Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Tedium of Anti-Trumpism

I started reading this malediction against Donald Trump by Roger Cohen in Der Spiegel and I soon became overwhelmed with the nauseating hypocrisy.  Don't get me wrong; I really do despise Donald Trump. But too many people think that by opposing and condemning Trump, that they're doing a great service to humanity and that their own support for vile, murderous psychopaths like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is all part and parcel of their innate goodness. If your only reason for opposing Trump is because his misogyny, racism, boorishness, stupidity and corruption, ... well, that might make you polite company at a Washington D.C. dinner party, but you have to do more than that to be invited to toke and drink with me.

Let me go through this and I'll try to explain:
Ten months into the Trump presidency, the world has not gone over a cliff. Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea has not produced Armageddon. That this must be considered an achievement is testimony to how alarming Donald Trump's erratic belligerence has been. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has concluded that Europeans must now take "our destiny into our own hands." Dismay is widespread. The post-war order, stripped of its American point of reference, is frayed to the breaking point.

This is no surprise. Trump's election, like Britain's perverse flight from the European Union, reflected a blow-up-the-system mood. The tens of millions of Americans who elected Trump had few illusions about his irascibility but were ready to roll the dice in the name of disruption at any cost.
The president, who continues to act principally as the rabble-rousing leader of a mass movement, is the ultimate provocateur. He jolts the facile assumptions of a globalized liberal elite. Rising inequality and rampant impunity for the powerful certainly demanded such a jolt. But the question remains: How dangerous is Trump to the world and the American Republic?

Okay, first of all, who are these "globalized liberal elites"? What are their "facile assumptions"? Who has presided over "rising inequality and rampant impunity for the powerful"? Look at all that is unstated in these two paragraphs: "Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea" ... Yes, that was scary and dangerous and stupid. But it is well within the confines of standard US-American practice. And I will never tire of reminding people of the far crazier nuclear brinkmanship carried out by Obama in Syria and as NATO policy in Europe and which Hillary Clinton wanted to intensify. Trump would not have this opportunity for bellicose ranting if there was not already a predisposition for threatening and engaging in illegal wars throughout and across the narrow spectrum of Washington D.C.'s foreign policy establishment.

Cohen then enters into a summary of the argument that Trump is not uniquely dangerous and why he thinks it is unconvincing:
One school of thought argues: Not very. For all the presidential mouthing and angry ALL-CAPS dawn tweeting, there's no sign of the wall on the Mexican border; and NATO is no longer "obsolete" (at least some days of the week); and the "One China" policy has not been scrapped; and the Iran nuclear agreement endures for now, despite Trump's outrageous refusal to recertify it; and the United States embassy is still in Tel Aviv; and the North American Free Trade Agreement hangs on. Even Trump's decision to quit the Paris climate accord has not yet been made effective.
So perhaps Defense Secretary James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, have ring-fenced Trump's recklessness. Perhaps they have neutralized his ahistorical ignorance. Trump's "America First" may be a slogan of impeccable fascist pedigree, but it will not upend the world.
I wish I could believe this, but I am dubious. A disaster is unfolding whose consequences for humanity and decency will be substantial. America's word, which has constituted the undergirding of global security for more than seven decades, is a fast-devaluing currency. Trump is likely to become more capricious in the coming months. The investigation by Robert Mueller into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump presidential campaign has already led to the indictment of the president's campaign manager, Paul Manafort. War was ever a great distraction from domestic difficulty.
"America's word, which has constituted the undergirding of global security" ....  Yes, the propping-up of right-wing dictators, the invasions of Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, ... the toppling of governments such as Allende's Chile, nuclear brinkmanship over Cuba, turning Syria and Libya into hell-holes; etc., etc., et-fucking-cetera. This maniac imagines that the mayhem routinely unleashed on countries around the world is "global security." What a stupid fuck-face.

And lord jeeziz kee-riced! This "Russiagate" idiocy! Yes, Trump and lot of his pals are corrupt, mobbed-up creeps. That's what Trump is trying to hide. Hillary the rotten candidate, the cheating candidate, the mass murderess elitist scum-bag lost the election all on her own. If the Orwellian US intelligence system hasn't produced the proof of Russian collusion by now, it means it never will. Because it can't. Because the evidence doesn't exist.

Next he tries to describe how Trump is damaging something good, namely the pre-Trumpian global order wherein the USA ran the world and things went smoothly:

Already, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China are stepping into the void. This is inevitable. The message from the Trump White House is one of withdrawal - from global responsibility above all, be it for the environment, European stability or the fate of the Middle East.

If the Iran nuclear deal is working but Trump chooses to trash it because the Islamic Republic did not become a benign power overnight - the deal was about centrifuges not Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad's butchery in Syria - then why on earth should any other nation conclude a treaty with bait-and-switch America?

A couple of things: Russia and China are stepping into what "void" exactly? The USA's ruling class was maintaining a global order for the benefit of capitalist scum. These were mainly USA capitalist scum, but also European and Japanese capitalist scum, with a smattering of other capitalist scum from other countries. International finance. (No. Not a code-word for "Jews." Any of the rainbow of diversity engaged in currency speculation; fraudulent loans; vulture capitalists; austerity pushers.) Pharmaceutical companies, gouging customers everywhere; preventing impoverished countries from buying cheaper substitutes; testing dangerous new drugs on desperate people in those same poor countries they forbid from buying affordable generic substitutes. The world-threatening petroleum industry. Sweatshop textile giants. Weapons dealers. And, wealthy, selfish clods stashing their fortunes in tax-havens while national healthcare systems crumble and tuitions skyrocket. The Washington foreign policy elites ran the world on their behalf. But there has always been the understanding that US capitalism is at the front of the line. Oil must be priced in US dollars, so as to maintain the value of that dollar. So that the USA can print however much money it wants to shovel to US capitalists when they find themselves in dire straits when their ponzi schemes blow-up in their faces and also so that they can pay for the massive publicly-subsidized military machine that maintains the whole system.

Russia and China were happy to play that game. But being big countries with their own interests, they expect to be able to enjoy some regional hegemony. To which the Washington leadership said "No." Russia and (more so) China, are seen as rivals with unfortunate tendencies towards independence. Can't have that. Must encircle them and bully them. This was happening before Trump and it was failing before Trump. Russia had been humiliated once too often; threatened far too frequently and it has chosen to fight back. It re-took the Crimea from the US-puppet government in the Ukraine and it defended Syria's dictator Assad against a US-Saudi-Israeli proxy army. China for it's part cannot be expected to not use its increasing wealth to build up its military in the face of blatant US aggression.

European instability (due primary to the depredations of neo-liberalism but also to the racism stirred-up by floods of refugees from Africa and Asia which are themselves the bitter fruits of neo-liberalism and imperialism) was already a problem before Trump and all Obama did was to double-down on more of the same. Hillary would have been no better and probably worse.

And, lastly, here's the part that really got my goat: "Iran's support for Bashar al-Assad's butchery in Syria." This, you see, is part of the failure of Iran to become a "benign power" following its reintegration to what people like Cohen call the "international community" with the treaty that allows it a domestic civilian nuclear industry. Iran is defending Assad from the butchery of ISIS and other, more "moderate" Sunni head-choppers, funded primarily by Saudi Arabia, but also by the CIA and (perhaps to some extent) Israel.

You have to wonder about people like Cohen when they write that bullshit. Are they literally insane? Or are they so self-deluded as to appear insane? Are they just colossally ignorant? But then again, how could you be so ignorant of something that you have decided to write about without being insane to some degree? How can Cohen not know that ISIS (once the greatest threat to civilization until Putin joined Assad and began to defeat it) is funded by Saudi Arabian psychopaths? How can Cohen not understand that the massive violence, death and destruction occurring in Syria is not the deliberate policy of the United States? However vile a torturing dictator Assad was (and is) the level of misery and bloodshed in Syria was microscopic in comparison with the mayhem since the USA and its allies decided to fund a proxy army of fundamentalists nutbars to try to topple him.

Perhaps Cohen isn't insane or deluded or ignorant. Perhaps he's just a propagandist. A cynical employer of hypocritical arguments and rhetoric dedicated to propping-up a discredited and crumbling neo-liberal (or neo-conservative) world order. [Both of these world-views support US-dominated capitalism. Neo-liberals though are more about building international coalitions to defend self-serving "free trade" deals; whereas neo-conservatives have a supposedly darker view of human nature and believe that US power should be solely dedicated to narrower US nationalist interests. Which means less adherence to "free trade" if it benefits other countries and less faith in alliances and coalitions with other countries.]

The most terrifying thing to me about the insults hurled in recent weeks between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, was that it was impossible to distinguish between them. The American president had descended to the level of a tantrum-prone totalitarian despot. 
This is true. I will never accuse Hillary Clinton as being as buffoonish, inarticulate, childish and embarrassingly stupid as is Donald Trump. It takes a certain level of debasement to vote for something like Trump, ... or Rob Ford.
Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea and called Kim "Rocket Man on a suicide mission." The United States, he proclaimed, was "locked and loaded." Kim, in return, called Trump "a rogue," a "gangster," and a "dotard," the last a word not much in vogue since the 17th century. Americans scurried for their dictionaries to discover that a dotard was a senile fool.
 As opposed to Clinton's vow to "totally obliterate Iran," or George W. Bush's "Bring 'em on!" (among other stupidities)?
The unfunny thing is that when two thin-skinned men with nukes, grudges and mysterious hair hurl insults at each other, and one of them is the American president, there is no cause for comfort. Wars begin in unforeseeable ways; with nuclear brinkmanship, accidents happen.
Right. Like by shooting down Russian fighter-jets over Syria. Those Democratic maniacs were playing with all of our lives.
Call all this a disturbing Asian flurry if you like. But something deeper is going on. The United States has often fallen short. Ken Burns' remarkable documentary on the Vietnam War has been a recent reminder of this. So, of course, were Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Yet, over time, American reinvention does its work and the idea flickers to life again: that we are a nation of laws; that all Americans, whatever their beliefs or faiths, have rights and responsibilities under the law; and that this law establishes checks and balances designed to safeguard our freedom and our democracy and our decency, the values we carry out into the world in the belief that if they cannot always deliver the best, they may at least avert the worst.
The USA does not "fall short" of certain values. It deliberately dry ass fucks them. Invading Vietnam was not falling short of defending democracy and human rights around the world. It was about maintaining capitalist imperialism. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo did not "fall short" of human rights and the rule of law. They were deliberately created to contravene human rights and the rule of law. The whole rest of that paragraph was insane/deluded/hypocritical nonsense and lies.

Contemptuous of Principle
Separate the United States from these principles and there is not much left. America's claim to leadership is voided permanently, if stripped of a moral component. 

Ha! Well, that's it then, isn't it? We might as well turn out the lights. Lock-up and go home. Seriously. I'm glad you put it so starkly Mr. Cohen. Now there's nothing more to say .... 
The German Bundesrepublik, America's child, ushered into being under American tutelage, knows this as perhaps no other nation.
Aw shit! Oh well, ...
To all of this, Trump seems oblivious. He is contemptuous of principle. Words cascade from his mouth and they mean nothing, because when a man of moral emptiness tries to exhort a nation to greatness the only thing communicated is pitiful, almost comical, hypocrisy. 
I miss the glory days of Barack Obama: "We tortured some folks." Or George W. Bush: "This crusade ... is gonna take awhile." Or Bush Sr., "What we say goes!" and "I will never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are." Who reading this wouldn't ascribe the term "moral emptiness" to Obama, the Bushes, the Clintons?
President Trump has yet to meet a strongman who does not elicit his sympathy or a multilateral organization that does not prompt his disdain. The Saudi King, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin are fine. Merkel in "bad, bad Germany" is not. I hear that Merkel and Trump scarcely speak to each other. This is worrying. Germany is the most important country in Europe and a core American ally.
 As opposed to all the other presidents since FDR who have coddled the monsters in the House of Saud? As opposed to all the other presidents who gave money and weapons to Latin American torturing dictators? This is deliberate ignorance on Cohen's part.
Under Trump, the State Department has been eviscerated: a proposed 30 percent budget cut, countless critical posts unfilled, a secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has contrived to be ineffective and demoralize his staff. At the same time, military budgets have soared. Trump loves soldiers and has little time for diplomats. When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.
My deepest concern is that Trump actually believes the post-war order was just a means to rip off America; and he buys, if anything, into Putin's macho authoritarianism and spheres of influence for the Great Powers. We saw how well that worked in the run-up to World War I.
By this, Cohen means that we should maintain the USA's iron grip on the affairs of the world and that powerful countries like Russia and China must submit to US domination themselves. Perhaps (as in the case of Russia) the US can foster domestic fissures to permanently break the country up and forever neutralize it as a potential threat. Cohen is right about Trump's blinkered, stupid militarism though.
The reality of Trump's autocratic tendencies should not be waved away. He is not harmless. Liberals paid a heavy price for failing to look facts in the eye at the last election. The Trump phenomenon - his appeal to millions of Americans - endures. It demands to be understood, at a time when tens of millions of other Americans hold him unfit for office - a charlatan, a fraud and a serial liar. I've been a foreign correspondent for much of my life, and visiting Trump country from New York is very similar to traveling to another country as a foreign correspondent. 
President Barack Obama argued that as Commander-in-Chief of the US military, in the War on Terror, that he had the power and the authority to order the summary assassinations of US citizens. But this is not "autocratic"? Edward Snowden revealed a world-wide illegal spying network via "smart devices" in all of our homes. Democratic shills denounced him as a traitor. "Progressive" hypocrites deride Trump supporters for standing by their guy even as their material standards of living deteriorate, when they did and would do the exact same thing under Obama, or the Clintons or (in Canada) Justin Trudeau. This pathology is not limited to one side of the political spectrum.
A Voice from Trump Country
Here's a voice from Trump country: People have to choose between heating their homes, buying food or buying health care and you want them to worry about the survival of the planet or transgender stuff? I respect business and I distrust government. I don't want illegal immigrants taking our jobs. I don't like liberals who shop at Whole Foods talking down their noses at me because I shop at WalMart. I don't want God and guns chased out of the country. White lives matter, too, you know. That Hillary forgot that - and was punished. We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country. So we need honest Trump to shake things up and get our country back.
"I want my country back!" This is the universal cry of the global wave of rightist reaction. It's Trump's "America First." It's Brexit. It's Marine Le Pen's nationalists against the globalists. It's Germany's nationalist AfD grabbing nearly 100 seats in the Bundestag. It explains the vogue word of the moment: sovereignty. Trump used it more than 20 times in his United Nations speech in September.
Behind all this lies a potent emotion: fear. This was Trump's great intuition - and he has formidable, feral intuitions allied to a fiendish energy. He saw, helped by Steve Bannon, that multiple American fears could be fused into a permanent nationalist campaign. 

How selfish of someone who lost their job through offshoring, or in a recession caused by Wall Street criminals, or any other neo-liberal globalist agenda that the Democrats were peddling, to worry more about their survival than some isolated "identity politics"! Are we really going to condemn EVERYONE who was [and remains] more concerned with providing for their families than they are with a Southern state barring transgendered women from women's washrooms? When a voter is faced with a choice between someone saying they'll bring the factories back from overseas and someone else talking about the rights of a minority to use the bathroom of their choice, can we really say that the voter is acting irrationally? [Certainly that voter acted out of delusion and ignorance. And I don't want to give a working-class Trump voter a pass on all their ignorance and stupidity. Let's just say that not everyone who honestly thought Trump might bring back good paying jobs was the devil incarnate for putting THAT above issues that had little to do with them.]

And, anyway, aside from all the noise, the statistics seem to show that working-class Trump voters were not that large a group. It was more people disgusted by eight years of Democratic inaction and outright betrayal staying home that produced Trump's narrow Electoral College victory. Which is why I thought it was actually healthy that Hillary didn't become president. If she had, it would have been a dispiriting endorsement of the status-quo: "Sure you can subject us to austerity, mass surveillance, perpetual warfare, give all our money to the top 1%, and etc., ... but we're so scared of the Republicans that we'll play the 'lesser-evil' game once more and submit to more abuse."

Oh? And those "multiple American fears"? What are these fears Mister Cohen?
Demographic fear (the end within the next couple of decades of America's white majority); economic fear (the dislocations of globalization); cultural fear (of the urban elite who want to chase guns and God out of the country); primal fear (the white flip-out over having a black president); fear of the stranger (the immigrant hordes); fear of national decline (Chinese power rising and those endless post 9/11 wars without victory); fear of the future (automation and the end of work); fear of terrorism (the Muslim jihadi among us); fear of speaking your mind (the liberal tyranny of the politically correct).
Take all this, inject the potent galvanizing force of Fox News and Breitbart (with their dime-a-dozen scapegoats), wrap it in a heavy dose of angry nationalism and drain-the-swamp elite-bashing, and a winning guerrilla offensive was there to be mounted.
You just had to see it. Liberals in their arrogance didn't - until it was too late. They didn't see Wisconsin at all. They hardly saw Michigan. They still fail to see - as most Europeans fail to see - that many smart, decent Americans support Trump. His reelection for a second term, even since the Manafort indictment, remains more likely than his impeachment. I would put the chances of the former at 25 percent and the latter at 10 percent.

Ah! So it seems that Cohen is NOT a liberal! He plays his cards pretty close to his chest.  It's not clear what he is. Perhaps a neo-con imbecile like William Kristol?
A Terrifying Shrug
Yet, he is dangerous. Trump has already blurred the line between truth and falsehood. He has attacked the judiciary and a free press. I had an alarming experience recently. Trump had lied, as he routinely does, about two phone calls, one from the president of Mexico and one from the head of the Boy Scouts. The calls, supposedly to congratulate him, did not exist. They were pure inventions. Asked if Trump had lied, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "I wouldn't say it was a lie."
I actually remember shrugging. And it was the shrug that was terrifying. This is how autocrats - or would-be autocrats - cement their power. They wear you down. They take you down the rabbit hole. They want you to hear the great leader declare that 2+2=5 - and shrug.
Cohen is pretending that Trump is the first politician to lie??? Trump is merely the end-product of decades of increasingly shameless lying. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were the worst of Trump's predecessors in recent times, but the Democrat's lies about "Hope" and "Change" and their perpetuation of the lies about free-trade and social justice and their contribution to the insane slaughter in the Middle East have contributed to this environment. In Canada, our own Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty, and etc., ... our elites (and writers like Cohen) by utterly failing to adhere to their own laws, ... BAH! Trump is just the end-product of a culture that Cohen supports. End of story.

This is getting too long. I'll stop here and finish up in another post.

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