Posts Tagged ‘france’

The Ottoman Empire: Demise of a Major Power

DW (2017)

Film Review

This documentary demonstrates how people of multiple religions and ethnicities were able to coexist peaceably for over four centuries in the Ottoman empire. This flies in the face of western propaganda about the inevitably of genocidal violence when various religions and ethnicities share the same geographic space.

According to the filmmakers, the long peaceful coexistence of multiple religious and ethnic groups (the main ones being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims) relates mainly to the Ottoman creation of semi-autonomous regional “millets.” These were under the administrative control of local religious leaders.

The democratic ideals that arose from the 1789 French Revolution would pose the first major challenge to this stability, in triggering a whole series of rebellions. In 1821, Greek rebels would launch a full scale war of independence. Russia, France and Britain, keen on expanding their empires into the Balkans and Middle East, supported the rebellion. Greece would ultimately win independence in 1829.

Over the coming decades, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empire fomented similar rebellions by ethnic Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. In 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire – under the pretext of protecting its Christian subjects – which ended with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The latter divided up the Balkans and placed the minority Armenians in the Anatolia peninsula under the protection of the European powers. Russia was granted control of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Austro-Hungarian empire control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This peace agreement, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims, signaled the dawn of the modern age of refugees.

For me the most intriguing part of the film concerned the intelligence role of archeologist Thomas Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who was actually a British secret agent sent to mobilize the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. Lawrence, on behalf of Britain, promised Arab fighters their own Arabian kingdom in return for their military support – a promise Britain conveniently broke in 1920.*

This documentary leaves absolutely no question that the real agenda in World War I was 1) disrupting the growing German-Ottoman alliance and 2) for the European powers who initiated the war to divide up the Ottoman empire. Following the 1918 armistice and 1920 Treaty of Sevres, Britain would win colonial control of Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait) and Palestine and the French control of Syria and the newly created Christian enclave of Lebanon.

After Britain gained colonial control over Palestine in 1920, they immediately revved up ethnic tensions by requiring Jerusalem residents to reside in distinct religious zones an


*The Ottoman Empire’s possessions in the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz, which was annexed by the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. The Empire’s possessions on the western shores of the Persian Gulf were variously annexed by Saudi Arabia (Alahsa and Qatif), or remained British protectorates (Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar) and became the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. requiring passports for travel between zones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Basque History of the World

by Mark Kurlansky

Penguin (1999)

Book Review

The Basque History of the World is a history of Basqueland, a semi-autonomous region in the Pyrenees straddling the French-Spanish border. Despite the recent declaration of independence by Catalonia, there is surprisingly little attention on historical efforts by Basqueland, to break away from Spanish rule. Like Catalonia Basqueland, which has its own unique language (Eskuera), has been a major industrial and economic powerhouse for the rest of Spain.

Global Mercenaries, Traders, Shipbuilders, Navigators and Bankers

Historically the Basques were traders and mercenary soldiers dating back to the 4th century BC. The Greeks hired them, as did Carthage in their war against Rome. Although Basque was technically “occupied” by the Roman empire for nearly 400 years, the Romans demanded no tribute (taxes) and exerted no military oversight.

In the 7th and 8th century, the Basques became Europe’s leading shipbuilders (which they learned from the Vikings) and iron mongers (which they learned from the Celts). They were the world’s first commercial whalers, establishing whaling stations as far distant as Newfoundland and Labrador. In the 9th century, they also dominated the European trade in salted cod, fishing off Iceland, Norway, Britain, as well as Newfoundland.

Beginning in the 15th century they were sought after by many European explorers (including Columbus and Magellan) as pilots, navigators and seamen.

They were also the first capitalists, financing their shipbuilding via private venture capital. In 1999, when this book was published, they were still global leaders in banking.

Unconquerable

Neither the Moors (in the 8th century) nor King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (in the 15th century) succeeded in conquering Basqueland. Owing to the immense wealth the Basques generated, they paid no duty on foreign goods imported through their ports. Until 1876, they paid no tax to Madrid and were exempt from serving in the Spanish military. French Basqueland fared far worse after the French revolutionary government eliminated France’s three Basque provinces in their campaign to erase ethnic identities.

Spain was so poor when the second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, only Basqueland and Catalonia (thanks to their strong industrial base) enjoyed a European standard of living. Both regions demanded full autonomy as a condition of supporting the Republic.

Following the successful coup of Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1939, the Basques provided the only organized resistance against his regime. They also played an extremely important role in the French resistance to Hitler’s occupation of France.

Role in Downfall of Franco Dictatorship

In 1973, ETA, the Basque armed militia assassinated Franco’s second in command, and Basque and Catalan leaders began meeting secretly to plan Spain’s transition to democracy.

Franco’s death and the fall of his government in 1975 would prove disastrous for the Basque economy. The dictator had been heavily subsidizing archaic Basque factories, which were totally unable to compete with modern European industries after Spain joined the EU.

In 1998, after uniting with Catalonia to win constitutional guarantees of legislative autonomy (for both Catalonia and Basqueland), ETA unilaterally renounced violence. This followed a 16-year battle with the GAL, an undercover police/paramilitary operation that engaged in extrajudicial assassinations and torture against Basque nationalists.

 

 

 

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.

The Shadow War in the Sahara

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

The Shadow War in the Sahara is a thumbnail history of the US military occupation of Africa. The documentary begins with the 1885 Berlin Conference, at which the major European powers divided up all of Saharan Africa to better exploit its rich resources of gas, oil, copper, uranium, coltan and other rare earth minerals.

France initially came out the winner, controlling three-fourths of Saharan Africa until World War II. Even after all their Saharan colonies won independence (1945-62), France continued to maintain a military presence, as well economic dominance over most of its former colonies.

With the discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea in the sixties, this began to change – with the covert US support of armed rebellions in Ethiopia and Angola and its failed invasion of Somalia. Over time, most French troops have been replaced by US troops. While this was done in the name of “fighting terrorism,” the real US agenda has always been to secure oil and mineral resources in the face of Chinese domination over African oil.

Instead of employing military force and direct political intervention via the International Monetary Fund and their “structural adjustment”* policies, China has gained a major foothold in Africa in offering debt-free development loans and a policy of non-interference in domestic policy.

The US is the only major power to divide up the entire world into military command and control regions: USNorthcom (North America), USSouthcom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentcom (Middle East and Central Asia), USPACom (Pacific region and Australia) and USAfricom.

Former Libyan ruler Omar Gaddafi successfully blocked the US from locating the USAfricom headquarters in Africa – so the US built it in Germany instead.

Prior to his assassination by US-backed rebels, Gadaffi was a powerful advocate for African unity. His primary goal in founding and bankrolling (from his massive oil revenues) the African Development Bank and an African Monetary Fund was to assist other African countries to resist western colonialism.

In 2009, he was elected chairman of the African Union, and in 2011 he cancelled major contracts with the powerful (US) Bechtel corporation and with France (for millions of dollars of military hardware). The punishment inflicted by the US and France was swift – a NATO bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed rebels charged with overthrowing his government.


*Structural adjustment describes a process by which the US-controlled IMF forces countries to privatize public utilities, cut public services and open third world economies to western investment as a condition of debt refinancing.

 

 

 

ebayphoto credit: ebay

According to the BBC , France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits that was imposed in a Villeneuve-Loubet on the Mediterranean coast.

The court found the ban “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms.”

The ruling could likely set a precedent for up to 30 other towns with similar bans.

Read more here

Chasing Edward Snowden

Anonymous (2016)

Film Review

Chasing Edward Snowden is an extremely well made documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong to Moscow and the role played by Wikileaks and the Hong Kong government in facilitating his escape.

Prior to seeing the film, I was unaware Snowden (under US indictment for treason) had reached out for Wikileaks’ help nor that Putin initially turned down his asylum request when he refused to work for the FSB.

All this changed, when France, under US pressure, denied the Bolivian presidential jet access to French airspace. Acting on false rumors spread by Wikileaks, the US and France believed President Morales had smuggled Snowden onto his plane.

Because the French action contravened Geneva conventions, world opinion turned in Snowden’s favor, persuading Putin to reverse himself and grant his asylum petition.


*FSB is the Russian state security agency that replaced the KGB.

Together: How Cooperatives Show Resilience to the Crisis

CECOP/CICOPA Europe  (2012)

Film Review

Together examines how the cooperative movement enabled tens of thousands of European workers to survive the 2008 downturn. As of 2012, there were 1.5 million co-op workers in Europe. The filmmakers interview workers from French, Polish, Italian and Spanish worker cooperatives. All agree that the traditional capitalist model – in which a financial group loots an enterprise for a few years and abandons it – is obsolete because it inevitably predisposes to financial crisis.

In France, workers converted 150 failed businesses to cooperatives between 2008 and 2012. The first co-op featured is a foundry workers converted with the help of a French organization that specializes in this type of conversion.

The Polish example is a bottling plant that survived Poland’s transformation to a “free market economy” in the 1990s. There were many so-called worker cooperatives in communist Poland, but they were controlled by the state, rather than workers themselves.

The Italian example features the “social cooperatives” enabled by Law 381 in 1991. These are worker-run public-private ventures that provide social services and work integration schemes for the disadvantaged. Italy has a total of 10,000 social cooperatives, and they increased, rather than decreased, staff following the 2008 downturn.

The documentary also showcases the world-famous Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain. Mondragon, which was first started in 1943, is actually a consortium of 100 worker-owned businesses. Ninety-four are located outside of Spain.

Mondragon workers believe they survived the 2008 downturn due to their heavy emphasis on research and worker upskilling. They’re especially proud of the Mondragon electric car project. After the global economic crash, 500 Mondragon workers moved to a new co-op when their original work area shut down.