Here’s a broadcast from August 4th, 2018 I did about August in History and Song.
This resource is free for anyone to use, but if you’re able to support my work by joining my CSA this will make it possible for me to do lots more.
“The Man Who Burned the White House Down”
On August 24th, 1814, the White House, Congress and Supreme Court were torched by a British naval force led by General Robert Ross. It was 1814, but this was in the course of what people in the US know of as the War of 1812. Rather than a British attempt to retake the colonies, as is often portrayed inaccurately in some US history books, the war was started by a US military invasion of Canada, and the wholesale burning down of the city of York (now Toronto). Canada was invaded to teach a lesson to those Canadians who dared give safe haven to escaped slaves from the US. Civilian homes in York were destroyed along with government buildings. General Ross was comparatively merciful, limiting his destructive efforts to US government buildings, all of which had only fairly recently been built.
In August, 1917, a secret organization in Oklahoma called the Working Class Union launched a short-lived effort that became known as the Green Corn Rebellion. For years, the WCU had been engaging in tactics including industrial sabotage, providing arms to miners under assault by company goons, and terrorizing large landholders through a practice known as “night riding.” When the supposedly isolationist President Wilson decided it was time to institute a military draft and send young US men off to die on the blood-drenched fields of Flanders, the Working Class Union decided if they were going to die fighting a war for the capitalists anyway, then they may as well take a big gamble and launch an armed insurrection in Washington, DC. They intended to march from Oklahoma to DC, gathering forces along the way. The march was cut short very early, when the marchers were confronted by hundreds of their friends and neighbors, armed, beseeching them not to go. The WCU consisted of men and women, Black, white and Indian, young and old. They were prepared to die fighting the forces of capital in Washington, DC, but they were not prepared to fight their neighbors, so they surrendered without a shot being fired. Many rebels received long jail terms.
August 29th, 1921, marked the first day of the siege of Mingo, West Virginia, in the episode that became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. The union miners of West Virginia had had enough, after women and children were massacred by company thugs in the town of Sharples, and after a hundred union miners had been arrested and were being held without trial in Mingo. Although much-loved labor leaders such as Mother Jones beseeched the miners to turn back, they didn’t. They commandeered trains and private cars, raiding every store that sold guns and ammo along the way. Many women were part of the march, coordinating essential aspects of the endeavor such as cooking and triage. For three days and nights, 13,000 union miners faced off with 10,000 or so men who identified with the mine operators and other elements of the ruling class sufficiently that they were willing to fight the miners. This force included every cop in the entire state. Most of the men on both sides of the valley that separated the armies were World War I veterans. All knew how costly to life and limb charging the lines of the other side would be, and neither side ever did it. After three days, the US military showed up and deftly defused the situation. No jury anywhere in the state of West Virginia would ever prosecute any of the rebel miners.
“Rod Monroe Campaign Song”
Rod Monroe was born on August 20th, 1942. He would grow up to become a wealthy man by buying property in Portland, Oregon, all the while serving the interests of landlords like him as a long-time State Senator. He opposes rent control. Like most members of the Owning Class in Oregon, he’s a Democrat.
On August 6th, 1945, Hiroshima became the first city to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Three days later, Nagasaki became the second. We now know as a matter of the public record what only select political and military leaders knew back then: that the Japanese Empire was attempting to surrender at the time these cities were annihilated and most of their inhabitants — primarily women, children and the elderly — were killed. We also know that neither city had any military importance, with no factories actually running. All the arguments for the military necessity of dropping nuclear bombs were known by the people making them to be lies. These bombings were war crimes of the highest possible order — crimes of genocide.
What is known in Iceland as the only act of domestic terrorism committed in the country’s history occurred on August 25th, 1970 in the Laxa Valley. It involved a midnight dynamiting of a dam. Over a hundred farmers came to participate in the action, all of whom called in to the police the next day to declare their responsibility for it. They blew up the dam to protest the government’s plans to build a much bigger dam. The dam was never built, the authorities were never able to ascertain which farmers actually blew up the dam, and no one was ever punished for this crime, which is sometimes known in Iceland as the event that gave birth to the modern environmental movement there.
On August 6th, 1990, the UN imposed extensive sanctions on Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In the wake of a massive bombing campaign carried out primarily by the US Air Force, Iraq withdrew from Kuwait. The sanctions continued right up until the 2003 invasion of the country, and were responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of children, according to UNICEF.
On August 20th, 1993, the people of the fishing community of Cordova, Alaska initiated a blockade of Prince William Sound. For three days and nights, their line of boats stretched across the water and prevented oil tankers from coming in or getting out. It had been four years since the Exxon Valdez oil tanker catastrophe — enough time to find out whether the herring run would recover. It didn’t. Outraged at the whole situation, and the lack of accountability of the Exxon Corporation for the damage caused to the fishing industry and the environment, the people of Cordova took this daring action. They only ended the blockade after the Secretary of the Interior got on a boat and came out to talk to them. He agreed to fund research into the toxicity of oil. He followed through with this promise, and the definitive conclusion of the researchers was that oil is in fact very, very toxic.
“From Kabul to Khartoum”
Sanctions on Iraq had been going on for many years, causing the untimely deaths of hundreds of thousands of predominantly Iraqi Muslim men, women and children. But when the USS Cole was attacked, the western media painted the event as if an innocent US Navy ship was attacked by crazed, bearded Muslims because they hate our freedom. And then the Clinton administration’s military assaults in Afghanistan and Sudan on August 21st, 1998 that followed were painted as “retaliation.” Of course, by definition the US (and the UK, Israel, France, etc.) are always retaliating, never initiating. The bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan had a devastating effect on the entire region, since there was no way for the government of Sudan to replace the loss of the drugs that the factory had been producing.
“Who Will Tell the People”
The longstanding conflict between different interests within the Pacifica Foundation reached especially Orwellian proportions when on August 14th, 2001, Pacifica’s flagship show, Democracy Now!, was taken off the air on the five radio stations owned by the network.
“Song for Cindy Sheehan”
On August 6th, 2005, Cindy Sheehan and dozens of others set up camp outside President George W Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Her son, Casey, had been killed in Iraq over a year earlier. Cindy wanted to ask Bush why her son had died. He wouldn’t answer her phone calls, so she thought she’d pay him a personal visit, but he wouldn’t open the gate to his ranch, either.
As Camp Casey was being dismantled in Texas in preparation for Cindy Sheehan and others to go on a speaking tour around the US, Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana and Alabama on August 28th, 2005. Soon the rainfall would overwhelm the decrepit, neglected infrastructure in the city of New Orleans, flooding the city. The worst was yet to come, as federal, state and municipal authorities were all utterly incapable of dealing effectively or even rationally with the situation. As soldiers prevented people from trying to help those dying in flooded neighborhoods, as vigilantes shot “looters” for “stealing” essential supplies from flooded shops in an abandoned city, thousands died and continued to die in the water, in attics and on rooftops across the city. Cuban aid was offered and rejected.
“London Is Burning”
On August 4th, 2011, a Black Londoner named Mark Duggan was shot by police while sitting in the seat of a car. Fiery rebellion in every major English city soon followed. These periodic urban rebellions in places full of inequality like England and the United States are never predicated on only one particular event, really. Rather, the events that set off the uprisings are simply representative of the general way people feel like they are treated by the police or some other aspect of the power structure. Other examples include urban uprisings in England in the 1980’s and rebellions throughout the United States in 1991.
“Spies Are Reading My Blog”
In August, 2013, I was denied entry to New Zealand. I was at Narita Airport in Japan, about the board a flight for Auckland, when I got a phone call on the cell phone of an airline employee. On the other end was New Zealand Immigration. The immigration agent informed me that she had been reading my blog, and that I was not welcome in her country. It was after this that I learned about the Five Eyes treaty, as it’s often known. This was an agreement between the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand signed in 1948, under which all five countries share all immigration information with each other. So if you’re on a watch list in one of these countries you can be sure you’re on exactly the same watch list in all of them.
“If I Had A Hammer”
On August 22nd, 2013, Graeme Dunstan was found guilty in Queensland of damaging a helicopter gunship with a sledgehammer. Australia and the US were conducting joint “war games,” as they are called. Graeme was one of many who had seen the footage leaked by Chelsea Manning and released by Wikileaks that showed a US Army helicopter gunship slaughtering a group of journalists and children in the streets of Baghdad beneath them, as they desperately, futilely tried to escape the onslaught. One of many to have seen the footage, one of few to decide that he had to do something about it, directly, by removing one helicopter gunship from the equation. Graeme is part of an international movement known often as Plowshares.
“Has the Bombing Begun?”
On August 28th, 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Equality — Nobel laureate President Barack Obama gave a speech that sought to justify what was looking like an imminent, large-scale US/UK attack on Syria. The parliament in the UK opposed the idea, while at the same time, Russia negotiated for Syria to safely get rid of its stockpile of chemical weapons. The Obama administration then backed down from their imperial plans, for the time being. But at the time, like many other people in the world, I was wondering when the bombing would begin.
“His Hands Were In the Air”
On August 9th, 2014, a young African-American man named Michael Brown, Jr was killed in the street in broad daylight in Ferguson, Missouri by a cop. The cop was sitting in his police car, while Michael Brown, unarmed, had his hands in the air. His body was left in the street for four hours, while his relatives weren’t allowed to go near it. Rebellion in Ferguson and cities across the US followed. The killer cop was later found not guilty — as usual under US justice.
On August 28th, 2015, a truck with 71 bodies was discovered on a highway in Austria. The dead were men, women and children from Syria and other war zones. They had been traveling in a refrigerator truck which was sealed, and everyone inside died of asphyxiation. Many people wondered why refugees escaping wars would have to travel in such obviously dangerous conditions — why was no one just rescuing them and bringing them to safety, as had been done in some cases in past wars, such as with the Danish Jews in 1943 or the Spanish Jews in 1492? Many others did not ask such humane questions.
On August 6th, 2016, Jill Stein was nominated Green Party presidential candidate. You’ll be forgiven for having no idea that this ever happened, given the virtual media blackout on her and all other third party candidates. And given the fact that our rigged, corrupt “democracy” makes a third party coming to power virtually impossible.
“Butcher for Hire”
On August 16th, 2016, John Timoney died. He distinguished himself in his life by loyally serving the interests of the capitalist class. As police chief of several major US cities, Timoney vilified protesters, misinformed his officers about the nature of other recent large protests, and otherwise whipped up a hysterical atmosphere prior to the major protests that were always about to occur in the cities where he was brought in to lead a city’s police department. Police under his command systematically committed human rights violations and broke the law, with prior intent to do so. Departments he led always had a large slush fund for the lawsuits brought by protesters whose rights they intended to violate. They fully intended to lose these lawsuits in advance — all part of Timoney’s policing strategy: to suppress the democratic impulses of civil society by any means necessary, regardless of legality or morality. The extreme police brutality Timoney directed at civil society groups in Philadelphia in 2000 and Miami in 2003 played a significant role in the ultimately successful suppression of the anticapitalist movement of the day.
“Today in Charlottesville”
On August 12th, 2017, Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured when a member of the far right plowed his car into a crowd of people marching against white supremacists. Once again proving that while words themselves can’t kill you, they can make others kill — whether they use sticks, stones, guns, or cars to do the killing.