Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

By James W Loewen

Touchstone (1996)

Book Review

This book is a treasure trove of hidden US history. Loewen’s primary goal is to analyze why high school students universally hate US history. He mainly blames US history textbooks. The way they filter out embarrassing facts makes them incredibly dull and boring ir tendency to filter out embarrassing facts makes them dull and boring, especially given their unrelenting promotion of corporate capitalism, American exceptionalism*, growth, progress and unconditional optimism about the future.

As he so handily demonstrates, real US history (of the kind you find in primary sources**) is both exciting and compelling. Yet because it sometimes portrays the Europeans who colonized North America in an unfavorable light, it rarely finds its way into high school textbooks.

The sections I found most interesting concerned Columbus, the first Thanksgiving, Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.

  • Prior to reading this book, I was unaware that Columbus started the North Atlantic slave trade – nor that he was responsible for kidnapping and transporting more slaves (5,000 Native American slaves) than any other slave trader in history.
  • Prior to reading the section on the first Thanksgiving, I was unaware that only 35 of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower were Pilgrims. The other 67 thought they were headed for Virginia tobacco plantations and, according to Loewen, were most likely “kidnapped” by the Pilgrims and forced to sail to Massachusetts against their will. He believes the purpose of the Mayflower Compact (which gave them a democratic voice in governance) was to keep them from rebelling and overpowering the Pilgrims. When the ship arrived at Plymouth Rock, the settlers found nearly the entire indigenous village of Patuxet had been wiped out by plague (which they caught from European fisherman several years earlier). This meant the Europeans could take over indigenous fields without clearing new land – which they did with the help of Squanto, the sole indigenous survivor.
  • The chapter on Woodrow Wilson gave me new insight into the president who promised not to embroil the US in World War I during his campaign and promptly reversed himself once he took office. Wilson holds the record for the most Latin American interventions of any period in history. He also invaded and occupied Haiti, as well as invading the Soviet Union (which was concealed from the American public via an elaborate coverup).
  • I was previously aware that the renowned humanitarian Helen Keller was a socialist. The information that she quit the socialist party to join the anarchosyndicalist International Workers of the World (IWW) was totally new to me.

*American exceptionalism is an  ideological belief that the US outpaces all other countries in nearly every field of endeavor.

**A primary source is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study.

Illegal Deforestation: Death by A Thousand Cuts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Illegal Deforestation: Death by a Thousand Cuts

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary concerns entrenched corruption, exploitation and deforestation on Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR).

The filmmakes specifically investigate the illegal production and smuggling of charcoal, referred to as “black gold” from DR forests. Haiti, which has destroyed all but 2% of its native forests, relies on illegally smuggled charcoal for 90% of its energy. The DR, in contrast, is reaping the benefits of an aggressively enforced 1960s environmental program to reduce deforestation. The end result is a distinct difference in rainfall between the two countries sharing the island of Hispanola. Thanks to low rainfall and soil degradation, even subsistence agriculture is impossible in most of Haiti.

Poor Haitians survive by providing a cheap immigrant workforce for the DR. Despite their vital important to the country’s economy, right wing DR president Danilo Medina, has solidified his political base by stoking vicious anti-immigrant sentiment (like Trump).

Unsurprisingly nearly all DR anti-charcoal smuggling efforts are directed against poor Haitians who transport charcoal in Haiti on pack animals. The DR government does nothing to address the industrial scale charcoal smuggling by fleets of trucks controlled by DR crime bosses.

The video can’t be embedded but can be view free on-line at the Al Jazeera website:

Illegal Deforestation: Death by a Thousand Cuts

 

Hidden History: The Abolitionists who Led the European Colonization of Africa

Slavery Trade Routes – Part 3 Slavery’s New Frontiers

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The final episode in the series begins with the revolution in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti) that would signal the beginning of the end for the slave trade. Led by Tousaint L’Ouverture, in 1791 the entire slave population of Saint Domingue (90% of residents) revolted again their plantation owners. It would be Napoleon’s first military defeat.

Although the British Navy succeeded in shutting down much of the slave trade in 1815, they couldn’t stem the flow of slaves to feed the prison-style industrial coffee plantations in Brazil. An additional 2 million Africans were deported to Brazil between 1815 and 1850. At present, Brazil has the second largest population of Africans in the world (with Nigeria at number one).

Although the trafficking of slaves to the US stopped in 1815, the American slave population continued to grow – in part due to the routine rape of female slaves by their white masters.

US Last Country to Abolish Slavery

In 1825, after achieving independence, all former Spanish colonies abolished slavery. French, English and Dutch colonies would gradually follow suit. The US formally abolished slavery in 1865 during the Civil War. In reality slavery continued in southern states with Jim Crow laws that denied Blacks the right to vote, freedom of movement and the right to self-defense. In addition, laws providing for the arrest of unemployed blacks for vagrancy resulted in a de facto involuntary servitude.

European Colonization of Africa

For me, the most interesting part of the film concerns the direct link between the abolition of slavery and the intensive European colonization of Africa. The military adventurers who conquered Africa were all “abolitionists.” Officially the purpose of their missions to Africa were to end the slave trade. In reality, they were deeply committed white supremacists who cut deals with Arab slave traders and local chieftains to put poor African peasants to work (involuntarily) on their African coffee, palm oil, rubber and cotton plantations.

The video can’t be embedded but can be seen free at the following link:

Slavery’s New Frontiers

Bribery and Corruption: The Clintons are a Textbook Case

Narrated by author Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash explores how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton granted special concessions to wealthy investors and foreign leaders in return for donations to the Clinton foundation and humongous speaking fees (for her husband Bill).

Examples include

  • State Department approval for Joe Wilson’s mining company to cut a mineral deal with Sudanese warlords in return for large donations to the Clinton Foundation.
  • Waiver of US sanctions against Democratic Republic of Congo – enabling Swedish oligarch Lucas Lundin to access their mineral reserves – in return for a $100 million donation to the Clinton Foundation.
  • State Department reversal of sanctions President Bill Clinton initiated against India for violating the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty – in return for big donations to the Clinton Foundation, millions in speaking fees and illegal donations to Hillary’s senate campaign.
  • Approval of the sale of 50% of America’s uranium deposits to Uranium One, putting 20% of US uranium production under Russian control – in return for millions of Clinton Foundation donations from Uranium One shareholders and a half a million dollars in speaking fees.
  • A favorable State Department environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline – after TD Bank, one of Keystone’s major investors, paid Bill for ten speaking engagements.

The film also details the massive corruption associated with the Haiti Reconstruction Commission, which the Clintons headed after the 2008 Haiti earthquake. Instead of being used to rebuild homes and roads, most of the international aid ended up in the pockets of Clinton corporate benefactors. This includes hundreds of millions for luxury hotels and for a company with no gold mining experience to build the first Haitian gold mine in sixty years. The Clintons also authorized Caracol, a new textile factory in northern Haiti (the earthquake occurred in southern Haiti), which pays sweatshop wages to produce clothing for the Gap, Target and Walmart.

 

Anatomy of Modern Corruption: The Clinton Foundation and the Superdelegates

What Hillary Clinton Really Represents

Empire Files (2016)

Film Review

This early 2016 documentary is a virtual encyclopedia of Clinton family corruption. Based entirely on publicly verifiable information, it reveals how Hillary, especially, has based her political career on supporting legislation that specifically benefits her corporate and foreign donors. It also explores the identity of some of the 700 Democratic “superdelegates” who helped deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination – despite overwhelming support he received from voters.

The Clinton Foundation was founded in 1997 with the alleged purpose of providing humanitarian relief after international disasters. Its real purpose, however, was to engage in “crisis capitalism,” a term coined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Following a disasters, such as the 2001 earthquake in India, the Clinton Foundation would waltz in and create a variety of for-profit projects enabling further exploitation of third world resources and labor by Clinton Foundation donors.

Major donors to the Clinton foundation included Exxon, Walmart, Pfizer, Dow, Monsanto, General Electric (GE), Fox News, the Soros Foundation, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As senator, Clinton rewarded the latter two donors by supporting deregulation that would lead to their bankruptcy in 2008 and a massive taxpayer bailout.

As Secretary of State, Clinton would grant similar favors to Boeing and GE by facilitating overseas sales of their military hardware and to Exxon by heavily promoting the spread of fracking throughout the world.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Republic and Qatar were also big donors to the Clinton Foundation. In all 181 Clinton Foundation donors lobbied Clinton as Secretary of State and most were successful in getting the policies they advocated enacted.

Many of the 700 superdelegates appointed by the Democratic National Committee (to help ensure their hand picked candidates won the Democratic primary) were also corporate lobbyists hoping to benefit financially from a Clinton presidency: among others, the corporate lobbies represented included the Excel pipeline, the private prison industry, Big Pharma and the four main Wall Street banks (City Group, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase).

War Crimes by UN Forces in Haiti

Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits

Kevin Pina (2007)

Film Review

We Must Kill the Bandits carefully documents the systematic war crimes committed by US, Canadian, French and UN forces between 1990 and 2005, as part of the US-led effort to destroy Hait’s pro-democracy Lavalas movement.

In 1990, former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who headed the Lavalas movement, was elected president of Haiti by a virtual landslide. In 1991, the CIA-backed Haitian military high command undertook a coup against Aristide and forced him into exile in Africa. Shortly before leaving office, President Bill Clinton intervened and allowed Aristide to return to Haiti. After Aristide was re-elected president in 2001, US marines illegally invaded Haiti on February 29, 2004, kidnapped Aristide and forced him onto a plane bound for South Africa.

The poor of Haitai immediately responded with weekly protests demanding Aristide’s return. When the Haitian police and army proved incapable of propping up the US-installed puppet government, US, Canadian and French troops occupied Haiti, routinely rampaging through poor neighborhoods slaughter civilians and arresting suspected Lavalas supporters. Owing to their existing military commitments in Iraq, these forces were eventually replaced by UN peacekeeping forces (Blue Helmets).

The most shocking scenesein the documentary are those of Blue Helmets firing on peaceful demonstrators and killing unarmed civilians during massacres they carried out in poor neighborhoods in 2004 and 2005.

Postscript: The documentary ends in 2005, five years before the devastating earthquake and cholera epidemic that hit Haiti in 2010. In 2011, President Obama allowed Aristide to return to Haiti provided he agreed not to run in the 2011 presidential elections. He refrained from participating in political life until 2015, when he joined the presidential campaign of Lavalas candidate Maryse Narcisse.

 

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).