Monday, April 12, 2021

Putting a Humanitarian Spin On Xenophobia

In order to prevent thousands of Central American migrants from making those dangerous journeys from dangerous countries, whose danger to human lives stems in large part from dangerous CIA/Pentagon death squads enabling military right-wing coups and propping up corrupt puppets, the Biden administration is now installing more native police and military guards than there are refugees at various border crossings.

It's a way to "discourage" refugees from ever leaving their climate-ravaged, violence-torn homes in the first place. And let's be honest. It takes the heat off Joe Biden, who is getting lambasted left and right for the abysmal conditions of imprisoned migrants, with the added insult of getting his carefully cultivated neo-progressive persona tarnished. 

Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced on Monday that the White House has made deals with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras (where a 2009 military coup with the passive-aggressive compliance, if not direct assistance, of the Obama administration, ousted the socialist democratically-elected president) to repel or arrest - if not something even worse - would-be refugees.

Or, as the New York Times spins it, this draconian measure is only being implemented for the good of the refugees, to protect them from "making a dangerous trip North." The Biden administration will beneficently arrange for these desperate people to be turned back, jailed or even tortured or shot at places far, far away from the prying eyes of the American people - who already are getting an eye-full of the shameful conditions in pediatric "detention shelters" on our side of the border.

It's a variation on the solution devised by the kinder gentler administration which had so ostentatiously banned Bush-era torture. The Democrats simply outsourced their own torture to friendly authoritarian countries, and euphemized the outsourcing as "extraordinary rendition." 

And then there were those therapeutic "surgical" drone strikes that made future Abu Ghraib photographic scandals far less likely, mainly because remote-controlled Predators left so few intact bodies around to provide any embarrassing evidence. 

From Monday's Times:

Mexico has informed the United States that it will maintain 10,000 troops at its own southern border, aiming to double the number of migrants that it stops from traveling north, Ms. Psaki said. Guatemala has added 1,500 troops to its border with Honduras and has set up a series of a dozen checkpoints along the route that many migrants take as they head to the United States.

She also said that Honduras recently “surged” 7,000 police and troops to disperse a contingent of migrants that had gathered to make the trip north seeking refuge.

“The objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey, and make crossing the border more difficult,” Ms. Psaki said.

This is the exact same policy continued less than successfully by Donald Trump. However, the announcement that Biden is renewing it is somehow not eliciting anywhere near the same levels of outrage from the corporate press and Democratic lawmakers who decried the cruelty of outsourcing xenophobic US policy to repressive, corrupt regimes and police agencies only a few short years ago. The difference, of course, is that Trump made no effort to spin the cruelty into sanctimony and made no effort to play nice with Mexico. The Democratic side of the duopoly for its own part has always striven mightily to put the humanitarian gloss on the bipartisan, international human rights abuses that this country is so famous for. Trump was more interested in bellowing about "shithole countries" to rile up his base. Democrats talk up a kind, caring  game to placate their liberal base.

For example, Vice President Kamaa Harris is promoted by the Times as  leading a valiant effort to "improve the conditions" in the corrupt, devastated areas from which the refugees are fleeing. At the same time, these refugees are also being denigrated and dehumanized by the Biden administration and friendly establishment press as a militant "surge" that is threatening to breach our suddenly-precious border wall. The bellicose rhetoric is so ingrained in all aspects of foreign policy that there seems to be nothing that they can't or won't append their war jingo to.

The Times article uncritically puts a final spin on what is, essentially, a threat and a warning to an eminently disposable population:

The agreements with the countries are an early test of the cooperation that Ms. Harris will need in order to succeed in that mission.

“These discussions are ongoing, over a period of time and take place at several levels of the government, both here and within these countries, Ms. Psaki said.

Translation: if these violent and historically corrupt regimes don't do what the US imperium orders in order to quell the "surge" of their own people - cast almost as enemy combatants in need of some tough love, rather than as people fleeing for their very lives from violence and famine -  then Uncle Sam won't be forking over any more dollars to prop up their violent and corrupt regimes.

And if people do have to suffer and die, Psaki smarmily dog-whistles, there will be so many players and so many places involved in the abuses that the naming of any individual culprits will be impossible, not to mention unnecessary and undesirable.

This outsourcing of weaponized US immigration policy, moreover, will also make it costly and inconvenient for a US media conglomerate owned by only five or six corporations to bother setting up bureaus in southern Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala in order to cover the plights of thwarted refugees. Covering the occasional Rio Grande drowning and kids sleeping under Mylar blankets behind bars is cheap, it's easy, and it's close enough to home to keep the domestic culture wars alive, and the ratings higher. 

Why else is this whole shameful tale being constantly reported as a "border crisis" rather than the Global South climate disaster and capitalism-spawned human catastrophe that it really is?

(Hint: Follow the money. Remember who sponsors cable news. Here's looking at you, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Financialized Capital.)


Mark Thomason said...

Biden did help create the disasters from which these people flee.

First, he was VP for Obama, and specifically a foreign policy guy, when the Obama Admin did things like overthrow Honduras to install awful abuses and mass murder.

Second, he was 36 years in the Senate, many of them on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He was its Chairman for many years. During those years, he said nothing to stop these abuses, and voted the money and support they needed.

So he can't arrive now and claim a fresh start, "None of this is my doing." He was a big part in making this problem.

So now, does he do anything to fix it? No. Does he do anything to reverse it? No.

Can we really expect he will change or reverse what he himself did for so many years? No.

Jay–Ottawa said...

The EU did much the same, paying Erdogan to stop the flow of Middle East and African refugees from treckking north. Others, hoping to reach Spain and Italy by raft or rusty ship, were increasingly allowed to sink or be rounded up by the Libyan coast guard and resettled in refugee camps or slave markets.

With so many obstacles put up to stop Central Americans from overland immigration north, I wonder when they'll decide to become boat people. Lots of shorelines in the Caribbean as well as further north between Texas and Florida. On the Pacific side, drug cartels have for years been using homemade submarines to deliver the goods on the beaches of California.

But first let's give Kamala a chance to set things right.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Sorry, Karen, for this non-sequitur. I needed to write this comment in response to your last post.

I really had to laugh (ruefully) when I read this. It really goes to show you that the multinational corporations and financial capitalists don't care which party is in power because they own both. It is no skin off their backs if more minorities can vote. Biden is as good a soldier as any for their cause.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

This is such a tragedy and so wrong, wrong, wrong! We wreck their countries and corrupt their governments, installing horrible people to places of power. Then when the desperate people have had enough and just want to leave and have some safety and a decent life for themselves and their families, we turn them away.

When I didn't think American foreign policy could sink lower, we now are using the evil governments to keep them prisoners of their own countries.

I am sick at heart at the injustice of it all.