The old adage of 'follow the money' even explains the boom in refugees seeking asylum

The old adage of 'follow the money' even explains the boom in refugees seeking asylum
Caleb Walsh illustration

The latest stupid thing our misfit president has done is to threaten to cut off aid to Central American countries known in the real world as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. (He often confuses these countries with Mexico, but anyway.)

As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson points out, if you want to make things worse at the border, just do what Trump wants to do. He apparently doesn't even know most of this aid goes to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), not to the governments he wishes to punish for allowing too many "Mexicans" to come to the U.S. illegally.

Frankly, the case can be made that the United States is responsible for much of the disaster in Central America. The story goes back decades.

To promote the commercial interests of the American corporations in the region, the U.S. sent in the CIA, and under the guise of fighting communism they effectively turned Central America into so many "banana republics." They undermined young democracies while installing right-wing, military dictatorships.

The story is best told by Stephen Kinzer in his book The Brothers. In 1954, the Central Intelligence Agency, directed by Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, with the approval and support from the secretary of state, his brother, John Foster Dulles, overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and installed a dictatorship. The immediate reason was Arbenz's land reforms, which affected the interests of the United Fruit Company, at the time the single largest landowner in Guatemala.

The United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Banana) employed the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. Both Dulles brothers worked at that firm and were actually United Fruit board members. Both had played major roles in negotiating the giveaway land deals that so benefited United Fruit in the first place.

And all they needed to continue getting what they wanted was to overthrow Arbenz, who was elected in 1951. The Dulles brothers launched their anti-Arbenz propaganda (or as they preferred, "public relations"). Their effort was led by the founder of modern PR, Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud. Under Bernays' guidance, the Dulles brothers worked to brand Arbenz a communist taking orders from the Kremlin — a tactic that would be used over and over again, eventually taking America into the Vietnam War. Bought-and-paid-for hoodlums, mostly from Nicaragua, attacked Guatemala. Arbenz went to the United Nations seeking fact finders but got nowhere.

Thus it was that the 10 years of democratic government in Guatemala ended. Arbenz was granted asylum by Mexico; the Dulles brothers and Wall Street had won.

The American-led assault on democratically elected leadership in Central America, however, had just begun. Back then, following the Dulles' script, what you did to prevent even the hint of reform was to haul out the threat of communism, take aim at whatever reformer you sought to defeat and let Bernays' propaganda acolytes take over. Worked every time.

The mess we helped create, that we nurtured in Central America, all in the interest of Wall Street, continues to this day, with migrants fleeing these same nations that have been caught in this cycle of exploitation ever since.

Ronald Reagan, while running for president in 1980, used those same reasons to attack President Carter's Panama Canal treaty. This bit of cheap demagoguery infuriated none other than John Wayne, who could hardly be termed a "lefty."

"Now I have taken your letter," Wayne wrote him, "and I'll show you point by goddamn point in the treaty where you are misinforming people."

He signed the letter ''Duke'' and enclosed with it a five-page rebuttal — written on the stationery of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Wayne then wrote President Carter in support of his stand.

Where are the John Waynes and Jimmy Carters when we need them? ♦

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.