Friday, February 22, 2008

Bulletin: Voters Confused Over Osama and Obama

In a surprise campaign development U.S. voters are increasingly unable to distinguish the politics of Osama bin Laden, arch-terrorist, from those of Barack Obama, democratic candidate for U.S. president.

"I know one of them is a rich man who supports mass murder because he hates Israel and the other one is a rich man who supports mass murder because he loves Israel, but I'll be damned if I can keep straight which of them is which." So spoke Darryl Springarn of Topeka, Kansas, who plans to cast a write-in vote for a peace candidate - as soon as he finds one. "Six months at the outside and I"ll have my man," said Springarn optimistically. "The word is that there's a politician who supports peace right here in Kansas. He's working at a car wash in Wichita."

According to research provided by the Advanced Institute For the Study of Less Advanced Institutes, dangerous levels of "moral relativism" in the U.S. general population are responsible for this kind of voter confusion. Apparently, today's voters find all mass killing without justification and are increasingly uninterested in trying to remember which slaughters are supposedly justified and which reprehensible. "I want all the killing stopped," says Norma Clifford, of Evanston, Illinois. "But if someone must die, let it be the politicians who organize all the wars. I wouldn't mind shooting some of them myself."

This increasingly common "peace through peace" attitude has provoked alarm in the campaign headquarters of all this year's presidential candidates, who worry that an outbreak of peace-for-its-own-sake might not bode well for the armaments industry that donates huge funds to their campaigns. "The voters are naive," claims Dick Doofus, spokesman for the Clinton campaign." "Only peace through war is realistic. If there were a general peace, the economy would collapse."

Meanwhile, Carl Downing, who has resigned the presidency of Hotheads for Islamic Subjugation to accept a position as John McCain's campaign manager, points out that peace without conquest is like an omelette without eggs. "After all is said and done, there's not much left."

The Obama campaign has launched a feverish effort to educate the voters on the righteousness of killing for Israel and the wickedness of killing to oppose Israel, but apparently voters are still confused as to who is who. This has the normally unflappable Obama showing increasing signs of strain. "I don't live in a cave," he snapped to a young autograph seeker asking for "Senator Osama's" signature at a recent campaign stop.

Eager volunteers swarming Obama's campaign headquarters in Illinois say he is the only candidate who can bring peace to Israel. "All he asks is that Palestinians accept being wiped off the map," they say. "Dr. King never thought of that."

-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) and "Portraits of Empire," both from Common Courage Press.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where Are We Going?

A garbage dump described as twice the size of the USA is floating in the Pacific Ocean, a creation of global capitalist production. Given the major role we play in the manufacture of rubbish, it’s no wonder an analogy would be made to the U.S. But there is far more deadly waste that we can claim as our own , its origin not shared with other manufacturers. With invading armies, occupying forces and military bases all over the globe, we continue to squander more money on warfare than all other nations combined. We call it defense spending, but it defends America the way condoms defend virginity.

Our Ponzi scheme economy, floating on an ocean of debt speculation more colossal than the plastic dump in the Pacific , shows signs of returning to its source ; the imagination . But its material horrors threaten to make more people unemployed, homeless, and eventually affect many who think they are safely inoculated against the national epidemic of market excess .

The drug and medical industry astronomically raises costs, creating windfall profits for the vampires of insurance who suck the blood our Sweeney Todd health care merchants produce for them.

And yet, things are much worse for people in other nations subjected to the ravages of our rapidly eroding system .

If you live in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine, no study of the political economy is necessary to reveal why you are suffering and see things getting worse before they can get better. These and other victims of imperial wrath need no graduate school investigation to tell them what is wrong . They understand their enemy, and are taking political and military steps to overcome the hardships imposed by the empire of economic and racial supremacy. However drastic their conditions may be in the present, the future would seem to be on their side , while the long range picture doesn't look as good for us . Can we reasonably anticipate a better and more just tomorrow for ourselves?

A regime in Washington that would be imprisoned if we had a real democracy will soon be replaced, but only because its term expires. A shamelessly inept opposition, controlled by corporate capital and a foreign lobby and derelict in any responsibility to the people , will continue the deceitfully vicious war against terror and slavish support for Israel. With minor changes in rhetoric and rationale , if it bumbles into power it will change overt abuse to a more covert style . It will extoll democracy and humanitarian values in theory , and continue perverting them in practice.

We are told that the hundreds of millions shamelessly spent on the American Idol show called Presidential Primaries will assure that everything will soon change. But the only candidates confronting reality and suggesting transformation are financially blacked out, while supporters of the status quo continue blathering platitudes to satisfy the media presentation that passes for democracy. Despite being treated with a disrespect bordering on contempt, the people show a much greater understanding than their mind managers assume. By staggering majorities they find the president a failure, and by larger majorities the congress even worse. They were told that something called Super Tuesday would be the most exciting primary day in history, and in the nation’s most populous state , more than 65% of the electorate didn't even bother to participate. The Super Bowl , always belittled by the minority that is able to identify corporate power in sports but remains blind to its control of politics, attracted vastly more people and caused much greater excitement than the farce that posed as democracy.

People understand the irrelevance of much that is going on, despite attempts at consciousness control through pundit predictions which change almost daily and poll projections that only assure less confidence in polling. They saw a candidate spend fifty million dollars to purchase one delegate, while another laid out more than a million for each of his supporters until he finally conceded . They know that one of those who'll ultimately spend two or three times as much will become corporate America’s top employee , at which time the corporadoes and the Israel lobby will get what they’ve paid for.

No matter who the applicants are, the hired help will do what the job entails; preserve the status quo, with minor adjustments to placate those who think they will actually get change in material substance rather than simply in rhetorical style.

Identity politics may finally triumph, at least for its true believers, but whether the Democrats choose a white woman or a black man as their candidate, they’ll need all the help they can get from the Republican job applicant . He may be our first mentally disturbed nominee, having established his conservative credentials by calling for a revival of the 100 years war. Yet he’s considered a liberal by some whose primitively developed capacity to reason would embarrass our neanderthal ancestors .

But despite the wretched condition of war and a crippled economy that this regime has made much worse, Democrats are always capable of turning sure victory into certain defeat. Although they tried to blame their failure on everything from stolen votes to stupid voters, this is a party that was twice defeated by the most incompetent and criminal president in the nation’s history. Don’t bet the farm on these political geniuses who have the potential to make the guys from Dumb and Dumber look like Smart and Smarter.

Can we change the substance of our national dilemma with the next election? Cars change lanes all the time, but they are still compelled to run on gasoline. Keep those seat belts on, citizens, and be sure the air bags are working. This ride will continue to be a very rough one, and it will go on well past November.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

To Fidel, With Thanks

". . . there has been a qualitative change in America, which is that one day we can rise up in arms, destroy an oppressing army, establish a new Popular Army, confront the invincible monster, wait for the monster's attack and defeat that, too, and this is something new in America . . . "
----Che Guevara, Punta del Este, 1961

Fidel Castro has informed the Cuban Communist Party that his health will not permit him to resume political office and has stepped down as the head of state after over more than 50 years of miraculous accomplishment.

In 1953 he and a handful of youths attacked the Moncada barracks in Santiago armed with little more than conviction, daring, and a few bird guns, delivering a blow against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and 50 years of colonization masquerading as Cuban independence. A handful of his forces died in the attempt, but dozens were killed by the army after a week of torture. Some had their eyes torn out, always a risk for those whose political vision is 20-20.

Castro, taken prisoner, astonished the court with his defense, which he based on the ancient right to overthrow tyranny. While the judges listened with rapt attention, he informed them he had no intention of doing their bidding: "This island will sink in the ocean before we will consent to be anybody's slaves." Turning the tables on his accusers, he put the Batista regime itself on trial, declaring with absolute conviction that "history will absolve me." He denounced Batista and his officers as butchers and set forth a program of revolution that insisted on food and work for everyone.

He refused to deny the myriad injustices caused by subservience to Washington, or to regard them as sad inevitabilities. On the contrary, he pronounced them "inconceivable." "What is inconceivable is that there should be men going to bed hungry while an inch of land remains unsown; what is inconceivable is that there should be children who die without medical care; that thirty percent of our campesinos cannot sign their names and ninety-nine percent don't know the history of Cuba; that most families in our countryside should be living in worse conditions than the Indians Columbus found when he discovered the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen . . . From such wretchedness it is only possible to free oneself by death; and in that the state does help them: to die. Ninety percent of rural children are devoured by parasites that enter from the soil through the toenails of their unshod feet.

"More than half of the best cultivated production lands are in foreign hands. In Oriente, the largest province, the lands of the United Fruit Company and the West Indian Company extend from the north coast to the south coast . . .

"Cuba continues to be a factory producing raw materials. Sugar is exported to import candies; leather exported to import shoes; iron exported to import plows . . .

Three years later Havana announced that Castro and Che Guevara had been killed in battle at a place called Alegria de Pio in Cuba's Oriente province. The Batista regime insisted that the armed expedition from Mexico had been crushed by bombs and machine-gun fire.

In truth, the initial battle had been a disaster. Fidel and his men spent a sleepless week crammed together on the tiny boat Granma, vomiting from seasickness. After landing in the wrong place, they took just a few steps on Cuban soil before being blasted by machine gun fire and burned alive by incendiary bombs. The survivors, seeking direction from the night sky, got their stars confused, then lost their backpacks and guns to the swamps. They had nothing to eat but sugarcane and exhausted their supply of condensed milk by carrying the cans holes down. They gave away their whereabouts leaving garbage along their path and accidentally mixed their drinking water with sea water. Lost and separated, they searched for each other at random until a handful of them finally found each other by pure chance along the mountain slopes.

These dozen survivors of every conceivable mishap had a total of seven rifles and some damp ammunition with which to overthrow the U.S.-backed dictatorship. As they proceeded with their revolution from the brush, Earl Smith, U.S. ambassador to Cuba, received the keys to the city of Santiago while Cuban women chanting the Cuban national anthem and shouting "Liberty!" were clubbed down by police. Smith deplored the beatings, but felt that the grave menace of "Communist aggression" had to be put down. His advisers explained that Castro had been an oddball since childhood because he had once fallen off a moving motorcycle.

Castro did not wait for the military conflict to conclude before making badly needed political changes. With the war in full swing, Castro introduced agrarian reform in the Sierra Maestra in 1958. Campesinos got their first doctor's visit, their first teacher, their first dignity. Batista, with ten thousand troops and backed by the greatest military power in history, was proving helpless against a tiny guerrilla army backed by overwhelming popular support.

Long before Muslim clerics were ridiculed for their long beards, Castro and his men suffered the same fate. By the end of 1958 "the bearded ones," as the Cuban guerrillas were known, descended from the mountains and snatched Cuba out of the imperialist orbit right under Uncle Sam's nose. Amidst a chaos of routed Batista troops, strafing and bombing planes, cheering crowds, and hairy guerrillas, Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on New Year's Day, 1959. An appalled Ambassador Smith, pleading for the life of General Cantillo, complained that Castro and his men reminded him of character actors from a John Dillinger movie.

By late 1959, the U.S. State Department and the CIA were already determined that Castro had to be overthrown. State Department liberals complained that "our business interests in Cuba have been seriously affected." Not to mention that, as the State Department put it, "The United States cannot hope to encourage and support sound economic policies in other Latin American countries and promote necessary private investments in Latin America if it is or appears to be simultaneously cooperating with the Castro program." It mattered not at all that public opinion studies supplied to the Kennedy Administration showed that most Cubans were optimistic about the future and supported Castro. And at this point there was no Soviet influence on the island. Nevertheless, by October 1959, planes based in Florida were strafing and bombing Cuban territory. In March 1960, declaring its desire for a Cuban government "more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.," as though the contradictory objectives were somehow compatible, the Eisenhower Administration approved a plan to overthrow Castro.

Castro refused to be intimidated. Arriving in New York City for the 15th General Assembly Meeting of the UN in 1960, he rejected "unacceptable cash demands" at Manhattan's Shelburne Hotel and stormed off to Harlem, where he was greeted by huge crowds blocking traffic at 125th and Seventh Avenue. Khrushchev, Nasser, and Nehru accorded him state visits at the Hotel Theresa, surrounded by scores of photographers and reporters. With the CIA's Health Alteration Committee (!) planning his execution, Castro conferred with Malcolm X, appeared on the balcony with his army chief Juan Almeida Bosque, and stole the spotlight at the UN, basking in the cordiality extended by Tito and Nkrumah and relishing guest-of-honor status granted by Uruguay. In his speech to the world he dismissed then Senator John Kennedy as an "illiterate and ignorant millionaire" and reiterated his call for Third World support against U.S. aggression.

In the presidential election campaign that year Kennedy proved to be even more hawkish on Cuba than his opponent vice-president Richard Nixon. Though the Eisenhower Administration was strafing and bombing Cuban territory and training a Cuban invasion force in Guatemala, Kennedy complained in television debates that not enough was being done about the "militant Communist satellite" fomenting "Communist infiltration and subversion throughout the Americas." Kennedy spoke in terms of combatting disease, declaring that it was vital to inoculate the hemisphere against the Cuban virus indiscriminately spreading food, shelter, and medical care among the poor.

These priorities posed a terrifying specter to capitalist elites, and JFK's Defense Secretary Robert McNamara conceded in retrospect that the Kennedy Administration was hysterical in its reaction to events on the island. Under Castro, Cuba had nationalized $1 billion in U.S. corporate property, implemented the most extensive land reform in Latin American history, established cooperative farms, built thousands of homes for the poor, cut rents in half, given work to all, eliminated illiteracy, vastly increased medical and popular health programs, abolished racial discrimination, and thrown open the nurseries, resorts and hotels of the rich to the entire population. For such crimes against property, Kennedy condemned Castro as "a source of maximum danger."

The Kennedy Administration's gravity in insisting that tiny Cuba posed a threat to a hemisphere dominated by a nuclear-armed superpower eighty times its size was comical. A Mexican diplomat complained that, "If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing."

Worried that the Cuban disease would spread to the rest of Latin America, the Kennedy Administration escalated sabotage, terror, and aggression against the island. Invoking Hitler's rhetoric on Czechoslovakia, JFK called Cuba a "dagger" pointed at the United States and sent a proxy army to invade at the Bay of Pigs, while plotting Castro's assassination. When the invasion failed, he broke off all diplomatic, commercial, and financial ties with Cuba. Castro joined a long list of imperial demons for having abolished corporate control of the Cuban economy, thus terminating the Mafia-run playland that had enriched U.S. investors while Cuba starved.

But the U.S. had no legal leg to stand on. Article 15 of the Charter of the Organization of American States reads: "No state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state." The U.N. Charter states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state . . ."

Just four days after President Kennedy promised "there will not be under any conditions an intervention in Cuba by U.S. armed forces," the first men to hit the beaches at the Bay of Pigs were (North) Americans. Their boats ran aground on the razor-sharp choral reefs and rocky terrain, and they landed under fire. But instead of the deserted resort the CIA had told them to expect, the beach was ablaze with lights that instantly shut off once the bullets started flying. At daybreak Castro's air force strafed the invaders, sinking a ten-day ammunition reserve and most of the communications equipment. Four American B-26s illegally disguised as Cuban planes were also shot down.

Cut off from the Cuban interior by a huge swamp, pounded by the well-trained and highly-motivated Cuban army, and expecting support from an anti-Castro insurrection that was nowhere to be seen, the CIA mercenaries quickly jerked their hands in the air and were herded into beach resort dressing rooms for interrogation. At the UN, the U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson declared Cuba had been attacked by its legitimate army. Miami datelined rumors alleged that Castro and Che Guevara had committed suicide.

Humiliated by the failed invasion but determined to isolate Castro, President Kennedy unveiled the Alliance For Progress, embracing the rhetoric of sweeping change while proscribing socialism or revolution. Billions in U.S. aid were dangled before hungry Latin America, on the precondition that recipients forswore allegiance to Castro's heresies. At the Punta del Este conference in 1961 Latin America adopted the charter of JFK's Alliance For Progress, calling for democracy, a more equal distribution of wealth, a rapidly rising standard of living for the masses, and an end to "those conditions which benefit the few at the expense of the needs and dignity of the many." Business Week, cautioning JFK not to get carried away, let the cat out of the bag: "A U.S. policy of sponsoring revolutionary change in the underdeveloped countries could well undermine the position of U.S. private investment . . . to a considerable degree, the revolution of rising expectations is a revolt against capitalism."

Abolishing capitalism being unthinkable, Washington escalated its attacks on Cuba and prepared a second invasion of the island. Hoping to deter its enemy while giving Washington a taste of its own nuclear medicine, Cuba and the Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles on the island in the fall of 1962. JFK responded with a game of nuclear chicken, imposing a unilateral blockade on Cuba in violation of the U.N. Charter, rather than negotiate a quiet solution, which he regarded as the sissy's way out. In resolving the crisis, which only by the narrowest of margins avoided nuclear war, the U.S. refused to renounce its ongoing terrorist campaign, which included chemical and biological attacks against Cuba and countless attempts on Castro's life (Fidel claims over 600). Cuba went into permanent military mobilization and embraced the Soviet Union, while Washington established a complete trade and credit embargo, the prescribed remedy for states that infringe on the sacred rights of private investors.

As Castro steps down nearly half a century later, Cuba stands proudly independent and fiercely loyal to its revolution, having survived and flourished in the face of perhaps the greatest sustained imperial assault in history (over 3500 Cubans have died in U.S. terrorist attacks and roughly 2000 have sustained permanent injuries). As dissident writer Israel Shamir reports from a recent visit he made to the island, houses and roads are repaired, drugs and prostitution are not visible, cars are newer, and there is none of the despair and predatory violence so characteristic of U.S. cities. Shops are short on supplies but the Cuban people appear well fed and well dressed, and they sing, dance, and smoke cigars wherever they like. Unburdened with mortgages, they work, but not too hard, and have plenty of time for leisure activities. Painters, artists, and musicians are doing well and producing original work. The countryside is clean and green.

Contrary to imperial propaganda, Cubans do travel abroad, though they typically encounter difficulties getting visas to enter the U.S. Many Cubans travel to other countries in Latin America to fight illiteracy or give medical help - and then return home. Cuban doctors have traveled widely in the Third World to restore sight to the sightless - for free. Hundreds of thousands of blind people have been cured thanks to their efforts. Others have gone abroad to provide hurricane or earthquake relief, and Castro is a hero in Africa thanks to the Cuban soldiers who defeated South African apartheid in Angola.

Cuban churches are under restoration after considerable neglect, although attendance is low. Santeria, a native cult that originated in Africa, is spreading widely. The Cuban government leaves both the Catholic Church and Santeria alone.

Education is excellent, and Cuba enjoys the distinction of having more teachers per capita than any country in the world.

In gratitude for these astounding achievements, one can only say, "congratulations Fidel, very well done!"


Fidel Castro (with Ignacio Ramonet), "My Life," (Scribner, 2006)

Arthur Schlesinger, "A Thousand Days - John F. Kennedy in the White House," (Houghton-Mifflin, 1965)

Noam Chomsky, "Year 501 - The Conquest Continues," (South End, 1993)

Alexander Cockburn, "Corruptions of Empire," (Verso, 1988)

Howard Zinn, "Postwar America - 1945-1971," (Bobbs-Merrill, 1973)

Todd Gitlin, "The Sixties," (Bantam, 1987)

Seymour Hersh, "The Dark Side of Camelot," (Little, Brown, 1997)

Israel Shamir, "Keep Shining Cuba,"

William Blum, "Killing Hope - U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII," (Common Courage, 1995)

Maurice Halperin, "The Rise and Decline of Fidel Castro," (University of California, 1972)

Warren Hinckle and Warren W. Turner, "The Fish is Red," (Harper and Row, 1981)

Eduardo Galeano, "Memory of Fire - Century of the Wind," (Pantheon, 1988)

Cedric Belfrage and James Aronson, "Something to Guard: The Stormy Life of the National Guardian, 1948-1967," (Columbia, 1978)

Lawrence S. Wittner, "Cold War America - From Hiroshima to Watergate," (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978)

Michael McClintock, "Instruments of Statecraft," (Pantheon, 1992)

Ernesto Che Guevara, "Punta del Este - Proyecto alternativo de desarrollo para America Latina," (Ocean Press, 2006)

------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Very Black History (2)

During the Spanish-American-Cuban war, when the official story had it that the U.S. was liberating Cuba from colonial bondage, half-drunk U.S. soldiers waved dollar bills at Cuban women in the streets while a U.S. General announced that Cubans, far too black for Washington's preferences, were "a dying race." According to the optic of official Washington, centuries of mixing "dagos and niggers" had produced a depraved population completely incapable of self-government.

Supposedly an ally of the raggedly dressed Cuban revolutionary army fighting to rid itself of Spanish rule, Washington in fact denied the Cuban revolutionaries the status of official ally and blocked them from participating in the receiving of Spanish surrender in key Cuban cities. U.S. General Samuel B. M. Young, expressing a common view, dismissed the Cuban soldiers as "a lot of degenerates," rating them "no more capable of self-government than the savages of Africa." George M. Barbour, acting as sanitation commissioner of Santiago, chimed in with the view that, "The Cubans are stupid, given to saying and doing all things in the wrong way." He was optimistic, however, that the U.S. would deliver them a bright future. "Under our supervision, the people of Cuba may become a useful race and a credit to the world."

In his annual message to Congress (1899) President McKinley explained that the U.S. had "assumed before the world a grave responsibility for the future good government of Cuba." Sound familiar? This excuse is still being used 109 years later to justify the occupation of Iraq. The Nation magazine, with considerably more realism, commented that the real U.S. objective in Cuba was "to set up a crippled dependency on the United States and call it an independent and sovereign state." That, too, should seem familiar.

In 1895 the Encyclopedia Britannica had invoked scientific authority in defending its claim that "the inherent mental inferiority of blacks" was "an inferiority which is even more marked than their physical differences." Four years later Nathaniel Shaler of Harvard and Edward Cope of the University of Pennsylvania argued that blacks were both physically and mentally retarded. Georgia Professor John Roach Stratton opined that "the negro's tendency to immorality and crime" was irremediable, and that high black rates of lung and venereal disease were proof of "the negro's moral decline."

Contempt for black morals, health, and character was nearly unanimous among whites, who did not question that hatred was a normal racial instinct. In 1907 esteemed Mississippi planter Alfred Holt Stone presented a paper to the American Sociological Society entitled, "Is Race Friction in the United States Growing and Inevitable?" Holt concluded that white blood accounted for what little intelligence blacks possessed and that friction between the races resulted from a "natural contrariety, repugnancy of qualities," which produced a "pressure" in the white man, one felt "almost instinctively in the presence of a mass of people of a different race." American democracy, a product of white intelligence, required "intolerance toward men of another race or color," or else civilization would be doomed by a "mongrelization" like Latin America's. "The superiority of race cannot be preserved without pride of blood and an uncompromising attitude toward the lower races," insisted Stone.

Agreement was widespread among whites that blacks represented an advanced species of racial degradation headed for extinction. At the time the average black man lived just 34 years. Bad food, housing, and sanitation took a fearful toll, encouraging disease to run rampant in sharecropper cabins that had changed little since slavery. Pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid, and diarrhea snuffed out black lives with alarming frequency. An ex-slaveholder pinned the blame on Emancipation: "We delivered the African man over to the nation in 1865 orderly, fairly industrious, without vice, without disease, without crime. In the hands of the nation, he has become disorderly, idle, vicious, diseased."

Henry Loomis Nelson of the Boston Herald explained in 1902 the reigning white man's burden: "Our troops in the Philippines . . . look upon all Filipinos as of one race and condition, and being dark men, they are therefore 'niggers,' and entitled to all the contempt and harsh treatment administered by white overlords to the most inferior races."

The year before, then Princeton professor Woodrow Wilson asserted that non-white peoples were incapable of Anglo-Saxon virtues like self-government because they were still in the "childhood of their political growth." In 1902, as president of Princeton, Wilson said that Filipinos, regularly denounced as "niggers" by U.S. troops, "must obey as those who are in tutelage" and be denied independence until they learned the "discipline of law." Force being the main instrument of the "discipline of law," President Roosevelt informed Congress the same year that "the increasing interdependence and complexity of international political and economic relations render it incumbent on all civilized and orderly powers to insist on the proper policing of the world." TR made it very clear that he expected the "wretched republics" of Central America and the Caribbean, among others, to do what their white masters to the North dictated to them.

Addressing the racial underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy, Columbia's John Burgess, one of the founders of modern American political science, announced that the Old South had won the Civil War at last: "Now that the United States has embarked on imperial enterprises the North is learning every day by valuable experiences that there are vast differences in political capacity between the races, and that it is the white man's mission, his duty . . . to hold the reins of political power in his own hands for the civilization of the world . . . [the] Republican party, in its work of imposing the sovereignty of the United States upon eight millions of Asiatics (in the Philippines) has changed its views in regard to the political relations of races and has at last virtually accepted the ideas of the South upon that subject."

Burgess was a member of the Dunning School of political science, which had a starkly racial outlook. William Dunning earned a reputation as a brilliant doctoral student at Columbia, later returning to his alma mater to become a professor of philosophy. In this position he used his influence to place professors sympathetic to the old Confederacy in history departments all over the country.

Tender in his treatment of white supremacists, Dunning alternated between ridicule, silence, and contempt in his commentary on blacks. He and the many U.S. leaders who admired his work, described the brief upsurge of democracy following the Civil War as the "nadir of national disgrace," a time when newly enfranchised blacks, corrupt whites, and radical Republicans joined hands to humiliate their betters. The presumably uncivilized experiment of Reconstruction allegedly "pandered to the ignorant negroes," establishing corrupt state governments that ushered in bankruptcy, chaos, and destruction. Fortunately, decent white Southerners drove these governments out of power, restoring sanity to the region by means of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dunning's insights trickled down to the troops on the ground in Haiti, who referred to their guerrilla opponents as "bad niggers as we would call them at home." General Smedley Butler, head of the U.S. Occupation forces, characterized the caco leaders as "shaved apes, absolutely no intelligence whatsoever, just plain low nigger." Other occupation authorities described Haitian peasants in the softer stereotyped terms of U.S. race relations: "docile, happy, idle, irresponsible, kindly, shiftless, pleasure-loving, [and] trustworthy."

These attitudes were hardly absent at the highest reaches of power. President Theodore Roosevelt found Haitians "utterly incapable of existing in independence." Assistant Secretary of State William Phillips agreed, explaining that American intervention was necessary because of the "complete incompetence" of the Haitians and the "failure of an inferior people to maintain the degree of civilization left them by the French, or to develop any capacity of self government entitling them to international respect and confidence."

In the presidential election year of 1920, James Weldon Johnson sparked a national discussion of U.S. Haitian policy with a series of articles he wrote for the Nation. Accusing Washington of fomenting racism, brutality, and economic exploitation, Johnson provoked the Wilson Administration to highlight its alleged "benevolent purpose," and the supposed "gratitude" the Haitian people felt in being occupied for five years. Curiously, it also hurried to stress that it intended to withdraw from Haiti soon. (The occupation continued until 1934).

The Wilson Administration's efforts at Haitian moral uplift over the previous five years had included the gunning down of 3000 men, women, and children during pacification and the restoration of virtual slavery on a highway construction program connecting Camp Haitien and Port au Prince. Marine Corps Major Smedley Butler informed then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt that he shouldn't "ask too many questions as to how we accomplish this work." Roosevelt contained whatever curiosity he may have had.

As election day approached, the New York Times reported on U.S. atrocities in Haiti, citing the "noted traveler and authority on the West Indies," Henry A. Franck: "American marines, largely made up of and officered by Southerners, opened fire with machine guns from airplanes upon defenseless Haitian villages, killing men, women, and children in the open market places. . . natives were slain for 'sport' by a hoodlum element among these same Southerners; and . . . . the ancient corvee system of enforced labor was revived and ruthlessly executed . . ."

Fortunately, there were some bright spots in the early years of the 20th century. One of them was the boxer Jack Johnson. Son of a slave, his first organized fights were "Battle Royals" in Galveston, where eight or more blindfolded blacks bashed each other around the ring to the cheers of white men, who tossed them coins like peanuts at the zoo. Johnson quickly excelled at this curious sport of beating people up, well knowing that his alternatives were picking cotton he couldn't sell, plowing lands he couldn't own, and unloading ships he couldn't travel on.

Opportunity struck when white boxers pounding each other into hamburger began to seem, well, uncivilized. Sagging gate receipts suggested the sport was obsolete. But then promoters hit on the idea of an interracial bout, which would provide the fans with an opportunity to witness the physical superiority of white men demonstrated on an uncivilized "coon."

Crushing widespread Nordic supremacist expectations, Johnson was soon thrashing white boxers before jeering racist throngs and celebrating victory in the arms of white women. While the racist fans pinched pennies to survive, Johnson strutted the stage in elegant clothes, flashed his gold teeth, and zoomed around in brightly-colored cars on week-long drunks. He made no apologies for a life of prizefighting, saloons, and prositutes, an existence he preferred to any other. While Booker T. Washington advised blacks to outlast prejudice, and W. E. B. DuBois recommended treading cautiously, heeding the disaster of a misstep, Johnson crashed through racial barriers at break-neck speed, refusing to cede ground as part of a more elaborate maneuver.

Loathed like a "nigger" and paid like a King, Johnson was the quintessential American, doing exactly as he pleased, refusing all limits of background, custom, and race. In the 1910 "Fight of the Century" against the hugely favored Jim Jeffries, he chopped the white boxer's face to pieces amidst a stream of mocking banter: "How do you feel Jim? How do you like it? Does it hurt Jim?"


Noel J. Kent, "America in 1900," (M. E. Sharpe, 2000)

Julius W. Pratt, "A History of United States Foreign Policy," (Prentice Hall, 1955)

Willard B. Gatewood Jr., "Black America and the White Man's Burden," (University of Illinois, 1975)

David F. Schmitz, "Thank God They're On Our Side - The United States and Right Wing Dictatorships, 1921-1965," (University of North Carolina, 1999)

Hans Schmidt, "The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934,' (Rutgers, 1995)

Howard Zinn, "A People's History of the United States," (Harper, 1995)

David Levering Lewis, "W. E. B. DuBois - Biography of a Race, 1919-1963," (Holt, 2000)

David Levering Lewis, "W. E. B. DuBois - Biography of a Race, 1868-1919," (Holt, 1998)

Randy Roberts, "Papa Jack - Jack Johnson And The Era of White Hopes," (Free Press, 1983)

Page Smith, "A People's History of the Progressive Era and WWI - America Enters the World," (McGraw-Hill, 1985)

-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George (illustrations by Matt Wuerker," both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Black History, Very Black History

Liberal shock and awe at the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in U.S. imperial domains must have been a source of bitter amusement to black people, whose two and a half centuries of enslavement here were certainly no human rights picnic, and whose experience with lynching just might be described as a form of torture, however much white people might prefer to believe otherwise.

Most intriguing are the so-called "spectacle lynchings," which were typically given enthusiastic advance billing on the radio and in screaming headlines on the front page of daily newspapers. Thousands of white men were summoned from far and wide, encouraged to bring the wife and kids and make a day of it. In a gleeful, picnic-like atmosphere, son sitting on papa's shoulders to get a better view, a black man was dragged into the presence of the mob, ritually castrated, and burned alive for the entertainment of the cheering crowd, which urged the torturers to go slow so they could savor the victim's every last agonized scream. After the deed was done, the crowd sifted through the embers looking for souvenirs - a charred piece of bone, a severed tooth, a chunk of barbecued flesh - while lamenting how short-lived the day's festivities had been. It was not unknown for some of the victim's body parts to end up in a local store's display case, to keep the memory of good times alive.

These black victims were routinely described as having died "at the hands of persons unknown," though photographs of proudly grinning lynch mobs were regularly published in the newspaper, which should have made identification of the perpetrators a rather straightforward matter, had there been any interest in bringing them to justice. But there wasn't. These barbaric acts were the product of the entire white community, not specific individuals, and if there were whites who had any misgivings about them, they kept them to themselves.

The reigning racial theory behind such events held that whites were genetically pre-ordained to create civilization, while blacks were predisposed for savagery. Whites remained optimistic, however, as it was fervently believed that the civilized master race could guide blacks from savagery to civilization via Christianity.

At the turn of the 20th century the reigning religion of Anglo-Saxonism held that descendants of select German tribes carried a genius for self-government, nation building, technology, and conquest, which had caused them to soar over the "lower races" for the previous 1500 years, especially blacks.

"We are Teutons, God's kings of men," proclaimed ex-Confederate officer Colonel Robert Bingham in 1900. He believed that manhood, suffrage, and personal responsibility were exclusively Anglo-Saxon virtues, and confidently asserted that "every step towards the higher freedom [was] won in the best blood of our race."

Anglo-Saxonists thrilled to the conquest of the world's "waste spaces," i.e., those not yet subject to white domination. Anglo-Saxonism had the backing of "racial science" (eugenics), which posited that racial categories were fixed and final, though somehow still susceptible to corruption via the horrors of "mongrelization." As Thomas Dixon Jr.'s best-selling 1902 novel, "The Leopard's Spots," put it, "One drop of negro blood makes a negro, it kinks the hair, flattens the nose, thickens the lip, puts out the light of intellect, and lights the fires of brutal passions." Since black men were allegedly permanently in heat around white women, lynch mobs were regarded as the only answer to fatal contamination of civilized blood.

The year before Dixon's book came out, one of the most important books published was called "The Mystery Solved: The Negro a Beast." At the time anthropologists placed blacks somewhere between the great apes and the hominids on the evolutionary spectrum. Biologists reported that their average brain weight was less than that of Caucasians and substantially less than that of English-speaking Protestants. Psychologists claimed they were possessed of a primal sexuality and prone to irrationality, especially under stress or in situations of intimacy. Criminologists warned of their allegedly innate brutality and hyper-fertility. Doctors predicted that they would die out from disease and perversion. The consensus among white experts held that blacks had no mental or physical energy, lacked volition, and worked the least they could get away with. They were said to be bereft of civilized artifacts like architecture and literature, while regarding indolence and sunshine as the earthly paradise. Their capacity for thought was said to be brutally rudimentary, although whites remained hysterical with fear that exposing them to book learning would "spoil" their appetite for menial labor. Teddy Roosevelt summed up the problem thusly: "A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane." No one thought he was talking about white people.

Black men who served in the U.S. conquest of the Philippines were treated no better than blacks in general. They departed for the front amidst race riots while headlines screamed "War of the Races is Threatened." When the black 49th Volunteer Infantry left San Francisco, The Call published a huge minstrel-style, front page drawing of the men "cakewalking" up the gangplank. A soldier with ludicrously thick lips and bulging eyes was depicted telling his similarly endowed girlfriend: "Jes' one mo' smack at dem cherub lips." The accompanying caption explained that every black officer had "at least two ladies there to bid goodbye," adding that "when dat coon ban' played de cakewalk, 'the men' used their guns as walking sticks and their file man as a partner" and "danced away for dear life."

Once in the Philippines, white soldiers jeered at their black officers rather than salute them: "What are you coons doing here?" General Otis protested to Washington that black racial loyalties made them overly fond of Filipinos, and that they got along "too well with the native women," causing "demoralization" among the fallen females. A black soldier offered a less theoretical explanation, positing that Filipino women liked blacks better than whites because they do "not push them off the streets, spit at them [or] call them damn 'niggers.'" There's no accounting for taste.

Well-published and highly educated Woodrow Wilson regarded blacks as fit subjects for "darky" stories in cabinet meetings but unfit for high office. Coming to the presidency in 1913, he prepared to reverse longstanding policy by appointing white instead of black ministers to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Blacks had not been admitted to Princeton during Wilson's earlier tenure as president of that university, a policy unique among Ivy League institutions at the time. Their purging from voting rolls and public offices in the wake of Reconstruction Wilson attributed to the "inevitable ascendancy of the whites." After Wilson re-imposed segregation on federal offices, W. E. B. DuBois complained that, "In the Treasury and Post Office Department colored clerks have been herded to themselves as though they were not human beings." DuBois inquired about one "colored clerk" who allegedly "could not actually be segregated" on account of the kind of work he did, so that he had had "a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions of many years."

In 1915 Wilson screened the racist "Birth of a Nation" at the White House, pronouncing the White South's version of Reconstruction, replete with ape-like black legislators and virginal white women threatened by blacks who were virtual walking phalluses, as "all so terribly true." The popular film incited an escalating wave of race riots and lynchings throughout the country. A disgusted W. E. B. DuBois pronounced the movie abominable, "with the Negro represented either as an ignorant fool, a vicious rapist, a venal or unscrupulous politician or a faithful but doddering idiot."

Wilson's Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, touring U.S.-occupied Haiti in 1917, recommended that the island be directly run by the military, thus avoiding the continuing conflicts between white supremacist U.S. officers and mulatto Haitian elites. While looking forward to this prudent solution to black people's assumed incapacity to govern themselves, Roosevelt devoted himself to official ceremonies, impressing his Haitian hosts with his French, his strict observance of protocol, and his disregard for the color line. On the prospects for Haitians to become civilized, he waxed optimistic: "I cannot agree . . . that just because the Haytian native population does not use knives, forks, cups, etc. that they will never use them. As a matter of fact I feel convinced that during the next generation the Haytian population will adopt the living standards more generally in vogue."

Looking on Haitians as "little more than primitive savages," Roosevelt assisted the Marine occupations of both Haiti (1915-1934) and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), regarding such actions as noble efforts to civilize the "backward" countries of the world. When Marine Corps Major Smedley Butler machine-gunned 51 Haitians to death at Fort Riviere, Roosevelt made sure he got the Congressional Medal of Honor for it.

When he became president he declined to back anti-lynching legislation, fearing the political clout of Dixiecrats in Congress, while lynchings were publicly announced and carried out even in Washington D.C. Such events allowed a rising Adolf Hitler to boast without rebuttal that Germany treated Jews better than the U.S. treated blacks.


Philip Dray, "At The Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America," (Random House, 2002)

Willard B. Gatewood, "Black Americans and the White Man's Burden, 1898-1903," (University of Illinois, 1975)

Willard B. Gatewood, "'Smoked Yankees' And The Struggle For Empire," (University of Illinois, 1971)

Daniel B. Schirmer, "Republic or Empire - American Resistance to the Philippine War," (Schenkman Publishing Company, 1972)

David Levering Lewis, "W. E. B. DuBois - Biography of a Race, 1868-1919," (Henry Holt, 1998)

Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau (with Eve Pell), "To Serve The Devil," vol. 2 (Vintage, 1971)

Blanche Wiesen-Cook, "Eleanor Roosevelt, 1933-1938," (Penguin, 1999)

Noel J. Kent, "America in 1900," (M. E. Sharpe, 2000)

Stuart Creighton Miller, "Benevolent Assimilation - The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1898-1903," (Yale, 1982)

Hans Schmidt, "The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934," (Rutgers, 1995)

------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," and "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Bush Meant Purge, not Surge

The president has been taking a laxative and meant to tell the world that it was successful, mistakenly using the word “surge” instead of “purge”. Compliant media believed he was referring to the increased troop movement in Iraq, and not the increased bowel movement at the White House, and so endlessly repeated his mistake. The nation was led to believe the surge in Iraq, which has failed, was working, while the purge in Washington, which was unknown, had actually succeeded. Democrats have vowed to cleanse their own digestive tracts before developing any foreign policy tract that might confuse major media.

McCain call for less laxatives, more wars

Senator McCain, whose years in prison developed in him a deep affection for war and his cell mates, has called for more of both. Retired veterans responded by swamping recruiting stations, including the one in beautiful downtown Berkeley, with requests to become war counselors. “Our future victims in wars forecast by heroic former prisoner and future president McCain, will need the help and counsel of those who have experience” said an American Legion consultant, dressed in his Social Security t-shirt with Medicare emergency warning decal on his VFW helmet .

Deranged poet called Bill Clinton “black”: Demented athlete calls Barack Obama “white”...

When a famous black writer, during an hysterical fit of orgasmic joy , called Bill Clinton the nation’s first black president, many asked if she had ever danced with him. Others asked if she’d taken her meds. When Senator Obama recently questioned Clinton's rhythmic ability, famed athlete and suspected murderer OJ Simpson said that if elected, just as Clinton was our first white black president, Obama would become our first black white president. The Anti Defamation League called for an end to this kind of vicious and hateful anti Semitism.

Exit Polls in all states show Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich as winners

While the actual vote totals seemed to indicate otherwise, voters questioned as they left their polling places overwhelmingly chose Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, also selecting American Idol as best show on TV and picking the Giants to win the Super Bowl. Exit polling has long been suspect for being even less scientific than entrance polling, but these results caused many scholars at the Center for the Study of Centers to rethink the entire foundation of their centers. When several spot polls showed that Angelina Jolie would defeat Hillary Clinton by 85-15%, and that Denzel Washington carried the nation by 75% when pitted against Obama, and 90% when matched against McCain, experts said “either these people are really stupid, there’s something here we haven’t figured out, or, we’re absolute morons.” The center’s director offered no comment. Nor did the ADL.

Fed Urges Surge of Purges , calls U.S. Economy “A vast CDO”

Characterizing the entire American economy as a massive collateralized debt obligation (CDO), the directors of the Fed called for an exodus from financial markets as the only salvation for the nation. Wall Street was closed, foreign exchanges went dark, and the ADL protested use of the anti-Semitic term “exodus”.

Famed Shrink says Terrorist Voices heard by snoops are Internal

Messages intercepted by government and private industry spies, thought to be terrorist code words provoking various colored alerts throughout the nation, have been characterized as inner voices heard by disturbed personalities. A world famous psychologist who has studied primates under stress, married people during the holidays, and shoppers at fire sales, proclaimed that most messages seen as menacing are the result of over stressed listeners hearing their internal problems coming back to them, filtered through their own psychosomatic networks.

Calling it a newer and more dangerous form of schizophrenia which he has labeled “islamophobia”, Dr Bill Sofaman of the Institute for the Study of Institutes claims this new disorder originated shortly after the 911 disaster. Many who thought they heard people speaking Arabic were actually hearing their own inner gibberish, and its menacing and incoherent syllables were translated by them into plans to blow up important American places, like finished basements or golf courses, made by people who hated our democratic and love centered way of life, and our Judeo-Christian pacifism.

President Bush claimed that the only voice he hears is that of Jesus, telling him who to kill and when, as opposed to someone like Al Gore, who hears Jesus but asks him silly questions like what would he do. “Jesus is busy, you don't ask, you just listen” said Bush. Dr Sofaman said “ you see what i mean?”

Stay Tuned?