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Michael Cisco
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 04:05 pm:   

Lucius -

I'm presumptuously interposing this new thread onto your board, wondering what you think of Chavez. I admit virtually total ignorance.

I've avoided the war boards since the invasion, but today I glanced back over the last couple of threads and followed your exchanges with interest. Some Of My Best Friends Are Historians, well, one is, and so this question of the relevence of history also exercised my mind a bit. A historian's job, I think, is to pull back and assemble a big picture which must be an abbreviation. It's a substitute for eyewitness exposure, I would say, for those who can't attend. The problem with academic history - well there are two I suppose. One is that people often find their way into their particular speciality for superficial reasons, like their favorite teacher taught Columbian history and so why not study Columbian history, be like teach? The larger problem though is that it tends to understand politics in terms of paradigmatic confrontations in Idea Space, as though it were already a hundred years later and the issue is properly academic in the sense of being beyond affecting. The politics that goes on right now, it seems to me, is more a matter of who wants what, and whose side you are on, and that is, I think, a personal decision that can't adequately be rendered in academic terms. A few, including this historian friend of mine, can do both. The language he uses, the language I use, when we talk about our politics now, is completely un-academic, in the narrow sense of the word. We loathe Bush and all his cronies, we don't sit around deciding the merits of this or that statement from the White House, we just shit on all of it and I don't think either of us feels intellectually irresponsible for doing so.

I'd be curious to know what you think of the Zapatistas - I mean, are they effective, is their agenda too broad, as some people have argued, etc. What is the condition of Leftist politics in Latin America, to ask a simple question. Are there any success stories?
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 06:05 pm:   

It's not like I'm expert on this shit, man. Venezuela, especially, is a bit outside my area of special interest. But I will offer my two cents.

Firstly, with all due respect , I've never been comfortable in the academic world -- I can't talk the language and I'm not sure I want to talk the language, because so much of what I've heard seems indulgent and/or irrelevant to the way I relate to the world. Anything I might say will lack academic rigor and is based entirely on my experience in Latin America, which has been highly idiosyncratic. So I trust what you said about your own political habts of late holds true. Secondly, I'm a leftist, way left, and with that bias, it's impossible for me to be anti-Chavez. The thing's he's done -- redistributing land to urban squatters and rural poor, allowing the indigents to own land and to have unparalled rights, trading oil to Cuba in return for doctors who go up into the hill country and treat those for whom medical care has been a science fiction concept, etc. -- that he has done these things is amazing, admirable in every wise. I'm certain he has made mistakes that have led to rough sledding for the economy, but I am equally certain that there has been a concerted effort on the part of American oil interests to sabotage him, to maximize whatever mistakes he made, to undermine him any way possible. The thought of a leftist in charge of major oil reserves is a nightmare in the view of true believers in American foreign policy. These are assumptions on my part, but they are assumptions based on having watched the CIA in action in CA for the better part of 25 years. I have no doubt the CIA is involved. I recognize the signs. I've seen them in Guatemala, in Honduras, in Nicaragua, in Panama. The manipulation of public opinion, incitement. etc. The fact that there has been a major recall in this country almost contiguous with the Chavez recall should not be seen as mere coincidence. Somebody had a good idea. They then enlisted foreign operatives, field agents, etc,, and gave it a go. Latin America has always been a living laboratory for America political adventures. The School of the Americas in Panama graduates hundreds of foreign operatives every year who are expert in internal security matters, media matters, and so forth. Whatever you think of Chavez, the entire spectrum of his decline in popularity and the recall reek of US orchestration.

As to the Zapatistas, I have a simple answer to the question Are they effective? They will be as effective so long and as much as the US allows them to be. Is their agenda too broad? Not, in my view, if they are allowed to continue. That will ultimately be a high level state department decision and we will notify Vincente Fox or whoever when it is made.

Are there any success stories? Yeah, but only on local levels. Small successes are permissible. I have an intermittent involvement with a situation--intermittent, because I have financial strains now that are hampering my activities--that may prove to be one such, though I worry it may eventually draw too much attention. I don't feel easy about talking about it online.

I could get into more specifics, but right now I need to work. Thanks for being interested.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 07:01 pm:   

"In that position it has been said that Zemurray had an important role in engineering the overthrow of the government of Guatemala in 1954, after the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz began expropriating the company's plantations in order to follow his agrarian reform project. Zemurray led a campaign that portraied Arbenz as a dangerous Communist in the American media. Working together with an advertisement company he distributed alarmist propaganda among the press and Congressmen in which he showed Guatemala as a foothold of the Soviet Union in the Western Hemisphere. This campaign was eventually successful, since the CIA sponsored a military coup against Arbenz, in which the rebels used United Fruit boats to transport troops and ammunition..."

This is quote from research relating to a magazine piece I'm doing on the United Fruit Company, on Samuel Zemuray, the CEO of the company. It relates to the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. Sound familiar?
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Bob Kruger
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 04:08 pm:   

The overthrow of Arbenz epitomizes the evil shit we've done in Central America. The CIA put on a radio show down there called, if I remember correctly, Radio Liberacion, with actors playing "rebels" against the Arbenz government whose broadcasts were constantly interrupted by jackboot Commie thugs. The CIA still considers that op a big success, even though it led in a straight line to death squads and the torture-murders of over a hundred thousand people.

The CIA's done it before, why wouldn't they do it again? Because the Cold War's over? It seems like it's always been about money. The CIA subverted Arbenz because United Fruit had connections in Washington. The fight against communism was just a convenient excuse. I suppose our corporations/government-by-the-corp-for-the-corp will now get similar mileage out of the War on Terror.

The problem with discussions of "left-wing success" in Central America is that it implies some choice. Land expropriation may be a communist policy, but what else makes sense when the land is controlled by foreign powers? Latin America had the extreme misfortune of being colonized by the Spanish at a time when they'd just expelled the Moors from Iberia and were in full feudal mode. The hacienda system they brought to the new world set up oligarchies that never went away.

Until a country can gain more than just nominal control over its resources and get the majority of its people out of desperate poverty, it can't even address the possibility of democracy. We know this, but shareholders in this country want a bargain now, damn it. Nicaragua was a left-wing success, for awhile; the Sandinistas made a pretty good show of it against Somoza and the Contras ("the moral equivalent of the founding fathers" -- of the Third Reich, maybe), but the economic pressures are relentless; it takes more than a few elections and nominal democratic reforms to effect real change. I don't know how real change is possible, actually. But we can always start by pulling our heads out of our asses and looking at where our money and votes are going...

Bob



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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 04:48 pm:   

Bob, at one point United Fruit had control of 42 percent of all the land in Guatemala--they paid no lease fees, no taxes, no rents, just paid off a few high-ranking officials. And not only that, they also at the same time had controlling interests in Guatemala's two next-largest business enterprises. They owned the fucking country. They owned all the fucking countries down there. When the US overthrew Arbenz, the United Fruit Company transported troops and weapons aboard the White Fleet, which was the overall name given to its cargo and passenger vessels.

What astounds me is that people in this country know almost nothing about Central America and our involvement there. I think I'll post the little piece I'm doing for the Nation here. It's kind of interesting stuff.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 06:59 am:   

Here's a piece I just finished for the Nation that shed's some light on Latin American politics....









Lee Christmas and Machine Gun Guy Molony
by Lucius Shepard

I first was made aware of Lee Christmas on coming upon a photograph in an obscure travel book that depicted a slight, boyish-looking blond man standing amid palm trees, wearing a comic opera military uniform with outsized epaulets, topped off by a wide-brimmed hat bearing an ostrich plume, and accessoried by a belted sword with an ornate grip. The caption beneath the photograph read: Lee Christmas on the beach at La Ceiba. Several lines of text referred to him as a soldier of fortune who, during the early portion of the twentieth century, assisted the rise to power of the United Fruit Company in Central America. United Fruit, called "El Pulpo" (The Octopus) by Latin Americans due to its grasping, acquisitive nature, dominated the political reality of Honduras and acted as an oppressive force througout the southern portion of the hemisphere for the better part of a century. Indeed, the most notorious president of the company, Samuel Zemurray, aka The Banana Man, was--with the help of Christmas and his associate, Machine Gun Guy Molony--instrumental in overthrowing a number of governments that tried to institute land reform, the last of these being the leftist administration of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala during the early 1950s. 1 United Fruit's power over Central and portions of South America was so extensive that at one point, for instance, they owned 42 percent of all land in Guatemala, paid no taxes or import duties, and controlled that country's other two largest enterprises, International Railways of Central America and Empress Electrica. It's impossible to calculate the number of lives extinguished as a direct result of their repressive policies in dealing with agrarian reform--a conservative estimate would put the toll in the tens of thousands, but that total rises dramatically if one adds in the hundreds of thousands slaughtered and disappeared by the various dictators propped up by the company. The Guatemalan regime of Col. Castillo Armas alone was responsible for 140,000 people killed and another 45,000 disappeared. The United Fruit logo, Chiquita Banana, became the symbol of US oppression throughout Latin America.
Capitvated by the photograph of Christmas, by a quality in his pose that struck me as self-deprecating, I did some research and learned that he had been a railroad engineer in Louisiana who had fallen asleep at the wheel and wrecked his train. Unable to get work, abandoned by his family, he traveled to Honduras where he found employment with a small fruit company, driving trains on a narrow gauge railway between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortez. In 1897, a Guatemalan-sponsored revolution took Puerto Cortez with thirteen men and commandeered Christmas' train. Offered a choice between joining the revolution or being executed, he taught his captors how to armor the flatcars with the scrap iron left along the tracks and, thus protected, they gained control of the entire north coast of the country in less than a week. For his service, having in that brief time secured a reputation for extreme heroism and a disdainful attitude toward physical danger, Christmas was awarded the rank of captain. When the revolution was defeated, he fled to Guatemala. There, the government entrusted him with funds and sent him to New Orleans to buy guns for a new revolution, but Christmas spent the money gambling and whoring. In 1898, under an amnesty, he returned to Honduras and was employed by the president, Terencio Sierra, who had hired a small army of thugs with the idea of forestalling the election process and maintaining his power--he believed that Christmas' charismatic presence would serve to keep them in line. But Christmas, whom Sierra elevated to the rank of Colonel and made head of the National Police, had developed a relationship with Sierra's political rival, Manuel Bonilla, himself an ally--if not a pawn--of various men involved with United Fruit. In 1903 Christmas swung the National Police over to Bonilla's side and marched on Tegucigalpa, seizing control of the city after laying seige to it with Krupps guns, thus earning the rank of general under Bonilla.
Christmas spent much of the next few years courting his third wife, though still married to his second--he was eventually to marry a fourth and fathered innumerable illegitimate children. In 1906, a Nicaraguan-sponsored revolution ousted Bonilla. He and Christmas sought refuge in Guatemala, where Christmas became the chief of the Guatemalan secret police--his charisma remained a currency he could trade on--but all the while he sought to reinstate Bonilla as president in Honduras. In 1910, Christmas returned to Honduras at the head of an armed expedition financed by Samuel Zemurray. Accompanying him was Guy Molony, a young machine gunner who stood 6'6" and had fought in the Boer Wars when he was sixteen. The force captured the Bay Islands and then La Ceiba, where they did battle against a garrison led by one General Carillo who rode into battle on a white mule and carried a golden sword and, like Christmas, was rumored to be unkillable. This rumor proved to be untrue. Six weeks later, the country had fallen and Bonilla was on his way to becoming president again. Shortly thereafter, the Honduran congress approved a concession that ceded Zemurray an enormous tract of land and waived his obligation to pay taxes, thereby ushering in fruit company domination of the country.
In 1976, I interviewed a great many people in Honduras regarding Christmas and Molony. One, Fred Welcomes, was a Bay Island fisherman, then in his nineties, blinded by cataracts, who had fought alongside Christmas at the Battle of La Ceiba. He explained that Christmas had recruited the blacks of the islands because they were better marksman in those days than were the defenders of La Ceiba
"Dat de case no longer," he said. "De Sponnish have since learned de use of weapons."
The shanty in which I interviewed Welcomes was lit by a kerosene lamp, and in that light his cataracts showed thick and shiny, like raw silver nuggets, His appearance and the wind shaking the boards lent his relation the air of a ghost story, and this idea was amplified when, in a raspy, windy voice, he gave me a word-for-word account of Christmas' speech to his troops prior to the Battle of La Ceiba.
"Lee gathered us on de dock," he said. "And he walk up and down in front of us and say, 'Boys, you done break your mothers' hearts, but you no be breaking mine. We gonna come down on de Sponnish like a buzzard on a sick steer.'"
Welcomes and others told me of incidents during which Christmas, already wounded, walked directly into enemy fire and how, when captured, he would laugh at threats of execution. I came to understand that this behavior, the self-deprecation I had sensed in him, the ridiculous uniform...these were to a large degree the product of a Lord Jim complex. He believed he had ruined his life in the States and as a result he placed scant value on it and perceived his victories to be something of a joke. He sought an American redemption, one that was never forthcoming--when he offered his services to the Wilson Administration prior to World War I, the offer was summarily rejected. I suspect that his loyalty to Bonilla was at least in part due to his hope that by pleasing Bonilla's masters, he might repair his Stateside reputation.
Molony's brand of heroism was if anything more extreme than Christmas'. He once blew up an armory atop which he was standing in order to prevent it from falling into counter-revolutionary hands. Yet his motives were, apparently, less redemptive than mercenary. Though he returned to New Orleans often, at one point serving there as Chief of Police, he remained active in Central American politics throughout the 195Os, assisting Zemurray in various aggressions. I've seen a photograph of Molony taken in the mid-Fifties shaking hands with Vice-President Richard Nixon at the Tegucigalpa airport--an immense Bull Connorish figure clad in chinos and a slouch hat. He died in 1972 at the age of 89, prosperous, fat and unrepentant, after a lifetime of violent accomplishment.
Flying over Honduras you cross vast stretches in which you see nothing below except bananas, and whenever I look down on these plantations, I imagine the dozens of back fence wars fought to sustain them, and I think of the two men who orchestrated many of those wars and made others possible: Molony, the implacable giant armed with a gas cylinder-powered machine gun, engaged in creating the new century, and Christmas, the charismatic womanizer with his good looks, his ostrich plume and fancy sword, unable to escape the shame of the century just past. Carrying themselves like colonialist versions of Butch Cassidy and Sundance, oppositional personalities joined in a strange dynamic by the forces of manifest destiny and business--if, indeed, those forces were ever separate; they seem more colorful fictions than neglected historical figures. And because they are so neglected, no mention whatsoever made of them in Honduran history books and little recorded elsewhere, part of an almost secret history, we are forced to conjecture as to the bloody intimacy of their relationship and the character they brought to their semi-patriotic miscreance. Doubtless they joked and whored together as they toppled governments and thwarted coups, but we're unable to determine if the true weight and measure of their work became clear to them, if they ever understood that what must have seemed at the beginning an adventure was in fact the inception of a remorseless political enterprise. We only know for certain that they were friends. In 1922, following Manuel Bonilla's death and a series of businesss reversals, Christmas wired Molony for money and received $100 for a ticket back to New Orleans. There he lobbied the fruit companies for job, but was deemed too old to function as once he had and found no takers. In December of that year, while still in New Orleans, he fell ill and died. Guy Molony paid for his funeral.

1 Though the politics Zemurray practiced in the Third World were reactionary, he acquired a reputation as a pilanthropist and a liberal in the US. He was, for instance, among those who provided the funds that financed the start-up of The Nation.




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Bob Kruger
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 10:50 pm:   

That's a great piece. I like the way it turns on the first-hand account, "like a ghost story," because it casts the events in the benighted, fantastic way they must have seemed to Christmas. The upper reaches of his psyche and presumably his sense of civilization lay northward in the States. His story kind of reminds me of Doc Holliday's, but instead of finding his Wyatt Earp and a sort of redemption, he found Molony, and the tale was more tragic. How apropos that you emphasize Molony's mercenary bent, and that their friendship was ultimately acknowledged by a monetary transaction. Maybe Christmas didn't care about money like Molony did, maybe he had more of a soul, but he staked his chance at redemption on the powers behind it, and they ultimately crossed him off the books anyway.

I think it's interesting how you -- and I suppose my sister, who, as you know, "vacations" in CA as an itinerant medical volunteer -- make the opposite psychological movement from Christmas'. Whereas he became a surreal, fatalistic adventurer in Latin America, you and Kris seem to get in touch with your authentic and better natures down there.

By the way, what happened to Mr. Cisco?

Bob


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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 06:12 am:   

Christmas was an interesting guy. I interviewed a number of his children in Honduras and got lots of differing opinions. At some point before I write the book, I need to get down to Tulane and get into the papers of Chrstmas and Molony. I've actually seen a lot of the Christmas stuff in transcript, but the Molony material should be very interesting, since he was, ultimately, the true mercenary and more hooked into the workings of United Fruit. That company...wow. The board of directors reads like a who's who of early 20th century corporate crime. For example, on the board was Jacob Wettstein, who earned the sobriquet the Parrot King. This because he made his forturne importing parrots illegally into the US, thus causing an outbrak of psiticosis that took the lives of 50, 000 children.

As for Michael, I don't know. Maybe that's all he had to say. Maybe he'll be back. He asked the question, which I'm grateful for -- most people, to my amazement, don't appear to have much interest in the Third World, even though the border between our world and it grows thinner every day. Interstitiality or something like is of more concern. Maybe when the tide gets to their knees they'll take more notice.
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 10:21 am:   

I, for one, have been reading your takes on the US's dirty little secret backyard for a while now, and have enjoyed them thoroughly. And I'm very glad you chose to provide the longer account of Molony & Christmas after teasing us (in the marketing sense) for a while.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 10:41 am:   

Hey, Minz...Glad you like ol' Lee and Guy. The really big version has been building in my head for 20 years--it's now busting to get out.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 03:16 pm:   

I'm here - but I've got no time at all! I am grateful to Lucius for posting his timely Christmas article here.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 07:00 pm:   

Hey, Michael...Take a break. Hit the bars. :-)

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Michael Cisco
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 09:50 pm:   

I'm defending my dissertation in a week, sitting around typing up fershlugginer footnotes all day, and grading papers the rest of the time. More like being hit with bars! I don't even know how I'm writing to you now!
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 10:07 pm:   

Whoa. Well, hit the bars afterward. I guess that probably falls under the heading of unneccesary advice....
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Bob Kruger
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 12:00 pm:   

I can't let this thread die without a disclaimer to all those looking in who don't know much about Central America: so far, this thread doesn't even scratch the surface of the bizarre and tragic events America has been party to down there. Somoza and Nicaragua, for instance, would make a long, long and interesting thread. The guy was a comic-book supervillain who, after a major earthquake in Managua, set up a plasma-donating factory that paid the people about a buck a liter for blood and sold it to the U.S. for ten times that price. This was just one of the regime's creative kickback projects where the kicking was received by the people. When Somoza was overthrown (after resorting to bombing his own people), the regime holdouts organized as the "Contras." Heard that name before? That the Iran-Contra deal didn't bring down Reagan is a testament to the willful ignorance and apathy of our people. Between 1982 and 1985, the Contras killed over 3,300 children in cold blood and orphaned thousands of others.

And Lucius can tell you first-hand about El Salvador, where the Reagan administration's aid money to the regime contributed to appalling oppression and slaughter. A vignette might be in order, Lucius...

Bob
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 03:43 pm:   

Anecdotes about El Salvador? I hardly know where to begin. Most of my anecdotes about Salvador are personal. I worked as a stringer down there in '81, 82 and I saw shit I didn't need to see. Salvador put the brakes on my becoming a War Tourist, one of the journalism guys--guys like the ever loathesome Peter Arnett--who book from pisshole to pisshole just so they can snort the fumes. I was getting to the point where I liked that kind of action. But Salvador was demonic, as I imagine Checniya and Serbia-Croatia must have been. People weren't just killed, they were turned into Devil art. Once tthis friend of mine, her daughter turned up missing, and since the daughter was political, she was worried the death squads might have taken her. We used contacts at the prison to learn is she was there. We seached at El Playon and other places where bodies were commonly dumped. Nothing. Days went by. My friend was freaking out. She kept hoping that her daughter had fled to Mexico..About a week passed. She went to the butcher shop and bought some ground beef. The butcher wrapped it up for her. She took it home and when she unwrapped it, she found two of her daughter's fingers, identifiable by rings, stuffed into the meat. The guy who arranged this atrocity was an army officer with the nickname of Satan. One of Robert Daubisson's main men. Daubisson, as you may recall, was the head of the death squads who ran for president. We supported him. Satan's best known prank is the murder of six priests in the cathedral at San Salvador. Not only did he have them tortured and killed inside the church, he had his men remove their brains. Who knows what he did with the brains. There's a lot of weird religious shit down there. Maybe the act had some ritual purpose, maybe it was a whim. Satan was unpredictable that way.

The worst thing I saw was a flight of US Air Cav choppers land outside a village in the hills of Morazan province. They disgorged a small force of Salvadorian troops and a handful for American-looking men with military haircuts and civilian clothes, carrying sidearms. The Americans stayed outside the village with a couple of officers. The rest of the troop entered the village. We ehard a few gunshots. After about 45 minutes, one of the troops came and beckoned to the oficers, the Americans, who followed him into the village. Maybe a half hour passed. Then there was scattered gunfire. Then they all left the village, got into the choppers, all grinning and shit, and flew away. I watched this through binocs from a hilltop with two members of the FMLN, guerrilas, who had been taking me to that village to hook up another group. I'm not gonna get into graphic detail about what we found in the village. I'll just say that the majority died by bayonet and knife slash. Most of the young women had been tortured and shot. Some of the children had been drowned in a trough. But this kind of relation is meaningless unless viewed in context with what was going on at the time in the hemisphere. It was morning in America, but in Central America it was the witching hour. The slaughter of hundreds of thousands was drawing to an end in Guatemala, and the second most popular political party, a party that many said really held most of the power, was the Party of Organized Violence. In Guatemala City, NAFTA without the official sanction of the name was running all the mills and factories. I interviewed the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala City at his textile plant and as we walked he pointed to his workers and said proudly, "These people'll work 15, 16 hours with asking for a break. They don't care about any of those environmental things. In Nicaragua, the contras were using kidnapped El Salvadorian teenager whom they tortured in Honduras until their wills were broken as snipers, and the boys targeted teachers and social workers in the rural sections of the country, gradually destroying the recovery of a country who had suffered not only through a civil war but also volcanic eruptions and a major earthquake. In Costa Rica, the CIA was funneling cocaine into the states, constructing airstrips there and in Honduras though which to funnel cocaine into the US to fund the contras, orchestrating the slaughter of thousands of Indians. In Panama, working hand in hand with the govt, field ops were facilitaing a cocaine presidency, and the School of the Americas in Boca del Toro was churning out highly trained internal security troops to serve in death squads and quick strike forces. The shadow of the United States was spreading over Central America like the shadow of Mordor. Atrocity was the rule of law. It was the weather people lived. When you were down it, though horrid, it also smacked of the ordinary, the expected...Uh, I don't think I want to write any more about this today.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 11:23 pm:   

Whether by accident or design, probably a bit of both, I think Americans are foamed over in a tissue of lies about circumstances here and abroad. We may see any nation in the world on television, usually in one of two modes - either as a vacation paradise or as a place of terrible poverty and danger filled with people to fear or to pity or both. Now and then I hear some muttering about how these people are represented in American media, but never do I hear any one ask why these people, wherever they may be, never get to speak for themselves. We're not allowed to know how we look outside our own borders.
Recently, Louis Gates (sp?) - the Harvard Historian - went very breathlessly to Africa and spent what looked like much money going around showing and telling. If I'd had that much money, I would have given it to several Africans to make their own television, or movies, or what have you - I'm more interested to know what they're thinking than to have someone explain it to me in Hallmark language.

Sometimes I'm inclined to think this one-way whorehouse mirror effect is a deliberately-fashioned artifact, designed, as one of its many functions, to keep Americans from seeing that it is possible to live on very little. We aren't supposed to know how rich we are, or how much we waste, or how little of it we really need, or what a flimsy pretense our zombie culture is. I'm not talking, even for a heartbeat, about romanticising poverty or overlooking the injustices that create it - in fact, I think it is somehow crucial to those with bad intentions that we not understand that exploitation and horror are the cause, and our rich emptiness is the effect. (Why, as I read this back, do I feel like I'm turning into Edith Sitwell or some other porpoisy old English bag? This is what comes of a steady diet of nineteenth century ...)
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 08:11 am:   

I had a root canal the other day, which went badly, which is why I'm not working (painkillers). I've been thinking about personal stuff, and about King's The Night Flier, which could have been a cool story if it hadn't been overburdened with pop culture elements and was at least partly narrated from the vampire's POV...but I keep coming back to this thread. So yeah, Michael, I think that our self-absorbtion, our cluelessness, was once more-or-less the product of our nation's youthful aggressiveness, but since has become consciously induced, both self-induced and media-induced, the latter being the heavy blinding from which it will be all but impossible to emerge. I don't doubt that there is also at work the natural human inclination to look away from anything that may disturb his peace of mind, his moral satisfactions, but the corporate media dumb down of the country that's been going on for a while, that's been accelerated since the OJ trial, since that event effectively ratified the news-as-entertainment philosophy that was gaining credence in the biz...that's the culprit we have to struggle against now, and I don't see anyone struggling too hard.

Its not just a blindness to the Third World. Look what's happening to our troops. They go over to Iraq, they die, and Bush tells the media to shoot no footage of coffins, flag-draped or otherwise. Downplay the dead. Wounded troops are forced to pay for hospital meals. The men are treated like shit and yet the nation still sees Bush as this patriotic soldier boy and not the grasping business monkey that he is, because that's how the media paints him. Right now the media is the greatest cutural villain going....

Gotta get to work here. More later.
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Bob Kruger
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 12:40 pm:   

Good points, Michael. And it's not just the Third World that needs a voice. Consider Columbine. The media and various academic talking heads appropriated that event, interpreting it according to their own agendas, but how many people went to the source? Lucius has an essay on it over at Ellen Datlow's Event Horizon: "The Littleton Follies"; and there were a few other people who quietly made the same point. Marilyn Manson comes across as one of the most reasonable people in Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" when he says, "What would I say to the people of Columbine? I wouldn't say a damn thing. I'd listen to what they had to say."

Bob
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 01:46 pm:   

I just wanted to add that in the mail today I received my Ann Coulter talking doll -- I haven't decided whether to keep and abuse it, or give it as Xmas gift...but I love having it now. :-)
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Minz
Posted on Friday, December 12, 2003 - 10:26 am:   

Can't you put your South American connections to use and empower it with voodoo magic or something?

Wow, the sick and twisted things that leap to mind when I think what I'd do to such a doll . . .
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 12, 2003 - 10:36 am:   

Minz...Yup. I am considering the options. I have a Hulk action figure I;m thinking of introducing her to....:-)
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barth
Posted on Friday, December 12, 2003 - 03:07 pm:   

damn, what a thread. thanks for asking your questions, michael, and lucius, thanks for "testifying." you have some hellish stories and your article for the nation was great reading. thanks for giving to us gratis.

i was in nicaragua a few months after 9/11, touring coffee farms and i can confirm that this shit lucius is talking about, of course, is still happening. during nica's last election, for example, the november after 9/11, it looked like daniel ortega would actually win w/ a big take of the vote (the sandinistas still run the show at the lower levels of govt). that's when the US paid for bill-boards showing drawings of ortega with bin laden, saddam hussein and yassir arafat, and calling ortega a "terrorist". absurd, yes, and all of nica knew it, but the message was heard loud and clear: your country will be branded as a terrorist state if you elect this man. pro-US conservative biz-man bolanos won by 9 points.

i also had the fortune to stay with a farming family near the honduras border who dealt with "counter revolutionaries" (contras) in the eighties. co-op farmers were targeted by US troops (the farmers' words) because coffee was financial life-blood for nicaragua, and co-ops were a sandinista mainstay.

what shocked me was how accepting nicaraguans were of me, despite my nationality, after everything that america had done to nica in the past 20 years. i asked the farmer with whom i stayed why that was, and he said, "because nicaraguans sympathize with people in other coutnries who live in dictatorships."
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 12, 2003 - 03:35 pm:   

Yep, like you said, Barth, the same shit that;s been going on in CA and SA for a hundred years is going on today. Actually it may soon get worse. There are things happening in Honduras, in the Miskitia, which may provoke a serious conflagration. Oil is involved.

And yeah, like you, I 've found that people all over, in Vietnam and elsewhere, who've been oppressed by US aggression tend to understand the difference between the American people and their govt....though I'm not sure they comprehend the amount of indolence in our country or the sea of disinformation we're swimming in.

The main problem with the world may be how to wake this country up....it may be a problem that can't be solved.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 02:18 am:   

Hello Lucius! Would you email me off-board, so's I can pester you privately, wink wink?

mtc212@nyu.edu

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Anonymous
Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 08:28 pm:   

The main problem with the world may be how to wake this country up....it may be a problem that can't be solved

timothy mcveigh tried a bomb
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 09:01 pm:   

Hey anonymouse, I don't know if you're pro militia or just being a fuckwit, but whichever.... that's not funny, cool, trenchant, or in any way telling except as to your lack of IQ points....

fuck off....
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 08:34 pm:   

Hey Hey Lucius - they're stopping traffic in Ecuador in opposition to Gutierrez. Can I tap your great resources for more information on the subject?

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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 09:05 pm:   

I don't know if I have anymore info, Michael. I'm pretty much on deadlines and haven't been following anything in the news, But like I said, I'm fairly certain that whatever is going on, there's a heavy US influence.
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Lee Heggy
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:43 am:   

Seven months after the last posting to this thread I happened to be looking for more info on Lee Christmas and discovered this thread. I first read of Mr. Christmas' exploits in an old and I would imagine fairly rare book on gunfighters and such. One little interesting addition to Lee Christmas and his attire is that he was noted for being one of the few if not the first men to sport dual Lugar pistols. Gold plated, ivory grips and engraved. They were apparently awarded him at the time he made purchase of the Krupps guns. He was also known to be a very skilled marksman. I wonder what ever happened to them? They would be very valuble. Anyway, thanks for the great read!

Lee
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:54 am:   

Thanks for that bit of info, Lee, I;m going to be doing a book that;s kinda sorta about Christmas next year.
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Lee Heggy
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 05:58 am:   

I kinda gathered that was what you were doing Lucius. I am an Art History instructor at a Junior College in Kansas City. As with my feeble attempts at poetry most of my writing has been mercifully suppressed by the public. This is a really great forum for those such as yourself to collaborate and share. I plan on reading alot here. Fascinating people and excellent writing...this place is like a banquet for a starving man.

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