History

Story of a Big, Inconsistent, Brave Man

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Following excerpts adapted from the author’s latest book, And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle, published by Penguin Random House

“Fellow countrymen,” Lincoln said, “at this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper.” His task today was less about how the nation must move forward than it was about why he believed the war had been fought, and what it meant. He had begun his presidency with a brief on secession and Union—a brief that had included support for a constitutional amendment that would have banned the federal government from abolishing slavery where it existed at the time. He was opening his second term with a searching statement about human nature, the relationship between the temporal and the divine, and the possibilities of redemption and of renewal.

Lincoln acknowledged that mortal powers were limited. “Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,” he said. “And the war came.” The gulf between North and South was so profound, so unbridgeable, that only the clash of arms could decide the contest between freedom and bondage. In a speech that stipulated the ambiguity of the world, Lincoln was unambiguous about why the war had come: slavery. “One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it,” the president said. “These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.” There was no escaping this central truth.

Lincoln turned to the perils of self-righteousness and self-certitude, North and South. “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God,” he said, “and each invokes His aid against the other.” Then the president rendered a moral verdict: “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.” In speaking of the strangeness of profiting from the labor of others—a subtle but unmistakable indictment of slave owners—the president drew on the third chapter of the Book of Genesis: “In the sweat of thy face,” the Lord commanded, “shalt thou eat bread.” Adam and Eve are being expelled from the Garden of Eden; the whole structure of the world as we know it was being formed in this moment. To work for one’s own wealth, rather than taking wealth from others, was the will of God.

In the same breath in which he framed slavery as a violation of God’s commandment, Lincoln invoked the words of Jesus: Judge not. This injunction is found in the Gospel of Matthew, in a plea for forbearance, forgiveness, and proportion: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” The president believed he was doing the right thing—yet he knew that those who opposed him believed the same. “The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully,” Lincoln said of North and South. “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Lincoln had come to believe that the Civil War might well be a divine punishment—a millstone—for a national sin. The president hoped the strife would soon be over, and the battle won. “Yet,” Lincoln said, “if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’ ” To Frederick Douglass, “these solemn words…struck me at the time, and have seemed to me ever since to contain more vital substance than I have ever seen compressed in a space so narrow.”

Lincoln’s point was a startling one from an American president: God was exacting blood vengeance for the sin of human enslavement in a specific place and a specific time—in the United States of America in the mid-nineteenth century. This was not routine political rhetoric. In the Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln was affirming a vision of history as understood in the Bible: that there was a beginning, and there will be an end. In the meantime, the only means available to a nation “under God” to prosper was to seek to follow the commandments of that God.

The alternative? Chaos and the reign of appetite without restriction and without peace. Lincoln once said that “the author of our being, whether called God or Nature (it mattered little which), would deal very mercifully with poor erring humanity in the other, and, he hoped, better world.” Until then, “poor erring humanity” was charged with making its words and work acceptable in the sight of a God who had enjoined humankind to love one another as they would be loved. That is where Lincoln left the matter in his peroration on Saturday, March 4. “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

His speech done, Lincoln turned to Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase for the oath of office. The sun came through the clouds. “It made my heart jump!” the president recalled of the breaking light. Lincoln, Noah Brooks wrote, “was just superstitious enough to consider it a happy omen.” A Black man who worked at the Washington Navy Yard, Michael Shiner, recorded the moment in his diary: “The wind ceas[ed] blowing the rain ceased raining and the Sun came out and it was as clear as it could be.”

The chief justice noted the passage of the Bible the president kissed—Isaiah 5:27–28, which reads: “None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind.”

There would be no rest. The wheels turned. The work went on.

Later that afternoon, the president would ask Frederick Douglass what he’d thought of the speech.

“Mr. Lincoln,” Douglass replied, “that was a sacred effort.”

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Copyright © 2022 by Merewether LLC

Bangladesh: The heinous jail killings of 1975

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1

Forty-seven years have passed by. The near and dear ones of the four most important national leaders of Bangladesh after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib are yet to receive any justice for the savage killings. Nor has the Nation gotten any redress for the tragic loss of their icons. Jail is supposed to be the safest place in the city. If some citizen’s life is at risk or either the government or he himself feels any deficiency in safety or security, he may be taken into protective custody in a jail or sub-jail. The law and order situation of the country was so poor and vulnerable during the period after 1975 that the safest place was not safe anymore. Some rouge personnel of the Bangladesh army executed one of the most criminal operations in the history of Bangladesh, Indian subcontinent and the whole world.

Similar or even more cruel was the same group’s operation on 15 August of the same year when Bangabandhu and almost his whole family were massacred at his Dhanmondi residence. Even the kid son of the leader, Sheikh Russell was not spared. Our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana escaped as they were on a Europe tour. Bangabandhu being the father of the new Nation loved his people. That was a great quality. But he perhaps loved them too much and believed them too much. He had to pay the price of that belief with his blood and the lives of almost his entire family. He was advised time and again by the Bangladeshi individuals deputed for his security to shift to a properly protected residence which he always ignored showing the reason that he had faith in his people who could do no harm to him. The same happened when some of his friends among world leaders gave him the same advice. Oh, how wrong he was!

We do not need to study rocket science to understand that the few junior army officers in the rank of Major/Captain and their JCO/NCO associates could not plan and execute such a merciless, heinous, bloody coup to annihilate a leader of Bangabandhu’s stature together with his whole family. They must have had influential planners and supporters at home and abroad. Bangabandhu did not realise that with the emergence of Bangladesh, many countries of the then world politics were not happy since they supported Pakistan during our Great War of Liberation. It was a serious blow to their foreign policy. Similarly, a section of Bangladesh’s population and politicians were also having anti-Awami League agenda. That they would be able to strike with such venom was inconceivable. So the saddest day of 15 August came about.

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was an arch-rival of Bangabandhu all through his political life. He was cunning and shrewd but nowhere near our great leader in politics of the masses. He was envious of our Father of the Nation and being involved in the coup took over the Presidency of the country immediately. The junior officers executing the coup became all-powerful. They stayed back in Bangabhavan with Mostaq and wielded power. There was no chain of command in the army but the top brass showed visible cowardice and they kept silent. It was reported that they were rather engaged in a power struggle. Most of the political leadership was dumbfounded after the lightning happenings of 15 August and expressed allegiance to Mostaq. Many of them were sworn in as Ministers. Though most of the top Awami League leaders betrayed the blood of Bangabandhu and his family and were busy having their piece of cake in the state power, there were exceptions.

The trusted aides of Bangabandhu were the four national leaders having integrity and unflinching faith in the leader. They were Syed Nazrul Islam,Tajuddin Ahmad,Capt M Monsur Ali and AHM Kamaruzzaman. These four great national leaders together with Col Osmany steered our Freedom struggle to a glorious success. Of course traitor, Mostaq was a part of the cabinet but he always played deterring roles and even planned a confederation with Pakistan. When approached by Mostaq to join his cabinet to run the country, all four of them upheld their dignity and refused. They did not budge even after being threatened with serious consequences. All four ended up in jail soon thereafter.

The killers stationed in Bangabhavan including Mostaq could fathom that they could not sustain very long under the existing disturbing and uneasy circumstances. So, it seems that they were drawing contingency plans. Their plans were all drawn against these great leaders. The thugs and their masters knew that these leaders could lead Awami League to bounce back into mainstream progressive political activities. There was no other leader close to them who could lead Bangladesh.

So, when a counter-coup was staged by Brig(promoted to Maj Gen)Khaled Musharraf to bring back the chain of command in the Armed forces on 3 November 1975, the shameless criminals understood that they were kaput and executed the most heinous crime of jail killings.

In the early hours of the night between the 3rd and 4th of November, five uniformed individuals appeared at the gates of Dhaka central jail in the old quarters of Dhaka. They were led by Risalder Moslemuddin(Moslehuddin). They demanded to be let in which is a grave violation of the jail code by any standards. The jail authorities kept on refusing but finally succumbed to a telephonic order from President Mostaq. These rogues demanded to the jail officials that the four national leaders be assembled in a particular cell. They were in three different cells with other political prisoners. The jail officials did as directed and when the leaders were together in a particular cell, this military personnel having Sten guns and SLRs went there and fired indiscriminately at them. Taking them all as dead, they were leaving the jail premises as they were late and had other agendas. But as some of the leaders were still groaning and asking for water, one of the jail guards ran towards the jail gate to inform same to the killers. They raced back to the cell and bayonetted the four bodies heavily to make sure of their death.

Finally, they left. Awami League leaders like Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Amir Hossain Amu, SP Mahbubuddin were detained in nearby cells. Though they could not see anything being inside the four walls of the cell, they could figure out everything but were undone. An unthinkable crime was perpetrated and no one could be held responsible. Rather, the killers were later appreciated with prize postings at Bangladesh foreign missions.

A case was registered with the Lalbagh police station one day later. Initial procedures started. But not much headway could be made due to the promulgation of the indemnity ordinance. A commission of enquiry was also constituted which too could not work till preparing and submitting a report. The files were destroyed deliberately presumably during the next 21 years of unfavourable governments. No paperwork could be found when the Indemnity ordinance was repealed when in 1996 favourable Government came to power. The investigation had to start anew. Though a very difficult task, the concerned police investigators produced a miracle. The case was heard for years in a regular court of a District and Sessions Judge. In 2004, the court dished out a verdict. 3 of the JCO/NCO gang of Moslemuddin, Marfot Ali Shah and Abul Hashem Mridha were given capital punishment and eight officers of the army were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Strangely enough, the High court division of the apex court commutated the sentences and only one criminal remained with a punishment. All others went scot-free. A real shame indeed! The prosecution, of course, moved the Supreme court division. The Apex judicial body of the country duly considered the appeal and nullified the High court judgement. The judgement of the trial court was withheld. The Court also observed that such a conspiratorial savage killing inside the jail could not have happened without any involvement from high places. A thorough probe of the conspiracy behind such political killings was suggested.

Some of the convicts of jail killings were hanged to death for their complicity in the Bangabandhu killing. The others still remain absconding. They are sheltered by some countries under one context or the other. Bangladesh Government is following up on the issue of their repatriation to face the judgement with all seriousness. We don’t see much development in this regard though.

The patriotic forces of Bangladesh expect that a proper commission of enquiry will be formed soonest to investigate the 15 August and 3 November 1975 criminal activities by a small section of the armed forces leading to the killings of the founding father of the Nation and the four great National leaders. The conspirators behind the scenes should be exposed. The people of Bangladesh also expect that process to bring back the culprits from abroad should be expedited. Our deepest tributes to the four great national leaders and of course to Bangabandhu. They will be remembered by all patriotic Bangladeshis for all time to come.

Views expressed are personal

Debunking Tamil Homeland myth with 5 questions

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6 mins read

OPEN FOR DEBATE

Divide & Rule was key component of colonial rule. Illegally taking over lands and territories, planting fictitious history, and infesting minds with hate and violence is part of a legacy that continues unabated. Sadly, historians have failed to take these false claims and nullify them. They have been silenced by “political correctness”. However, it is time people begin asking questions and demanding answers. How can 2 provinces that were created only by the British in 1833 be claimed ‘original habitats” of Tamil people? How can Indian Malabars claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka? How can a South Indian customary law applicable only to those inhabitants be the customary law in Sri Lanka? How did the Colonial Missionary create the Dravida Nadu movement to become a Tamil Eelam movement & what is their ultimate plan? Let’s have you start asking yourselves these questions too!

Question 1: How can Tamil Eelam Homeland lobbyists claim 2 provinces as their “homeland” making use of the 2 provinces created in 1833 by colonial Britain?

It is very clear that while the first Kingdom of Anuradhapura, 2nd kingdom of Polonnaruwa also included North Sri Lanka, the last kingdom of Kandy too included part of North & explains why the Kandyan king despatched his army to defend his people from the Portuguese. The last battle for the defence of Jaffna before it fell to European powers was fought not by a Tamil army but by Sinhalese men sent by the King of Kandy.

Portuguese historian Father Queroyz says “as long as Rajapure (Anuradhapura) was the capital of Ceylon, the whole island was subject to one kng” If it was so with Anuradhapura, it was so with the rest of the capitals. When the Portuguese arrived in 1505 there were 15 ‘kinglets’ subject to the King of Kotte of which Jaffnapatao kinglet was one of the 15 “kinglets” were independent or separate from the rest.

To quell the lies let us first turn to the maps.

The 1st kingdom was in Anuradhapura. The 2nd kingdom was in Polonnaruwa. The last kingdom was in Kandy. The kings of these kingdoms were the sole ruler of the entire Island.

These 3 maps clearly show there was no separate or independent Tamil Kingdom and the so-called ‘separate’ area being claimed as a “Tamil homeland” was ruled by the Sinhalese kings.

A separate kingdom must provide evidence of food/water supply (agriculture), a system of government, culture, belief & traditions, a written language, structures/monuments – the Kingdoms of Anuradhapura & Polonnaruwa leave us to cherish the world’s first man-made irrigation & water tanks, even animal hospital – these exist even to this day, where are those of a so-called Eelam Kingdom?

There were no separate independent kingdoms in Jaffna or anywhere else

There were no provinces.

Provinces were created by the Colonial British in 1833

Thus, there was nothing called Northern or Eastern province until 5 provinces was created in 1833 by Colonial Britain.

Therefore, how can the Eelam lobby claim to have ruled 2 provinces that did not exist until the colonial British demarcated them in 1833?

This is a key argument to debunk the demarcation of a bogus Tamil Eelam Homeland.

Question 2: How can Indian Malabars rechristen as Ceylon Tamils in 1911 claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka?

There is no record in ancient Sinhalese chronicles, Tamil chronicles or even records of Portuguese, Dutch or British to claim an ethnic group called “Ceylon Tamils” were living before they landed. All of the colonial records refer to both Tamils & Muslims as “Malabars”. Malabars was the term given to people who came from the Malabar coast of South India or Coromandel coast also in South India. Malabars were indigenous to South India. Therefore, anyone termed Malabar were descendants from South India. Thus, the Tamils living in Sri Lanka were referred as Malabars by the Portuguese, the Dutch & the British.

The term “Ceylon Tamils” was coined only in 1911 when Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who was registrar of census, inserted Ceylon Tamils instead of Malabars. The term Ceylon was coined by the British only after the Kandyan Convention in 1815.

Malabars cannot claim any “homeland” in Sri Lanka as they were immigrants from the Southern coast of India. Their homeland is in South India.

The quest for self-determination in India for Tamils started in India.

The same ethnic group cannot claim 2 homelands in 2 sovereign countries (or plan to annex Sri Lanka to create a Greater Dravida Nadu)

Question 3: Tamil caste system originates from South India – If Malabars are from South India, Vellalas & Thesawalamai Law is also – how can customary laws applicable to foreigners become mandatory customary law in Sri Lanka?

We have established Malabars are not indigenous to Sri Lanka but to South India.

The Vellalas are a low caste in South India but became the upper elite caste/class in Sri Lanka, not stopping there, the Vellala’s went on to oppress their own, dictating how other castes should function at kovil, funerals, weddings etc. If Tamils are marginalized or discriminated it is by the Vellala Tamils and not the Sinhalese. The Thesawalamai law encoded by the Dutch in 1706 claiming to be Tamil customary law is actually not applicable to all Tamils but to only Malabar inhabitants from Jaffna. What is the % of Tamils covered by this definition and how many Tamils does this law exclude – if so why should this be referred as a customary law for ALL Tamils when it is not so, more importantly, the Thesawalamai law is applicable to Malabar inhabitatnts in Jaffna only. Malabars are from South India. Vellala’s are a caste originating from South India. How can anyone quote these to claim homeland theories.

It is good for Tamils to realize who is discriminating them instead of falling prey to propaganda. How far has the caste system marginalized Tamils against each other, is a question Tamils themselves need to honestly answer. When Tamils are not welcome into Tamil homes, when even cutlery & crockery are differentiated, when even kovils disallow their own, when people are reluctant to share a toilet with their own – is this not discrimination?

Question 4: If the Dravida Nadu term was coined by colonial Missionaries, isn’t the Tamil Eelam quest (an offshoot of the Dravida Nadu movement) a similar Missionary infused agenda?

There was no term called Dravidian until it was coined by the Church.

The Church missionaries after creating the term Dravida went to great lengths to promote a fictitious history.

The Dravidian theory was an artificial theory implanted by the Church & it is possible the same was done to create a Tamil Eelam notion to separate both Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka along ethno-linguistic lines.

Bishop Caldwell plugged the South Indian languages of Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada as Dravidian languages.

If the Dravidian movement was led & controlled by the Global Church, is it a surprise that the Tamil Eelam lobby has the blessings of the Church apparatus as well? It is the Tamil Christians/Catholics who are mainly operating this quest.

1939 commenced the “Dravida Nadu for Dravidians” a quest for a separate sovereign & federal state.

1940 Dravida Nadu map was released. 1947 Britain rejected appeals for a separate Tamil state which led to Dravida Nadu Secession Day being passed on 13 July 1947 demanding an independent Dravida Nadu. 2 years later in Sri Lanka, ITAK was created seeking a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

1960 Dravida Nadu Separation Day which led to the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army while the Tamil Eelam movement in Sri Lanka resulted in Tamil militancy with LTTE taking leadership.

Dravida Nadu was replaced with “Tamil Nadu for Tamils” then “We Tamil Movement” which led to demand for an independent Tamil Nadu which Government of India stopped by legislative enactments in 1963.

The demands for Dravida Nadu were identical to demands by LTTE during Thimpu talks in 1985.

If Dravida Nadu movement & map was created by the Global Church; was the map of Tamil Eelam also their creation?

This implies that both movements (South India & Sri Lanka) did not originate from the people but from one external source – the Church.

Question 5: If the “Eelam” area was borrowed from colonial British map, if Global Church planted the Dravida Nadu movement & Greater Tamil Eelam initiative, if Malabars, Vellalars, Thesawalamail all are imported from South India is it so difficult to realize that Tamil Militancy was also exported from India to Sri Lanka to pass on India’s headache to us?

The Jain-Commission interim report following LTTE’s assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, memoirs by the IPKF former commanders and even former Indian High Commission to Sri Lanka J N Dixit prove a RAW hand in Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka from training to supplying of weapons to even logistics support & funding.

These lies are what lays the foundation for a bogus homeland quest which is kept alive because of the benefits to key players promoting it. The geopolitical & conversion motives are clear. Unfortunately, so-called academics and historians have been party to the lies or felt shy to negate these with historical facts & arguments.

So let us bring these to the open & demand facts, not propaganda.

Mystique of Cannabis

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Following excerpts adapted from the author’s latest book, Marijuana on My Mind: The Science and Mystique of Cannabis, published by Cambridge University Press

Martin was an intelligent and cocky young man whose father hoped therapy would help him cut down his cannabis use and mature enough to take over the family’s successful road construction business. Martin only wanted me to help him get away from his father. He was convinced that his cannabis use was part of a healthy life, and he constantly tried to prove that he knew more about the plant than I did. In fact, he did know far more than I about the latest varieties of cannabis and new methods of cultivation. I allowed him to be the expert about what was available at his favorite dispensaries, while I was more interested in hearing how it altered his mind. He dismissed my concerns as those of an old man, but he tolerated me because he liked to argue. In the end, he didn’t change his cannabis use, but he did gradually develop a better relationship with his family and returned home to manage the business when his father suffered a heart attack.

I saw an interesting and warm man beneath Martin’s arrogant exterior, and he knew I liked him. He arrived at our final session with a small, neatly wrapped gift and insisted I open it immediately. Inside the box was a dried cannabis bud resting on a royal purple, velvet pillow. It looked like a giant, withered, alien Brussels sprout (Figure 2.1). Martin proudly pronounced, “This is the best bud I have ever found, with a really spiritual high. You should know about it.”

I told Martin I appreciated the thought and knew he was giving me something precious, then closed the box and placed it back on the end table next to his chair. I handed it back to him as we shook hands when he left my office, but then I found it on the floor just outside my door when the next patient arrived. As I picked up the box, I said, “Drug reps are always leaving me little trinkets,” but I knew Martin’s gift was more heartfelt than the usual swag left by drug companies. I eventually encased the bud in a plexiglass cube and set it on my bookshelf beside the Freud action figure another patient had given me.

Figure 2.1 Dried cannabis flower, also called marijuana or bud.

The History Behind Today’s Cannabis

The dried bud Martin ceremoniously presented to me descended from a unique plant with a history that long predates humanity. Cannabis first emerged nearly 30 million years ago on the high-altitude, arid grasslands of Tibet, where it diverged from hops, its closest relative best known for flavoring beer. Cannabis became unique among Earth’s vegetation by developing chemical compounds never seen before. Like all flowering plants, different varieties of cannabis evolved, some with revolutionary new chemistry and some without. Marijuana on My Mind focuses on those varieties that developed medicinal and mind-altering properties. The varieties of cannabis lacking this chemistry, called hemp, evolved strong, flexible fibers that humans have used for a wide range of utilitarian purposes for the past 10,000 years.

Hemp arrived in the New World 53 years after Columbus first landed, but it is less clear when the smokable, intoxicating varieties of cannabis were imported. What we call marijuana today was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands by kidnapped Africans. The British also imported cannabis, primarily to pacify their slaves. It then arrived in the USA along four primary routes. Patent medicines from pharmaceutical companies containing cannabis extracts were popular through the mid- to late 1800s. Many Americans had their first puff of hash at the exotic Turkish Village in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Marijuana also arrived with sailors, Caribbean migrants filtering into New Orleans, and asylum seekers fleeing Mexico’s violent revolution in 1910, primarily through El Paso. All the derogatory racial stereotypes that white Americans held regarding brown and Black people were quickly ascribed to marijuana as well. Its use by despised and feared minorities was alien to white American culture and reinforced prejudice against immigrants. Smokable cannabis and racism were intertwined from the very beginning, until white youth cracked the mold in the 1960s.

Before the Mexican-Spanish word “marihuana” first entered English usage, “cannabis” and variants of “hash” were the only terms used. Bristol Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly listed cannabis and cannabis extracts as ingredients in their medicines during the 1800s. The word “marijuana” was later popularized in racially derogatory stories about Mexican refugees. When Pancho Villa and his bandoliered men briefly invaded New Mexico in 1916, they openly flaunted their pot use as they sang creative verses of “La Cucaracha” that included cockroaches smoking marijuana. But Pancho Villa’s greater crime was when his support of land reform wrested 800,000 acres of timberland from newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst during Mexico’s uprising against foreign capitalist control. Hearst, who owned 8 million acres of Mexican land, used his media empire to strike back against the rebels by luridly sensationalizing both the Mexicans and marijuana.

In 1920, the USA joined Norway, Finland, and Russia in banning alcohol. This grand experiment of prohibition failed and was reversed in 1933, both because of the public’s widespread disregard for the law and state governments’ thirst for new tax revenue during the Great Depression. The Federal Bureau of Prohibition’s assistant commissioner, Harry Anslinger, had become commissioner of the new Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. He initially had little interest in leading a campaign against what he saw as a mere weed; he insisted that cannabis was not a problem, did not harm people, and that “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea that it makes people violent. His mind changed with the deepening economic depression and end of alcohol prohibition. Fears that Mexican migrants might take scarce jobs intensified racial prejudice and combined with bureaucratic mission creep after alcohol was relegalized. William Randolph Hearst paved the way for Anslinger’s conversion to antimarijuana crusader by publishing a steady stream of stories about the evils of marijuana that reached 20 million daily readers during the 1930s. Hearst needed to sell newspapers, and racially charged descriptions of violent and sexual crimes caused by this killer weed sold very well.

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© Cambridge University Press 2022

CIA Assassin in Castro Plots Dies

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Rolando Cubela, a Cuban revolutionary who plotted with the CIA to kill Fidel Castro, died in Miami in August, his passing unnoticed in the English-language U.S. press. While the U.K. Telegraph ran a (paywalled) obituary, neither the New York Times or the Washington Post has reported the death of a man whose rise and fall once convulsed the governments of Cuba and the United States and generated headlines worldwide. Rolando Cubela Secades was 89 years old.

I heard about Cubela’s death independently from three friends in Miami who heard the news from his family. He was living in a Miami nursing home until he passed, they said. Cubacute, a Spanish language news site in Miami, quoted Cubela’s sister saying he had died of a respiratory infection.

The son of a tailor from the provincial city of Cardenas, Cubela enrolled as a medical student at the University of Havana where he emerged as a leader of the rebellion against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In October 1956 he gained notoriety for assassinating Col. Antonio Blanco Rico, a top military officer, in a Havana nightclub. Cubela won glory in December 1958 when his Revolutionary Directorate forces joined with Fidel Castro’s July 26 movement to win the decisive battle of Santa Clara, which toppled the Batista regime and brought Castro to power.

Amid a struggle for control of the University of Havana campus, Cubela was elected president of the student federation, a politically powerful position. At first he was a revolutionary firebrand, celebrating the closing of a pro-American newspaper and the defeat of the CIA-trained brigade at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. But as Cubela became disenchanted with Castro’s hard left turn to one-party socialism, he turned on his former comrades.

In August 1962, he met with two CIA men in a Helsinki nightclub. “He said he was not interested in risking his life for any small undertaking,” the CIA reported “but if that he could be given a really large part to play, he would use himself and several others whom he could rely upon.” Known by the code name AMLASH, Cubela subsequently underwent secret training at a CIA safe house in France.

In a series of meetings in Paris in the fall of 1963, Cubela said he was ready to act against Castro himself. “If you can’t get rid of the rabies,” he told one of his CIA handlers, “just get rid of the dog.” He only needed a weapon. Deputy director Richard Helms approved sending a pen, fitted with a poisoning mechanism, to Cubela. On November 22, 1963, an undercover officer was showing the pen to Cubela about the same time President John F. Kennedy was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas.
When Cubela learned of JFK’s death, his CIA handler reported that “Cubela was visibly moved and asked ‘Why do such things happen to good people?”

Cubela continued to plot with CIA agents through 1965. Although Helms would always deny the AMLASH operation was an assassination plot, Carl Jenkins, a CIA military trainer, said in a 2021 interview that he supplied the rifle that was sent to Cubela in Cuba.

Thanks to an undercover agent in Miami, Cuba’s intelligence service got wind of Cubela’s intentions and Cubela and a co-conspirator were arrested in February 1966, and charged with plotting with the CIA. Cubela’s trial attracted reporters from all over the world, drawn by a story rife with betrayal and intrigue.
On the stand, Cubela was contrite, admitted that he had planned the “physical elimination” of Castro while personally falling apart.

“I was carrying around a series of preoccupations and contradictions, the product of long struggle after the triumph of the Revolution,” he said, perhaps referring to his recurring nightmares about Col.Blanco Rico, the man he assassinated in 1956. Cubela said he fell into “a disorderly life, a life of parties, cabarets, a completely insane life. I was decomposing and deteriorating.”

Sentenced to death, Cubela was spared when Castro let it be known he didn’t favor the death penalty for his former comrade. “Among revolutionary men,” Castro said, “nothing can replace the bond of the beginning. Cubela’s sentence was commuted to 25 years, which he served in La Cabana, the fortress overlooking Havana Bay while serving as a doctor for his fellow inmates.

Double Agent?

Cubela was still in jail a decade later, when U.S. congressional investigators first learned about CIA plots to kill foreign leaders. The disclosure of the AMLASH conspiracy roiled Capitol Hill and the CIA, leading to the creation of a Senate select committee, led by Sen. Frank Church, which investigated the CIA for the first time.

Cubela’s revolutionary background and Castro’s leniency bred suspicion that Cubela had been a double agent informing the Cuba leader of the CIA’s plans to kill him. “Was AMLASH actually a conscious double agent for Castro?” asked a Washington Post report in 1976, “or was he perhaps so transparent and emotionally exploitable that he unwittingly provided an equivalent service?”

Castro denied that Cubela was a double agent and CIA director Helms said the same thing, about the only subject the Latin revolutionary and the urbane spy chief ever agreed on.

Freedom

Cubela didn’t like to talk about his past, according to Santiago Morales, a fellow prisoner. When Morales came down with tonsillitis, Cubela arranged for an operation and the two men became friends.
“Everybody liked him,” Morales, who now lives in Miami, recalled in an interview. “He had no special privileges. We talked a lot but, as a rule never got into details of our reasons for being there. … He told me …. about being interviewed by Raul Castro in prison.”

Morales says he got the impression that Cubela believed Raul Castro had intervened with his brother to spare his life.

Cubela and Morales were released in August 1979 along with several thousand political prisoners as part of an agreement between the Carter administration and the Castro government. Cubela moved to Madrid where he married and worked as a cardiologist. In 2005, he participated in two demonstrations organized by the Democracia Ya Platform, one of them in front of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid.

He later moved to Miami to be closer to his children.

“He was done with politics. He didn’t want to go back,” Morales said. “He had a good life. He was a great guy. But he never got rid of his past. Cubela spoke only in passing about his execution of Colonel Rico, Morales said, but it remained painful.

“It’s one thing to kill not knowing who you’re killing, but when there’s a name and a family and a pleasant human being—and they say he [Colonel Rico] was a pleasant human being—it hurts. And it didn’t lead to a happy ending,” Castro, not Cubela, prevailed in the struggle for power.

“In the end, I think he had been beaten by the events,” Morales said. “It was a miracle he was alive.”

This article was first published on Spy Talks, click here to read the original

Churchill and His Crimes: The Indian Cauldron

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The following excerpts are adapted from the author’s later book, Winston Churchill – His Times, His Crimes, published by Verso Books, the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world, publishing one hundred books a year.

Life: enough of this poetry

We need hard, harsh prose;

Silence the poetry-softened noises;

Strike with the stern hammer of prose today!

No need for the tenderness of verse;

Poetry: I give you leave of absence;

In the realm of hunger, the world is prosaic

The full moon is scalded bread.

Sukanta Bhattacharya, ‘Hey Mahajibon’ (O, Great Life) (1944)

During the interwar period India was in a state of continuous turmoil. The reforms of 1919 – which had promised increased political participation of Indians in government but denied them power – were regarded by most Indians as ill-intentioned and offering very little. In Parliament in 1917, Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India, had declared ‘the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire’. The result was a build up of pressure from below.

The British Empire clearly faced a choice: it could grant India dominion status or it could rule largely through repression. The failure to grant the first necessitated the second.

The Pashtuns, Punjabis, Bengalis and Malabari (now Keralans) saw the rise of mass movements and terrorism on the pre-revolutionary Russian model. Peaceful marches were violently broken up by the police. The 1919 massacre in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar is the best known, but there were others. The Moplah peasant uprising in Malabar in 1924 was deliberately misinterpreted by Raj ideologues. The Chittagong Armoury Raid in April 1930 was an audacious attempt to seize police and auxiliaries’ weapons and launch an armed uprising in Bengal. The raiders were revolutionaries of various sorts, united by the belief that only an armed struggle inspired by the Easter Rising of 1916 (they called themselves the IRA: Indian Republican Army) could rid them of the British. The plan was to take government and military officials hostage in the European Club where they hung out after work, seize the bank, release political prisoners, destroy the telegraph offices and telephone exchanges and cut off all railway communications.

They partially succeeded, but could not capture the British officers and civil servants. It was Good Friday. The European Club was empty. Despite this, the main leader of the uprising, Surya Sen, assembled their forces outside the police armoury, where he took the salute as IRA members (numbering under a hundred) paraded past him. They hoisted the Indian flag and declared a Provisional Revolutionary Government. The British swiftly took back control and guerrilla warfare ensued. The IRA was outnumbered. A traitor gave away Sen’s hiding place. He was captured, tortured and, together with another comrade, hanged. Other prisoners were packed off to the Andaman Islands.

In Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, a twenty-two-year-old, Bhagat Singh, who hailed from a staunch anti-imperialist family, decided with a handful of supporters to carry out two missions in 1930. The aim of the first was to assassinate the British police officer who had badly beaten up the nationalist leader, Lala Lajpat Rai, at a demonstration in Lahore. But they shot the wrong police officer. The second was to throw a few bombs into the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi when it was empty. Bhagat Singh declared they did so because they wanted the noise of the blast to wake up India.

In prison he became a communist and wrote that terrorist tactics were not useful, but he refused to plead for mercy. Gandhi half-heartedly spoke on his behalf to Lord Irwin, the liberal Viceroy, but was rebuffed. Bhagat Singh and two comrades, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru (all members of the tiny Hindustan Republican Socialist Party), were hanged in Lahore Jail in 1931.

There were similar events on a lesser scale elsewhere, and peasant uprisings too, the largest of which, in modern Kerala, shook the landlords and their British protectors. The peasants were mainly poor Muslims. They were defeated and the leaders of the revolt despatched to the Andamans for fifteen years. In 1935, the British realised the seriousness of the situation and passed a second Government of India Act through the House of Commons.

Churchill was vehemently opposed to the new law but was out of office. The Act provided for a controlled provincial autonomy, with the governors in each province holding reserve powers to dismiss ‘irresponsible’ governments. The tiny franchise was somewhat enlarged, and in 1937 the dominant Congress Party virtually swept the board in provincial elections, with the crucial exceptions of the Punjab and Bengal where secular-conservative, landlord-run parties obtained majorities.

Within two years of these elections Britain was at war. The Congress leaders, astounded that they had not been consulted before India was dragged into the war, instructed all their provincial governments to resign in protest and refused to offer support for the war. All this confirmed Churchill’s prejudices. He simply refused to grasp Indian realities.

The volume of protests and resistance from the end of the First World War till the late thirties had been rising with each passing year. Gandhi himself, in his South African phase, was a staunch Empire-loyalist. His view that ‘the British Empire existed for the benefit of the world’ neatly coincided with that of Churchill, and the Indian lawyer was not in the least embarrassed at acting as a recruiting sergeant during the First World War. He moderated these views when he returned to India and reinvented himself as a political deity. He was happy to mobilise the masses, but on a ‘moral level’. He would leave statecraft to the politicians, mainly Nehru and Patel. Though when they needed his imprimatur during crisis times (Partition and the Indian occupation of Kashmir), he always obliged.

Gandhi’s decision to make the Congress a mass party by appealing to the vast countryside had increased its size and political weight. In an overwhelmingly Hindu country, Gandhi had used religious symbols to mobilise the peasantry. This began to alienate Muslims, and since the Brahmins dominated the Congress leadership, the ‘untouchables’ knew their grievances would never get a hearing. Despite this, Gandhi, Patel and Nehru built a formidable political machine that covered the whole of India. The 1937 elections demonstrated as much, and it’s worth pointing out that in the north-western frontier province bordering Afghanistan, the predominantly Muslim Pashtuns had voted for the Congress Party as well.

The decision to take India into the Second World War without consulting its only elected representatives was yet another avoidable error on London’s part. The British underestimated the change in mood among the masses and some of their leaders. Had they consulted Gandhi and Nehru, offering them a fig-leaf to support the war, things might have panned out differently. The Congress leaders felt they had been treated shabbily and, after internal discussions that lasted a few months (revealing a strong anti-war faction led by the Bengali leader, Subhas Chandra Bose), they opted to quit office.

The British Viceroy immediately began to woo the Muslim League, and vice versa. The League’s leader gave full-throated backing to the war as did the conservative pro-British elected governments in Punjab and Bengal.

When, on 22 December 1939, the Congress Party announced its decision to resign and did so a week later, Jinnah declared that henceforth 22 December should be celebrated as a ‘day of deliverance’ from Congress rule. Ambedkar, the ‘Untouchables’ leader, provided strong backing, saying he ‘felt ashamed to have allowed [Jinnah] to steal a march over me and rob me of the language and the sentiment which I, more than Mr Jinnah, was entitled to use.’ Surprisingly, Gandhi also sent his congratulations to Jinnah for ‘lifting the Muslim League out of the communal rut and giving it a national character’. Little did he know where this would lead.

Emboldened by the emergence of an anti-Congress minority, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow expressed some optimism:

In spite of the political crisis, India has not wavered in denunciation of the enemy in Europe, and has not failed to render all help needed in the prosecution of the war. The men required as recruits for the Army are forthcoming: assistance in money from the Princes and others continues to be offered: a great extension of India’s effort in the field of supply is proceeding apace.

With this in mind, Linlithgow was confident he could survive the storm. When the Congress ministers resigned en masse, the Viceroy ordered the arrest of its leaders and activists. They were released in December 1941 as the British attempted to reach some accommodation. Gandhi was carefully studying the development of the war in Europe as well as Japanese moves closer to the region, and wondering whether the British might be able to hold out. He was not yet sure. The local impact of Operation Barbarossa was the release of imprisoned Communist Party leaders and militants, who now came out openly in support for the war. Gandhi continued to wait. It was the humiliation inflicted on the British in Singapore in February 1942 that led to a change of course. The Congress leaders began to think about calling for a Quit India movement and, in this fashion, declared their own (partial if not complete) independence from the British. Gandhi had engineered Bose’s isolation within the Congress, but he was very critical of Nehru’s anti-Japanese militancy. Nehru had suggested that Congress should organise armed militias to fight against the Japanese were they to take India. Gandhi reprimanded him strongly. He should not forget that Japan was at war with Britain, not India.

In contrast to Gandhi’s handwringing and delays, the Bengali Congress leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, always deeply hostile to the notion of offering any support to the British war, went on the offensive. Of the entire Congress high command, he was the most radical nationalist. He began to work out a master plan that owed more to the organisers of the Chittagong Armoury Raid than to Gandhi. Bose did not believe that peaceful methods could prevail. They were fine at certain times, but the situation was now critical. Britain had insulted India by taking its young men away once again to fight in inter-imperialist wars. Bose wanted to create an Indian National Army and began to explore all possibilities.

In 1942 Churchill agreed that Sir Stafford Cripps, the left-wing, former ambassador to Moscow, be sent to India to meet with Nehru, Gandhi and other leaders and plead with them to help Britain. If they agreed, he could offer a verbal pledge of independence after the war. However, before Cripps could depart, bad news came from South-East Asia: Singapore had fallen. Churchill blamed the men in the field. The British Army had not fought back effectively: ‘We had so many men in Singapore – so many men – they should have done better.’ As stressed above, it was a huge blow.

Cripps arrived in India, but few were willing to listen to his message. Jinnah’s Muslim League and the Communist Party were backing the war, but so speedy was the Japanese advance that Gandhi genuinely believed they might soon be negotiating Indian independence with Hirohito and Tojo rather than Churchill and Attlee. When Cripps insisted he was offering Congress a ‘blank cheque’ they could cash after the war, Gandhi famously riposted: ‘What is the point of a blank cheque from a failing bank?’

After Cripps returned empty-handed, Churchill pinned his hopes for a stable Indian army largely on Jinnah and Sikandar Hyat Khan, the leader of the Unionist Party and elected Premier of the Punjab, a province crucial to the war effort in terms of manpower and for being the granary of India. When, after Cripps’s return, Churchill said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’, he was expressing a long-held view, but in this instance was referring to the Hindus who had badly let him down.

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Humanity will Eat itself through Violence, War, Hatred and Neglect

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Mutilation & Burning at the Stake: United States 1899 in the US State of Georgia:

“Sam Hose was brought to a patch of land known as the old Troutman field. Newspapers reported that members of the mob used knives to sever Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals while others plunged knives repeatedly into his body, to cheers from the mob. Men and boys gathered kindling from the nearby woods to create a pyre. The skin from Hose’s face was removed, and he was doused with kerosene. He was then chained to a pine tree. Several matches were thrown onto the pyre by members of the mob, lighting it on fire and burning Hose alive. The heat from the fire caused Hose’s veins to rupture while his eyes nearly burst from their sockets.[ One journalist present noted the crowd watched “with unfeigned satisfaction” at contortions of Hose’s body. As the flames consumed his body, Hose screamed out, “Oh my God! Oh Jesus!”. From the time of Hose’s first injuries to his death, almost 30 minutes passed. One woman thanked God for the actions of the mob. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. Pieces of Hose’s bones were sold for 25 cents, while his heart and liver were cut out to be sold.” ~ Wikipedia

Scaphism in ancient Persia:

In order for the method to work, it had to take place in a swamp or somewhere where the boats could lie exposed to the sun. The victim would be tied inside the space between the boats in a way that left their head, hands, and feet outside. Then, the person in charge of the process would feed the victim a mixture of milk and honey, forcing them to swallow against their will, so the mixture dripped everywhere, covering their eyes, face, and neck. This same mixture was then spread all over the exposed body parts, and the idea was that it would attract every insect, vermin, and wild animal in the area. Very soon afterwards, flies and rats, for instance, would show up and start attacking the victim, eating the mixture of milk and honey, but also eating the person alive along the process.Now, as if the bugs eating them alive weren’t enough, there was also the severe diarrhea that left them feeling weak and dehydrated. This horrifying symptom was the intended consequence of their enforced milk-and-honey diet. The more they were fed this mixture, the more they would defecate inside the boats, but also, the longer they stayed alive. This point, precisely, was the cruelest yet most effective aspect of scaphism: the victims couldn’t die from the diarrhea-induced dehydration because they were fed milk and honey every day. As a result, the victims could survive for days and even weeks in a small hell of bugs, feces, milk, and honey.” ~ culturacolectiva.com

United States in the 21st Century:

Afghan national Alif Khan told Amnesty International that he was held in US custody in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for five days in May 2002. He said that he was held in handcuffs, waist chains, and leg shackles for the whole time, subjected to sleep deprivation, denied water for prayer or washing, and was kept in a cage-like structure with eight people.” ~Amnesty International

Myers Enterprises located in the US State of Denver, Colorado, produces the “stun cuff” that shocks unruly prisoners back to order. It takes international orders.  Axon Enterprise made $863 million in revenue in 2021 with one of its core product being the Taser, according to its Investor Slide Deck. There are 960 thousand Tasers floating around the United States and in Europe. Axon sells a number of other products particularly integrated computing observation and reporting systems. While there are complaints about deaths involving Taser’s, or what are known as Conducting Electricity Devices (CED’s), in June 2022 the Office of Justice Programs found that. “law enforcement need not refrain from deploying CEDs, provided the devices are used inaccordance with accepted national guidelines.” Meanwhile,  Amnesty International in a December 2020 report seeks strict controls on CED’s (good luck with that). Since a Taser is a form of gun, it falls, arguably, under the protection of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (the right to keep and bear arms).

General Mike Minihan, the US Air Mobility Commander opined recently that, “Lethality matters most. When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger. This is who we are. We are lethal. Do not apologize for it, after listing distinguished Air Force commanders like Gen. Curtis LeMay and Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, who had no scruples against killing the enemy. The pile of our nations enemy dead, the pile that is the biggest, is in front of the United States Air Force,” he said.

Task & Purpose, September 2022

Imagine a world where roughly 5 billion of the Earth’s 7 billion people has access to a World Wide Web of knowledge that would allow them to search studies on anatomy, chemical engineering, genetics, geography, anthropology, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence and military science, Shannon’s theory of information, crops and farming, and more. Much more, it turns out. There are free online courses which allow you to learn Algebra or just about any technical or non-technical subject matter on the planet. Want to refute of confirm what “a leader” just told you, look it up online. And collaboration, the Web was designed just for that.

Instead, the Web has become more polluted, if that is possible, with cognitive/attention span killing programs like Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of reality-bending nuanced disinformation sites that plague the Web. What was supposed to have been a liberating force for humanity’s knowledge is now a crass advertising and propaganda monster. But, perhaps the saddest thought is that it doesn’t take much to tunnel through all the bull&^%$ and find the data buried behind the cognitive/attention span-killing cotton candy. Information sources such as the National Institutes of Health, New England Medical Journal, Defense Technology Information Center and a plethora of other sites on the Web like them are credible, reliable sources. Prominent universities in the USA typically publish their rigorous research findings (MIT, Harvard, CALTECH, Stanford). Do you want to find one place that gives the Russian military campaign in Ukraine its props on manoeuvre warfare? Look no further than the US Marine Corps Gazette, August 2022, paper 22, authored by Marinus.

The Web has become a partisan wasteland with users looking to bounce their left, right and centre world views right back into their brains after some sort of affirmation by the left, right and centre triad. Rarely, if ever, do they cross over into the realm of the other.

I suppose that the Web imitates life in meatspace and there it is arguably worse: global economic woes, USA challenging China and Russia directly, elections of significance in Brazil and the United States, an increase in violence in America’s cities, a pandemic that is not over, climate change, shifting international alliances, America’s global sanctions regime, Russia vs Ukraine conflict, exploding healthcare costs, food shortages, finance capital, ad nauseam.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, summed it all up in a recent speech to the United Nations in August 2022, “The seriousness of the present moment obliges me to share difficult but true words with you. Everything that we are doing today seems impotent and vague. Our words make a hollow and empty echo compared to the reality that we are facing. The reality is that no one listens to anyone, no one strives for real agreements and problem solving, and almost everyone cares only about their own interests.

Solutions?

Why prolong the inevitable end?

Playing With Matches is Dangerous

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Truth is always the first casualty of war – and no less so than the current conflict in Ukraine. Russia insists it’s a localized police action to uproot a new Nazi uprising. Ukraine, which has become a US protectorate, insists it’s fighting to halt Russian aggression against a freedom-seeking nation. No mention that Ukrainians used to be called Russians.

For interesting contrast, go back to the first Chechen War from 1994 to 1996 and the second one from 1999 to 2009. The 1.4 million Chechen, a fierce Muslim people of the Caucasus Mountains, who had been battling Russian imperial expansion for 300 years, rose up and waged two David v. Goliath wars to regain their freedom from Russia.

In the first war, Chechen fighters routed Russian forces. Moscow agreed to independence for the Chechen Islamic Republic. But then hardliners, led by security chief Vladimir Putin, resumed the war after a staged fake bombing of Moscow apartments by the renamed KGB, the SVR that killed 200-300 people.

At that time, the US was actively supporting the Yeltsin regime in Moscow, particularly so with massive financial aid. Yeltsin had long-established links to CIA and Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6.

The US refused to help the Chechen resistance or recognize its fight for independence. I know this because I was closely following this tragic story and trying to raise some support for free Chechnya.

As fighting raged in Chechnya, the US called on the then Chechen leader, Gen, Dzhokhar Dudayev, to negotiate with Boris Yeltsin. Dudayev was given a special mobile phone supposedly connected to one held by Yeltsin for the ’peace talks.’

As so as Dudayev and Yeltsin were connected, a covert US aircraft launched a missile that homed in on Dudayev’s phone receiver. The Chechen leader was blown to bits. With further help from US intelligence, the Chechen resistance was relentlessly ground down and eliminated. Chechens were arrested and tortured en masse in so-called Russian ‘filtration camps.’ A Chechen warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, was named ‘gauleiter’ of Chechnya. Chechen leaders were hunted down and assassinated by KGB or Kadyrov’s agents.

Chechnya was literally thrown to the wolves by the US. What a contrast this is to the current situation in Ukraine which has been flooded by $15-20 billion of modern US weapons in recent months and aided by a massive propaganda campaign directed by the US and Britain.

Unlike 1991, the US sees the war in Ukraine as a rare chance to tear a big chunk of Russia away or even go on to crush the Russian Federation into fragments. Many Ukrainians would be happy to see this outcome. The memory of how Stalin’s USSR starved or shot some six million Ukrainians in the 1920’s and 1930’s lingers among the older generation.

But younger Ukrainians must question what will happen if their war with Russia continues. Will Ukraine invade Russia and try to regain Crimea? Will the US or some European powers support an attack on Crimea? Poland and Britain are already deeply involved in the war. Who will be next?

The right wing of the US Democratic Party, now in power, is far more warlike and anti-Russian than most Americans realize. In fact, it’s the real `war party.’

If this half-baked war continues, the risks of a nuclear or chemical confrontation grow daily. So does an accidental clash in the Black Sea between Russia and the US. Off on the sidelines the Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Azeris, Egyptians. Iranians and Israelis may be spoiling for a fight.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022

Final tribute to a much loved monarch

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On a day of national mourning, there was seen much pomp and symbolism. Grief was seen etched on the faces of members of the royal family as well as on the huge crowds who lined the streets of London as the coffin of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II was drawn on a gun carriage, by naval ratings from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey, for her final State funeral.

The invited 2000 VIP’s, Foreign Royals, Presidents, Princes, and Prime Ministers of Britain and the Commonwealth were in attendance to say a final farewell to a much loved monarch.

The most poignant scenes were witnessed when the coffin was transferred to a hearse to take the late Queen to her final resting at Windsor Castle.

The crowds that lined the route to Windsor was estimated at over 2 million on a bright and sunny afternoon, after 11 days of continuous mourning, and millions more, viewing at Westminster Hall braving the weather, which was colder at night time. The love and affection shown by the public was seen as crowds of mourners throwing yellow roses and flowers along the route to Windsor.

The Brits are a very reserved people, with a reserved sense of pride of their Queen and Country.
The Queen was a mother first of all, of 4 children, grandma to 8 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

The Queen was also Head of State, not only of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, but of many countries of the Commonwealth.

As such republicans and anti-monarchists may have a bias that the Queen devoted more time to statecraft than her family? Doubtless, the matters of State took a lot of her time, but she also had quiet times with her close family, showing them by her example the burdens of selfless service.

No doubt the Queen was bound by duty and service to State, and perhaps, she did not show the personal touch with her family, but steered a very responsible role with her role as Sovereign. She reigned as Queen but never ruled. Queenship was thrust on her at a very early age of 25, when her father, King George VI died, and she ruled for 70 years with gracious majesty and dignity. Her quiet diplomacy will be cherished as her lasting legacy.

Everything the Queen did was symbolic as well as more than symbolic, with a purpose. Even though it was seen by some with mixed emotion, in parts of the U.K and abroad.

To the Americans the Queen was a symbol of regalia, a novelty, which they could never aspire. They never have forgotten that America was colonised by Britain. To the Russians, the Queen was a link with her ancestry, the Czars. She was the grandniece of Nicholas II, Russia’s last Tsar. He was a cousin of the Queen’s Grandfather, King George V. She invited spaceman Yuri Gagarin, as well as a state visit of President Vladimir Putin to Buckingham Palace. She was invited in return to Russia in October 1994, the first British monarch to set foot on Russian soil. To many colonials and black people, the Queen
enriched them a Commonwealth and an opportunity to come to Britain, like the Windrush generation of people arriving from the Caribbean in the UK between 1948 and 1971. Last, but not the least, it was the Kings and Sultans of the Arab world who had a high regard of H.M. The Queen, for her love of horses and for military hardware, which Britain supplied them.

Queen Elizabeth has departed but her legacy remains for her bountiful service to the nation, the Commonwealth and to the people in faraway lands. Today the symbol of monarchy will continue to be carried on by the work of the British Council, will continue providing scholarship to students to come and graduate in the prestige institutes of learning in Great Britain and return back to their homelands with a clamour for republicanism.

Mendaciousness of Monarchy

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No institution helps obscure the crimes of empire and buttress class rule and white supremacy as effectively as the British monarchy.

The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite.

The global oligarchs are not sure the next generation of royal sock puppets – mediocrities that include a pedophile prince and his brother, a cranky and eccentric king who accepted suitcases and bags stuffed with $3.2 million in cash from the former prime minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and who has millions stashed in offshore accounts – are up to the job. Let’s hope they are right.

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories,” Patrick Freyne wrote last year in The Irish Times. “More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy and racial hierarchy. It justifies class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered the lesser breeds, most of whom are people of color. The queen’s husband Prince Phillip, who died in 2021, was notorious for making racist and sexist remarks, politely explained away in the British press as “gaffes.” He described Beijing, for example, as “ghastly” during a 1986 visit and told British students: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.

Tip of Iceberg of Crimes Records

The cries of the millions of victims of empire; the thousands killedtortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the 13 Irish civilians gunned down in “Bloody Sunday;” the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to “assimilate” indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture, and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy. The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the mythmakers and publicists employed by the royal family.

The royals are oligarchs. They are guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the HolyRoman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres and now, King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion. The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the Royal Family over the next two years, although the average household in the U.K. saw its income fall for the longest period since records began in 1955 and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain. 

Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense. They are effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.” The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as “insignificant” compared with concerns over the queen’s health. The climate emergency, pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.

In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan. Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa. Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many were tortured. British soldiers castrated suspected rebels and sympathizers, often with pliers, and raped girls and women. By the time India won independence in 1947 after two centuries of British colonialism, Her Majesty’s Government had looted $45 trillion from the country and violently crushed a series of uprisings, including the First War of Independence in 1857. Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959 and later in Yemen from 1962 to 1969. Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus. The British state attempts to obstruct lawsuits stemming from its colonial history. Its settlements are a tiny fraction of the compensation paid to British slave owners in 1835, once it — at least formally — abolished slavery. 

During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations.

The point of social hierarchy and aristocracy is to sustain a class system that makes the rest of us feel inferior. Those at the top of the social hierarchy hand out tokens for loyal service, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their “proper” place.

A Balance Sheet of 70-year Reign

The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons as James Bond, the Beatles and the BBC, along with television shows such as “Downton Abbey” — where in one episode the aristocrats and servants are convulsed in fevered anticipation when King George V and Queen Mary schedule a visit — to project a global presence. Winston Churchill’s bust remains on loan to the White House. These myth machines sustain Great Britain’s “special” relationship with the United States. Watch the satirical film In the Loop to get a sense of what this “special” relationship looks like on the inside. 

It was not until the 1960s that “coloured immigrants or foreigners” were permitted to work in clerical roles in the royal household, although they had been hired as domestic servants. The royal household and its heads are legally exempt from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination, what Jonathan Cook calls “an apartheid system benefitting the Royal Family alone.” Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race and who contemplated suicide during her time as a working royal, said that an unnamed royal expressed concern about the skin color of her unborn son.

I got a taste of this suffocating snobbery in 2014 when I participated in an Oxford Union debate asking whether Edward Snowden was a hero or a traitor. I went a day early to be prepped for the debate by Julian Assange, then seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy and currently in His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh. At a lugubrious black-tie dinner preceding the event, I sat next to a former MP who asked me two questions I had never been asked before in succession. “When did your family come to America?” he said, followed by “What schools did you attend?” My ancestors, on both sides of my family, arrived from England in the 1630s. My graduate degree is from Harvard. If I had failed to meet his litmus test, he would have acted as if I did not exist. 

Those who took part in the debate – my side arguing that Snowdon was a hero narrowly won – signed a leather-bound guest book. Taking the pen, I scrawled in large letters that filled an entire page: “Never Forget that your greatest political philosopher, Thomas Paine, never went to Oxford or Cambridge.”

Paine, the author of the most widely read political essays of the 18th century, Rights of ManThe Age of Reason and Common Sense, blasted the monarchy as a con. “A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself as King of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original…The plain truth is that the antiquity of the English monarchy will not bear looking into,” he wrote of William the Conqueror. He ridiculed hereditary rule. “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” He went on: “One of the strangest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving  mankind an ass for a lion.” He called the monarch “the royal brute of England.”

Royalists Rallied Against Thomas Piane

When the British ruling class tried to arrest Paine, he fled to France where he was one of two foreigners elected to serve as a delegate in the National Convention set up after the French Revolution. He denounced the calls to execute Louis XVI. “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression,” Paine said. “For if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Unchecked legislatures, he warned, could be as despotic as unchecked monarchs. When he returned to America from France, he condemned slavery and the wealth and privilege accumulated by the new ruling class, including George Washington, who had become the richest man in the country. Even though Paine had done more than any single figure to rouse the country to overthrow the British monarchy, he was turned into a pariah, especially by the press, and forgotten. He had served his usefulness. Six mourners attended his funeral, two of whom were Black.

You can watch my talk with Cornel West and Richard Wolff on Thomas Paine here.

There is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some tangential way to royalty. White British friends often have stories about ancestors that tie them to some obscure aristocrat. Donald Trump, who fashioned his own heraldic coat of arms, was obsessed with obtaining a state visit with the queen. This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III, who along with his family treated his first wife Diana with contempt, makes a mess of it.

Views expressed are personal