2007/03/18

Terrorism Comes To Breakfast

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and losses in lives."
- Smedley D. Butler
Major General, USMC, Retired
(1881-1940)



It may seem odd that two people living in (semi)rural Japan would eat oatmeal for breakfast five or six days a week, but we do. Then again, there is much that may be considered odd about us. We buy 9 pound boxes of oats through Costco. On weekends we take more time and make French toast (K's recipe uses grated carrots) or pancakes. Almost always breakfast includes sliced bananas. (I am sure you are fascinated to read about our eating habits, but bear with me).

Our bananas come from the Philippines bearing various brand labels - Chiquita, Sumitomo, etc. When we buy a new bunch, I peel off the little brand stickers and put it on my shirt pocket while we're still in the store, which embarrasses K to no end, but gets the desired laugh or smile. Unless you grow your own food and buy only from people you know (which I truly hope to do some day), it is almost impossible to buy food without doing business with trans-national corporations these days. If you want bananas in Kashima, there is no other way to get them. Sometimes, the activities of these companies can be rather unpleasant. Should a consumer have to monitor the actions of each of the millions of people involved in virtually every economic aspect of his/her life? If you live in North America, try buying any bag of groceries that does not have something in it touched in some way by Cargill. Most folks have never heard of Cargill, but it is one of the largest privately held corporations in the world (assets over $213 Billion) and has its corporate fingers into every level of food production from soy beans in Brazil, to beef in Alberta, and GMO grains in between. My point is, in our modern global economy, things are connected in an almost infinite variety of ways.

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General Butler with Sergeant Major Jiggs, the USMC's first official mascot, in the 1920's

Smedley D. Butler, as any US Marine will tell you, was twice the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. During his career, which he began at age 16 with a commission as a Second Lieutenant, he led men into battle in Cuba, the Philippines, Peking, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and Haiti. During WWI he took charge of Camp Pontenezen in France, seeing to the care of 75,000 troops (16,000 of whom had flu when he arrived). His performance earned him even more decorations from the Army, Navy and French government, as well as the love of the men under his charge. Later, in an incident little known by most people today, Butler thwarted an plotted coup d'tat of the Franklin Roosevelt government by big business interests.

He always regretted having taken men into battle for the benefit of bankers and corporations: "I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested."

After his retirement, Butler wrote, "There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights." That was over 70 years ago. It seems we humans learn nothing from our own history and allow the same patterns to be played out over and over again. And thus we come to the terrorist who comes to my breakfast table. One of those "American fruit companies" was United Fruit, now known as Chiquita Brands.

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"Chiquita" - cute advertising gimmick or early genetics experiment gone very wrong?

Close on the heels of Bush's "good will" tour of South and Central America to reassure them that the US feels compassion for them and tell them all about the wonderful lives they will enjoy thanks to US investments and "free" markets (what has been going on for the last 125 years? one wonders), Colombians are demanding extradition of Chiquita Brands executives. Not for things the company did 100 years ago, but things they have been doing quite recently.

The chief federal prosecutor's office said on Friday it would ask the US Justice Department for information on Chiquita's role in smuggling 3,000 assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to far-right paramilitaries in the region where the company got its bananas.

Chiquita settled a US Justice Department probe by agreeing to pay a $25 million fine and acknowledging that its wholly owned subsidiary Banadex paid $1.7 million to far-right paramilitaries labeled terrorists by the United States. Chiquita also admitted funding Colombia's two main leftist rebel groups, but the US complaint offered no information about how much it paid them.



No need to leave home to find "terrorists", they're in my oatmeal. The Chiquita Banana lady has been shown to be a real bitch. Now, please don't tell me anything bad about the Quaker man with the friendly smile on the cereal box. I'm sure there is plenty as he is owned by PepsiCo. But, please, not while I'm eating breakfast.

Moon Hop's rendition of the Chiquita Banana song - enjoy.



Trivia: Ironically, relative to this post, Smedley Butler was from a Quaker family.

11 comments:

nzm said...

Interesting read.

2 books which deal with this from differing aspects and are equally disturbing are:
Take it Personally by Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop, who looks at the Big Business angle, and
Te New Rulers of the World by John Pilger who approaches it from the political and military points of view.

The Moody Minstrel said...

As a fellow ex-pat in southeast Ibaraki who eats lots of Quaker Oats and bananas for breakfast (though not quite five to six times a week, maybe only two or three times) I am shocked...SHOCKED, I tell you!

Actually, my wife refuses to buy Chiquita bananas, not because of their global wrongdoings, but because (according to the Japanese news media) they polish their bananas with a type of wax that, if it accumulates in the body, is said to be potentially harmful (if you eat the peels. No word on how much leaks through to the fruit inside). She only buys a type of organically-grown banana from the Philippines that looks far less attractive and doesn't last as long, but seems to taste better.

A big company was funding leftist groups in Colombia??!? THAT DOES NOT COMPUTE!!!!

Pandabonium said...

NZM - two excellent suggestions for looking at it from "in stereo". Thanks - and for the links.

I've read a lot of articles over the years by John Pilger as well as books by some of the authors who contribute to Roddick's book - in fact I did a post about David Korten's recent book "The Great Turning" on this blog last November.

So, while the topic of this post is not news to me, it never ceases to amaze me how this stuff sticks its nose into my life every day in oddest ways.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - Wax? no wonder I can shine my shoes with them. We bought Sumitomo's brand today, but if we could buy organic I'd rather. In Hawaii I used to grow my own darned bananas.

When the object is to keep the labor cost down, they don't care who they hire. Nestle and Coke do a lot of nasty work in Colombia as well.

Thanks for letting me know I'm not so strange to be eating oats in Japan.

Reena said...

Panda, its been a while but I'm glad I stopped by. Just had to say this- Quaker oats hit the shelves of India a few months ago, although the other local brands have been here for ages :) I grew up eating oats every single day and right now I dont even want to think about it, but I try to not very convincingly coax my daughter into eating it!

ladybug said...

Food for thought Panda, especially those of us for whom socially conscious living is part of our thought processes.

You've probably heard of "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe, who outlines the "buy local, buy seasonal" as one of her strategies...

Something Snabby and I are working more towards also. I have to admit I'm not so good in the raising my own food department (although I've had some great Bean/Tomato/Lettuce years). Mostly due to work, insects and pure lack of interest in gardening.-(I'm more of a throw it in the ground and hope it makes it type-that's why I like bulbs and native plants!)

I do love getting food at Farmer's Markets (there are 3 fairly close-Portland's, Beaverton's and Hillsboro's). We live at the edge of the urban growth boundrary (which just got blown to hell by voters last fall), so there are lots of farms with vegetable and fruit stands w/in a 10 minute drive.
Of course within about 5 years they all might be sold for McMansions and I'll have to drive to North Plains for fresh corn in the fall....

Pandabonium said...

Reena - thanks for stopping by. I always think of rice in India - especially - that wonderful basmati - but of course there are many grains in such a large, fruitful, country. Funny that you grew up eating oatmeal too.

Ladybug - thanks. That's great. Like so many in my generation, those roadside stands were a familiar sight when I was a kid - even living close to a big city.
But they paved that paradise

In Hawaii I had my own hydroponic vegetable garden, fruit trees, and organic farm sources. In Fiji, K and I are friends with a family who have an organic farm close by our land. Japan was only to be a brief stop, so as this has turned into a longer stay, these kinds of issues start to matter more.

I do have some sources (there is an organic farm movement in Japan) but not many. And Japan produces less than 40% of the food it consumes.

Localize, localize... but I want my bananas.. :-P

Hill said...

I agree completely with Gen. Smedley.
Seems every single day now, we're hearing more & more about the corruption of big business. What just astonishes me is that corporations have rights.
How can that be?
How can corporations have right?!?
BTW, if you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend you watch "The Corporation."
Chilling stuff.

YD said...

OH NOOOOO... the song stayed in my head!!!!

Pandabonium said...

Hill - I didn't see that film, but heard it was well done.

Thom Hartmann, in his book "Unequal Protection - the Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights", tells how corporations gained legal status as "individuals" not by a Supreme Court decision, but rather through the notes of a court reporter (who happened to be a corporate officer).

It is only "we the people" who can change these things, and it isn't comfortable and there are no guarantees of success.

Great pictures on you blog of the Austin protest!

YD - oh, no! the dreaded commercial-jingle-itis!

Quick sing the Schnappi song.. ich bin Schnappi das kleine krokodil...

If that doesn't work, drink a pint of Guinness. It may not get the song out of your head, but you won't care. ;^)

YD said...

:-D Speaking about the Schnappi song, I am learning up the lyrics, so that I can teach my kids to sing it next time. Long term planning huh? I don't care, cuz I simply adore Schnappi! yay yay...