Coca Cola: The Ugly History

Mark Thomas on Coca Cola

BBC (2007)

Film Review

This documentary investigates the unsavory history and practices of Coca Cola, the world’s largest soft drink corporation. Including

  • their support of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi and ongoing business collaboration with Hitler during World War II. When the US entered the war in 1941, its Germany subsidiary developed Fanta especially for the German market, owing to their inability to import cola syrup.
  • their refusal to promote African Americans to administrative and management positions, leading Martin Luther King to call for a nationwide Coke boycott the day before his assassination. The issue remained unresolved until 2000, when Coke settled a federal civil rights lawsuit for $200 million.
  • their longstanding battle with Indian farmers over the depletion of aquifers they rely on for well water.
  • their collaboration with right wing paramilitary groups in Columbia to murder labor activists and their families for protest poor pay and working conditions in local bottling plants.
  • their refusal to crack down on their sugar supplier in El Salvador for illegally employing 30,000 children under 12 in sugar cane fields.
  • contamination of local residents’ drinking water in Nejapa El Salvador.
  • refusal to honor growing call by child health advocates to cease advertising caffeinated drinks to children under 12.

China’s Persecuted Minority: How Did 22 Uighurs End Up in Gitmo?

The Guantanamo 22

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The Guantanamo 22 is about 22 Uighur refugees who spent seven years at Gitmo after they were sold to US forces for $5,000 each by the Pakistan military and Afghan warlords.

The Uighurs are an oppressed Turkic ethnic minority who have been persecuted by the Chinese ever since China invaded their country (Gulja) in 1949. In 2000-2001, a number sought asylum in Afghanistan after being arrested, beaten and tortured for their participating in Islamic advocacy protests.

As one of the only countries with no extradition treaty with China, prior to 9-11 Afghanistan had an established Uighur community.

After US bombing began in late 2001, the Uighur village where they lived was destroyed, and 18 survivors sought refuge in Pakistan. The villagers who took them in tricked them and handed them over to the Pakistan army. Four others were kidnapped by warlords in Afghanistan.

Once they arrived in Guantanamo, the US military allowed Chinese authorities to interrogate and torture torture them for four days – in exchange for a promise China would support the US invasion of Iraq at the UN Security Council.*

By October 2002, after 10 months at Guantanamo, all 22 had been through the Status Review Board (ie a military tribunal in which detainees are denied access to a lawyer and the right to present evidence or challenge the US military’s evidence) and found innocent of all terrorism charges. Yet it still took another seven years for most of them to be released.

In late 2002, they were finally allowed to see a lawyer working with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The first three were transferred to Albania (which still regards them as terrorists), to spare the US government the embarrassment of defending an appeal against their unlawful detention.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that all Guantanamo detainees had the right to appeal their detention in US federal court. A short time later, a federal judge ordered the release of the other 19 Uighurs. Shortly after his inauguration, Obama attempted to transfer two of them to Virginia, but this was blocked by Congress.

In June 2009, the US reached agreement with Bermuda to take four Uighurs. In October 2009, Pelau agreed to take six, in return for a steep increase in US aid. Switzerland, El Salvador agreed to take the rest, though many remain stateless persons in their host countries and not allowed passports.


*China ultimately reneged on this commitment

The film can’t be embedded but can be viewed for free at The Guantanamo 22

Untold History of the US: Rise of the New Right

Part 8 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Ford, Carter and Reagan presidencies.

The Ford Presidency

Gerard Ford, appointed to the vice presidency after corruption charges forced the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, assumed the presidency (with Nelson Rockefeller as vice president) when Nixon resigned in 1974. Ford’s most notable foreign policy was to end the détente* negotiations Nixon initiated with the Soviets to minimize the risk of nuclear war.

The Carter Presidency

Peanut farmer and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Ford in 1976 on a platform that promised to end the arms race, reinstate détente negotiations and end US military intervention in third world countries.

According to Stone, Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (also Obama’s long time member) destroyed Carter’s presidency by forcing Carter (who had no foreign policy experience) to renege on his election promises. Under pressure from Brzezinski, Carter refused to return the Shah to Iran for trial following the 1978 Iranian revolution,** as well as restoring military aid to El Salvador’s right wing dictatorship in 1980 and secretly funding and training a jihadist Muslim insurgency to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Reagan Presidency

Like Carter, former California governor Ronald Reagan also had no foreign policy experience and allowed anti-communist CIA and Pentagon hawks to fill this vacuum. Under Reagan, CIA director William Casey stripped the CIA of any officials who resisted his policy of falsely blaming the Soviets for CIA-inspired terrorist activities. Casey also started the illegal Contra army that tried to overthrow Nicaragua’s democratically elected government, in addition to funding and training death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala to assassination union officials, intellectuals and human rights advocates. Casey and National Security Council member Oliver North also initiated the illegal arms deal with Iran that financed the Contras after Congress discontinued their funding.

In 1985 President Mikhail Gorbachev approached Reagan about negotiating a bilateral disarmament package that would phase out all nuclear weapons by 2000. Initially receptive, Reagan rejected Gorbachev’s condition that the US keep their Strategic Defense (Star Wars) Initiative in the lab. Reagan also refused Gorbachev’s proposal to participate in a joint peacekeeping force in Afghanistan following Soviet troop withdrawal.

Reagan left office in 1988 in disgrace over the Irangate scandal. He was also responsible for doubling the national debt, thanks to a massive increase in military expenditures coupled with sizeable tax cuts. In 1985, the US switched from being a creditor nation to being the biggest debtor nation.


*Détente is defined as the easing of hostility or strained relations between countries.

**This decision would cost Carter the 1980 presidential race when Iranian militants took 52 US Embassy employees hostage in 1979.

Part 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Rise Of The Right

The Private Spook Behind Iraq’s Death Squads

James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq

BBC (2013)

Film Review

The main purpose of this documentary is to expose the paramilitary death squads Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld created in Iraq. Their ultimate was to suppress the Sunni insurgency which formed in early 2003 to oppose the US occupation.

The film goes a long way towards debunking the propaganda Bush and the corporate media dispensed to the American public that the US enemy in Iraq was an international terrorist organization called al Qaeda. The military force responsible for suicide bombings and roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices) was actually a spontaneous uprising in response to the US invasion and occupation. It was largely organized by Sunni troops and public servants who served in Saddam Hussein’s government and were stripped of their occupations and careers by Bush’s disastrous de-Baathification program.

Cheney and Rumsfeld knew the guerrillas fighting the occupation represented a genuine insurrection. Determined to preserve their puppet Baghdad government at all costs, they called in James Steele, their foremost counterinsurgency expert. Steele, a retired military officer, had extensive experience creating and managing local paramilitary death squads in Vietnam and El Salvador.

In Iraq, Steele organized death squads out of Shia militias who had been brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein and were eager for revenge. What resulted was a bloody civil war between Shia and Sunni-led fighters. The civil war was responsible for 3,000 deaths a day prior to the withdrawal of US troops in 2011.

The film starts by interviewing embassy and DEA officials who worked directly with Colonel Steele when he was running El Salvador’s paramilitary death squads out of the US embassy in San Salvador.  The preponderance of evidence suggests it was Steele who oversaw the massacre of 25,000 Salvadoran civilians and most likely the assassination of human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero (in 1980 while he was saying mass) and the 1980 rape and murder of four American nuns (Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clark and Ita Ford).

Reportedly it was Cheney who recruited Steele to implement the “Salvadoran option” in Iraq. As an ex-military civilian, Steele’s official cover was “energy consultant.” Nevertheless the Iraq commanders who worked with him leave no doubt he was in charge of the specially trained 5,000-strong police commando group formed from Shia militias.

The filmmakers also interview a number of Iraqis who worked in Iraqi prisons and interrogation centers and directly witnessed the torture overseen by Steele. Several members of the Oregon National Guard (deployed to an Iraqi prison detail) were so horrified by one torture session they tried to intervene to stop it. When their military superiors ordered them to stand down and forget what they had seen, they went straight to a local Oregon newspaper. The resulting scandal would lead to the withdrawal of Steele, Coffman and Petraeus from Iraq and the sacking of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

 

The Corporate/CIA Role in the Rise of Fundamentalism

thy will be done

Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil

By Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett

1995 Harper Collins

I recently picked up this book again – after reading it when it first came out nearly 20 years ago. Charlotte Dennett, one of the authors, got a of media attention prior to Obama’s election in 2008, due to her her efforts to bring murder charges against George W. Bush.

Thy Will Be Done lays out the systematic economic colonization of the Amazon Basin by US corporate interests (led by Nelson Rockefeller) and the CIA – and their unscrupulous use of fundamentalist missionaries and Bible translators to indoctrinate and displace indigenous tribes who stood in the way of clear cutting for agriculture and oil and mineral extraction.

As CIA-liaison during the Eisenhower administration, Rockefeller developed close and enduring relationships at the CIA. This would lead to an ongoing collaboration in opening up Central and South America – and Southeast Asia – to U.S. corporate interests.

In addition to examining the Rockefeller/CIA campaign to introduce fundamentalist Christianity to the native tribes of Central and South America, this 960-page book also catalogs, in extensive detail, the full range of illegal CIA activities (and direct or indirect involvement of Rockefeller and the Rockefeller Foundation) under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter.

The book also chronicles the CIA role in installing brutal genocidal dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador.

The material presented is from presidential libraries, declassified documents and Congressional. It’s meticulously referenced and features a comprehensive index.