The Philippines Trafficking Epidemic: Past & Present

In this two part series on the US/Philippines human trafficking epidemic, Abby Martin recalls the history of the colonization of the Philippines and how it has led to a dramatic rise in human trafficking of Philippine workers. She interviews the executive director of Damayan, the 8,000 member strong New York City based organization created and led by Filipino women domestic workers that provides legal assistance to migrant workers and human trafficking victims, as well as other victims of human trafficking who have experienced the dark side of migrant employment.

Part One: Buying a Slave – The Hidden World of US/Philippines Trafficking

Part Two: The Roots of the Philippines Trafficking Epidemic

The Philippines has suffered the consequences of occupation and colonization for hundreds of years with the effects still being seen today in the form of poverty, job shortages and a human trafficking epidemic. A shocking 10% of the Philippine population must leave the country in order to seek employment in hopes of sending money back to their families. An estimated 6,000 people, mostly women, leave the Philippines daily to seek work.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry that entraps millions of people across the globe. The majority of victims are abused– living and working in shockingly inhumane conditions. Particularly horrifying is the fact that, in the Philippines, humans have become the number one export.

Most of these migrant workers leave the Philippines for the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Japan where they work in low-wage jobs. In fact, 21 million people are working in forced labor situations worldwide- many of them right under the noses of the average citizen of these countries.

There are currently 2 million migrant domestic workers working in the United States. According to the recent report The Human Trafficking of Domestic Workers in The United States, over 80% of these workers have experienced their pay being withheld or having been paid under minimum wage, 81% live in abusive conditions and 73% work excessive overtime.

Through this process, many of these migrant workers have become victims of human trafficking and have found themselves stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of abuse and neglect. But what has led to this disturbing trend? Why do so many Filipinos flee their home country for work and subject themselves to such harsh and inhumane conditions?

The Philippines was first claimed by the Spanish in 1525. The indigenous Filipino people engaged in over 300 armed revolts over the next three hundred years, eventually securing their independence after a two year long war of independence. At the time, Spain was also engaged in the Spanish-American war. Upon losing that war, Spain negotiated the sale of the Philippines to the United States, behind the backs of the Filipino people, for a total sum of $20 million in the Treaty of Paris.

This began a many decade-long hostile relationship between the Filipino people and their new occupiers from the United States. With such a volatile relationship, conflicts occurred frequently resulting in the deaths of numerous Filipinos. In one such conflict, the Moro Crater Massacre, only six out of 1,000 Filipinos survived. Shockingly, in the first 15 years of colonization, more Filipinos were killed by the U.S. than during the entire three hundred years of Spanish occupation.

As the violence decreased, the occupation took on a new form– economic destruction and experiments in neocolonialism. There quickly became a dependence on U.S. patronage for survival of the now fragile Philippine economy and the U.S. began focusing it’s efforts and attention on the elite of the Filipino people– training and educating them to be vehicles of U.S. colonization.

This led to the granting of Philippine independence in 1946 but that independence was only in name. With the puppets of neocolonialism now in charge of the country, the U.S. continued to have a direct line of control, only now it was slightly obscured. Also in 1946, the United States Congress passed the Rescission Act, stripping Filipinos who fought in defense of the U.S. against the Japanese during World War II of the benefits they were promised for doing so, yet another damaging blow to the Philippine people.

“Our country was ruined primarily by the U.S.” –Linda Oalican

Tensions between the Filipino people and the U.S. backed ruling class have continued to this day, with the Philippine economy continuing to suffer and a successful government propaganda campaign encouraging workers to seek employment elsewhere via the Philippine Labor Migration Policy continuing to grow. In this episode, Abby Martin details the history of the colonization of the Philippines, starting with the Spanish in 1525 and ending with the present day situation, leading to an exodus of able-bodied workers from the Philippines to all corners of the globe– often ripping families apart and damaging relationships for years to come.

“The history of the Philippine resistance is an unbroken chain– from it’s first hand-to-hand battles against colonizers wearing armor and swords to it’s organizing against today’s exploiters who wear three piece suits, the poor and oppressed of the Philippines are much more than victims of the system, but are indeed the force that will change it.”

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Part One Transcript

Abby Martin: The Philippines, among the many nations whose history is one of being colonized and subjugated by the world’s empires, today suffers the consequences of that legacy, underdevelopment, high unemployment, and deepening poverty. This has led to a phenomenon that dominates the lives of millions of Filipinos. The fact that over 10% of the population, mostly women, must leave the country to seek work in order to send money back to their families. Six thousand people leave the Philippines as migrant workers every single day. Imagine children, often too young to understand, watching their mother leave, and knowing they will not see them again for a decade or more. This is now a shared experience for countless families in the island nation. Most go to work low-waged jobs in the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. They send back over $20 billion a year into the Philippine economy. Despite its dramatically smaller population, the Philippines ranks alongside India and China as the top countries receiving such remittances, But when these people leave their homes, they enter into a dark, cruel industry. Human trafficking is mostly absent in US consciousness. Most don’t think of trafficking when it comes to jobs like nannies, maids at big hotel chains, and other domestic work, but millions of migrant workers are trafficked into these jobs every year. It’s defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means for an improper purpose including forced labor, or sexual exploitation. This global black market ensnares 21 million people around the world, making $150 billion a year in illegal profits for traffickers. According to the recent report, the human trafficking of domestic workers in the United States, there are currently two million migrant domestic workers that live in the US. Around 300,000 of whom are Philippina, and doing legally with work visas. The overwhelming majority are placed by agencies in a shockingly inhumane conditions. Over 80% have had their pay withheld or are paid below minimum wage, live in abusive conditions, and have been tricked or false or deceptive contracts. Over 70% work excessive overtime, and have had their movements restricted or monitored by employers. A New York City based organization called Damayan, which means to help each other, is one group fighting this web of exploitation. It is led by Filipino women domestic workers, and with 8,000 members, organizes and provides legal assistance to other migrant workers, and trafficking victims. I visited their bustling headquarters to understand more about the situation. Linda, a co-founder at Damayan who came to the US as a migrant worker, explains the sacrifice experienced by these women.

Linda: In 1994, I made a fateful decision to come here. When I first came here, I left my children. They were in elementary. A boy and a girl, and it wasn’t easy. It’s always hard for a mother to leave her children, but I thought that I did not have a choice. I had no enough source of income to send my two children to college, and I really need to go abroad. My thing, my difficulties in being away from my children, those were all collateral damage. I was very young then. I’m now 65. Life is different for me now. I also have a granddaughter. Having the chance to raise my granddaughter, now I realize how precious the moments that I’ve lost. That really cost my relationship to my children. Women, Filipino women, who come here, they don’t talk about the family and the social cost of migration, but it is real.

Abby Martin: One of Linda’s children, her daughter, Ria, also came to the US as an adult. She recalls what it was like to lose her mother so young.

Ria: Yeah, it was really difficult. I consider myself a product of forced migration. When I was eight, I found myself crying my eyes out at the Manila International Airport because my father, brother, and I were saying goodbye to my mother. She was about to board her flight to work as a domestic worker in the US. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that I was about to lose my mother, and our family was about to get separated. After that, things changed. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. When I got older, and I know it was because of the family separation or the impacts of family separation on my family. That’s why I’m very invested in this work.

Abby Martin: Human trafficking survivor, Sally, also came to the US at great personal cost.

Sally: I have three children, and my husband suffered a stroke, so I need to work to provide their living. My youngest child is a special child, so it’s hard for me to leave, but I need to go abroad to support them. The worst that I experienced when I’m not with them is when my husband died, and I didn’t go home. I have no money, so it’s hard to see that. I cannot see the last breath of my husband. My kids is, they are living without parents, so it’s hard for me.

Abby Martin: Yeah.

Linda: It’s really sad for these women, me included, that you pay a very high price to support your family, and you grow old, and you realize you’re still sacrificing. Many of our members are broken. Not just brokenhearted, well they’re also penniless. They sent all the money home. No money to take care of themselves when they go home, and they’re heartbroken. There was a time when it was more men who are leaving the country, working in Saudi, in the United States, and other countries for manufacturing, construction jobs. That era was disappearing by 1980s and beginning 1990s, so from the 1990s the migration has become feminized. Now the challenge is on the women, and the women took it. Although 6,000 Filipinos who leave every day, I could say that maybe 80% are women, and 70% of those women become domestic workers. In the Philippines, one out of four have a family member that is abroad. Now, it’s mostly women.

Abby Martin: I can’t imagine what that does to a country when that many women are leaving their family behind.

Linda: A generation of this function of families and children, with a lot of emotional and psychological problems.

Abby Martin: These women endure such personal hardships only to become victims of human trafficking and subjected to criminal working conditions.

Ria: In 2007, we met our first trafficking survivor. She was the domestic worker for the Philippine Ambassador to the UN. She worked as a nurse in the Philippines, and she was promised that she would be able to work as a nurse when she comes here, so she was asked to sign a contract basically that she would pay $5,000, and she would be able to come here and work.Then when she came here, she didn’t know that she would come here as a domestic worker for the diplomat, so she ended up cleaning three floors, house with three floors. She was serving the diplomat, his family, including his children. Her passport was taken. She was not allowed to leave the house. The house was locked from the inside.She had no phone. She had no contact with her family, to the point that she was suicidal. We met her because I think the landline, they wouldn’t even give her access to that landline. One time it rang. She picked it up. There was a Filipino on the other line. She said, “Help me. Help me.” The other woman ended up knowing the Damayan, that’s how she was connected to us.

Abby Martin: How common is that for diplomats to completely abuse the system like that?

Ria: Oh yeah, very, very common. Like what I said, we’ve been doing this work since 2007, and until recently, most of the cases we’re handling are domestic workers of diplomats. We’ve handled cases from diplomats from Japan, from Peru, from Germany. The UN is just right here. It’s like buying a slave for them. You would think this people, with their degrees and their titles, would treat another human being with dignity and respect, right? They’re supposed to be human rights defenders, but they’re the very ones who are abusing this workers, who are taking care of their homes and their children, and them. It’s mind boggling.

Abby Martin: It is. The level of dehumanization is totally mind boggling. Let’s talk about the passports being removed, and the lack of communication because people watching this may think, “Well, why can’t you just call your family? Why can’t you just warn people and say don’t do this and help me?” A lot of these people have all these things completely cut off from them.

Ria: The first thing that they do when they get a domestic worker in their homes is to take away their passport. One of the main elements of labor trafficking is control. It’s creating that climate of fear, so it’s either the control has grew physical, meaning their passport is taken, or other important documents are taken, the house is locked. I’ve never heard of houses that gets locked from the inside, but apparently that’s where diplomats set up their houses that way.

Abby Martin: It’s insane.

Ria: I know right. Who does that, really? It’s like premeditated crime, right? We’ve had a worker who worked for a diplomat in West Chester, where there’s an alarm system, so every time she stepped out to bring out the trash or get the newspaper, the alarm would beep. It would keep beeping until she enters the house again. The consulates or the embassies in the Philippines or in other countries, they’re actually aware that there is trafficking happening in the US because they would tell the workers, “If anything happens to you, call this number.” Then we’ve consistently heard of this pamphlet that was given to our members, but we’ve never seen a copy. Then yesterday, I just received a copy from our members, so it’s this one. This is the pamphlet that they would receive from the consulate from their home countries, and then usually as soon as they come here, the passport and this pamphlet would be taken away from them.Isn’t that ironic, right? It’s like, “Okay, call this number if you’re getting trafficked,” and as soon as you come here like, “Okay, I guess I can’t call them because they’re taking this. I’m actually getting trafficked right now. That’s just the irony of the situation.

Abby Martin: Ria, let’s talk about the conditions, the abusive conditions, that some of these people are living in, and the slave-like conditions essentially. Let’s start with just the pay. You said that there’s instances where you can sign up on a contract, and say you’re contracting to have this many hours for this much pay. Of course, that is violated. What about when you’re not paid at all, and you’re essentially trapped in these situations? Talk about that.

Ria: We’ve had one of our worker organizers, Lydia, she was brought here by a church. She was supposed to come here as a missionary, but she ended up working as a domestic worker for some of the top church leaders. She worked for free for three years, like zero pay. Lydia: When I was invited to come here, I was very excited and happy to have this opportunity, so in that opportunity to coming here as a missionary I get five years visa, just visa. In that contract I was told that in two years, being full time in the church, doing a fund raising in supporting the church, they would adjust my status into Green Card, but that didn’t happen to me. I ended up became domestic worker for three years, no salary. I was taking care of the three young kids for three years, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, no days off, no salary. I always hungry. I have no … I can’t talk to my friends. I can’t communicate with my family. I was told because my Green Card didn’t come, so I was told they’re going to send me back to Philippines, but then I realized I was used by this family. The reason I cannot escape in this situation, I cannot live in this situation, I don’t know anyone. I’m scared. I came as a missionary. I know people around that group. Then I was told not making a friend in the outside of that group is not safe for me. I can’t imagine going back for nothing, and then going to start from zero. What will happen to my future and my family?

Abby Martin: When they found out you were gone, they tried to contact you, and threaten you, and deport you.

Lydia: Yes. I have to hide. I don’t have anyone. Even like went to my family in Philippines looking for me.

Abby Martin: What?

Lydia: Yes. “Is Lydia here?” It was kind of scary. They’re treating me like a criminal.

AM: The placement agencies running this scam, register workers in the US, primarily through their H-2B visas for low-skilled seasonal workers, and A-3G5 visas for domestic workers of diplomats. Foreign diplomats are actually the top clients for traffickers.

Ria: For A-3G5 or domestic workers of diplomats, that means that they were recruited even from the Philippines, they were promised on paper they would earn this much, work for 40 hours a week, get paid $8 an hour, have benefits, have transportation, lodging, days off, but when they come here, they realize that it’s all a fraud. Everything that they were shown, was just for show so that their visa would be approved, and they would be able to come here. Same thing with domestic workers who go through the H-2B program. The H-2B program that’s actually low-skilled seasonal workers. The US governments quota for that is $60,000 a year or around $60,000 a year. The strategy of the placement agencies is to fill the quota. They would go to third-world countries, like Mexico, India, and the Philippines, recruit workers who are not really middle-class…with the promise of being able to come to the US. They would be forced to pay anywhere between $3,000 to $9,000. Of course these are not rich people in the Philippines. It’s a third-world country, so they would like loan the house, mortgage the house, borrow money from loan sharks. It becomes a community affair. Everyone in the family pitches in. Then when they get the money, the required as a processing fee, they’re able to come here, only to find out that there are no jobs for them, or they were promised 40 hours a week, but they’re only working anywhere from between five to ten hours.Then, of course, by that time, panic would set it because they were already expecting that they would be able to pay their debts back home. The kids would be able to go to school. It’s money for the medical bills. Then when they come here, none of that happens, so they get into like a spiral of depression and also just abuse at the hands of the placement agencies. They usually find themselves living in cramped living situations. We’re talking about like a two bedroom apartment with like three or four people in each room with no furnishings. They were earning like $50 a week. Then they still had to pay for their apartment, meanwhile they’re not earning. They were not earning. They would, when they’re cleaning the resorts, or the hotels, they would gather food that the guests had left, and they would get food in the trash. They would recook it, and then eat it.We’ve had an instance of a worker who was brought to a container van, and then they opened the van. It was filled with cockroaches. They said, “No, we’re not going in there.” The workers refused to go in there, so they bombed it with poison. Then they had to clean up the cockroaches. Imagine moving halfway around the world, and then being confronted by situation like that. You don’t know the country. You don’t know the culture. You don’t know anyone. Then you’re totally alone and desperate. A lot of the workers, like I said, are either working poor, or peasants, or middle class professionals, but even the middle class professionals, they would apply for an H-2B visa because there are no jobs back home. It’s like living in a third-world country like the Philippines, it’s like living in a burning building. You’re living in a burning building, and of course, you’re forced to jump out of the windows. In the Philippines case, you’re not just jumping out of the windows, someone is actually profiting from you, from jumping out of the windows. These are the placement agencies that are approved by the Philippine government. Then on the US side, of course there’s collaborations between the placement agencies. These agencies are tied to big hotels, and big resorts in Florida, or in other cities. Instead of hiring US born or American workers, where they have to pay minimum wage, full benefits, and other things, they will skip all of that and just hire a worker from a third-world country like the Philippines, and pay $7.50 an hour, no benefits at all. Of course, they would go with the worker, with the migrant worker.

Abby Martin: Another way these placement agencies profit from those trapped in this fraud is by charging them around seven times the amount for visa renewals, a process required every six to nine months. Even more treacherous is when the agencies refuse to renew their worker’s visas at all, trapping them in a situation where they must work illegally under threat from their employer.Ria: It’s a very desperate situation for them because now they found themselves becoming undocumented. It’s not the typical narrative that we know when we talk about undocumented people, workers, migrant workers, coming here, and then their visas not being renewed. It’s either because that placement agencies are abusive, or diplomats who are abusive and they have to run away. It’s not the typical narrative that we know.

Lydia: So they mess up my papers, but they force me to work without proper documents.

Abby Martin: The contract was being violated that you signed. Your visa wasn’t renewed. Talk about when they forced you to keep working without proper documentation. How did you make that work?

Lydia: Yeah. I feel so bad because I’m very scared to get out of my house and going to work when the manager, we will talk to the manager. They just said, “If you do not stop, you will be deported. I will called the police. Then they will put you in the chamber.” They said like that. We talk about our situation with my co-workers. We decided to escape.

Linda: Many have overstayed. It is true, Mr. Trump, many have overstayed. Why? Because there’s no other option for these women to support their children except to continue working in their receiving countries like the US. If I am a just remind, the government of the United States, our country was ruined primarily by the United States. If Mr. Trump, and [inaudible 00:23:04] are trying to think what will make immigrants go home, just create jobs in the sending country. Why is that not happening? Because the interest of the elite in the Philippines, and the interest of the corporations here are very tightly intertwined. That’s really the story. We are just your creations. If we’re going to solve this, we have to solve it on [inaudible 00:23:35] level.

Abby Martin: For Damayan, these deeper issues are at the core of their fight. They’re in a two-front battle. On one side, fighting for the rights of their workers. On the other, fighting to change the system that created this tragic crisis.Ria: There’s this quote that I really like. The workers are the true makers of history.

[foreign language 00:23:53] We’re creating this entire process, not just to help them adjust their status, or win their wage stuff, their stolen wages, but it’s also so that we can raise their consciousness. It was sad that this happened to me. It was heartbreaking that they suffered, but also that a lot of people are suffering. Trafficking survivors as a collective are suffering. The children of domestic workers are suffering. The suffering will not end if we just stop with adjusting our status and winning our cases. We can end that vicious cycle if we put the leadership of trafficking survivors at the center.

Part Two Transcript

Abby Martin: Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry that entraps millions of people across the world. The majority of victims are abused and living in inhumane conditions. Many caught in this dark web originate from the Philippines, where human beings have become the number one export. In our last episode I visited Damayan, a Filipino domestic worker led group that organizes trafficking victims. It’s founder, Linda Oalican, explained these high numbers.

Linda Oalican: There’s no other option for these women to support their children except to continue working in their receiving countries, like the U.S. If I may just remind you, the government of the United States, our country was ruined primarily by the United States.

AM: Of course the economic crisis can’t be looked at in vacuum and all the root causes began long ago. The Philippine Islands have been choked by colonial powers for the past five centuries. Its mosaic of over 7,000 culturally distinct islands were first claimed by the Spanish Empire in 1525. Spain occupied and rules the Philippines for the next three centuries. This long history of colonial domination is, at its heart, a history of resistance. At least 300 large scale armed revolts were carried out by indigenous Filipinos against the Spanish Empire. One of the fiercest independence fighters was a woman known as Gabriela Silang, born in 1731.She rose to General in the indigenous Army and personally lead the longest lasting revolt against the colonizers all by the age of only 31 years old when she was captured and executed by Spanish troops. In 1896, Andrés Bonifacio and his underground organization, The Katipunan, declared the beginning of the Philippine revolution with an uprising against colonial forces in Manila. The revolution quickly spread through the constellation of islands. After two years of sustained rebellion and with Spain distracted by a war with the U.S., independence was imminent.

LO: About the independence from Spain, we fought our national war over independence against Spain. We already won, but then it was already, at the time, that capitalist America was rising and it was looking for other markets abroad where they could get raw materials for the industries and find new market for their products. They found the Philippines. They connived and so they negotiated with Spain at our backs to say that, “Okay, they’re about to win. You might as well want to sell this country to me. I’ll pay you and we’ll take care of them.” That was The Treaty of Paris.

AM: In 1898 the Philippines declared itself independent for the very first time, but true to the logic of empires, this was not recognized by western powers. Instead, the defeated Spanish Empire drew up an imaginary deed and signed over ownership to the United States. The U.S. also claimed Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico in the conquest and even paid a hefty compensation for their lost colony. As one Senator said in celebration, “The Philippines are ours forever and just beyond The Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. The power that rules the Pacific is the power that rules the world.”

LO: That did not happen without a fight. The resistance of The Philippine people continued. There was a time, I think it was in 1904 or 1905, where the United States has to kill all the male population in the big island named Samar from 10 years old and above. Why? Because they were outmaneuvered by the Filipino guerrillas and many Americans were killed. The U.S. commander ordered the killing of all male inhabitants of the island from 10 years old and above.

AM: Tactics like these embodied the war on the Philippine people. As one of the American commanders said openly to the Manila Times in 1901, his orders to the troops were clear. “I want no prisoners. I wish to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better you will please me. Make it a howling wilderness.” The Filipinos strongly resisted this pacification in both conventional and guerrilla tactics. They were outmatched militarily. Only about one in four Filipinos were armed with a gun, the rest with nothing but bolos and spears. Repulsed by this war, over a dozen U.S. soldiers, many of them African American, abandoned their posts to join the native resistance. One of them, David Fagen, even became a Captain in the revolutionary army, nicknamed General Fagen by Filipino freedom fighters. The U.S. rounded up tens of thousands of peasants into concentration camps and designated battle zones that made no distinction between combatants and civilians. The war was officially declared over in 1902, but a guerrilla war by the revolutionary army raged on for another decade and the atrocities continued.In 1906, U.S. forces sought to wipe out the stubborn resistance of the indigenous Moro people. When 1,000 of them, including many women and children, retreated to hide together in a nearby crater, they were mercilessly gunned down. Only six out of the 1,000 survived the massacre. The first 15 years of colonization were so brutal that the U.S. had already killed more Filipinos than the Spanish had over the previous 300 years. In that short time, over 1 million Filipinos from a population that barely numbered 6 million. While American politicians waged their pacification campaign with mass killings, they built the structure of their new colony. U.S. Army generals were installed as dictator of different regions. A series of colonial laws sought to smash any dreams of national independence. Dissidents were either given lengthy prison sentences or executed in unspeakably cruel ways. English only policies were enforced. It even became illegal to display the flag of The Philippines Republic. New trade laws and tariffs made it so that U.S. monopolies were nearly unchallenged. The islands were forced to develop as simply an export economy for a few goods like hemp, sugar and tobacco. Much of the population was subjugated as plantation workers who also served as a reserve labor force the U.S. exported to Hawaii, California and beyond to replace higher paid or striking workers.Huge logging and commercial mining projects stripped the land of raw materials and decimated the environment. Development centered on producing for U.S. capitalists, not for the Filipino people and dependence on U.S. patronage for survival. This elevated a tiny class of Filipinos. Big landlords and owners of mills and factories accumulated lavish wealth. Knowing the era of colonial rule was cracking, a comprador class was groomed to take over the formal rule from the United States.

LO: These stories were not even written in official history books of The Philippines. They are trying to cover up the ugly relationship of American and The Philippines. There was a period where The Philippines was a direct colony of the United States. The United States also experimented something very new in The Philippines, Neocolonialism. Controlling a country not by direct force, not by having Americans rule the country, but by training the elite in the country, training them, educating them, about how American wants and needs The Philippines to be to support their imperial design around the globe. That’s what happened to The Philippines beginning 1946. We were so-called given our independence after the United States has controlled the economy, the military and then the foreign relations, the education, everything that is critical and is strategic for the country, they control.

AM: That era came with the end of World War II, during which the Japanese empire attacked and occupied The Philippines. The political elite in the country dutifully switched to administrators of Japan’s occupation. Quick to show its imperials face in just one massacre, known as the Baton Death March, an estimated 18,000 captured Filipinos were killed in shootings, beatings and beheadings by Japanese soldiers. President Roosevelt made an appeal to Filipinos, “Join our Army to fight Japan and we’ll give you all the benefits of American veterans.” Over 200,000 Filipinos answered that call, but as soon as the war ended, Congress revoked all benefits for Filipinos in the U.S. military. To this day, Congress refuses to grant those benefits to the 50,000 surviving Filipino veterans.Many thousands of Filipinos organized themselves to fight the Japanese empire. The People’s Anti-Japaneses Army was born led by socialists and with over 100,000 peasants. They not only fought the occupation, but liberated large areas of the country, set up communal governments and redistributed farmland to the peasantry. Scared of this growing liberation movements, the U.S. promised to grant The Philippines independence when the warm was over; but before granting it independence it had to reconquer it. They quickly attacked the peasant movement and returned the lands to the futile landlords. With the trusted circle of elites at the helm, the U.S. granted supposed independence in 1946.While the American flag over Manila was lowered, only the form of rule had changed. The U.S. still kept a watchful eye over its colonial project. When the revolutionary army resurfaced in the late 1940s demanding land reform, the U.S. provided military aid and intelligence to help The Philippine government destroy the movement. Its investment wasn’t just for cheap labor and resources. The U.S. empire used The Philippines as its central base for imperial control of Asia, in particular during it’s wars in Korea and Vietnam. Elite after elite traded places as U.S. puppets until one of them, President Ferdinand Marcos, didn’t want to bother with the mask of democracy anymore. In 1972, Marco declared Marshall Law and ruled through a military dictatorship for the next 14 years. A socialist movement was surging, recruiting everyone from college students in the cities to farmers in the countryside. A Moro Separatist movement dominated an entire region of the country. These groups took up arms to fight Marcos’ dictatorship with the new People’s Army and the Moro National Liberation Front. Again, the U.S. empire provided millions in military training and weapons to the Filipino Army to partner in its global warm on communism. During this repression, Marcos cracked down on all political opponents. The regime jailed more than 70,000 people. As estimated 35,000 were tortured and at least 3,000 killed. For the U.S., killing communists deserved total support.When President H.W. Bush visited The Philippines in 1981, he honored Marcos with a toast saying, “We love your adherence to democracy,” but a mass movement of people who refused to give in to the dictatorship was growing. Widespread opposition forced Marcos to hold elections, which he lost. Like the pampered dictator he was, Marcos refused to step down until millions of Filipinos poured into the streets demanding his removal in 1986. While the U.S. government supported his overthrow, it still gave the Dictator sanctuary and protection in the United States for his years of loyal service, even after he fled with a billion stolen from the National Treasury. The U.S. backed successor, President Aquino, was just a cosmetic change. Although Marcos was gone, the fascist repression of the left remained and the neoliberal order deepened.I want you to elaborate more on after 1946 and the era of neocolonialism and what’s happened since. Then, of course, you have the era of neoliberalism where you had these international banking institutions, like you said, imposing these restrictions on these countries and mandating certain things to remove social welfare, etc. Talk about how that shaped The Philippines.

LO: You see how The Philippines is primarily an agricultural country. Like 70% of our people are farmers. Not all own the lands. Many are landless and only maybe about 15% are workers. Yeah and dwindling. The number of workers are going down. Why? Also, the number of farmers are going down, too. Why? Because the economy has been undermined. We have a vibrant agricultural economy in the Sixties and early on, but it was destroyed by capitalist agriculture. What the U.S. agriculture did was to deepen the problems and the contradictions in the agricultural sector. Like the small workers became smaller, they lost the opportunity even to support themselves from the wages that they were making before and the middle farmers who owned small lands lost their lands, because they became poorer, they sold their lands, right?Those that are big, became bigger. The landlords became collaborators, I would say. They work hand in hand with the agribusiness in the U.S. and other capitalist countries, because right now The Philippines is not producing all the rice that it needs. We’re very dependent on rice. We even have rice for desserts. We eat rice three times a day and we use rice for dessert. That’s how bad Filipinos want rice, but now we import rice.

AM: That’s insane.

LO: We import rice right now. The Dictator Marcos, he was the President when I was in high school and college in the 1960s and in the 1970s. When he became President, he embraced with open arms the policies of privatization, deregulation, and neo-liberalization of the IMF. What does that mean? Smaller government. Meaning get the money out of the government, which translates to lesser services for the people so that’s what happened. I was an activist in The Philippines in the 1970s at the time the impact of American economic interests in The Philippines is already well known especially to the students in the academia. I was part of the student body trying to educate our people that a big part of our problem, poverty and the unemployment in the country, is the subservience of our government to the neoliberal policies of the United States in the country. As a result of those impositions by the International Monetary Fund, many of the government services were really cut down and the people did not just have enough to access basic services for themselves. Water and electricity, those were very prohibitive. If you own a refrigerator in the country you would really worry about paying the electric bills. It was bad. You can just imagine how during the time of Marcos in the 1970s how they the young people, the unemployed and the students, were really up in arms. Their families do not have the basic services, the tuitions are high, there are no jobs. What will they do? They organized and they were really calling for the government to push back on the IMF conditionalities, but Marcos did not do that.What he did was he invented the Labor Export Policy of The Philippines. The Labor Export Policy means the government programmatically and systematically convinced the people that the right way to go to support your family is to find work abroad. That’s the Labor Export Policy. That was in the 1970s. It’s an invention of Marcos. He was so brilliant, he told the young people, especially the male ones, “Okay, you’re looking for work. The work is abroad. I’m happy to help you.” That was also a strategy to diffuse the student movement and the youth movement, because there were so may rallies in the street. What now? There is no agriculture, there is no industrialization in The Philippines. All you have the driving economy in The Philippines is the export of labor. That’s why over 10% of the people are abroad.

AM: This is the story behind thousands of families with the heartbreaking burden of being ripped across oceans only to find super exploitation and abuse in the same country that shaped their fates for the past century. Today the U.S. empire has no willingness to lose hold on the geostrategic Philippine islands and the cast of western backed autocrats continue their role. Decades of neoliberal ravaging and a war on the left has given rise to right wing populist Duterte, promising national sovereignty along with a new era of law and order. Since winning the presidency, Duterte has carried out a murderous war on drugs defined by extra judicial assassinations that have left thousands dead.Once again, Filipinos find themselves under Marshal Law in another extreme measure imposed by Duterte in May. He came to power with rhetoric against U.S. imperialism, but it will take a lot to sever the deep ties with the empire. The Philippines is still tens of billions in debt to the IMF and with development projects like USAID, the U.S. continues to push through Philippine laws and policies that benefit U.S. corporations. Although a mass movement forced the closure of major American bases in 1992, the U.S. still maintains a major military presence, conducts joint war games and has built up a proxy force in the Filipino Army. Already allies, Trump and Duterte have signaled they will strengthen their military relationship under the banner of fighting terrorism. In fact, just this month the U.S. gifted Duterte’s government a weapon shipment of hundreds of machine guns and grenade launchers, but there’s a force more powerful than these two strong men that can change all of this.

LO: My understanding of change is truly learning and respecting the value of the poor people for change. The people that are directly effected by problems, those are the people that you need if you want to make fundamental change. Not the senators or the congress people. Not them, because if you look at the interests of these people in the government, what interests will you see? In The Philippines, we know the interests of the bourgeoisie where an export-import country so families, people who are running that industry, those are the people that are running our country too. I’m really unsatisfied. I look at things from a long perspective. It’s very sad. I was an activist when I was 18 years old. How many more years so that the country can do the right thing? How many more presidents?

AM: Meeting the courageous fighters in Damayan, I was reminded that the history of Philippine resistance is an unbroken chain. From its first hand-to-hand battles against colonizers wearing armor and swords to organizing against today’s exploiters who wear three piece suits. The poor and oppressed in The Philippines are much more than victims of the system, but are indeed the force that will change it.

FOLLOW // @AbbyMartin & @DamayanMigrants

WATCH // YouTube.com/EmpireFiles

Buying a Slave – The Hidden World of US/Philippines Trafficking

Human trafficking is a hidden industry that brings in $150 billion in illegal profits every year. In the United States, tens of thousands are trafficked annually—the biggest clients being major hotel chains and foreign diplomats.

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world. 6,000 Filipinos—mostly women—leave the country every single day to work, because of mass unemployment and poverty. Tricked by placement agencies, thousands end up living as virtual slaves.

Damayan, a New York-based organization led by Filipina domestic workers, is fighting this underground crisis. Abby Martin speaks to several members of the organization about how this exodus of women has devastated a generation of families, and how they are fighting back.

Buying a Slave – The Hidden World of US/Philippines Trafficking

The Philippines has a long and unfortunate history of colonization and being used by the superpowers of the world. The Filipino people are now suffering the consequences of such a challenging legacy- underdevelopment, high unemployment, and constantly worsening poverty. This legacy has led to an unusual phenomenon- a shocking 10% of the Philippine population must leave the country in order to seek employment in hopes of sending money back to their families. An estimated 6,000 people, mostly women, leave the Philippines daily to seek work.

Most of these migrant workers leave the Philippines for the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Japan where they work in low-wage jobs. In fact, 21 million people are working in forced labor situations worldwide- many of them right under the noses of the average citizen of these countries. Unfortunately, through this process, many of these migrant workers have become victims of human trafficking and have found themselves stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of abuse and neglect.

There are currently 2 million migrant domestic workers working in the United States in industries such as in-home childcare and the hotel service. According to the recent report The Human Trafficking of Domestic Workers in The United States, over 80% of these workers have experienced their pay being withheld or having been paid under minimum wage, 81% live in abusive conditions and 73% work excessive overtime.

Abby Martin interviews Linda Oalican, the executive director of Damayan, the 8,000 member strong New York City based organization created and led by Filipino women domestic workers. Damayan provides much needed legal assistance to migrant workers and human trafficking victims. Abby also speaks with Linda’s daughter, Riya, about the experience of losing her mother at the age of 8, eventually leading to a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder years later, as well as other women who have experienced the dark side of migrant employment.

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FOLLOW // @AbbyMartin & @DamayanMigrants

WATCH // YouTube.com/EmpireFiles

The Hidden Purging of Millions of Voters

With all the discussion of the contentious 2016 election, the most shocking fact is often ignored: that millions of people had their votes stolen through malicious means. The Republican Party is currently working to purge millions more voters leading up to the 2018 election.

To explain this major attack on our supposed democratic process, Abby Martin interviews investigative reporter Greg Palast, who has done the most extensive work uncovering this massive disenfranchisement campaign.

 The Hidden Purging of Millions of Voters

In a jaw dropping article published in Rolling Stone in August of 2016, investigative journalist Greg Palast gave us fair warning about the massive voter purge set to take place during the 2016 presidential election. The system, dubbed the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, often called Interstate Crosscheck or simply Crosscheck, promised to toss out the votes of any registered voter who places a vote in two different states.

With all the talk of voter fraud during the primary and general elections, a system to weed out potential fraudulent votes was a welcome idea to many. But the good news stopped there. Never mind that the claims of massive voter fraud were not based in any fact whatsoever, the entire Crosscheck program was a front- an integral part of a massive Republican-led campaign to disenfranchise millions of voters, robbing them, without their knowledge, of their constitutional right to vote.

Not only did Crosscheck strip registered and legal voters of their right to vote, but it did so in a way that tipped the scales in favor of the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald Trump. Crosscheck works by finding matches between registered voters in states participating in the program, disproportionately affecting voters based on their race. Eighty-five out of one hundred of the most common names are held by minorities and minority voters tend to cast their votes for democratic candidates. But Crosscheck does not simply look for 100% matches for names and other identifying information as one would expect- the program considers first and last name matches as the same voter even when middle names and social security numbers differ.

For an example of how Crosscheck influenced the 2016 election outcome, consider what took place in the state of Michigan during the general election. Donald Trump won Michigan by approximately 10,000 votes. Michigan’s Crosscheck list included half a million people with Palast estimating that 50-60,000 votes were deemed fraudulent, the majority of which were cast by people of color. It is easy to see how different an outcome there may have been had all of the votes cast been fairly counted.

Not only are votes discounted using Crosscheck in the United States, but there is a major campaign of voter suppression occurring across the country that undeniably targets voters of color, poor voters, and young voters alike. These attacks, and the reach of the Crosscheck program, are only increasing under Republican leadership with a full blown campaign underway working to purge millions more voters leading up to the 2018 election.

As Greg Palast explains in this eye opening and informative episode, American voters must join together to fight for fair elections and to fight against modern day Jim Crow tactics, all without the help of the Democratic Party.

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Abby Martin: In one of the most contentious presidential elections ever, a hidden fact is that millions of Americans lost their vote through various methods employed in a coordinated multi-million dollar operation. Stunning in a country that claims to be the greatest democracy on earth.We don’t hear about it. What we do hear about is, claims from Trump and Republicans that they system is rigged. Because, millions of people are voting illegally.

Donald Trump: It’s rigged like you’ve never seen before.

Stephen Miller: This issue, of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone working in New Hampshire politics…

Kellyanne Conway: Is there dead people registered? Are there illegal people registered?

Donald Trump: Dead, illegal, and two states, and some cases maybe, three states? But we’re going to stop it. We’re not going to back down.

Abby Martin: Not only are these hysterical claims provably false, but they are in fact used by the same people committing actual vote rigging. None the less, these myths are perpetrated by right-wing politicians and media to justify wide spread voter crackdowns.In the latest purge, nearly half a million people have been kicked off Indiana’s voter registration list. Just since the 2016 Presidential Election. That’s a whopping 10% of total voters in the entire state.Alongside an arsenal of voter suppression tactics, a program called Interstate Cross-check institutionalized vote theft nationwide. Investigative journalist, Greg Palast uncovered exactly how the cynical billionaire back scam works in his recent film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Where he travels the world exposing how the GOP is robbing millions of votes from minorities and poor people while the democratic party shrouds itself in silence.I caught up with Greg, to talk more about the 2016 Election and the myth of American Democracy. So, your film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, amazing film, that everyone needs to watch. It dealt with the interstate voter registration cross-check program. First talk about what exactly that is and it’s impact on the most recent election?

Greg Palast: Interstate cross-check, was Donald Trumps’ secret weapon. That handed him the election more than anything. It’s a way that you can eliminate voters of color. Just wipe them off the voter rolls, in my investigation for Rolling Stone, which is in the film, you’re watching me do it. Our experts estimate that 1.1 million people lost their votes in especially concentrated in those key swing states. Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, that’s where cross-check was operating. And that also, by the way, we talk about Trump, but let’s not forget that was also wiping out voters of color which meant that, that’s one of the reasons we have a republican congress. So that’s what interstate cross-check does. What interstate cross-check is, is go back to Donald Trumps’ line, “The election is rigged, there are millions of people voting many, many times. Millions of people voting twice.”That’s the second part of his statement that no one was picking up. And so, what that is, is his claim that there are people for example, a guy named James Brown in Atlanta is voting a second time in Detroit. That’s the accusation. Everyone says, “Oh, that’s nuts.” Well, it doesn’t matter if it’s nuts. The accusation was devastating because it was backed up by his political operatives, actually removing voters from the voter rolls on the accusation that they were voting twice. Over a million people.This is one of the grave hidden purges of 2016. And yet, they didn’t arrest. They didn’t arrest anyone for voting twice in the last election. Not one person was arrested for it, yet they’re removing people. And so here’s how it worked. And by the way, here’s how we knew it was going to be Trump.Because the guy who created interstate cross-check is a character named Chris Kobach. Who’s like this right-wing, Fox news darling who’s a secretary state of Kansas voting official, and he’s the guy who basically perfected and spread this system to hunt down these so called double voters and remove them from the voter rolls.He was backing Trump, so we knew that locks Trump for the nomination, and that locks Trump for the White House. And it doesn’t matter how you vote, because they’ve already eliminated the margin in those really close states.

AM: When did cross-track come into existence?

GP: Its been around for quite some time. Before this guy Kobach took it national, a couple of states were sharing voter rolls to see if people were voting twice. There was no big damage. Because they didn’t find anyone voting twice so there’s no one to remove. Had no effect.This guy Kobach comes in a changes the whole thing and was basically after the Supreme Court, took the guts out of the voting rights act back in 2013. As soon as that happened, cross-check spread like virus. To 30 republican states where the republicans controlled the office of secretary of state, or the chief voting official, and these guys were sharing voter rolls.Now just so you know, Donald Trump said that there were three million illegal voters. Now that’s an important number to remember. Now people think, oh he just pulled that out of his wig, out of his comb over. No. That number comes from Kobach, because the list of suspects is seven million people. Seven million names. They said that’s three and a half million people voting twice. They use the list, they tag people as voting twice, and they removed not the whole seven million but they removed about 1.1 million voters in the 2016 Election.That’s just … We put it in the Rolling Stone, I put it on Al Jazeera, I put it in The Guardian. It’s all over the world, but not in the United States.

AM: Talk really quickly about how the voting rights act was guided and how it made cross-check easier to implement?

GP: What happened was, I contacted all these voting officials. Every single one and said, “Give us these lists that you’ve got from this guy Chris Kobach, accusing people of voting twice.” So we were turned down. They said, “You know, if you vote twice, it’s a crime.” Yeah, you vote twice, you go to prison for five years. So who would do this thing? So who are these people? But they wouldn’t give us the list because it’s a criminal investigation. Well you see the hat, I’m an investigative reporter, right? Took us about six months, five months to begin getting some of these lists we weren’t supposed to have. So we have these confidential lists of the voters, we have two million of their names. And we start going through the list. And this is where the rubber meets the road. Who is on the list of voting twice? Guys like 288 guys named, James Brown in Georgia voted in another state in the same election.How do they know that? Because they found a guy named James Brown in atlanta, and believe it or not, they found a guy name James Brown in Detroit, and said, “Obviously, James Brown, this is the same voter, voting twice.” Now here’s the thing about the list, and you’ve got to take a look at these lists. Name after name after name, James Thomas Brown’s supposed to be the same guy as James Edward Brown. Christina Isabel Hernandez is supposed to be the same person as Christina Maria Hernandez. By the way, these aren’t made up examples. These are real, real, real. James Brown Jr, and James Brown Sr are supposed to be the same- father and son are supposed to be the same voter.Now here’s the trick, you’ve heard Maria Hernandez, you’ve heard James Brown, David Kim is another one. When you’re looking at common names you’re looking at black people, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.85 of the 100 most common names in America are held by minorities like Rodriguez, Chung, Nguyen, Hernandez, and how do they vote? It’s not the color of their skin, they vote democratic. So if you want to knock out democratic voters, you knock out voters of color. Here’s where the Supreme Court comes in. In most of these states, you cannot put in a new system of removing voters like cross-check unless you get it first approved by the justice department and make a claim that it is in no way prejudicial against voters of color. Of course, when you’re knocking out James Brown and Jose Garcia, it’s a game that’s pulling out voters of color. So they could never get away with this if the voting rights act were still in place. The voting rights act also gave the justice department all kinds of powers to stop this game before it happens. You don’t remove everyone, ’cause this adds to the racial bias, they send post cards to people.They don’t even say, “You’re accused of voting twice.” They just say, are you registered to vote in another place? If you don’t send back the card, and most people don’t- the poor people, who move a lot don’t get the cards etc. You lose your vote. So that happened in mass. In Michigan, I was there after the election, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,700 votes. The secretary of state of Michigan himself told me, he’s a republican, “We move aggressively against people on the cross-check list.” Half a million people on that list in Michigan, we estimate they removed 50-60,000 voters. Mostly voters of color. Several times, Donald Trump’s supposed margin. March down the list of states like Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio. Cross-check made the difference.

AM: According to your research, 1/4th the names in this cross-check list you obtained didn’t have a middle name match. And the cross-check instruction manual even notes that the social security numbers may or may not match? That is astounding.

GP: Well, yeah. They use this con, this guy Chris Kobach who’s working for the Trump Campaign and is also a state official. When he’s asked about the cross-check list, when a reporter asks something, sniffs something, he says, “Oh well we check their middle name, we check the last four digits of their social security number. We checked their birthdate. It sounds totally kosher, how could you miss? “Well, in the instructions itself it says to ignore the mismatches. Ignore the mismatches? So the trick is, they have the information if anyone asks them, well what- you have all this information, but they ignore the mismatches deliberately. And let me tell you something, this whole business requires millions and millions of dollars of government money to effectuate this.Yet we have systems, these huge database operations, in fact for example, one owned by the Koch Brothers called I360. One owned by Trumps cronies called Cambridge Analytica. Those operators can with 99.9% certainty name every single real double voter in America, but then they would get all three. They wouldn’t be able to get a million people off the voter rolls.

AM: And you know people like to pain Trump as this anti-establishment figure who’s standing up to the empire. Greg, talk about his ties with Chris Kobach and how- who else is behind this.

GP: As an investigator, I can tell you, the oldest rule is the important rule: Follow the money. But what we’ve been doing is hunting down the money behind this steal. Now who funds Chris Kobach? The money goes back to a four letter word, Koch. K-O-C-H. We follow the trail back, boom. It’s the Kochs. And so the Kochs are behind the money to Kobach. Now, taking apart the voting rights act, 1965. It’s a really complex expensive lawsuit. And that was brought by Shelby, Alabama. Where does Shelby get the money? It’s 10’s of millions of dollars to bring cases like this. Where does little Shelby get this money? The answer is, it was supplied again by the Heritage foundation which is Koch money that they put into it, and other billionaires. And also a character that is known by his nickname the Vulture. His given name is Paul Singer but he’s a multi-billionaire who’s vital, he became the number one donor to the republican party for some time.So the money to take these things- to go after civil rights law and voting rights law, the money to run cross-check, the money to sell it to the public, is coming from people like Paul “The Vulture” Singer, the two Koch brothers who I’ve been following for years. And these are the people behind it. These are the people behind it. The Mercer family, and other billionaires putting their money in these operations. This is not new stuff. This is old accusation against black people.In the film, the big Klu Klux Klan propaganda film, Birth of A Nation which is now 101 years old. 101 years ago, they made this film and they had white actors in black face sneaking a second ballot into a ballot box. So the accusation that black people like to vote twice, that’s an old Klu Klux Klan trope and Trump just shop lifted it for this election.

AM: Yeah, and these people are just patsies like, again Trump paints himself as this anti-establishment figure, really he’s just a complete patsy for the Mercers, the Koch brothers, Banon too. You look at Breitbart, and the funneling with the Government Accountability Institute, it’s all Mercer and Koch money funneled right into these people and they’re just using them.

GP: The big backer of Trump was a guy called JP, John Paulson as he’s known, the foreclosure king as he’s best known. And JP the foreclosure king joined with Paul Singer to take Delphi Auto Parts which is GM Auto Parts and move it to China and move it to Mexico. And yet, he’s the big backer, one of the big secret backers of Donald Trump, and yet Donald Trump stood at the gates of a closed Delphi plant which his donors had moved to China, and said, and his donors had moved also, one of the plants from Warren, Ohio to Mexico. He said, held a big rally and said, “See this, see this closed plant? I’m going to build that wall higher and bigger. Every time I look to this plant I just add a few more feet to that wall.”Now I don’t know what the wall has to do with moving the plant across the border but it was his boys who were funding his campaign. And by the way, it’s very important to understand this, Donald Trump just plays a billionaire on TV, he’s no billionaire. He’s hocked up to his keister. So he had to turn to these guys quietly.

AM: You know, this has always been kind of a talking point, the voter fraud, especially on Fox News. The voter ID laws have been pushed through and through. Alec and Koch brothers and that think tank. It seems like Trump was really the one to mainstream it, just act- you know, creating that false reality and that paradigm that people just fall behind and believe it.

GP: He took it out of the Fox News, foxhole, spread it nation wide, they’re coming to take your vote way. This is the idea: If someone votes twice, they’ve taken your vote away. And of course, never just anyone, it’s always a voter with dark skin. It’s an immigrant swimming the Rio Grande, voting illegally. Find me one, I know of only two convictions. And it’s very easy to find alien voters, they show up to vote, sign their name. One was a republican in Georgia from Austria. Not in Georgia, in Florida from Austria.So what’s happened is, they create this false hysteria. And here’s a new one. By the way, as we head towards 2018. Chris Kobach, met with Donald Trump in Trump Tower just days before the inauguration. He had a memo in his hand which you could see, he didn’t hide it when he was shaking hands with Trump before they went in, there’s pictures of him holding the memo he’s about to give Trump. Well, we could blow it up about 100 times and see what it was. And it said, one of the things it said on it was, “To change and amend the national voter registration act.” That’s the Motor Voter law, which is one of the main things that registered minorities in America, when you get a drivers’ license, you get a voter form attached.He would remove that, he wants people to prove, Kobach, and now Trump want people to prove that they’re citizens to vote. And I say, well why not? Prove you’re a citizen to vote. Excuse me? How do you prove your a citizen in America? This is not Red China, we don’t carry citizenship cards. Social security cards, drivers licenses, those are issued to aliens, including my team who aren’t American citizens but have green cards.So, social security number, drivers license mean nothing, you have to have a passport? Now excuse me, who has a passport? Or there’s your original birth certificate, good luck finding that. Or naturalization papers. So what happens is, Kobach, Trumps’ guy, took this thing on a test drive in Kansas saying, you’ve got to prove your a citizen. The only thing that happened was, 36,000 students were blocked from voting because they couldn’t get these papers, they didn’t have passports, they’re too young. They had no passports, they didn’t have birth certificates. 36,000 young people.Now a federal judge knocked that out. A federal judge said, “You have 36,000 people who couldn’t register, could you tell me one, Mr. Kobach, even just 1 out of 36,000 that’s an illegal alien voter?” He couldn’t name it. So the judge said, “This is all bogus.” Threw it out. Why? Because of the National Voter Registration Act which this violated. So he’ll eliminate the act, just like eliminating the voting rights act, eliminate the national voter registration act, he’s going to eliminate the civil rights act.

AM: Greg, your movie was devastating, because it’s not only the cross-check, it’s not only the voter ID laws, you go to some of these polling places, and the disenfranchisement is stunning. Miles long lines. Thousands of people waiting in the freezing cold for hours and hours. Talk about some of the other voter suppression methods that are going on too?

GP: In Ohio for example, which is as we know, the vital swing state, and this happened many places, they did this in Wisconsin too, where they said, “Early voting, you can only have one single voting station for an entire county.” And they tried this is Wisconsin as well, this was key to Trumps victories in Ohio, supposed victories in Ohio and in Wisconsin. What they did, was you wait in line, on Tuesday when most white people vote in Ohio, they had for example, in Montgomery county which is Daton, they had 178 polling stations.But yet, on election on the Sunday before, which was when black people tend to vote, they call it Souls to the Polls day, there’s one polling station. The result was, and you can see it in my film. I saw literally, I’m walking, walking, there’s a half mile long line, there was one polling station, are you ready? For 80,000 voters. One polling station for 80,000 voters. You’ll see this line of black people waiting to vote. Waiting, when I was in Daton, five hours to vote. And at the end of the process, and they did this in Wisconsin, this very election, at the end of waiting all this time, they’re not given ballots, they’re given absentee ballots.Now what’s the difference? You fill out a- in Ohio and Wisconsin, you fill out the ballot, you put it in an envelope, you have to fill out the envelope perfectly. If you don’t have a driver’s license and it says, driver’s license and you leave it blank, you lose your vote. You lose your vote because you left off your driver’s license which you don’t have. You have to write “No driver’s license.” You have to sign it in several places, properly, and your signature has to match exactly your registration’s signature. So if you no longer include your middle initial but you signed your registration form 40 years ago with a middle initial, you lose your vote.All these tricks, because officially, this is an ugly thing that we don’t talk about in the United States, people who mail in their ballots, absentee ballots, or mail-in ballots, 1.7 million of those ballots never ever get counted. This is the ugly type of what I called soft apartheid in voting in America. We use fancy terms like disenfranchisement. You know what, someone steals your car, you don’t say, “Someone’s disenfranchised my car!” No, they’ve stolen your car. They steal your vote. It’s a theft.

AM: We focus on obviously the presidential elections with this because obviously its the biggest most vast disenfranchisement of the votes, but local elections, every election this is happening.

GP: Really, what’s very, very important, is that most of this vote theft is actually aimed at the state, local and congressional elections. I’ll give you an example. One of my first big investigations of vote theft was back in 2000 when I discovered that Katherine Harris and Jed Bush, of Florida had removed 10’s of thousands of black men from the voter rolls.10’s of thousands of black men from the voter rolls, what was the reason? They were all felons, criminals who aren’t allowed to vote. And Florida is one of the only states that still removes people from the voter rolls if they have a felony conviction. Okay. The problem was, I investigated and not one, absolutely zero of the people on this list who lost their vote, none of them were illegal voters. None. But yet George Bush became president by 537 votes because of what Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris did.But here’s the trick, they didn’t do it to elect George Bush. It was originally created two years before this system of purging black folk off the voter rolls to elect Jeb Bush as governor.

AM: There’s so many backups in place to secure the republican vote, to secure that this happens which brings me to the most obvious question, of course Hillary, and during the run up to the election, every time Donald Trump would bring this up she would poo-poo it and say, “Oh you’re crazy, how dare you question this sanctimonious system that we have?”

GP: This is one of the big problems that I run into. I’ll get questions like, “Well, if the republicans are stealing votes, how come the democrats aren’t saying anything?” Well, one answer to that, by the way, is democrats steal votes too, lots of them. I saw some of the most ugly Jim Crow style tactics used against Bernie Sanders voters here in California in the Sunshine State. I mean it was raw, today as you and I speak, there’s still over a million ballots that were cast, that were never tallied, never counted.Over a million, today, overwhelmingly those were Bernie Sanders votes. The victims are always the same, the victims are always voters of color, poor people, students, basically progressive votes. And because the democratic party, if they let everyone vote and help everyone vote it would be a very different party. So the establishment democrats don’t want those votes. They’d rather lose them in the general election than have those votes in the primary.That’s just the ugly awful truth.

AM: I think its hard for people to believe that the Clinton dynasty would give up power because they would rather legitimize the system that bred them.

Greg: The Clinton’s are the system. Remember, whether we like it or not, Hillary Clinton did some pretty shady things, the last thing she wants to do is talk about illegality. And misuse of the electoral system, misuse of campaign finance.

AM: Here you are, doing this giant in depth investigation, this feature film, trying to get this story out and here everyone, is just hysterically fear mongering about another country, usurping our election.

Greg: Well, heres the problem, the Russians did not tell Hillary Clinton, “Do not make a single stop in Wisconsin.” She didn’t tell those long lines in Ohio. Did Russia remove the votes of students in Georgia because they didn’t have citizenship proof papers? It wasn’t the Russians.

AM: We cannot count on the Democrats to fix this, Greg, what do we do, how do we give back a voice to the voiceless here?

GP: We have to form the organizations and participate in the organizations that exist right now that’ll expose the con that America has the world’s most perfect elections. We don’t. We still have apartheid elections, we still have Jim Crow. The only difference now is that Jim Crow has gone from wearing white sheets to using spreadsheets. We can expose it, and then we can act on it. We gotta do those two things and not ask the Democratic party to do it for us.

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The Sikh Experience in America

The Sikh Experience in America

Despite being the fifth most popular religion of the world, people of the Sikh faith are rarely recognized as such in the US. With a sharp rise in Islamophobia, Sikhs are frequent targets of bigoted hate crimes, often mistaken for Muslims or Hindus. The first victim of post-9/11 hate crimes was a 49 year old Sikh man – shot to death outside of the gas station he owned. Six Sikhs were murdered in Wisconsin in 2012 when a man opened fire in a Sikh gurdwara, murdering them in cold blood in what was the deadliest attack at a place of worship since the Jim Crow era. Most recently a Sikh man was shot in his own driveway after being told to “go back to your own country.” With the incidences of hate crimes and discrimination against American citizens of middle eastern and Asian descent growing rapidly since Trump entered the political spotlight, most Sikhs have experienced it personally.

A 2015 Stanford study found that 70% of Americans misidentify Sikhs as Muslims and nearly 50% think that Sikhism is a sect of Islam. An estimated 500,000-700,000 Sikhs live in the US. Despite that, the vibrance of the Sikh community is rarely seen in US mass media or pop culture – further leading to a misidentification and misunderstanding of Sikhs and Sikhism, one of the most loving and inclusive religions in the world today.

Journalist Abby Martin visited a Sikh gurdwara in Virginia to speak with the Sikh community there about their personal experiences with discrimination, hate crimes, and cultural ignorance. During her visit she observed common Sikh practices, spoke of long standing Sikh traditions, and partook in a large traditional meal. During her time at the gurdwara Abby also spoke with Georgetown Professor and civil rights attorney, Arjun Singh Sethi.

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Abby Martin: With the rise of Islamophobia in the United States, harassment and violence not only impacts Muslims, but people perceived to be Muslims, in particular, people of the Sikh faith. Four days after 9/11, an 49-year-old Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot to death outside of the gas station he owned, marking the first hate crime casualty after the attacks. According to witnesses, the perpetrator had said he wanted to, “shoot some towel-heads” to avenge the actions of Osama Bin Laden.In just the first month after 9/11, the Sikh Coalition documented more than 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in America. Hate crimes against Sikhs peaked in 2012 when Wade Michael Page charged into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, murdering six Sikh Americans in cold blood. It was the deadliest attack against a place of worship since the Jim Crow era.The Trump phenomenon gave new energy to Islamophobes with hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived as Muslims skyrocketing over the past year. On March 6th, 2017, a Sikh man was shot on his driveway by a masked assailant who told to, “Go back to your country.” A week prior to that, an Indian man was shot to death in a bar by a man who told him a variation of the same racist slur, before opening fire on him and his friend. The perpetrator said he thought they were both Iranian.Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, but Sikhs are one of the most mistaken and misunderstood minority groups in the country. A 2015 Stanford study found that 70% of Americans misidentify Sikhs with beards and turbans as Muslims. The same study found that 49% of Americans think Sikhism is a sect of Islam. There are currently an estimated 500,000 Sikhs living in the U.S., many of whom are American citizens. In addition to racism, as a consequence of the U.S. Empire’s campaigns, the cultural richness, diversity and beauty of the Sikh American community, are rarely seen in mass media and popular culture.That’s why I wanted to explore this community for myself. I visited a Sikh place of worship, called the gurdwara, in Virginia. My guide was, civil rights lawyer and professor at Georgetown University. I talked to members of the community about their experiences as a Sikh in America.

Speaker: I came here in ’98.

Abby Martin: Oh, wow. So, right before 9/11?

Speaker: Yeah.

Abby Martin: Did you, kind of see a shift when that happened?

Speaker: Oh, definitely. … because I went to high school here, so I sat … you can see how, after 9/11, the tensions in the schools were… … trying to see … of guys, maybe … name-calling …

Speaker: When they seen us with the beard and the turban on the streets, on the public places, they hate us. They shoot us. They march on us. They give us problems.

Speaker: My niece, who’s a medical doctor, and she was just walking by, and there was – in Florida – and there was two white people who was leaf-blowing and they blew leaves on her face. And… (laughs) …you know, and they can’t tell. They’re, like, “Go back to your country.” So, that’s, pretty sad that that’s how people feel about other people.

Speaker: Even my father, he, actually works in a very small, small town in America. He owns a gas station. And he wears a turban. He has a beard and everything, and so he receives terrible comments. He’s had to deal with it.

Speaker: My husband is Sikh. He wears a turban. And he works in the county and he works in the Department of Environment, so when they go to schools to bring awareness about the environment, the kids don’t recognize Sikhs. They’re, like… they talk about Islam, they talk about Bin Laden, and that’s pretty sad.

Speaker: In America, I would say do not discrimination because I’m … Sikh. But discrimination as a brown person.

Speaker: Yeah, I work in D.C. most of the time, and I didn’t hear anything. Whenever I go, like, hiking to West Virginia … where, like, I’ll go to, like national parks, or something, like, where people never seen me before, first thing they will tell you is, like, you know, go back to Afghanistan or something, right?

Speaker: A lot of time we have seen people simply not educated enough who understand why my son is covering his head. They think… sometimes they thought, like, it’s… he is not well enough, he’s covering his head, and sometimes they want to know what is under his head and his covering.To very, very first discussion, like, when you have at parent-teacher meeting, we were able to talk to them, and explain to them this is all religion, this is what is not right for us, this what is right for us, and we gave them, you know, hey, if somebody has a question, definitely, we are here to help. Ask us, and we can… you know, learn together.

Abby Martin: Considering the widespread lack of knowledge about their faith, I asked people about what Sikhism teaches, and what it means for them.

Speaker: Biggest misconception either we’re Muslims or we’re Hindus. I think even in India there’s a misconception that we’re Hindus. And so even the government treats us as Hindus. But in America they look at us like Muslims. So, nobody really knows that, we’re our own distinct separate ideology and faith and it kind of makes it hard for us to explain, because we always have to use it as a reference point, because that’s what people know.

Speaker: The ideology of the Sikh religion believes in international brotherhood. Love all. Resect other communities. Respect other religious feelings. Equality of society. You see here? The people sit down on the floor. That’s mean everybody doesn’t matter he’s a billionaire, he’s doing labor, they have to sit down here on the floor.

Speaker: Whatever we got from God we are thankful for. We are grateful. We are happy that we are beautiful. And I think every individual in this world is beautiful as that person is created, every individual, and we need to respect individuality of that person.

Speaker: No arrogance. Nothing. This is one thing, arrogance…

Speaker: You’re not better than anyone else.

Speaker: Yes. What you sow, that you reap. It’s written even in the Bible. This is a basic of Sikhism, … that when you die, you take nothing with you. You take only with your deeds. It’s not even balanced whether you are Bill Gates or a guy on the street, and when he goes, stand before the Lord, it is only his deeds.

Speaker: Being a Sikh for me personally is having a discipline to really, just practice and express my love for God. As a Sikh, we believe in our ten Gurus. They taught us values of truth and love and being honest and sharing and those universal things I think they’re in all faiths. I guess what distinguishes us, though; the cultural ties kind of play a big role. So, we keep an external identity. If you were to walk into a gurdwara, the church, you would just… the culture of it is very different. But, in essence, it’s the same, I feel.

Speaker: There are a couple of types of the turban. You will see turbans of … different. It is mine. This is traditional 500 years ago. You will see that … is modern.

Speaker: I didn’t really know how to tie a turban before, and when I got to know when I was in 9th grade, I felt, really good, like something… it’s a sign to remember everyone. If I go to some place where nobody knows me, then he will be able to know and remember me, like a sign to remember, and I’m proud to be Sikh. Yeah. Wearing a turban.

Speaker: See, if I cut my hair, that will make me fit in the college, but at the same time, I want to be stand up … I can explain why do I have … because I believe in God.

Speaker: Whenever I come here, they usually tell me, can you teach me how to tie a turban, and you … yeah. Yeah. So, they just, like, always ask me, like, how to tie a turban, and I usually suggest to them, go to YouTube and everything, you can find everything… yeah. Yeah. So…

Abby Martin: Tell me more about the women’s role in Sikhism?

Speaker: When we come to the gurdwara, it’s everything is equal. We come, we can sing upstairs, and it’s not about only men can sing, and only men can do… there is no division of any duties or any responsibilities. The woman can be next to the … side … The woman could be on the stage singing … The woman could be cooking. The woman could be serving food, the same for men. They are doing the same thing. So, the level of equality that we have in Sikhism it’s amazing.

Abby Martin: I sat down with Arjun for a traditional Sikh communal meal, called langar.

Arjun Singh Sethi: This is a religious and cultural tradition of the Sikh faith that after the ceremony is concluded, all are welcome to come to the gurdwara for a meal. And if you go to gurdwaras in India, you will find not just Sikhs, you will find Muslims, you will find Hindus, you will find day laborers, all are welcome to enjoy the vegetarian food that’s served.It usually consists of bread, some yogurt, some salad, some lentils, some potatoes, chickpeas, of course, all cooked Indian style. The Sikh faith itself is extraordinarily inclusive, so later today, I think you’re going to, actually get a glimpse of the Holy Book … upstairs, and it is an extraordinarily unique Holy Book because it contains the writings, not just of Sikhs, but actually contains the writings of Muslims, of Sufis, and … of other traditions, as well.Everyone congregates upstairs, usually there is a … priest, who sings holy hymns. Everybody joins in the recital of those hymns, and then it concludes with a reading from the Holy Scripture, and then everyone comes down for the meal.

Abby Martin: There was, definitely lots and lots of amazing food.Part of the activities at the gurdwara also includes a school for kids.

Arjun Singh Sethi: Our main focus with the school here is to make… give exposure to our children about our culture and Sikhism. School is primarily divided into two pieces. One is the teaching of language. We are from Northern India, most of the Sikhs, so our main language is Punjabi, and our scriptures, … which means … as a true guru, it’s written in Punjabi. So, it’s extremely important for us to teach our kids to learn the main language.The second part of the school is, which you probably noted, is the history. We have a lot of focus on teaching our kids the Sikh history so they know, you know, where we originated from, what are the different challenges throughout the lifetime so far we have, and where we are heading now.

Abby Martin: Sikh contributions to science, culture and more are extreme importance. Among them are Narinder Singh Kapany, dubbed the Father of Fiber Optics, whose work revolutionized communications, medical equipment and more. Artist Amrita Sher-Gil, known as India’s Frida Kahlo and a pioneer of modern art, renowned novelist and poet, Amrita Pritam, … Singh, American civil rights attorney who won major victories against the Bush era torture machine, and electronic music pioneer Talvin Singh.Music is, actually an integral part of Sikhism. A large number of the community members are musicians themselves.

Speaker: I always went to the gurdwaras. I was little. I don’t… it’s just my heart of my life that I never felt that I could live without it. So, this was my part where I connected as a kid – the singing. And it connected me and I started going and looking at the keys, and I started working at it at home, no lessons, nothing, it’s just spiritual.

Speaker: (singing)

Abby Martin: Sikhism is a relatively young religion, founded around 500 years ago in the Punjab region of what is today Northern India. Around 75% of Sikhs still reside in the Punjab region. A cultural melting pot, with Sikh being its only indigenous religion. The religion was stared by a Hindu man name Nanak. Founded as a rejection of gender division, the caste system, and social inequality, this new religious community faced heavy persecution from its inception, first by an emperor, then by the British Colonial occupation, and still today by the Indian government. As recently as 1984, the Indian government carried out an anti-Sikh massacre led by Indian army troops. Upwards of 20,000 Sikhs were brutally tortured and murdered. Hundreds of thousands fled.To this day, many seek political asylum in the U.S. and beyond, as their status as one of the many persecuted minorities in India puts them in danger.Sikhs began immigration to the United States over a hundred years ago, in 1899, mainly to California. They helped build America, as farm workers, rail workers and other types of manual labor. They immediately faced violence and discrimination.In 1907, anti-Asian riots swept the west coast of North America from Vancouver to California. In the town of Bellingham in Washington State, a lynch mob of about 500 white men, in an organization called the Asiatic Exclusion League, marched into a Sikh neighborhood in protest of them getting jobs in lumber mills. Scores of innocent Sikhs were beaten and forced to flee.The U.S. government codified the discrimination into law. The California Alien Land Law of 1913 barred Sikhs from owning property. Then in 1917, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act made it illegal for Sikhs – or anyone else from Asia as a whole – to immigrate to the U.S. In fact, everyone from the entire continent of Asia was prohibited from becoming U.S. citizens until 1946.Sikhs actually served in the U.S. military in both World War I and World War II, with long-standing uniform exceptions for their traditional turban and beard. But in 1981, Sikhs were inexplicably barred from the military for the next 40 years. It was not until 2012 that the first major city allowed the Sikhs to become police officers. The NYPD didn’t even lift this ban until 2016.I talked to Arjun about the state of Sikh discrimination today and what’s really behind it all.

Arjun Singh Sethi: This is what we know, and this is according to a report by the Bridge Initiative. Hate violence against Muslims is roughly 7 to 9 times higher now than it was after 9/11, which is extraordinarily startling. Because I felt after 9/11 that things couldn’t possibly get any worse. There were many, many reports of acts of hate, incidents of hate violence against Sikh Americans, Muslim Americans, and other minority communities and what we actually saw in 2016, and really even late 2015, was that it was what I call, “open season” against Muslims, against Arabs, against South Asians because they make easy targets.I think it’s also important to think about not just hate violence but the various ways in which these communities are criminalized. Right? So, you think about something like Watch List, a suspicious activity reporting countering violent extremism programs, all of these programs allow for the profiling of these communities and it has always been my belief that if the government is going to profile me and treat me as a second-class citizen, why wouldn’t everyday Americans?

Abby Martin: You know, people think that Trump is this aberration, and they’re shocked, and how did this openly racist, bigoted reality star get into the White House. But, really, this has been festering for a long time. When you’re not prosecuting war criminals and torturers, that’s kind of giving carte blanche to the next administration that they too can do this and get away with it. What are your thoughts on kind of this normalization of Islamophobia?

Arjun Singh Sethi: Sure. I have no doubt that Trump has emboldened nativism, racism and discrimination, but it’s always been there. And I would say that it has become institutionalized. I was talking a little bit earlier about criminalization. You see it with respect to things like hate violence. So, Trump might have been the catalyst, but it was there to be catalyzed.

Abby Martin: Mm-hmm.

Arjun Singh Sethi: If you think about things like suspicious activity reporting, suspicious activity reporting, that program, basically asked local law enforcement to report what they perceived to be suspicious activity reporting to the FBI. The problem is, what is suspicious activity reporting? I will tell you. It is Muslim, Arab, South Asian Americans purchasing computers at Best Buy for their home business.It is Muslim, Arab, South Asian Americans taking photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is buying pallets of water at Costco. Those are actual cases. Even just thinking about the president. I’m not a fan of President Bush, but President Bush visited a mosque a few days after 9/11. It took President Obama eight years. It took him eight years to go to a mosque.

Abby Martin: Under the Trump administration not only are we going to see this exacerbation of hate crimes and vitriol, but it’s almost this false narrative that Steve Bannon and people who are, you know, managing these Alt-Right media types, that put out their… that the hate crimes aren’t real. That this isn’t happening. That Islamophobia is not real.

Arjun Singh Sethi: There are people who can tell you that they have been targeted. I can tell a little bit about my life. Just in the last few years, I’ve had numerous instances where people have said, “ISIS, go home. You don’t belong here.” I had a situation the day before inauguration. For lunch, I picked up lunch in Chinatown, I come out of a restaurant, and there are three men who had just gotten off a bus who started elbowing one another and pointing at me.This is two blocks from my apartment in Washington, D.C., you know, five blocks away from Georgetown University Law Center where I’m a professor.

Abby Martin: When speaking about the horrific anti-Sikh massacre in Wisconsin, Arjun gave important insight about the reaction of both the politicians and Sikhs themselves.

Arjun Singh Sethi: The political rhetoric at the time. President Obama called us in his speech a few days after the attack, “part of the broader American family”. There’s really only one American family, and we’re a part of it. I believe Candidate Romney at that time called us sheikhs. President Obama never came to the gurdwara. The First Lady never came to the gurdwara. We had a high-ranking official, who came, but a lot of Sikhs did feel excluded, and they did feel slighted, and I do think in many ways it was a lost opportunity.What I will tell you is most extraordinary about that event and I think it’s something that all of America and the world can learn from is the day after that attack, the Sikhs typically conclude their religious ceremony with a prayer called the Ardas. You actually filmed it earlier today, where people stand up and fold their hands. And in that Ardas, they ask the Lord to say a prayer for the six people who were murdered, but also for the culprit. For Wade Michael Page, who actually stormed the Sikh temple that day and also, I believe took his own life.For me, that showed the extraordinary power of forgiveness, of restoration. The Sikh community was ready to move on. They were ready to forgive. And I think that’s one of the most powerful traditions of this faith.

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Empire Files Exposes Steve Bannon’s True Character

From his Wall Street roots and apocalyptic film career to his cultivation of alt-right bigots at Breitbart News, Abby Martin exposes Bannon’s true character in this explosive documentary.

 

Abby Martin Exposes Steve Bannon

A familiar name to some and a new one to others, Steve Bannon is a right wing ideologue who should not be ignored. With some calling him “the intellectual force behind” Trump’s agenda and others directly referring to him as President, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News has his hands in some of the most controversial executive orders and foreign policy decisions in this administration.

Bannon’s political development began during his time in the US Navy from 1976-1983. During this time he never served in war himself, but his time spent as an officer on ship created a lifelong thirst for military supremacy and war, still bubbling to the surface today.

After leaving the Navy, Bannon found himself at Goldman Sachs for 6 years before founding his own investment firm, Bannon & Company. Two short years later, he sold his firm to a media giant, funding his next endeavor – making apocalyptic films laden with right-wing propaganda, stoking the fears and insecurities of a growing and increasingly agitated audience. His films range in subject from demonizing the Occupy movement to praising Sarah Palin in a potential attempt to ride her coattails to fame, to dangerous propaganda about the perceived dangers of immigration.

Many of Bannon’s business dealings and relationships have been laden with controversy. In 2004 he began working with Internet Gaming Entertainment, exploiting online games such as World Of Warcraft. Utilizing his experience and connections, “Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plow $60 million into a company that sold imaginary goods in an imaginary world.” All three heads of IGE were sued for sexual abuse of underage boys, including the founder and CEO, Pierce Brock, and investor Marc Collins-Rector, a fugitive on the run for child rape and human trafficking.

In addition to controversy in his business life, Bannon’s personal relationships have been tumultuous. In 1995 Bannon embarked on his second of three marriages, only three days before his new wife, Mary Louise Piccard, gave birth to their twins, stating that he would not marry Piccard until he had proof that the babies were “normal.” After multiple bouts of physical and verbal abuse, Piccard filed a restraining order and divorced Bannon. Unsurprisingly Bannon was never convicted after Piccard was a no show in court, later claiming to have been threatened by Bannon. He retained visitation rights but was later caught hitting one of the twins when they were only 17 months old.

In the early 2000s, Bannon forged a relationship with Andrew Breitbart with Breitbart affectionately referring to Bannon as theLeni Riefenshtahl of the Tea Party movement.” At the time, Breitbart was a protege of Matt Drudge, creator of The Drudge Report. The Drudge Report successfully brought the power of right wing talk radio to the internet. Breitbart expanded on The Drudge Report’s model by manipulating headlines to demonize progressives, women, immigrants, and more. Soon Alex Jones and his following were brought into the fold. As Breitbart News began to go under, Bannon was hard at work sourcing funds from right-wing investors in an attempt to reanimate it, when Andrew Breitbart unexpectedly dropped dead. Bannon quickly stepped in as CEO.

Soon Bannon created the Government Accountability Institute, an official sounding ring-wing think tank, bankrolled by an investment from Robert Mercer. Mercer had recently financed anti-Muslim adds in opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque” resulting in an increase in xenophobic panic. Other notable GAI investors included the power hungry billionaires, the Koch Brothers. GAI also served as a money laundering scheme for Breitbart in which wealthy donors could donate to the non-profit with their donations quickly forwarded on to Breitbart’s reporters.

With the rise of Trump came a rise in Breitbart News reader loyalty, including an instant increase in monthly readers – from 8 million to 18 million. Trump and Bannon both found something attractive and desired in the other – Trump being a powerful and accessible mouthpiece and Bannon being a household name with a large, loyal, and extremely passionate following.

Bannon preys on society’s problems and falsely directs the blame where he wants it – on immigrants, globalism, progressives, millennials, and more. Bannon’s misdirected desires to halt Muslim immigration, his strategy to rally the white working class against their poor neighbors and his seemingly unquenchable thirst for war are bleeding their way through Trump and into the world.

“The real Resistance will come from what Bannon seems to fear most—a United, multicultural progressive movement in the streets.”

***

Abby Martin: If there’s one person other than Trump who has gained a surprisingly huge amount of political power over the past year, it’s Steve Bannon. The right-wing ideologue is most notorious for his role as former Executive Chairman at Breitbart News, a website that he dubbed, “The Platform of the Alt-Right,” and hosts stories like these. Bannon’s candid about his lust for power — quoted as saying, “Darth Vader, Dick Cheney, Satan, that’s power.” As Trump’s ineptitude, and lack of political ideology becomes increasingly obvious, many have noticed that there are other forces steering the ship.While the Christian right is one sector of the right-wing establishment guiding his policies, the alt-right has their own influence in the White House, namely through Steve Bannon. He’s been called the intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda.And in just mere months, he’s propelled himself from right-wing media outlier, to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire, as Trump’s chief strategist. That means Bannon is the number one person who Trump relies on, to guide his every move. Just like Karl Rove served as the brain for George W. Bush.David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard, said of Bannon, “You have an individual who’s basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going. And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government. “Bannon’s power grab hasn’t gone unnoticed. As Trump spends the majority of his time tweeting, watching news about himself, and golfing at the lavish Mar-a-Lago Resort, there’s a big void for Bannon to fill.So, who is this mysterious man behind the curtain? Well, Bannon’s story really starts with a youthful lust for war.Bannon credits his formative political development to his time in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1976 to 1983, mostly on a ship as a pampered officer. It was on this ship that Bannon’s thirst for military supremacy, and war was fully formed. While he never served in war himself, he lamented his missed opportunity as a political turning point.While Bannon was at sea, the empire was hard at work trying to strangle the Iranian revolution. Which had deposed U.S.-backed dictator, the Shah, famous for chilling torture, and executions of political opponents.The Pentagon was planning a military assault on Tehran, which ended in embarrassment, and ultimately was pulled back by Carter. Bannon bitterly sailed on in the lonely seas. Becoming more reactionary over the incident, he developed a fawning loyalty to Reagan, and even attended his victory party in uniform. He ended up working in the Pentagon under Reagan.Although he left the military, his love for war never ceased. Bannon’s long-time writing partner and former close friend, Julia Jones said, “Steve is a strong militarist. He’s in love with war. It’s almost poetry to him.”But apparently Navy life was below Bannon. Even with his preferred Commander-in-Chief. In 1984 he moved on to more lucrative adventures as an investment banker, at financial behemoth Goldman Sachs. He got the job like most who exist in this world of privilege, meeting the son of a Goldman Sachs executive. He stayed at Goldman for six years, before he recruited his banker pals to found his own investment firm — Bannon and Company, which bankrolled media corporations.The industry cashed in big with Clinton’s 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed media companies to be gobbled up in massive monopolies. Two years later, Bannon sold his firm to a bigger media giant.This gave him the lavish wealth to focus on his true passion, making apocalyptic right-wing propaganda films.

Crowd: (chanting, drums)

Man: There shall be open borders, and it’s just nuts.

Man: What would have happened if a Senator was killed by Armando Garcia?

Abby Martin: His movies over the years cover an array of far-right dystopian fantasies that depict a society in collapse, invaded by criminal armies.

Man: The cartels control everything.

Abby Martin: Whoa… Dang…Bannon’s political films were never successful outside the dark circles of Tea Party types. So, in 2004, he took a more lucrative position at a peculiar company — Internet Gaming Entertainment. IGE was based on exploiting Internet games, like World of War Craft, paying thousands of people to drone away at mining virtual resources, so that they could be sold to other players.Brought in for his banker connections, IGE’s investment paid off well. As one industry expert pointed out, “Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into a company that sold imaginary goods, in an imaginary world.”In addition to the bizarre nature of their profits, Bannon was making money for highly problematic people. IGE was an investment project of Mark Collins-Rector, a fugitive on the run for child rape, and human trafficking. In fact, all three heads of the firm were sued for sexual abuse of under-aged boys, including the founder and CEO of IGE.A year after Bannon secured the investment, the company tanked, embroiled in shady dealings, a class-action lawsuit brought by gamers. As the company went down in flames, its remnants became Affinity Media. Bannon had the CEO ousted and replaced, with himself. He stayed in this position until leaving for Breitbart, in 2012.Considering Bannon’s lack of ethics in his professional life, it’s not surprising that his personal life is also marred with scandal.Like several members of the Trump Administration, Bannon has a disturbing history of alleged domestic abuse. Details from the second of his three marriages reveal what kind of man Bannon really is.In 1995 he married Mary Louise Picard, only three days before she gave birth to their twins. According to Picard, he wouldn’t marry her until the babies were proven to be, “normal”. In the divorce documents, Picard wrote, “Bannon made it clear that he would not marry me just because I was pregnant. I was scheduled for an amniocentesis, and was told by the respondent that if the babies were normal, we would get married.”Even though the babies were normal, Bannon didn’t seem to pay much attention to them, as he made them wear costumes to tell them apart, and repeatedly refused to pay them child support.Less than a year into their marriage, a violent incident happened that could be best explained through the police report itself. According to the report, Bannon got angry at his wife for making noise while feeding their newborn twins. When she asked him for money to buy groceries, a fight erupted, and carried out onto the driveway.The fight culminated with Bannon becoming violent, grabbing her wrists and neck, and, “pulled her down, as if he was trying to pull her into the car, over the door.” When she broke free to try to call 911, Bannon jumped over her and the twins, to grab the phone from her.”I took the phone to call the police, and he grabbed the phone away from me, throwing it across the room and breaking it, as he was screaming that I was a crazy F****** C***,” the document states.Police verified the abuse, writing, “I saw red marks on her left wrist, and the right side of her neck.” These were photographed.According to a study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, women who have been strangled by their partner are seven times more likely to be killed, than other victims of domestic violence. The same study shows that 43% of women murdered in domestic assaults, had been strangled by their partner in the previous year. According to the officer on the scene, she broke down and admitted that their turbulent six-year relationship had been plagued with physical violence early on. Bannon was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and witness intimidation. Picard filed a restraining order, and divorced him. But Bannon was never convicted, because Picard didn’t show up for court.Later, she revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life, if she pursued charges. Bannon retained visitation rights of their children. Yet, just months later when the babies were only 17 months old, he was caught hitting one of them. Picard then requested visitation in public spaces only, because she said he was verbally abusive in front of their kids, and she did not feel safe.He’s also been charged with crude verbal abuse against female employees. When one female worker challenged his leadership, he reportedly called her a bimbo, and threatened to, “kick her ass”.But his relationships, and Wall Street career, have always come second to his drive for political influence. Throughout his years as a propagandist, Bannon hitched his wagon to things he thought would elevate his views.When the Tea Party movement emerged, Bannon praised it as the vanguard of a new American revolution.When Sarah Palin came on the scene, Bannon was so enthused by her popularity; he created an entire film about her. Considering Palin herself isn’t even interviewed in the film, it’s unknown whether Bannon actually saw her as a visionary political leader.

Sarah Palin: The man can only ride ya, when your back is bent. So, strengthen it!

Abby Martin: Or, if she was just a convenient vehicle for his own vision. This strategy of riding a fringe character to power didn’t succeed with Palin. But it would with Trump. But nowhere would Bannon’s quest for political influence be realized more, than at Breitbart News. Bannon developed a friendship with Andrew Breitbart in the early 2000s, through a shared love of arch-reactionary media. Breitbart even had a cute nickname for Bannon, the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement. Riefenstahl was a Nazi filmmaker known for creating some of Hitler’s most iconic propaganda. The comparison was meant as a compliment.When Bannon became a protégé of Andrew Breitbart, he entered into a fringe circle with enormous sway over the beliefs of millions of dispirit white men. Andrew Breitbart is credited for changing the way media is consumed, helping launch huge websites, like Huffington Post, with good friend at the time, Ariana Huffington; and of course, his own website, Breitbart News. Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, creator and head of the Drudge Report. He converted the power of right-wing talk radio, where ideologues had a platform for views unacceptable on TV, onto the Internet.Drudge Report is an aggregate that curates a particular narrative of white male victimization. Long-time Editor, Drudge, Andrew Breitbart, took this model of aggregation, but manipulated the headlines into stories that fostered a hysterical climate against progressives, women, immigrants, etc., As well as a comfortable hub for white nationalists. Along with Breitbart, the elusive Matt Drudge also handpicked Alex Jones, as the next right-wing icon. While Alex Jones is treated as just a loony Internet sideshow, he has a following of millions of people, who take his every word as gospel. Bannon was a fitting addition to this mix. Bannon’s initial role in Breitbart News was as a money bundler, again, using his Wall Street connections to raise capital for their project. But by 2012, the site was going under. It was blacklisted for a hoax against a black government official, where her speech was manipulated to appear as if she had advocated violence against white people.During this time, Bannon was hard at work raising cash from right-wing millionaires to resurrect it, and Andrew Breitbart dropped dead. Bannon promptly stepped in as CEO and relaunched the site under his leadership.In his scheme to inflate his new platform, he created the Government Accountability Institute, a right-wing think tank which issues reports like this one, that attempts to validate the conspiracy of paid protestors.GAI’s donor list shows who among the empire’s ruling elite are behind Bannon. It was bankrolled by a multi-million dollar investment from a man named, Robert Mercer; dubbed one of the most influential billionaires in the world. Mercer has financed anti-Muslim ads that use the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, to whip up xenophobic panic, as well as campaigns advocating the death penalty.But he’s also known for something else — having the largest collection of machine guns in America. What else would a far-right billionaire spend his money on, other than stockpiling an arsenal of weapons in his mansion bunker? Other top donors to Bannon’s GAI, are America’s premiere bloodthirsty, planet-destroying billionaires, the Koch brothers.But GAI had another purpose. It offered a way for these super rich donors to essentially launder money to Breitbart, without them having to deal with the fallout of doing so publically. Hey, they’re just making charitable donations to a non-profit.Their tax-deductible donations through GAI were sent directly to pay Breitbart reporters’ salaries, which is illegal. Though Breitbart News had always been a medium for extreme right-wing forces, Bannon took it even further down that path.While he remains more tight-lipped in public about the true nature of his beliefs, Bannon used this site as the vehicle to promote his most incendiary views. According to one former Breitbart writer, Bannon ran the site and controlled the content as a dictator. Making sure his guests and contributors all fell in line with his own ideological outlook.Among the voices Bannon often highlighted on Breitbart, are Pamela Geller, America’s most prominent anti-Muslim bigot. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived National Security Advisor, who says Islam, is a cancer. And washed up hate peddler, Milo Yiannopoulis.Entire sections of Breitbart are dedicated to sensationalizing distorted facts about minority groups, to whip up and justify hatred of Muslims, and people of color. For example, one tab, labeled, “Black Crime,” aggregates stories of offences committed by black people, another compiles reports of honor killings, and child marriages, from around the globe.The site routinely portrays Muslim refugees as disease-carrying criminals. As it has sought to expand its presence in Europe, the website has frequently attacked Muslim communities, by propagating racist tropes, and justifying violence against immigrants. This site has taken advantage of recent anti-Muslim hysteria in Europe, to exploit their audience’s irrational fears of Muslim immigration.The presumable audience of angry white men that Bannon accumulated at Breitbart, reached far greater heights with the rise of the Trump phenomenon. While Breitbart News, under Bannon drew in about 8 million readers per month, it shot up to over 18 million, in the months after Trump announced his campaign.A new relationship was born. Trump had something Bannon always wanted — a bigger megaphone for his right-wing dreams of transforming American society. And Bannon had something Trump cherished too — a doting audience.Now that Bannon has this much power, a lot has been speculated about his actual political beliefs. And because he rarely gives media interviews to people, other than Breitbart employees, we don’t often see him challenged. Bannon is a well-known critic of mainstream conservatives, but not just for the sake of pushing them further to the right. He wants to build an insurgency — to destroy both traditional Republican institutions, and everything to the left of them.He’s called a populist, but he’s really only a populist for a specific sector of the working class. That’s nothing new. Throughout history rulers have rallied the white working class against other poor people, to avert blame for systemic crisis — in Germany and beyond, this tactic has served as the basis for fascism.His political philosophy is also rooted in a rejection of what the alt-right calls, globalism.

Man: The globalists and their minions just want to get rid of our sovereignty, and say we don’t have a right to have a country.

Man: It doesn’t matter what race, or country you’re from, you should be against the globalists. We need nationalist governments.

Man: But the world at large, however, is not united by a common culture. That’s why the globalists are waging a war against national identity.

Woman: Globalism means any law your government passes is subject to invalidation by unelected hall monitors, who would rather police the boundaries of free speech, than the borders of actual countries.

Abby Martin: It’s a vague concept that’s applied to everything from a shadowy international network of elites usurping American sovereignty, to the destruction of Western culture from foreign invaders –- a.k.a. immigrants. They rail against multiculturism, which really just means people of different religions, and nationalities, co-existing.Bannon vehemently denies the charge of white nationalism, but he proudly calls himself an economic nationalist.

Steve Bannon: The internal logic makes sense. Their corporatist, globalist media, that are adamantly opposed… adamantly opposed (applause) to an economic nationalist agenda, like Donald Trump has. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day… every day, it is going to be a fight.

Abby Martin: But who is fighting whom? What is this nation Bannon says he stands for? And who does he consider part of it? Well, it’s clear who he doesn’t consider part of it.

Man: It’s pretty dark here in Europe right now, but there’s something actually much darker, and that is Islam.

Abby Martin: Bannon doesn’t even try to mask his anti-Muslim bigotry as a fear of terrorism, as others do. He’s clear in stating that Islam is a threat to white American Christian culture.

Man: To be brutally frank, I mean, Christianity is dying in Europe, and Islam is on the rise. Let’s talk about that.

Abby Martin: Bannon’s views on Islam, make Trump’s Muslim ban look like child’s play. If it were entirely up to Bannon, no Muslims would ever be able to enter the U.S.

Man: Why are you going through all this thing on vetting? Why even let them in? The opportunity cost to put in a structure to actually vet these people, the cost to do that… to what end? Can’t that money be used in the United States? I mean, I think the issue is, should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years?

Abby Martin: Apart from Muslims, Bannon’s anti-immigrant views go as far as to depict his nation as literally, being at war. In his 2006 film, “Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration,” he uses a small majority white border town as a symbol of America — depicting it as being invaded by an evil immigrant army. But Bannon goes even further than most of his anti-immigrant counterparts. His nation doesn’t even include highly educated, totally legal immigrants. In this 2015 recording, we hear Bannon rebuking Donald Trump on the matter.

Donald Trump: We’ve got to be able to keep great people in the country. We’ve got to create, you know, job creators. One man went to, I think it was Harvard, there was a story a month ago — went to Harvard. Did well, good student, wanted to stay in the country, wasn’t allowed to, went back to his home in India, started up a company.Now it’s a very, very successful company, with thousands of people. He wanted to do that here. We have to be careful of that, Steve, you know. We have to keep our talented people in this country.

Steve Bannon: Um.

Donald Trump: I think you agree with that. Do you agree with that?

Steve Bannon: Well, I… I’ve got a tough… you know, when two-thirds, or three-quarters of the CEOs, in Silicon Valley are from South Asia, or from Asia, I think, I… on a… my point is that a country is more like Sessions. A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.

Abby Martin: Apart from immigrants, Bannon’s ideology, as seen during his reign at Breitbart, heavily scapegoats African-Americans, with racist depictions as welfare scammers, and violent criminals.So, while Bannon says he’s just a nationalist, not a white nationalist, it seems that his nationalism doesn’t apply to anyone other than white people. At the same time, he claims that the alt-right’s appeal to racists is simply coincidental. Bannon’s fears of Islam and immigrants, are tied to what he sees as the demise of Judeo Christian values, which he believes were foundational to the so-called golden age of capitalism. Bannon’s ideology appeals to people, because he’s pointing out actual problems in society — like the absence of a rising middle class, and many other symptoms of neoliberalism. According to Bannon, America’s golden age was in the 1950s, where institutions, stability, and upward mobility for white families thrived. While African-Americans, and others, continued to be impoverished and brutalized. Bannon thinks the Civil Rights and Social movements of the 1960s, eroded these stable institutions. Without them functioning as they did before, Bannon thinks corporate greed was able to run wild. Big government and big business, schemed together against the interests of small businesses, favoring instead globalization and free trade agreements. The problem is that the globalists gutted the American working class, and created a middle class in Asia, Bannon says. Though Bannon’s story about the economy does contain some kernels of truth, he demonizes those hurt most by these policies. He even blames the 2008 financial crisis on the Civil Rights movement, and anti-racist movements. As his 2010 film, “Generation Zero” explains.

Man: So, white Americans have been in a position where they constantly have to prove that they are not racist. It is that phenomenon of white guilt, is what pressures people in the government to say things like, everybody has a right to a house.

Abby Martin: This hatred of progressive movements was accentuated in Bannon’s 2012 film, “Occupy Unmasked.” Which became the main propaganda piece smearing the movement. With Breitbart News, he often discredited organic mass protests as manufactured fronts, for either communists, Democrats, or George Soros. With the decline of the capitalism that made America great, Bannon curmudgeonly blames millennials, their secularism, and pop culture, as having, “sapped the West of its strength to defend its Judeo Christian ideals.” He even blames this for the rise of ISIS. Bannon’s economic agenda, and his racism, go hand-in-hand.His economic nationalism dissolves any semblance of minority rights, as they are all under a dominant zeitgeist of Judeo Christian values, and a distinctly American — really white, cultural identity.

Steve Bannon: I think we… the center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy. Not an economy just in some global marketplace, with open borders. But we are a nation with a culture, and a reason for being.

Abby Martin: Bannon’s message had so much reach in the recent election cycle, because it appealed to the same economic issues the Democratic Party establishment has been unwilling to address. All of this is couched in a virulently anti-establishment ethos. Democrats and mainstream Republicans are the ones that got us into this mess.His solution is as apocalyptic as his films. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishments. “Now, that he has the President’s ear, it’s not hard to see how, even within the first several weeks, his ideology and most outlandish fantasies have been put into action. Bannon is credited for penning the most extreme elements of the Muslim Ban, excluding those on tourist visas, and green card holders initially.Part of Trump’s anti-immigrant plan is a tactic straight from Breitbart News. Trump announced he would publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Trumps main attack strategy on the media, is also straight from Bannon’s mouth.In an interview with the New York Times, Bannon said, “The media here is the opposition party.”

Donald Trump: Yeah, I think the media is the opposition party.

Reporter: …state categorically–

Donald Trump: –You are fake news.

Abby Martin: Perhaps the biggest danger of Bannon’s power and influence in the White House, is leading a march to his first love — war.

Man: You have an expansionist Islam, and you have an expansionist China, right, they are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march, and they think the Judeo Christian West is on the retreat.

Abby Martin: Last March, Bannon boasted that there is no doubt the U.S. will be going to war in the South China Sea, in the next five to ten years.In January, a Chinese government official wrote, that a war within the President’s term, or war breaking out tonight, are not just slogans. They’re becoming a practical reality.The danger of a war with China is just one terrifying scenario we face under Bannon’s guidance. With a myriad of generals, and politicians, hoping to push Trump into new wars with Iran, North Korea, China, Iraq again, Syria, etc. — Bannon could be the deciding factor. For Trump, with so many loathsome establishment figures in his ear, Bannon is the trusted companion to tell him whether or not to listen.While Bannon may likely be just using Trump to advance his own agenda, there’s a whole extremist group of the empire’s elites who are using Bannon to advance theirs.While it’s imperative to fight every member of the Trump Administration, we need to understand the ideology behind their policies, in order to best defeat them. That demands we expose figures like Steve Bannon, and the entire system that subjects us to the will of such repugnant individuals.The fact that someone like Steve Bannon could attain such a high seat of power, shows how illegitimate the system really is; how quickly steps towards progress can be reversed.The Democrats, who are beholding to their own corporate interests, and advocate the same racist wars, cannot be trusted to lead any real opposition.The real resistance will come from what Bannon fears the most — a united, multi-cultural, progressive movement in the streets.

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