Exploding Cigars, Exploding Heads

In 1962, at the tender age of 12, I won a million dollar bet with Thomas Hale.

Mr. Hale, of similar age and equivalent sophistication, was a kid straight from the hollers of West Virginia.  We were both outcasts at Phil Sheridan Public School in South Chicago, but for different reasons.  He was isolated from the crowd due to his being characterized as a “hillbilly.”  As for me, I was quite small for my age and just a little too bright for my classes.  I also had just begun wearing spectacles, which served to further identify me as a nerd.
But in October of 1962 we had other problems.  After years of air raid drills – you know, the kind where you “kiss your ass goodbye” – we were now on the brink of the real thing.  The Russians were putting missiles in Cuba.  President Kennedy gave them an ultimatum, demanding they remove them. We were days, maybe hours, from mutual assured destruction in the form of a nuclear exchange.

I had watched the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960.  My parents – who would inexplicably vote for Goldwater in 1964 – were Kennedy supporters. So, then, was I.

Hence the bet:  Thomas wagered that we were about to become annihilated in a nuclear holocaust.  I wagered that President Kennedy would not let that happen, that the Russians would stand down.

I won the bet.

I have yet to collect.

It was a sucker’s bet anyway.  How would Thomas have collected the million dollars if we were wiped out in an atomic exchange with the Soviets?

That was my first real introduction to the man who died on Friday.  Fidel Castro, the longest-serving head of state in the world, with the exception of the Queen of England.  The man we tried to kill, over and over again, and never even got close.

My mother used to tell me that Castro had betrayed us all; that he had taken control in Cuba as a revolutionary, yes, but as someone we could work with.  He revealed himself to be a Communist only after he took power in Havana (with some American assistance).  That was the story, anyway.  My mother used that example as the reason she told me never to trust anyone with a beard.  “They always have something to hide,” she would say.

Ha.  If she could see me now …

Anyway.

So we had the Cuban Missile Crisis (“Only 90 miles off our shore!”) and before that the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Plans were underway to assassinate Fidel, almost from the start.  CIA (and the Mafia, which lost a fortune in Cuba when Fidel came to power) became involved in all sorts of bizarre plots, even going so far as to develop a chemical substance that would enable his beard to fall off thus rendering him somewhat less charismatic to his people (but evidently more trustworthy, at least according to dear old Mom).  There were exploding sea shells.  Exploding cigars.  The list goes on and on.

And then there was Miami.  Operation Mongoose: the largest CIA station in the world at the time, and it was located on the campus of the University of Miami.  And why not?  The Cuban population in Miami was exploding like those famous cigars.

And then, November of 1963.

It developed that Lee Harvey Oswald – in the months leading up to the assassination of JFK – had gone to Mexico City in an effort to obtain a visa for Cuba.  Photographs of a man purporting to be Oswald were taken outside the Cuban Embassy, but it obviously was not Oswald.  The mystery deepened.

The CIA action officer in charge of the doomed Bay of Pigs operation was E. Howard Hunt (“Eduardo”), later of Watergate fame. He would later be linked – rightly or wrongly – to the Kennedy assassination himself.  Later, close to death in South Florida, he would admit that there was, indeed, a plot at some level of CIA to kill Kennedy.  So, both Oswald (the putative assassin) and Hunt (the possible assassin) had ties to Cuba, and it was in desperation that Oswald’s past was sanitized to remove any traces of a Soviet or a Cuban connection to the assassination, otherwise World War Three would have started in earnest (and I would have lost any possibility of collecting on my million dollar bet).

Hunt would go on to greater glory in the Watergate affair, enlisting the aid of – you guessed it – Cubans in order to break into the headquarters of the DNC at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.   (This was in the days before the Internet, boys and girls, when you had to hack a political party old school: with picks and locks and flaps and seals, as they used to say back at the Farm).

Fast forward to 1994.

I am in Puerto Rico, staying at the lovely Old San Juan Hotel.  I am there for business.  As an IT executive, I am arranging distributorships for our widgets throughout Latin America prior to my reassignment to Southeast Asia.  My local contacts and distributor there were of Cuban ancestry, as was most of their staff.  President Clinton had just sent troops to Haiti to reinstate the former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the democratically elected president of the republic after an attempted military coup. My hosts were outraged, claiming that Haiti would be Clinton’s Vietnam.  Of course, that did not happen.  And, anyway, aren’t we supposed to support democratic elections?  (Oh, yeah, I forgot.  Chile.)

My hosts, as US citizens of Cuban descent, were all Republicans.  They hated and despised President Kennedy because of his failure to support the Bay of Pigs operation.  All Democrats, to them, were evil incarnate.

At the risk of losing business, I gently pointed out that no GOP president ever had invaded Cuba.  That Republican presidents had invaded Grenada, intrigued against Nicaragua with the Contras, removed Manuel Noriega as President of Panama, and even invaded Iraq in defense of Kuwait, but none had proposed, remotely seriously, an invasion of Cuba.  I tried to suggest that perhaps the American Cubans were being manipulated with a lot of brave and heroic rhetoric about “Cuba Libre” in order to secure the Cuban vote in Florida, an important swing state, but that there was no intention by any administration of actually overthrowing Castro’s regime.

This was just throwing gasoline on the flames, however, and resulted in all sorts of unkind things being said about Democrats regardless of the lack of action on the part of Republicans.  There can be no doubt that anti-Castro Cubans were used by all manner of clandestine operatives both in the United States and abroad.  Michael Townley used a team of anti-Castro Cubans when it became time for him to assassinate former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier.  In Washington, D.C.  Our nation’s capital.

Then it was revealed that one of my hosts had been the godchild of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, the man who was overthrown by Castro in 1959.  With pedigrees like that, it is virtually impossible to make any political points so I was forced to reign in my attempts at logical discourse, except for one last salvo.

Knowing my hosts were devout Catholics – as befitting anti-Communists – and passionately pro-life, I asked them if they thought that Fidel Castro should have been aborted as a fetus.

 

From exploding cigars to heads that explode, the story of Castro, Cuba and the United States is complex and any attempt to frame it in a simplistic us-versus-them framework is simply dishonest.  Batista was an evil and corrupt dictator.  The Mafia had the run of the island, and together with Batista deprived all but the rich of any power or autonomy. The rampages of United Fruit – on whose board sat the Dulles brothers – are legendary. A revolt against Batista was inevitable. A revolt against the system that had allowed Batista to flourish was likewise inescapable.  Those who rail against Communism – especially the Communism of the mid-twentieth century – know nothing (or choose to know nothing) of the serious oppression of the poor by the wealthy in countries where Communism seemed like the only ideology capable of putting up any kind of resistance since its whole raison d’etre was based on economic classes and the exploitation of labor.  No one else was talking to the poor and the disenfranchised (and the colonized) except the Communists. Instead there is this fantasy of depraved Communist agents seducing poor but happy and carefree peasants with their murderous ideology, possessing their souls like Regan’s Pazuzu.  We don’t realize that these people had been abandoned by their State, except as forced labor or prostitutes, with no possibility of owning their own land or being captains of their own destiny.  No “pick yourselves up by your bootstraps” motivational speeches are gonna work with people who don’t have any boots.

So then one gets a revolution, undertaken by people who finally were empowered by a belief system that sounded pretty logical and scientific, but more importantly who had nothing left to lose.  What did you expect?

This is not a defense of Communism or of Fidel Castro.  It is a critique of an American foreign policy that found it easier to support dictators like Batista, Marcos, Soeharto, Stroessner, Pinochet, Franco, Salazar, and so many others around the world simply because they were “anti-Communist.”  So what?  So were the Nazis. So were the Fascists in Italy.  The Ustasche in Croatia. The Iron Guard in Romania.

And as a result: the boycott of Cuba that has lasted for more than fifty years and which has accomplished nothing.

 

I live, for my sins, in South Florida, and have spent a lot of time along Calle Ocho in Miami.  I’ve eaten at the famous Versailles, and at other Cuban cafes and restaurants in the area.  I have had conversations with old Cuban refugees over some cortaditos who, when they learn I published a book about Hitler (Unholy Alliance, translated into Spanish as Alianza Malefica), invariably tell me that Castro was the bigger Hitler.  They haven’t read my book, by the way.  The Spanish language translation – published by a large and reputable firm in Mexico, the same publisher as Gabriel Garcia Marquez – is not available in the United States even though one can obtain a wide variety of Spanish-language books on the Nazis, Hitler, and even Nazi occultism.  This is because the Spanish language book distribution network in the States is solidly anti-Communist which means that it found my printed remarks concerning Chile, Pinochet and the Nazis as too leftist for their taste. Many of us still live in a world where being anti-Nazi implies one is pro-Communist.

But, wait.  Didn’t the Castro regime throw homosexuals in prison?  Of course.  Did the regime practice censorship?  Certainly. Still does. Did the Batista regime encourage the proliferation of prostitution and gambling?  Sure.  Did Batista virtually sell off his country to the highest bidders in the United States, ransoming the birthright of his people to foreign (mostly American) corporations and the Mob?  Absolutely.  It’s a matter of public record.  So … did the corruption of the Batista regime contribute to the circumstances that gave rise to the Castro revolution?  Without a doubt.

Actually, people tend to forget that Americans threw homosexuals in prison, too.  That was what the Stonewall riots of 1969 were all about.  Police raids on gay bars were so frequent that they were expected as part of doing business.  Transvestites were routinely arrested and thrown in jail simply because of their choice in couture. Sodomy – loosely and often erroneously defined – was still on the books as a crime in fourteen states as late as 2003.

Was the Castro regime repressive and dictatorial?  Of course it was.  No one can deny or defend that.  Yet it certainly can be understood as the result of being completely isolated from the rest of the world with the exception of the old Soviet Union and its allies, and a natural reaction to the fact that the world’s greatest superpower – the United States – was sitting the proverbial 90 miles away, hostile as ever and constantly looking for ways to assassinate its leader and destabilize its government.  Instead, it has become standard practice to demonize not only Castro but those who had – in one way or another – attempted to initiate a dialogue with his regime.

In the immortal words of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, “What a nightmare!”

 

Many readers know that I did a lot of business in China, especially in the period 1984 – 2004 when I was traveling constantly to Beijing, Shanghai and virtually every province in the country.  In the 1980s, I was told openly by Party members that China welcomed foreign investment, foreign technology, and foreign expertise but most emphatically rejected foreign cultural influence which was considered “spiritual pollution” by the Communist regime.  I had to smile.  My very presence in China was “spiritual pollution.”  Average Chinese could see me, see that I did not breathe fire or have horns coming out of my head, and that I was a pretty amicable sort of fellow.  I even spoke some Mandarin, and knew about Chinese history and could quote from Mao’s “little red book.”  Me, and people like me (and eventually there were a lot of us), were a walking advertisement for America and for American institutions. We helped change China by the mere fact of our being there, bringing our technology and our investment, sure, but also by bringing our culture and our attitudes, being friendly and non-threatening, and embracing their culture and language the best we could (which was only the most pragmatic thing we could do as business people).

We could have done the same to Cuba, a long time ago, if our government had let us.  I guarantee Castro would have been gone decades ago were it not for the boycott and the blockades that ensured Castro’s scape-goating of America and its reliance on Soviet aid.

In Moscow in the 1990s I made the acquaintance of a former KGB officer who had served in Cuba late in the game.  He didn’t particularly care for the island, but he admitted to me that the American boycott of Cuba made his job a lot easier.  It gave the Soviets virtual run of the place.  By isolating Cuba we made it virtually impossible for Castro to turn to any other country.

So, how’s that working out for you?

There is a lot we can learn about our long and tortured history with Cuba’s Communist regime and the ways in which we tried to force change on that island through intimidation, force, assassination, boycotts, blockades, and the like.  We can learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to “regime change.”  We can also learn how that situation created a unique demographic in our own country that for so long was a single-issue voting bloc: the Cubans who vote on whether or not a politician promises them a return to Cuba in their lifetime.  Divided loyalties …

But we won’t learn anything from this.  I mean, we haven’t so far so why should today be any different just because el Viejo murio?

Instead, we have the spectacle of a resurgence of interest by young people around the world in the Cuban revolution and in particular the romantic figure of Ernesto “Che” Guevara: the Argentine revolutionary who became such an iconic figure of that revolution and who tried to export it to other countries outside of Cuba.  You can find young people wearing Che T-shirts in Asia, Europe, and even in Latin America.  To demonize Che and Castro – and the revolution with which they are identified – is to miss the important message they bring with them. Che and Castro represent the pendulum swing away from corporatism, statism and fascism towards collectivism, equality, and the abolition of a way of life that sees the very wealthy own all the country’s resources at the expense of the lives, health, education and well-being of the poor and middle classes. It is an extreme swing, filled with violence and hatred towards an entire class of people and the institutions they represent.  It is predictable, but for some reason we never seem to be  able to predict it.

Like the Russian Revolution of 1917 or the Republicans of the Spanish Civil War; the Vietnamese revolution that saw the ouster of the French (and eventually the Americans) from their country; and the Indonesian revolution that saw the Dutch removed from theirs: the Cuban revolution began as a movement of people with nothing left to lose making a desperate attempt to reclaim their dignity if not their livelihoods and their land.  We ignore that impulse, that emotion, that honesty, at our peril.  We can call their proponents “leftists” or “communists” or “socialists” all we like, if that makes us feel better and makes it easier to demonize them, but in the end they are only people.  Men, women, children.  Poorly armed.  Poorly trained. Hungry. Wet. Tired. Sick. But in an age of cynicism and skepticism they are equipped with something the best of us do not have in such overwhelming and dangerous abundance.

They are equipped with belief.  And when belief is married to desperation you will have a Cuban revolution.  An Indonesian revolution.  The Islamic State.  The PLO.  The Tupamaros. The Miristas.

A French Revolution.

And (dare I say it?) an American Revolution.

Revolutions don’t begin from the top, down.  They start at the bottom – the very bottom, the place of open sewers, dirty drinking water, disease, poverty, and starvation – and work their inexorable way up. If we really think Castro was a bad guy, a “Hitler” as I was told by los Cubanos viejos del Calle Ocho, then let’s do something about it.  Let’s put our money where our cavernous mouth is.  Let’s re-evaluate our foreign policy objectives and methods to engage not with the military leaders and corrupt dictators of “friendly” governments because that never ends well but with those on the ground who used to admire us, love us even, dreamed about us and our country, and who now see us as the source of the problem.  Let’s identify with the revolutionaries for once.  After all, that’s how we started and we didn’t do too badly.

And then, who knows, maybe I can win another million dollar bet.

La lucha sigue, baby.

Venceremos.

And in other news …

It seems the whole world is reacting to the spectacle of the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election … well, not really.

What is being missed by both national and alternative media in the US is the fact that right now Asia is churning.  Just this past week we saw massive demonstrations against corruption and discrimination in Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea.  Malaysia especially has been hit hard by popular unrest against the regime of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. This is but the latest in a string of popular protests against the entrenched oligarchy that saw the arrest, indictment, trial and imprisonment of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on false sodomy and corruption charges in 1998 and Anwar’s subsequent campaign for prime minister after his release from prison in 2004.  Anwar’s political campaigns in 2008 and 2013 threw the country into a serious crisis as his opposition coalition party – composed of all of the main Malaysian ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian, an unprecedented phenomenon – claimed election fraud.  Anwar was re-imprisoned after the courts upheld his sodomy conviction: a charge that was demonstrably false after his sole accuser gave contradictory testimony in open court with the unabashed collaboration of the bench. Until he was sent back to prison, however, he was an outspoken critic of Najib Abdul Razak.  Ironically, during the protests this past week, the man who fired and then ensured that Anwar would stay imprisoned – former Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad – would join the protests against Najib.

Why should we care about all of this?

Anwar Ibrahim was influential enough in world affairs that when US Vice President Al Gore visited Malaysia during this period he demonstrated that he was an outspoken supporter of Anwar Ibrahim and the “Reformasi” (Reform) movement that Anwar represented by making a pro-Reformasi speech in front of the 1998 APEC summit in Kuala Lumpur.  This led, predictably, to a storm of criticism from the Malaysian government and fed into conspiracy theories that the Asian Economic Crisis that year had been arranged by Jewish bankers and American interests to undermine Malaysia’s unprecedented economic growth.  Mahathir Muhammad was in the forefront of those claiming it was a world-wide Jewish conspiracy against his (barely) Muslim-majority country.

Which leads us to Indonesia.  The Asian Economic Crisis affected Indonesia in its own way.  It led to the collapse of President Soeharto:  the army general who had replaced Sukarno as leader of the country. Soeharto had been in charge of the Indonesian government since Sukarno’s ouster in the wake of the 1965 “year of living dangerously” episode that saw hundreds of thousands – most say “millions” – of Indonesian citizens slaughtered on suspicion of being Communists or fellow-travelers: a military coup aided and abetted by the American CIA. After almost thirty years of running the country, Soeharto was ousted and Indonesia saw democratic elections for the first time in its history: a proud tradition that has continued to this day.

But the rise of religious fundamentalism around the world has alarmed progressives and moderates in that Muslim-majority country, and this week saw thousands march in Jakarta to oppose bigotry, racial and religious discrimination, and injustice.  This, in a country that boasts the largest Muslim population in the world, larger than the populations of Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia combined.

This writer has lived in both of these countries and particularly during the events in question.  He is kindly disposed to what both the Malaysians and the Indonesians are fighting for.  We too often forget that terms like “progressive” and “liberal” are concepts that other people around the world are willing to fight and die for, and that what they intend by these terms is surprisingly similar to what we in the United States understand by them:  a defense (if not a “celebration”) of diversity, equality for all human beings, mutual respect, the protection of civil liberties … those issues that are often lumped together under the rubric of “social” issues or “cultural values,” and thus anathema to those with more conservative tendencies.

Nonetheless it was economics – most notably the Asian Economic Crisis – that jump-started these movements in Malaysia and Indonesia.  The powers-that-be (or powers-that-were) in those two countries tried to use the economic crisis as an excuse to clamp down on those same cultural and social values and to re-exert military and political control over their populations.  In Indonesia, it didn’t work.  Soeharto fell from power and democracy was introduced.  In Malaysia, a country with a population only a tenth of the size of Indonesia, Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad used the draconian measure of the ISA (the dreaded Internal Security Act) to round up and imprison his opposition (including his own, very popular, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim).  This decision has led to the “churning” mentioned above as Malaysians of all ethnicities and religions are demanding reformasi once again. It’s only a matter of time.  As they say, Malaysia Boleh.  (“Malaysia Can.”)

Korea is a special case, however.  This is a country that has lived in the increasingly lethal shadow of North Korea’s pseudo-communist dictatorship since the end of the Korean War more than sixty years ago.  There still is a large American military presence in South Korea.  There are also the constant test firings of missiles from the North that have kept everyone in North Asia (from China to Japan) on edge.  Add to this the recent Wikileaks scandal, in which a document came to light showing the degree of influence that a strange religious leader had over the current President Park Geun-hye.

Choi Tae-min has been called a Korean “Rasputin.”  Although he has been dead since 1994, his daughter remains a close friend of President Park.  The leaked document revealed the extent of corruption that existed between Choi’s Church of Eternal Life and Park.  Even the Korean Central Intelligence Agency became aware of the degree to which Choi had control over Park’s day-to-day affairs; a control that critics claim still exists to this day through Choi’s daughter who has received enormous financial benefits from the relationship.

Koreans this week have been marching in Seoul, demanding that Park resign and asking who really is the President of their country:  Park, or the daughter of Choi Tae-min … or maybe the ghost of Choi himself?

Some years ago this writer was in Seoul.  It was on his birthday, which coincided precisely with the anniversary of the start of Operation Bluebird in October, 1950.  It was the Korean War which gave rise to the phenomenon of “brainwashing” and “mind control”, and I decided to go there and feel the vibe for myself.  Korea has had a sad history in the twentieth century, beginning with the Japanese invasion of their country prior to World War Two and the consequent enslavement of its population and extending through the Korean War. Japanese medical experimentation on human prisoners took place there as well as (it is said) Japanese atomic testing in the last year of the Second World War.  Prior to the twentieth century Korea had a long and impressive history, an important literary and cultural tradition, and still boasts a unique cuisine.  It is also the source of Reverend Sun Myung-Moon’s Unification Church (which tried to recruit me in New York City in the 1970s) and, by extension, the Washington Times.  Moon even had pronounced himself the Messiah, neither the first nor the last to do so.

Unlike Malaysia and Indonesia, Korea is a cold country.  Far to the north of Southeast Asia, the culture is quite different as the climate is quite different. Seoul, in a sense, is a twenty-first century survival of West Berlin: it is a city that has known war, and especially the very real threat of war, for decades.  There is a wall outside Seoul, over which can be seen soldiers of the North patrolling up and down. There is the constant reminder that an invasion can take place at any time.  One would think that, under those circumstances, the Koreans would bow to pressure and not rock the boat where their elected officials are concerned as that would show weakness in front of their enemies to the north and invite military action.

Or that the Malaysians and Indonesians – with China an increasing presence and influence in their countries and their lives – would be wary of creating any internal schisms that might make it easier for outside forces to have their way.

But … no.  They are coming down on the side of what is right rather than what is expedient or even pragmatic.  Malaysians want an end to corruption and cronyism in their country, and they want equal protection under the law for all their fellow citizens.  Indonesians are very familiar with what can happen when one side discriminates against another to the extent of fomenting conspiracy theories, raising arms, and summoning the dogs of war.  They fought and suffered long and hard to get where they are now, and they are not about to give up, “Islamic fundamentalism” or not.

As for the Koreans, they know – at least now, at least at this moment in their history – that something important is at stake, something worth taking a stand and marching in the streets even as Kim Jong-Un is striding up and down his balcony in Pyong-yang wondering which of his friends to execute next.

Our media has ignored what is happening in Asia because it has been too busy meditating on its navel: the self-absorption of so many Americans that perhaps is best exemplified by that scene in Dr. Strangelove, at the end of the film, when Peter Sellers (as the Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove) gets up from his wheelchair and shouts “Mein Fuehrer, I can walk!” even as the Doomsday Device explodes and the world is destroyed.

And it’s not just Asia. It’s Latin America, Africa … even the Middle East about which we all claim we already know too much and which in reality we don’t understand at all.  Even with the Internet, with Google searches and social media sites, with all the vast capacity at our fingertips, we are on track to becoming the most uninformed generation in a century. We don’t trust the “mainstream media”; fair enough.  Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Huntley and Brinkley … they’re all gone. But trust in an alternative media site just because it is alternative is equally misguided. At least with the mainstream media there is a pretense towards journalistic integrity.  With so many alt-media sites, there is none.  Rumors are presented as facts, facts are cherry-picked to support one or another bias or agenda.  There is no corroboration of a story by multiple sources.  No fact-checking.  No respect for information.  Both media are dominated by the desire to make money, it is true. And for that reason, foreign news desks have all but disappeared.  After all, Americans don’t care about foreign news so foreign news operations have become cost centers rather than profit centers, and the stockholders don’t want to see that.  Add to that the uncomfortable realization that most media in the United States is in the hands of fewer than a dozen corporations that own newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and publishing houses, and you have a perfect storm of managed reality. So, sure, interested citizens go outside the bubble of mainstream media to the alternative news sites, believing (naively) that they will get the real dope that way.

And are bamboozled once again.  They choose their sites to align with their prejudices: what is called “confirmation bias.”  The echo chamber.  Ironically, they actually become self-censoring.  They don’t learn anything, because the “news” they get is un-vetted, uncorroborated, and in many cases simply “made-up.”

In totalitarian states information is subject to government censorship.  In purely capitalistic states, information is subject to corporate interests.  Yet in the world of alternative media the concept of information itself has become devalued. There is still information out there, but the work (and the responsibility) of the consumer of information has increased exponentially. The consumer must now practice the fine art of “discernment” if actual data is desired, if information is truly the goal and not a Greek chorus of assent. The problem is: we don’t teach rhetoric or logic anymore in our classrooms.  We don’t teach how to think, how to discern, how to weigh both sides of an issue.

Hitler once wrote that his oratorical method was to appeal directly to the hearts of the masses, bypassing the intellect.  The intellect – like the university to which he was refused admission, like the cities he detested because of the proliferation of other races (of “diversity”), like the Jews as he perceived them – was the enemy.  He imagined a different space, one in which there was no questioning, no dialogue. He liked to think of himself as a man of action, not thought.  This space – situated either in a geographic location like a country, or an ideal location like the mind – had to be cleansed of deleterious influences. If the citizenship was homogenous, then homogenous thought was sure to follow.  There would be no need for discussion, no possibility of disagreement. Anyone who thought differently, who argued logically or at least intelligently, would be shouted down, characterized as a reactionary or worse: as “sheeple” (another demonization of our fellow citizens).  It was necessary to acknowledge the existence of these individuals because scapegoats are as important to a demagogue’s rhetorical style as hyperbole. Scapegoats provide a kind of short-hand for those too lazy to do any thinking of their own.

Not to say that these flaws do not exist in the countries we have been discussing. They exist everywhere.  But in a country where access to information is hard-fought, and where censorship is resisted by those who can be arrested and thrown in prison – or worse – for disseminating real information, real data, we should have come to appreciate and value the absolute worth of information.  We pay lip-service to the idea of freedom; but real freedom depends on access to real information.  That is why the idea of a free press is enshrined in our Constitution.  But we have been lulled into a false sense of security where information is concerned because we have television, the Internet, smartphones and tablets, Facebook and Twitter, so of course we have information.  No matter how wrong it is.  We have confused quantity with quality and, anyway, isn’t that the American way?  Obesity rocks.

Meanwhile, journalists in other countries are being killed by their governments.

“Why?” ask our fellow citizens.  “Why don’t they just google?”

 

 

Memento Mori

Memento Mori

On September 11, 1973 a military coup – influenced and supported by the US government, including our military and the CIA – overthrew the democratically-elected administration of Salvador Allende, the President of Chile.  Allende was a Socialist, and as recently declassified and published memos reveal, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had determined from the start that his presidency would not last.  Kissinger called Allende’s Chile “a dagger pointed at the heart of the United States.”  Allende was an anti-Nazi during World War II, in a country that had strong pro-Nazi sentiment and which indeed had a large Nazi Party, among its members a future ambassador and Nazi mystic, and friend of both Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung:  Miguel Serrano.

On September 11, 1973 the coup took place and Allende died in the presidential palace, La Moneda, wearing a helmet and carrying a weapon.  Six years later, I visited Santiago de Chile and saw La Moneda: a ruin still pocked with bullet holes.  Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean general, was now in charge of the country and proclaimed himself “President for Life.”  He disbanded the Chilean Supreme Court, instituted press censorship, closed the universities, and proclaimed martial law among other steps he considered necessary to preserve Chile from the twin evils of Socialism and Communism (two ideologies that are frequently conflated, with serious implications for any ideology deemed even vaguely left of center).

Thus the war against Communism was expanded to include a war against liberalism and democracy: considered as fellow travelers.  While Allende was a champion of the poor, women of the “middle class” demonstrated against him, claiming that his administration had made the price of milk too high, among other outrages. The neighborhood that was the center of those demonstrations was, ironically, Providencia: an upper-class enclave of Chile’s elite.  The covert campaign by American intelligence was designed to rally Chilean women against the leftist regime by saying their gender had been ignored in favor of a male-dominated worker’s party, and telling them that Allende soon would seize their children and send them to indoctrination camps in Cuba.  (Can you say “FEMA”, boys and girls?)

What actually had occurred were CIA-financed trucker strikes in Chile: an attempt to force Allende’s hand by turning his own people against him.  In a country like Chile – more than a two thousand miles long and less than 220 miles at its widest point – truckers are essential delivery systems for everything from food to books.  The demonstrations against Allende were orchestrated by the extreme right:  openly pro-Nazi groups such as Patria y Libertad. But the people returned to the polls during Allende’s administration and voted once again to keep him in power.

Critics of Latin American socialist movements often fail to acknowledge that those movements arose from poverty and despair.  The institutions that were identified most strongly with political and economic oppression – the Church, the Corporations, the Military – had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  God, guns, and gold.  Often, these institutions were also deeply informed by race:  a lighter-skinned upper-class and a racially-diverse (African, Native American) lower-class.  The solution to the rise of Latin socialist movements was to suppress them by any means necessary.  Since Communism was seen as the ultimate evil with the rise of the Soviet Union and China, any movement that was perceived as being tainted or influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideas became a target for destruction.  Rather than solve the social and economic problems at the heart of these movements it was easier to simply arrest, torture and murder their proponents.

This was true throughout the region, and gave rise to the term “banana republic”: a country where more than 90 percent of a nation’s wealth is in the hands of a small elite: what leftist theoreticians like to call the “oligarchy.”

Allende was a friend of Fidel Castro, to be sure.  He was also a friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He was also a friend of Pablo Neruda: Chile’s own Nobel Prize winner and the author of a large oeuvre of poetical works, including Canto General which includes the famous critique of the role of the United Fruit Company in the political and economic dominance of Latin America: a company on whose board sat Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles.

Neruda was born in the town of Parral in Chile.  Parral is also the town that boasts Colonia Dignidad.  My readers know all about my visit there in June-July 1979, so I won’t bother you with the details.  Suffice it to say it was a torture and interrogation center for the Pinochet regime that was staffed by Nazis and which served as a sanctuary on the ODESSA network and as a node in Operation Condor.

There was no mention of Neruda in Parral when I was there in 1979.  It was as if he never existed.

Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973: twelve days after the coup that saw Allende dead and Chilean democracy in ruins.  He was in the hospital for treatment on September 11, and decided to return to his home because he believed the doctors were poisoning him.  Others – more poetic – say he died of a broken heart.

 

A little while ago we learned of the death of Leonard Cohen, only a few days after Election Day in the United States.

I leave you with these words from one of his songs, called “Democracy:”

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
As time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

La lucha sigue, baby.

Venceremos.

An Update for My Readers

I know, I know. An update every six months or so is not really an update. It’s practically starting from scratch. Okay. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Mohon maaf lahir dan batin.

In other words: sorry about that.

If you’ve been following what’s been going on recently, you may be aware that I have been involved in a heavy researching and writing schedule involving three non-fiction books. I have also managed to convince a publisher to come out with one of my novels. In addition, I have been traveling frequently to a number of locations both in the US and in the UK, some of which involve upcoming TV documentary appearances on channels such as The History Channel, NatGeo and Discovery.

The first of the non-fiction books – entitled Sekret Machines: Gods – is due to come out in March of 2017. This is part of the major project with Tom DeLonge that may be familiar to you. This project – under the general rubric of Sekret Machines – includes my three volume non-fiction work, three novels by A.J. Hartley (the first of which is already published: Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows), a documentary film, and much more.

What is Sekret Machines?

If you read my Afterword to the A. J. Hartley novel, you’ll see that it presumes to be a radical new approach to the UFO Phenomenon (or UAP Phenomenon, if you are so inclined). We begin from the premise that this Phenomenon is real; we don’t try to “prove” it to anyone, and we don’t present the usual lists of thousands of worldwide sightings, etc. since most people familiar with the subject are aware already of this evidentiary material. What we do is proceed from the assumption that the Phenomenon is real and has been observed throughout history. What, then, has been its effect on society, religion, culture, and politics? Why is it important for us to examine this Phenomenon and what it represents more closely, more dispassionately, more objectively than ever before? Why have governments, the military, scientists, academics, etc. been reluctant to come forward and admit that it exists? How can we change that attitude?

More importantly, perhaps, how can we inspire a new generation of men and women to devote their lives to the hard sciences in order to cooperate in the decoding of this Phenomenon? And not just the hard sciences, but cultural and religious studies as well.

American students are lagging behind twenty or more other countries in STEM subjects. This is a national security problem, and not just from the perspective of terrorist and other more “terrestrial” threats. We need an educated population that is aware of all the implications for sovereignty that the Phenomenon poses to us and to the world at large. Whether or not one believes in the reality of UFOs or “little green men” one has to agree that an avoidance of this field in spite of all the testimony by military and intelligence specialists that support the view that “something is out there” is a dangerous position to maintain. On the contrary, if we proceed on the assumption that we are being visited – somehow, in some manner, by some one – then we would find ourselves forced to review our preconceptions concerning language and communication, physics, aerodynamics, energy, sociology, and a dozen or more other disciplines. Exobiology, exolinguistics, exopolitics, would all become areas in which new discoveries will be made … regardless of whether or not we ever “prove” the reality of the Phenomenon.

Many have gone before us in this quixotic quest, to be sure. And their published works are sometimes (unfortunately, uncomfortably, but it needs to be said) filled with bad science and unnecessary leaps of logic even as they are luminous with new ideas and the certainty that we have been visited before and continue to be visited. What if we stop them right there – the Erich von Dӓnikens and the Zecharia Sitchins, for instance – and say to them, “Okay, yes. Stop. We get it. We understand. Now what?”

The Sekret Machines project is an attempt (from my way of thinking, and I am speaking only for myself right now) to say just that. And to take it to the next step. We want to answer that most important question, “Now what?”, with an entire multi-platform, multi-media project that will provoke everyone from the most die-hard cynic and skeptic on the one hand to the most passionate believer and experiencer on the other.

You know my Sinister Forces trilogy or you wouldn’t be here. I pointed readers in the direction of accepting the possibility that the events we call conspiracies – as we think of them – may occur (may even be germinated) on levels that are beyond the understanding even of the conspirators themselves. If the Kennedy assassination was described in detail fifty years in advance by a Belgian mystic (as it was) does that mean he was involved in the assassination? Of course not. Then … what does it mean? What are the implications for conspiracy theory in general?

Thus, think of Sekret Machines as a kind of chiropractic adjustment to the skeletal material of science and philosophy, religion and culture – the bones and joints of our reality – in order to let the inner organs and musculature of the human experience stretch, expand, and accommodate those ideas we usually term “paranormal” or “extraterrestrial”, “super natural” or just plain crazy: the “rejected knowledge” that sits like an undigested lump in the center of our being. It sits there because we can’t accommodate it within our modern worldview, a worldview dominated by western concepts of truth, relevance, and of what is real and what is imaginary: concepts that are just as much part of European culture and its political and historical context as they are of science and technology. We are post-moderns; hell, we are even post-post-moderns. Yet we still are expected to reject that crazy knowledge, ignore it, and educate ourselves away from any memory of it. And we can’t. To reject it is to reject our humanity. We know this instinctively, so we push back. Against our better judgment and against the advice of our peers, we push back.

Sekret Machines is designed to help us push back: intelligently, confidently, even logically. It’s taken all my time and all my concentration these past two years, and for me it has been time well-spent even as it has taken its toll on those around me. I will have more to say about the project, of course, but for now I leave you with the wish that my efforts – and especially those of Tom DeLonge, A.J. Hartley, and all the others involved with the project – have accomplished what we set out to do and that you will be challenged by what we have discovered and what we propose as our thesis and our roadmap for the future. Stay tuned!