Archive for the ‘Hidden history’ Category

A Very British Crisis

BBC (2006)

Film Review

In 1956 Britain, France and Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against Egypt after President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. As in the more recent US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s real goal was regime change – the removal of Nasser as president. Eden, like Bush and Obama believed the local population would welcome the foreign invasion – that they would use it to rise up and topple their leader.

The humiliation Britain faced over the Suez Crisis would spell the end of their role as the world’s foremost super power.

Part 1 covers Egypt’s war of independence, which began as a mass popular uprising against British military occupation. In 1952, a secret group of Egyptian military officers, led by Nasser, took advantage of the civil unrest to topple King Farouk, establish a revolutionary council and demand the withdrawal of British troops. When Britain and the US tried to isolate Nassar by blocking a World Bank loan for Egypt’s Aswan Dam, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (jointly owned by Britain and France). His intention was to use canal profits to pay for the dam.

Part 2 concerns the secret conspiracy hatched by Britain, France and and Israel to invade Egypt, reclaim the Suez Canal and remove Nasser from power.

Part 3 covers the brutal invasion and the armed civilian resistance that fought back against the invaders. It also reveals the humiliating circumstances that forced Britain to withdraw their troops before they ever reached the canal. Because both France and Britain hold vetoes on the UN Security Council, Eisenhower used economic warfare to force Britain to agree to a ceasefire. A coordinated attack on the British pound by Wall Street banks* forced Eden to request Eisenhower’s support for an IMF loan. The latter demanded an immediate ceasefire as a condition of the loan.


*The filmmakers are a bit fuzzy about the coordinated sell-off of the British pound that caused its value to plummet. Based on what Willim Engdahl has written about US economic warfare (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar), I suspect it was instigated by the Economy Warfare division of US Treasury.

When the Moors Rules in Europe

Bettany Hughes (2011)

Film Review

When the Moors Ruled in Europe corrects many common misconceptions about Muslim rule in Spain between 711 and 1492 AD. Historical and archeological evidence contradicts the prevailing belief that this 700 year rule represented a violent military occupation. At the time Muslim Berbers from North Africa invaded Spain, the Christian/Visigoth cities were collapsing into chaotic anarchy – all the evidence suggests the inhabitants welcomed the Berbers for the security they provided.

Owing to its favorable climate, Spain quickly became the primary agricultural hub for a Muslim Empire that extended from North Africa to the Chinese border. After introducing irrigation, Muslim rulers also introduced citrus, avocado and other exotic crops which quickly spread across Europe. Owing to a faith committed to learning, the Moors also introduced universal literacy (in contrast to the rest of Europe where only clerical elites were taught to read). They also introduced advanced architecture, modern medicine, astronomy, Arabic numerals*, algebra, geometry and classical Greek philosophers which the Catholic church had banned in the rest of Europe.

During the 12th century, scholars from all over Europe flocked to the great libraries at Toledo to translate (into Latin) classical Greek and Arabic texts. These scholars would introduce a new approach to knowledge, based on rational inquiry, that would inspire the founding of prestigious universities at Oxford, Paris and elsewhere.

Christian Armies Retake Spain and Launch the Spanish Inquisition

Inspired by the Crusades to the Holy Lands, during the 12th century, Christian armies from northern Spain began slowly retaking Moorish cities from their Muslim rules. By 1250, only Grenada at the southern tip of Spain remained under Muslim rule.

In 1469, Isabella, Queen of Castille, married her second cousin Ferdinand, who was king of Aragon. In 1492, a siege which had begun 100 years earlier was successful and they seized Grenada to unify Spain.

Soon afterwards they launched the Spanish Inquisition to arrest, torture and kill Muslims, Jews and Christian heretics suspected of not practicing the “true” Catholic faith. Initially Muslims (who were mainly ethnic Spaniards) were offered the option of conversion. However in 1609, 300,000 were forcibly removed Most resettled in North Africa.

The Inquisition also burned more than a million Muslim texts.


*Arabic numerals also made multiplication and division possible – both are virtually impossible with Roman numerals. It was also via Spain that numerous Arab terms for scientific concepts were introduced into English and other European languages (eg al-cohol, al-gebra, al-gorithm, al-chemy).

Kashmir: Born to Fight

Al Jazeera (2017)

Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, has been demanding independence from India since the late 1980s. They were promised a referendum on independence in 1947, when India was first divided from Pakistan. After 70 years, they’re still waiting.

The majority of Kashmiri seek full independence, though some seek unification with Pakistan.

The region is currently under Indian military occupation (Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world) and virtual martial law. Kashmir’ civilian population is routinely subjected to rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, raids on civil homes and the shutdown of local newspapers.

This documentary profiles a 13 year girl who was arbitrarily beaten and blinded after being shot by Indian security forces. Their brutality against women, children and the elderly is having a clear radicalizing effect on young Kashmiri males.

Living Utopia: The Anarchists and the Spanish Revolution

Directed by Juan Gamero (1997)

Spanish with English subtitles

 

In this documentary, the history of the 1936 Spanish revolution is told by anarchists* who actually participated in it. What imperialists commonly refer to as the Spanish Civil War, Spanish anarchists refer to as the Spanish revolution. The revolution lasted from 1936-39 before the counterrevolution, led my Franco, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin (in conjunction with the western powers), overturned it.

The film begins by describing the roots of Spain’s anarchist movement, in Europe’s first workers society, formed in Barcelona in 1840. In 1902, they organized the first free (ie non-Catholic schools) to combat Spain’s high illiteracy rate (50%). In 1910 they formed the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and won an 8-hour day through a series of major strikes. By 1919, the CNT had a membership of 700,000.

Banned in 1923, the CNT organized in secret, until 1931 when the king was deposed. By this point they had one million members. However 90% of them boycotted the 1934 election. This enabled fascists to take control of the government and reverse most of the land and other reforms enacted by the Republic.

CNT Steps Up to Defend Against Franco’s Coup

In 1936, the CNT united with other Spanish leftist groups to elect a National Front government. Under General Franco, the military’s response was to launch a military coup. Failing to organize any  resistance, the government of the Republic crumbled. Thus it was left up to civilians to organize military resistance to prevent the fall of Madrid – as well as to organize basic survival infrastructure in the territory under their control.

The CNT joined with other resistance forces to form the Anti-Fascist Militias Committee. As volunteer militias marched towards the front line, they assisted rural peasants in bringing in the harvest and expropriating barren land from large landowners to put it into cultivation. A total of 7 million peasants voluntarily formed collectives.

Republic Crumbles Leaving Civilians to Re-organize Society

In the cities and villages, working people seized large buildings to provide lodging for the homeless and set up committees to distribute food, clothing and other necessities and put a halt to revenge killings. In Barcelona, the advance guard of the revolution, 80% of factories were seized by workers. Factory owners either fled or joined the worker-run management teams. Participation in the collectivization scheme was totally voluntary.

All production significantly increased during the revolution, as worker-run committees increased production efficiency and adopted new technology. After seizing Ford, GM and other factories, workers converted them into arms factories. Revolutionary councils coordinated the exchange of commodities between regions and exports, via sympathetic contacts, to other European countries. They also enacted decrees guaranteeing equal rights for women and legalizing abortion.

The Counterrevolution

In May 1937, strengthened by Stalin’s support (the Soviet Union was the only country willing to arm the Spanish Republic against Franco’s coup), the Republican leadership declared war against the anarchists who ran Barcelona when they refused to surrender the telephone exchange. After five days and 500 deaths, Barcelona’s anarchists allowed anarchist ministers who had joined the government to persuade them to accept a ceasefire. According to several interviewees, this was their big mistake and ultimately cost them their revolution.

In view of their vast numerical superiority, it would have made more sense to continue guerilla warfare against both the communists who controlled the government and Franco’s forces.


*Most of the interviewees refer to the movement behind the Spanish revolution as “libertarian” communism,” rather than anarchism.

Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman

Mel Bucklin (2004)

Film Review

Other than the pro-capitalist depiction of the self-governing anarchist democracy Franco and his Wall Street supporters overturned during the Spanish Civil war, most of this documentary is historically accurate. The commentary, in contrast, is sentimental psychobabble and considerably detracts from the film.

The film beings with Goldman’s arrival in the US in 1885 at age 16 – escaping from an arranged marriage in czarist Russia. It would be four years before she connected with anarchists and other radicals in New York City.

The Panic of 1893, in which the US economy nearly collapsed, would launch her into the public spotlight. She led numerous protests marches of unemployed workers and spent a year in jail for incitement to riot. There was a crowd of 2,800 waiting outside the workhouse on her release.

American anarchists were extremely well-organized during a period of massive labor unrest and saw the wisdom of promoting a powerful speaker like Goldman. She believed that America’s founding father had a hidden libertarian/anarchist streak that had been corrupted by capitalism and often quoted from Jefferson and Paine.

In addition to speeches educating people about anarchism (ie replacing the state with self-governing workers committees and cooperatives), she also lectured widely about free speech, equal rights and economic independence for women, free love and birth control (she was sentenced to 15 days in jail for advocating for birth control in public).

She was an enormously popular speaker and received wide coverage in the mainstream media.

She also campaigned heavily against US entry into World War I, and in June 1917 was sentenced to 22 months for conspiracy to violate the Draft Act.

Shortly after her release in 1919 she was deported to Russia along with thousands of other Eastern European immigrants illegally arrested and deported during the Palmer Raids.

For me the most interesting part of the film concerns her meeting with Lenin in 1921.

 

The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King

by Dr William F Pepper

Book Review

This book is unique among the volumes of assassination literature. Unlike chronologies of the JFK and Robert Kennedy assassination, the majority of Pepper’s evidence is based on sworn witness statements – either from the lawsuit the King family won against Lloyd Jowers (one of the co-conspirators) in 1999 or the earlier grand jury investigation Pepper instigated in his unsuccessful effort to win James Earl Ray a retrial.*

There are many parallels between New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s unsuccessful 1967 attempt to convict Clay Shaw, one of the JFK assassination co-conspirators, and the civil suit Pepper filed on behalf of the King family. Both Pepper and Garrison targeted low level conspirators and used the power of the subpoena and discovery to ferret out those responsible for instigating, planning and financing these assassination conspiracies.

The strategy worked better in Pepper’s case, in part because he was a private public interest attorney, rather than an elected official who could be removed from office. By the time Pepper launched his lifelong effort to exonerate James Earl Ray in 1978, he had a far better understanding of the Deep State forces arrayed against him. He was extremely scrupulous about protecting the identity of his witnesses prior to presenting their evidence under oath. Pepper withheld the identity of the Memphis Police Department sniper whose bullet killed King until after his death.

Pepper gathered his most crucial evidence after Thames TV aired a TV trial of James Earl Ray in 1993, the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. As Pepper was fighting to obtain a new trial for Ray, a host of witnesses came forward spontaneously, many with historical connections to the Memphis Police Department; the FBI, the 902nd Military Intelligence Group (which provided back up assassination teams); and the Alpha 184 Special Forces team, which photographed the assassination from the rooftop of the fire station across from the Lorraine Motel.

Some of the most astonishing evidence that emerges in The Plot to Kill King:

  • Hoover and the FBI collaborated closely with the CIA and military intelligence in spying on King and infiltrating the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
  • These agencies also collaborated closely in the King assassination, with Hoover funding and directing a civilian assassination team via Dixie Mafia. The latter had close ties with FBI Deputy Director (and Hoover’s lover) Clyde Tolleson. Several witnesses testified that Tolleson traveled to Memphis to make the payoff (totaling $1 million) for the Dixie Mafia to coordinate the assassination and cover-up. Some of these funds went to two members of King’s inner circle, Reverend Jessie Jackson and Reverend Samuel Billie Kyles. In addition to making payments to government informants within the SCLC, Jackson was responsible for ordering the room change that gave King access to the balcony. It was Kyles who lured him out on the balcony to give the sniper a clear shot.
  • The 902nd MIG had a second assassination team in place in case the Dixie Mafia team failed to take King down.
  • The head of the Memphis Police Department (a former FBI agent) and various members of the MPD were involved in setting up the civilians assassination team. The actual shooter was an MPD officer named Frank Stousser.
  • Ray was selected as a patsy for the Kind assassination while serving a 20 year sentence in Missouri State Penitentiary. Tolleson also made a $25,00 payoff to the warden to facilitate Ray’s 1967 escape.
  • Ray had an alibi at the time of the assassination – he was at a service station getting a flat tire fixed, as verified by at least two witnesses.
  • King was still alive when he arrived at St Joseph’s emergency room for treatment, but instead of taking him to surgery, the hospital’s chief surgeon ordered the the other doctors and nurse. One nurse observed this surgeon remove King’s tracheotomy tube and cover his face and neck with a pillow.

At the 1999 civil trial, the jury found that James Earl Ray had no responsibility whatsoever in King’s death. They attributed 30% of the blame for his murder to Lloyd Jowers (as the handler of the assassination weapon) and 70% to US, Tennessee and Memphis law enforcement personnel.


*Ray never went to trial. Like John Lennon’s alleged killer Mark Chapman, he was pressured by his attorney to plead guilty. He tried to reverse his guilty plea three days after sentencing.

Cereals: The Foods that Make Billions

BBC (2013)

The Kellogg’s corporation – in discovering how to transform cheap nutrient-poor food into billions in profits – deserve all the credit for launching the processed food revolution.

Dr John Havery Kellogg, a teetotal, vegetarian and Seventh Day Adventist, was the original inventor of a dry tasteless corn cereal he fed patients in his Battle Creek Michigan sanatorium. He opposed his entrepreneur brother’s plan to add sugar to the cornflakes, so W.K. launched Kellogg’s Corporation on his own in 1908. His decision to advertise his product in the Ladies Home Journal instantly transformed Kellogg’s into a global brand.

What W.K. Kellogg did, in essence, was to strip all the nutrition and fiber out of 75 cents worth of corn and sell it for $12. However what he was really selling the public was a lifestyle – by convincing them they didn’t have time to prepare and eat a cooked breakfast.

The advent of TV advertising after World War II would guarantee that empty calorie prepared breakfast cereal would replace bacon and eggs in the vast majority of US and British homes.

In 1968, a congressional committee chaired by for senator and presidential candidate George McGovern would draw international attention to the adverse effects of feeding children high sugar nutrition-poor breakfasts. The resulting corporate backlash from the hippy subculture would lead to the emergence of “granola,” “muesli,” and other cold “health food” breakfasts. Kellogg’s and its competitors would respond by reducing the sugar content of their breakfast food and spraying them with vitamins and minerals.

In 2006, Britain passed a law banning ads for convenience foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat during children’s programming. Kellogg’s responded by introducing breakfast cereals that were higher in fiber and and whole grains.