Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

History Lessons

By Eduardo Galeano
Memory of Fire: Century of the Wind

1912: Daiquiri
Daily Life in the Caribbean: An Invasion

The Platt Amendment, handiwork of Senator Platt of Connecticut, is the passkey that the US uses to enter Cuba at any hour.  The amendment, part of the Cuban Constitution, authorizes the US to invade and stand fast, and gives it the power to decide who is or is not a proper president for Cuba.

The current proper president, Mario Garcia Menocal, who also presides over the Cuban American Sugar Company, applies the Platt Amendment, calling in the Marines to put unrest to rest.  Too many blacks are in revolt, and none of them has a high enough opinion of private property.  Two warships steam in and the Marines land on the beach at Daiquiri to protect the iron and copper mines of the Spanish American and Cuban Copper companies, threatened by black wrath, and the sugar mills all along the Guantanamo and Western Railroad tracks.

1912: Niquinohomo
Daily Life in Central America: Another Invasion

Nicaragua pays the US a colossal indemnity for moral damages, inflicted by fallen president Zelaya when he committed the grave offense of trying to impose taxes on North American companies. 

As Nicaragua lacks funds, US bankers lend the necessary monies to pay the indemnity, and since Nicaragua lacks guarantees, US Secretary of State Philander Knox sends back the Marines to take charge of customs houses, national banks, and railroads.

Benjamin Zeledon heads the resistance.  The chief of the patriots has a fresh-looking face and startled eyes.  The invaders cannot bribe him because Zeledon spits on money, so they defeat him by treachery.

Augusto Cesar Sandino, a no-account peon from a no-account village, sees Zeledon's corpse pass by, dragged through the dust, hands and feet bound to the saddle of a drunken invader.

1917: The Fields of Chihuahua and Durango
Eagles into Hens

A punitive expedition, ten thousand soldiers with plentiful artillery enter Mexico to make Pancho Villa pay for his impudent attack on the North American city of Columbus, [New Mexico].

 "We'll bring back that assassin in an iron cage," proclaims General John [Black Jack] Pershing, and the thunder of his guns echoes the words.

Across the drought-stricken immensities of northern Mexico, General Pershing finds various graves - Here lies Pancho Villa - without a Villa in any of them.  He finds snakes and lizards and silent stones, and campesinos who murmur false leads when beaten, threatened, or offered all the gold in the world.

After some months, almost a year, Pershing returns to the US.  He brings back a long caravan of soldiers fed up with breathing dust, with the people throwing stones, with the lies in each little village in that gravelly desert.  Two young lieutenants march at the head of the humbled procession.  Both have had in Mexico their baptism of fire.  For Dwight Eisenhower, newly graduated from West Point, it is an unlucky start on the road to military glory.  George Patton spits as he leaves this ignorant and half-savage country.

From the crest of a hill, Pancho Villa looks down and comments: "They came like eagles and they leave like wet hens."


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