Comments made during the Senate confirmation hearing by the Trump administration’s ambassador-designate to the Bahamas evoked memories of the turn of the 19th century United States, one that championed colonialism and imperialism to compete with Europe’s colonial empires. Apparently, the Trump administration is wedded to the arcane Monroe Doctrine, which stipulates that the Western Hemisphere constitutes America’s domain and non-hemispheric nations should steer clear of making any new colonial forays into any territory from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
The Trump administration nominated as US ambassador to the Bahamas a San Diego businessman and early Trump campaign supporter named Doug Manchester. During his confirmation hearing, Manchester called the independent Commonwealth of the Bahamas a US «protectorate». Contrary to Manchester’s musings, on July 10th of this year, the Bahamas celebrated 44 years of independence from Britain.
Manchester sees himself not as an ambassador to an independent nation but as an American «viceroy» lording over a population of nearly 400,000, most inhabitants of Afro-Caribbean descent. Manchester told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, «Well certainly, for all intents and purposes, we believe that it [the Bahamas] is a protectorate». It is not certain who Manchester was including as «we», but his comments would indicate that he was including Donald Trump, who has had his eye on Bahamas real estate ever since the Atlantis hotel and casino opened on Paradise Island, near Nassau, in 1998.
Trump was an original investor in the Paradise Hotel and Casino, which was owned by Merv Griffin's Resorts International. The Atlantis complex is now owned by South African hotel tycoon Sol Kerzner and his Kerzner International Limited. Just as the Trump Organization is now planning a major foray into the Macau casino business, long dominated by Stanley Ho, Sheldon Adelson, and Steve Wynn, the latter two Trump political supporters, he is now looking to compete with Kerzner in the Bahamas. Hence, Manchester was likely telling the Senate committee that Trump agreed with him that the Bahamas is a US «protectorate».
Manchester also told the committee that what the Bahamas needed was more US investment to offset Chinese interest in the country. In «Trump World», investment means more casinos, golf courses, hotels, and condos on prime beachfront property.
For the Bahamian people, Manchester's comments are ugly and evoke the «tourism plantation» meme that foreigners, particularly white Americans and Canadians, have bestowed upon the country. There have been calls by certain Canadian neo-colonialist politicians, including Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Goldring and New Democratic Party MP Max Saltzman for Canada to absorb the British territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands, south of the Bahamas, as a Canadian protectorate. In 2004, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia attempted to convince the Turks and Caicos to merge with it and thus join Canada as an overseas territory. Nova Scotia attempted the same gambit with the British territory of Bermuda.
There have also been various proposals in the United States to incorporate Greenland, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and a post-Castro Cuba as states of the United States. Such talk only exposes certain American quarters of continuing to harbor «Manifest Destiny» fantasies.
Manchester's comments were reminiscent of those of Ronald Reagan's nominated ambassador to the Bahamas, Mayer «Chic» Hecht, during his confirmation hearing in the Senate. Hecht, a department store owner, hotelier, and banker, told shocked senators, ''I am sure I will feel at home in the Bahamas. I've been involved in gambling in Nevada and I've been involved in banking for 25 years . . . Also, I understand it is a nice lifestyle. I love golf and they have a lot of nice golf courses and good fishing». Only Donald Trump and Manchester could have matched Hecht in their blissful ignorance about another country.
Manchester believes that because there are US Coast Guard and Homeland Security personnel in the Bahamas, along with a US Coast Guard base on Great Inagua island, the Bahamas's second-largest island, these facts make the nation an American protectorate. During his hearing, Manchester appeared totally unaware that US government personnel are present in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British territory, pursuant to the Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a diplomatic agreement penned in the 1980s.
OPBAT's charter states it «is a combined effort by the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands police and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to intercept loads of cocaine and conduct investigations. OPBAT employs US Coast Guard and Army helicopters assigned to joint interdiction bases in Nassau, George Town, Great Inagua, and elsewhere». US aircraft and marine vessels must have on board Bahamian or Turks and Caicos counterparts while conducting operations within the respective territories of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. OPBAT did not cede sovereignty of the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos Islands to the United States, regardless of what «fake history» Manchester wants to believe.
Manchester's ignorance about the Bahamas erupted in a political controversy in Nassau, the Bahamian capital. Bahamian Foreign Minister Darren Henfield of the conservative Free National Movement government said he was «caught off guard» by Manchester's comments but considered them to be mere «misstatements». Former Bahamian Foreign Minister and Senate Opposition Leader Fred Mitchell called Manchester's remarks «patently offensive» and rejected Henfield's soft-peddling of them. Mitchell added, «A protectorate is an instrument of colonialism… Is this now the intention of the United States?»
When the Bahamas became independent in 1973, the island of Abaco attempted to declare independence from the newly independent commonwealth. The independence movement was partially-financed by a libertarian group in Nevada called the Phoenix Foundation. Via links with a notorious arms dealer and mercenary in the state of Georgia, the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) had the dirty fingerprints of the Central Intelligence Agency all over it. The CIA was believed to have been behind an armed group, the 20th Century Revolutionaries, who planned to overthrow the local government of Abaco. The AIM unsuccessfully tried to convince Abaco islanders that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) of Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling would transform the Bahamas into another socialist country like Cuba. Ever since the attempted insurrection in Abaco by groups linked to the United States, the Bahamas has keenly protected its independence from the United States notwithstanding OPBAT bases and a US Navy submarine acoustic research and development facility on Andros Island.
The financial collapse of the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands should serve as stark examples of what can befall any Caribbean/Atlantic territory or nation under the yoke of US colonialism. Repeated US military interventions in Haiti, which has also been preyed upon non-governmental organizations like the Clinton Foundation, have exposed the neo-colonialist designs of Washington.
A recent project to turn Honduran towns into «charter cities» or «employment and economic development zones» (ZEDEs) is nothing more than a thinly-disguised attempt for US and Canadian firms, along with NGOs in the pay of such firms, to recolonize Honduras as a «banana republic.» Those like Doug Manchester, Trump supporters like «tax reformist» Grove Norquist and his friends at the libertarian Cato Institute, and the CIA-linked McKinsey Corporation may believe they are fooling people with terms «charter cities» and «employment zones», but they represent nothing more than old-fashioned colonialists with a «white man’s burden» mentality.