

By 2010 when Diversidad was released, the industrialized world had given up on the WTO as a vehicle for consolidating profits for their multinational corporations. However, unbeknownst to the filmmakers, Obama was already negotiating a new pro-corporate trade treaty called the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) to replace the WTO.

TPP negotiations were conducted in  secret to circumvent the massive popular opposition that repeatedly shut down WTO negotiations. However thanks to Wikileaks, which leaked portions of the secret TPP text over a period years, TPP is highly unlikely to be ratified owing to massive popular opposition to TPP in all 12 partner countries.*** (See Rock Against the TPP)


*The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America.

**Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution in which consumers advance purchase a share in a farmer’s crop and receive regular distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. (See Top 10 Reasons to Join a CSA)

***Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton officially oppose TPP.

 

A Cuban Novel About Trotsky’s Assassination

the man who loved dogs

The Man Who Loved Dogs

By Leonardo Padura

Translated by Anna Kushner (2013)

Book Review

The Man Who Loved Dogs is a fictional account of the Stalinist Conspiracy to assassinate Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940. Havana author Leonardo Padura uses three distinct perspectives to relate his story: that of Trotsky and his family, that of his assassin Roman Mercader and that of a failed Cuban writer who accidentally encounters Mercader on a Cuban beach in the 1970s as he’s on the verge of death.

The conspiracy is vaguely reminiscent of the JFK assassination conspiracy, in that it was meticulously planned and took three years to set in motion. Mercader was a Spanish Communist recruited by Stalin’s agents and brought to the USSR for specialized intelligence training. Posing as a Belgian journalist, he cultivated an American Trotskyite girlfriend to facilitate his entry into the high security compound where Trotsky’s family lived in Coyoacan Mexico.

The early part of the book contains long sections about the Spanish Civil War. These focus on Stalin’s brutal efforts to undermine the Spanish Revolution by assassinating anarchist and Trotskyite rivals, including members of the International Brigades. He then proceeded to abandon Spain’s Republican government to Franco’s fascists to improve his negotiating position with Hitler.

The History of Trotsky’s Exile

The narrative from Trotsky’s perspective begins with his forced exile to Turkey in 1929. He’s eventually offered asylum in France and Norway, both of which expel him (under pressure from local communists) after a few months. These sections also focus on Trotsky’s dismay regarding Stalin’s decade of show trials and executions, which systematically eliminated the primary Bolshevik luminaries responsible for the 1917 revolution, as well as one-third of the leadership of the Soviet Army.

Prior to 1990 Books About Trotsky Banned in Cuba

The narrative based on the fictional Cuban writer focuses on the intellectual and artistic repression that characterized the early Castro regime and the severe hardship (literal starvation in many cases) that began when the USSR collapsed in 1989 and Cuba ceased to have access to cheap soviet oil essential to their system of industrial agriculture.

Prior to the 1990s, books by or about Trotsky were banned in Cuba, as they were in the USSR. As Padura reminds us in his acknowledgements, Cubans of his generation grew up totally unaware that Trotsky or Trotskyism even existed. From this perspective, one can’t help but marvel at his extensive research into Trotsky’s personal and political history, as well as the Spanish Civil War and Stalin’s show trials.

How Cuba is Revolutionizing Global Health Care

Salud! : What Puts Cuba on the Map in the Quest for Global Health

Connie Field (2009)

Film Review

Salud! Is about the global struggle to overcome health inequality and the vital role Cuba plays in this effort. Filmmaker Connie Field is totally open about her perspective that that health car is a basic right and not a commodity, as it’s viewed in the US.

In pre-revolutionary Cuba, only a small wealthy elite had access to health care. The poor, who comprised 90-90% of the population, died in droves of treatable conditions, such as malaria, respiratory infection, parasites and infantile diarrheal infections.

The Castro regime responded to this health crisis by training tens of thousands of doctors. At present, Cuba has 60,000 doctors for a population of 11 million, making their health system one of the best resourced in the world.

Ending Diseases of Poverty Worldwide

Cuba has been extremely generous in sharing this resource with other poor countries, especially in Africa and Latin America. Since 1963, over 100,000 Cuban health professionals have worked overseas. As well as performing direct patient care, they also train foreign health care professionals.

The film profiles their work in South Africa, Gambia, Honduras and Venezuela. In all four countries, the Cuban doctors have helped local health professionals establish community-based health delivery systems that focus on health promotion and disease prevention. This contrasts to health care in the industrialized north, which waits for patients to get sick and fights one illness at a time.

Cubans Healthier than Americans

Thanks to their phenomenal workforce and this common sense approach, Cuba is one of the few developing countries that has virtually eradicated malaria. Moreover Cubans experience better overall all health status than Americans. On average, Cubans live longer: 79.07 years compared to 78.74 years for Americans. Cuba also has a lower infant mortality (4.70 per 1,000 live births) than the US (6.2 per 1,000 live births).

In Honduras and Venezuela, Cuban doctors have played an essential role in setting up clinics in barrios and rural areas that are poorly served by Honduran and Venezuelan doctors – both for financial (their barrio patients can’t afford to pay them) and “lifestyle” reasons. Despite their refusal to serve these communities, local doctors responded to the presence of Cuban doctors with mass protests claiming the Cuban medics were threatening their livelihood.

Free Medical Education for International Students

In 1999, Cuba set up the Latin American Medical School, which offers free medical training to low income students from all over the world. In collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus, they have also opened this medical school to African and Hispanic students from low income US communities.