There’s this old Warren Zevon song that starts with a red scare: “I went home with a waitress, the way I always do; how was I to knooooow she was with the Russians too?” The song came out in 1978, but it’s very 2018. It ends with our sleazeball fixer “hiding in Honduras” while pleading for “lawyers, guns, and money,” which is the song’s title. The irony concerns a century’s worth of American sleazeball fixers bearing a lifetime’s supply of lawyers, guns, and money—not necessarily in that order—wreaking havoc in Honduras.
The State Department primer notes cheerfully that “Low labor costs, proximity to the U.S. market, and the Caribbean port of Puerto Cortés make Honduras attractive to investors.” It doesn’t mention how this attractive circumstance came about, that J. P. Morgan once dictated the terms of Honduran state affairs, resulting in US bankers controlling the nation’s railroads and the US government controlling revenues. It similarly neglects to mention that we sent Marines to Puerto Cortés to keep it open for business. That’s how you get a banana trade. And a banana republic. And incredible corruption. Our friends at the State Department continue, “At the same time, however, Honduras’ investment climate is hampered by high levels of crime, a weak judicial system, corruption, low educational levels, and poor transportation and other infrastructure.” They again don’t mention that this situation—the consequence of lawyers, guns, and money annihilating communal sovereignty and capacity—was our doing.
The primer also concedes “a sharp downturn in 2009 due to the effects of the international financial and domestic political crises.” This is the only gesture toward that year’s military coup that removed Manuel Zelaya from the presidency. The pretext was, get this, that he had suggested a nonbinding poll about whether to have a vote later about whether to consider a new constitution some time after that. This is a good distance from storming the Winter Palace. But it was threatening enough because, the year before, Honduras had joined ALBA, the Bolivarian alliance in Latin America and the Caribbean, part of a drift leftward. So a coup followed. Its leader, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, was a graduate of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. A US general met with the plotters the night before; another provided support in the coup’s aftermath. We were as an official matter shocked, shocked to find that a coup was going on. But as a legal matter we refused to call it a coup, which would have compelled us to comport ourselves accordingly. We love democracy. Oops, I meant to say, we love a good investment climate even if it is hampered by corruption et cetera. But “even if” gets it wrong. Good investment climates go with corruption like lawyers go with guns and money.
All of which is to say, Honduras is among other things a helpful history on which to reflect when MSNBCNN ramps up the panic about Russian interference in our democracy. Since the US–sanctioned military seizure of power, Honduras has become “the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers.” In 2016, the internationally honored activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated by more dudes trained at School of the Americas (which, like Blackwater, has since changed its name; it’s now WHINSEC). This extrajudicial killing is the pure truth of our devotion to international sovereignty. That and all the coups. Russia released some kind of useful emails and jacked some spreadsheets to *checks notes* target you with Facebook ads. And now democracy must be defended.
No doubt Russia, like every other big honking carbuncle of oligarchs and agents, would like to increase its influence. They too are repressive goons. They have their own Bertas. But the function of the new red hysteria, now prosecuted by Democrats, is tediously obvious: to drive the fantasy that the 2016 humiliation had an extrinsic source rather than being the pure product of America. That it was all a psyop and the center can get a do-over. This is an internecine party affair conducted in a graveyard; let the dead bury the dead. But I can assure them all, our desperation and disaffection are homegrown. The volatility is coming from inside the house.