President Donald Trump’s embattled chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, served as an enigma in uniform. Under President Barack Obama, Kelly had problems following orders during his stint as Commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), headquartered in Miami, Florida. Geographical area commanders, such as SOUTHCOM, and the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa, Florida, have become virtual viceroys, often competing with the U.S. State Department in crafting U.S. foreign policy in the areas of the world they have been assigned for their own geo-political and military tinkering.
Kelly represents a throwback to another era. Kelly, a native of a predominantly Irish working-class neighborhood in the Boston area, should not have carried into the Marines the racist attitudes he has put on full display while in the Marine Corps and the White House. While in charge of U.S. military operations in the Western Hemisphere from his Miami headquarters, Kelly displayed a patrician attitude toward regional Latin American, Afro-Caribbean, mestizo, Native American, and Muslim populations that was straight out of the 1950s. Kelly also left a legacy of racism aimed at SOUTHCOM’s civilian employees, many of whom are drawn from Miami’s diverse multi-cultural community. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints became the order of the day at SOUTHCOM on Kelly’s watch. This was of little surprise considering that after he became Trump’s chief of staff, Kelly would praise Confederate General Robert E. Lee and other leaders of the pro-slavery Confederacy as “men of good faith.”
In October 2017, Kelly accused African-American Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of lying. Kelly was responding to Wilson's charge that the wife of an African-American Army Sergeant – one of Wilson's constituents, who was killed in combat in Niger – was not properly consoled by Trump during a phone call from the commander-in-chief. Kelly, angered by Wilson, claimed that during a 2015 dedication of a new FBI field office in Miami, Wilson erroneously claimed she secured "$20 million" in federal funds for the building. However, Wilson claimed no such thing, but that did not stop Kelly from calling the congresswoman an "empty barrel." Kelly attended the 2015 dedication ceremony representing SOUTHCOM, which had just been cited by the Navy for improperly carrying out federal policies aimed at racial discrimination in the workplace.
Kelly was also a major proponent of keeping open the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as not only a concentration camp for individuals grabbed by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Forces as “terrorist combatants,” but also for potential use in mass migration-type detention scenarios. Guantanamo was used to house Haitian immigrants rescued at sea by U.S. Naval and Coast Guard ships during the 1990s. Some of these economic and political refugees are now counted among Representative Wilson’s congressional district constituents. Kelly, as SOUTHCOM chief and later, as Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary and chief of staff, has not hidden his disdain for Haitian and other immigrants entering the United States from the Caribbean, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America.
Kelly has also led the pack in warning about “Muslim” intrigue in the Caribbean and Latin America. Of course, Kelly, like most of the xenophobes of his ilk, believes that U.S. national security is threatened by a phalanx that not only includes native-born Muslim citizens of such countries as Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, and Venezuela, but also Iranian diplomats, members of Lebanese Hezbollah and envoys of the State of Palestine, and other Muslims resident in the Western Hemisphere. As SOUTHCOM chief, Kelly often, without State Department knowledge or approval, issued joint statements with Latin America’s most brutal human rights-violating Defense Ministers and armed forces commanders, warning of Islamic terrorist activity in the region. This rhetoric was accompanied by propaganda targeting leftist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Suriname, for aiding and abetting Islamist “terrorists.” Kelly continues, from his White House perch, to lump together Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), and the Taliban into one tidy package of America’s foes out to do harm in the Western Hemisphere.
Fear has proven to be the only weapon that Kelly and his colleagues in the Trump White House have found advantageous. Recently, the U.S. embassy in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad issued the following warning: “U.S. government personnel are advised to exercise additional caution and increased situational awareness if they participate in Carnival events.” Kelly is apparently up to his old tricks from Miami. The Trump administration believes that hiding among the Muslim populations of the Caribbean are ISIL elite special unit members, known as “Jaysh al-Khalifa,” or the “Army of Caliphate.” This “army,” which purportedly aims to turn the Caribbean into a caliphate, appears to be more the product of the Islamophobic paranoia of Kelly and Trump’s right-wing base, coupled with a heavy dose of pro-Israeli pressure group propaganda.
What is certain is that the Trump administration, along with neo-imperialist governments in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, are attempting to re-impose colonialism on the entire Caribbean region. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the eve of a trip to Latin America, reinforced the arcane Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which reserves the entire Western Hemisphere for America’s “Big Brother” imperialistic designs. No one represents the Yankee “Big Brother” to Western Hemispheric leaders more than Kelly. While in command in Miami, Kelly brushed off Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration in November 2013 that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” For Kelly and Trump, the doctrine is as relevant in 2018 as it was in 1823.
There have been recent definite signs of European and American re-colonization of the Caribbean. Even after the Netherlands limited the self-government of its Caribbean colonies of Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles federation in 2010 – ruling them as “special municipalities within the Kingdom of the Netherlands – Amsterdam has moved to impose direct rule on St. Eustatius.
In early February 2018, the Dutch colonial master, Raymond Knops, the State Secretary for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, unilaterally disbanded the St. Eustatius Island Council, fired its deputies, and relieved the acting Lieutenant Governor of his duties. The reason given was “lawlessness, financial mismanagement, intimidation, threats and insults, and the pursuit of personal power” by local authorities. The banning order could have been issued by a Dutch colonial official in the 1600s. Dutifully, the Dutch Parliament and State Council High Court ratified the abolition of St. Eustatius’s government, based only on a report written by a “Committee of Wise Men” appointed by the Dutch government.
The Dutch have taken full advantage of the destruction wrought on St. Eustatius, Saba, and St. Maarten by Hurricane Irma in 2017 to bully the local island governments into submission. Between November 2017 and January 2018, the Dutch colonial powers forced two governments of St. Maarten – those of Prime Ministers William Marlin and Rafael Boasman – to resign over Amsterdam’s insistence that a special "integrity" body oversee hurricane relief assistance on the island. Such Shylockian financial oversight authorities were imposed by Washington on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, even before the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Assistance and relief programs for both U.S. colonies, obviously with more than a “wink and a nod” from Kelly in the West Wing of the White House, have been plagued by cronyism in awarding recovery and reconstruction contracts, as well as overall indifference from the Trump administration.
Vince Cable, the leader of the British Liberal Democratic Party, which is neither liberal nor very democratic, suggested that the way for Britain to deal with increased demands for more self-government and even independence among its Caribbean territories, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands, plus Bermuda in the Atlantic, is to impose direct colonial rule on them. Cable wants to limit the financial independence of Britain’s overseas territories because he believes they are havens for tax cheats and dodgy offshore companies. The British imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos in 2009, a move criticized by many governments in the region.
Of course, for patrician neo-colonialists like John Kelly, such restoration of “white man’s rule” by Britain, along with the continuation of colonialist policies by the Dutch and French in their territories in the Caribbean, would be welcome news. It would justify Kelly’s own belief, honed while in Miami, that the Puerto Ricans, U.S. Virgin Islanders, Haitians, Mexicans, and other “third World” peoples should be seen and not heard.