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

 

 

 

The Unpopular Attempt to Privatize Mexico’s State-Owned Oil Company

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

This documentary is about efforts by the Mexican government to privatize the country’s state-owned oil company. This extremely unpopular move would help lead to their defeat in the July 2018 election by left-leaning Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka Mexico’s Bernie Sanders).

The film also explores the devastating effect of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture, as well as the link between two million farm workers losing their jobs and the explosion of organized crime. Due to high unemployment, farm workers put out of work by NAFTA are left with only two choices: to cross illegally into the US or to work for Mexican crime cartels.

Pemex, Mexico’s state owned oil company, was first nationalized in 1938. When multinational oil companies demanded compensation, tens of thousands of Mexican peasants pawned their possessions to help the government buy out the foreign oil/gas companies.

Mexico is the last country to offer up nationally owned oi/gas resources to foreign exploitation. US oil companies are rubbing their hands with glee at the immense profit potential of untapped oil/gas reserves in a country with virtually no environmental or labor regulation.

Mexican drug cartels are responding to the corporate invasion by kidnapping oil/gas workers. This significantly increases the cost of production.

Poisoning the World: The Companies that Profit Big from Exporting Banned Chemicals

Circle of Poison

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about the US export of toxic pesticides that are banned in the US. This is ironic. Despite these domestic bans, heavy dependence on food imports means that most Americans end up ingesting these toxins in imported produce. In fact the only way Americans can avoid pesticide-laden food is to buy certified organic food from local farmers.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order banning the export of toxic pesticides. The order was revoked by Reagan a few months after his inauguration.

The US controls 75% of the global pesticide market via five notorious companies: Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow and BSAF. Although Bayer, Syngenta and BSAF are European companies, they produce their toxic pesticides in the US, where export regulations are more lax (ie non-existent). The pesticide industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Thanks to the courage of Democratic Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate has passed several bills banning pesticide exports. However because members face re-election every two years, they have no hope whatsoever of winning in House.

Most of the film concerns the epidemic of cancer and horrendous birth defects in India, Mexico, Argentina and other countries that continue to use US-produced pesticides that are banned in the global North.

Surprisingly it ends on an optimistic note with news about the growing organic food movement in Argentina, Kerala India and Bhutan. Rather than pressuring their governments to ban toxic pesticides, activists are learning chemical-free organic soil building techniques. In doing so, they also significantly increase their yields. In replacing monoculture techniques with crop diversity, organic farming methods are far more productive per unit land than traditional agriculture.

The full video can be viewed for free at the Al Jazeera website: Circle of Poison

The Ugly History of the White Rights Movement

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Oil Privatization: NAFTA and the Rape and Pillage of Mexico

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2017)

Crude Harvest is about a controversial law Mexico has enacted that puts its publicly owned oil industry up for sale to foreign corporations. The law also grants foreign oil companies the right to override the wishes of Mexican farmers if oil is discovered on their land.

Following a massive popular uprising, Mexico nationalized their oil industry in 1938. It’s the last nationally owned oil company to be opened to foreign investment. US oil economies are extremely excited as Mexico is an extremely corrupt country that makes no effort to regulate oil production. They will be allowed to pollute Mexican water and air as much as they like without consequences.

The documentary goes on to reveal how NAFTA has systemically “raped” the Mexican economy and forced the government to sell their oil industry to pay off Wall Street debt. By flooding the Mexican market with cheap (subsidized) American food, the US has wiped out most small Mexican farmers and ranchers and turned many small indigenous villages into ghost towns. Left with no way to support themselves, these former farmers can only survive by turning to organized crime or illegally entering the US.

Once that their lands are to be turned over to foreign oil companies, yet more farmers will lose their livelihood. Meanwhile Mexican debt will only increase as the government loses oil profits that currently comprise 40% of government revenue.

 

Deportees in Mexico: Unwanted by Either Side

US and The Wall: Deportees in Mexico Unwanted by Either Side

RT (2017)

This documentary explores the plight of newly deported immigrants  – many of whom have lived in the US more than 20 years and speak no Spanish. Most end up in Tijuana which, run by drug cartels, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Because they’re not local, it’s fairly common for Mexican police to detain deportees and steal their money.

The film profiles three main groups, volunteers who leave gallon jugs of water in the desert to prevent migrants from dying of thirst; armed vigilantes, drawn from former military and police personnel, who patrol the Arizona desert hunting down illegal immigrants; and US veterans who have started a shelter in Tijuana for veterans deported after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most were enticed to enlist with a promise of citizenship – only to be deported for minor crimes such as DUIs, drug possession, bad checks or firearms offenses. One veteran talks of pleading guilty based on a broken promise he wouldn’t be deported.

During the filming, the shelter is visited by seven Congress people concerned about the plight of deported veterans.

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).