In an extraordinary and almost entirely unreported act of political courage, freshman New York congressman Jamaal Bowman told CNN last Sunday night that decades of American capitalism and imperialism in Central America are responsible for the flood of immigrants coming to our southern border. When’s the last time you heard anyone in Congress say that out loud? I’ll wait. Here’s a snippet of Bowman’s remarks.
” We need to have an honest conversation about immigration,” he told host Abby Phillip. “We have disrupted the political, social, and economic systems in Central America for over a century, because of our personal capitalist interests.”
The best we can do is implement a 21st century Marshall Plan and help to rebuild Central America in the same ways that we have destroyed it,” Bowman continued. “We wanted their land and their natural resources, and we were engaged in coup d’etats and other behaviors in those areas in order to do so. Now we have to right our wrongs.”
Bowman’s comments are especially gratifying given that he defeated defense industry water boy and uber-hawkish democrat Eliot Engel, (former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), in last years partisan primary in New York’s 16th congressional district.
Upon reading Bowman’s remarks I was instantly reminded of US Marine Corp Major General Smedley Darlington Butler who, in 1933, after almost 34 years of service in the United States military, published his now classic book ” War Is A Racket”. From Butlers book:
” I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico, 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 benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Butler published his book almost 90 years ago. Bowman runs the risk, 90 years later, of being marginalized by even his own political party for speaking the obvious out loud, which is that American foreign policy in Central and South America over the last 100 years is primarily responsible for the mass immigration of Hispanic people coming to our country. They’re fleeing the violence, deprivation and instability we’ve created in their countries. It’s really that simple.
Smedley Butler was a courageous individual. So is Jamaal Bowman. The Congressional Progressive Caucus should rally around Bowman’s point of view and pledge to end American imperialism in Central America, starting with opposition to the Biden administrations support of Venezuelan pretender Juan Guaido, and the economic sanctions against Venezuela that are creating the very conditions that compel average people to emigrate northwards.
So here’s to a pair of great Americans, Jamaal Bowman and Smedley Butler. Here’s hoping some more will join their ranks.