By Tim Hains
November 23, 2018
Days after a federal judge in California temporarily halted Trump’s asylum ban for members of “caravans” fleeing poverty, ‘Democracy Now!’ speaks with linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky about how U.S. foreign policy in Central America contributes to the problems the refugees are fleeing.
“The most extreme source of migrants right now is Honduras. Why Honduras? Well, it was always bitterly oppressed,” Chomsky explained. Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are “three countries that have been under harsh U.S. domination, way back, but particularly since the 1980s,” he said.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton just gave a major speech in Miami on U.S. policy in Latin America. Bolton described Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as a “troika of tyranny,” saying, quote, “This triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere.” Professor Chomsky, can you respond to that? “Troika of tyranny,” says John Bolton.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that, of course, immediately brings to mind the “axis of evil” speech of George Bush back in 2002, which was the precursor, laying the groundwork, for the invasion of Iraq, the worst crime of this century, with horrendous consequences for Iraq, eliciting ethnic conflicts that are tearing the region apart—a major atrocity. John Bolton was behind that. And his new troika—I doubt that the U.S. will dare to do something similar, but that’s what it brings to mind.
It’s kind of interesting to see this hysterical raving alongside of another astonishing propaganda campaign that Bolton and his colleagues are carrying out with regard to the caravan of poor and miserable people fleeing from severe oppression, violence, terror, extreme poverty from three countries: Honduras—mainly Honduras, secondarily Guatemala, thirdly El Salvador—not Nicaragua, incidentally—three countries that have been under harsh U.S. domination, way back, but particularly since the 1980s, when Reagan’s terror wars devastated particularly El Salvador and Guatemala, secondarily Honduras. Nicaragua was attacked by Reagan, of course, but Nicaragua was the one country which had an army to defend the population. In the other countries, the army were the state terrorists, backed by the United States.
The most extreme source of migrants right now is Honduras. Why Honduras? Well, it was always bitterly oppressed. But in 2009, Honduras had a mildly reformist president, Mel Zelaya. The Honduran powerful, rich elite couldn’t tolerate that. A military coup took place, expelled him from the country. It was harshly condemned all through the hemisphere, with one notable exception: the United States. The Obama administration refused to call it a military coup, because if they had, they would have been compelled by law to withdraw military funding from the military regime, which was imposing a regime of brutal terror. Honduras became the murder capital of the world. A fraudulent election took place under the military junta—again, harshly condemned all over the hemisphere, most of the world, but not by the United States. The Obama administration praised Honduras for carrying out an election, moving towards democracy and so on. Now people are fleeing from the misery and horrors for which we are responsible.
And you have this incredible charade taking place, which the world is looking at with utter astonishment: Poor, miserable people, families, mothers, children, fleeing from terror and repression, for which we are responsible, and in reaction, they’re sending thousands of troops to the border. The troops being sent to the border outnumber the children who are fleeing. And with a remarkable PR campaign, they’re frightening much of the country into believing that we’re just on the verge of an invasion by, you know, Middle Eastern terrorists funded by George Soros, so on and so forth.
I mean, it’s all kind of reminiscent of something that happened 30 years ago. You may recall, in 1985, Ronald Reagan strapped on his cowboy boots and called—got in front of television, called a national emergency, because the Nicaraguan army was two days’ march from Harlingen, Texas, just about to overwhelm and destroy us. And it worked.
I mean, this spectacle is almost indescribable. Even apart from noticing where they’re coming from, the countries that we have crucially been involved in destroying, it’s—the ability to carry this off repeatedly is quite an amazing commentary on much of the popular culture.
But the troika, just like the “axis of evil,” are those who just don’t obey U.S. orders. Colombia, for example, has the worst human rights record in the hemisphere for years, but they’re not part of the troika of tyranny.
All of this rings very familiar bells. It’s a long—it’s been a long-standing element of the U.S. propaganda system on the—mostly on the far right, but not only, which goes way back and which is a kind of pathological feature of the dominant political culture that should be understood, analyzed and dismantled.