U.S. mainstream media, which rarely deviates from supporting the American government’s conduct, however reckless, is now presenting Trump as if an aberration of otherwise egalitarian, sensible and peace-loving U.S. policies at home and abroad.
Trump may be described with all the demeaning terminology that one’s livid imagination can muster: an evil, wicked, tyrannical, misogynist, war-mongering rich buffoon who is “insulting our allies” and is infatuated with “dictators,” etc.
But do not miss the point.
To reminisce about the days of U.S. President Barack Obama — his oratory skills, clean diplomacy and model family — means that one has bought into the mass deception, the intellectual demagoguery and stifling group-think that pushed us to these extremes in the first place. And, within this context, “missing the point” can be quite dangerous, even deadly.
It is interesting how Yemeni lives suddenly matter, referring to the U.S. military’s botched raid late last month against an alleged al-Qaida stronghold in that country that killed mostly civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki. The raid was planned under the Obama administration, but approved by Trump. Many chose to ignore the fact that Nawar’s 16-year-old brother was killed by the U.S. military under Obama’s watch a few years earlier. They were both U.S. citizens.
Yemen has been a target in the U.S. “war on terror” for many years. Many civilians have been killed and their deaths usually only questioned by human rights groups rather than the mainstream media.
Yemen is one of the seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily barred from entering the U.S. until a federal judge blocked Trump’s ban. The emotional mass response by hundreds of thousands of protesters rejecting such an abhorrent decision is heartening but also puzzling.
The U.S. military, under Obama, shied away from leading major wars but instigated numerous smaller conflicts. “The whole concept of war has changed under Obama,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a Middle East expert.
Obama “got the country out of ‘war,’ at least as we used to see it,” Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. “We’re now wrapped up in all these different conflicts, at a low level and with no end in sight.”
From a numerical context, the Obama administration dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone. Countries that were bombed included Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia — five of the seven countries whose citizens were denied entry by Trump.
The harm that Obama did to some of the poorest, war-torn countries on Earth far exceeds what Trump has done, so far.
Iraq and Libya were not always poor. Their oil, natural gas and other strategic factors made them targets for U.S. wars, under four different administrations prior to Trump’s infamous arrival.
Libya was the richest country in Africa, and relatively stable until U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided otherwise. In 2011, she craved war. A New York Times report citing 50 top U.S. officials left no doubt that Clinton was the “catalyst” in the decision to go to war. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, furious about her support for a “broader mission” in Libya, told Obama and Clinton that his army was already engaged in enough wars. “Can I finish the two wars I’m already in before you guys go looking for a third one?” Gates reportedly said.
Now we are being led to believe that the war enthusiasts of the past were peacemakers, simply because Trump’s antics are too much to bear. The hypocrisy of it all should be obvious, but some insist on ignoring it.
Party tribalism and gender politics aside, Trump’s agenda is a mere extension and a natural progression of previous U.S. administrations’ agendas that launched avoidable, unjust wars, embedded fear, fanned the flames of Islamophobia and hate for immigrants, etc. There is hardly a single bad deed that Trump has or intends to carry out that does not have roots in policies championed by prior administrations.
Trump’s plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is the brainchild of President Bill Clinton. In fact, when Clinton proposed the wall and a crackdown on illegal immigrants in his 1995 State of the Union address, the Democrats gave him a standing ovation.
As for Muslims, they have been an easy target for at least 20 years. Muslims were mainly the target of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which sanctioned the use of secret evidence, and Muslim suspects were either jailed indefinitely or deported without their lawyers being informed of their charges. Later the law was expanded to give immigration authorities the right to deport even permanent residents.
Few protested the undemocratic, no due-process law and the media barely covered it, as most of those held were Palestinian activists, intellectuals and university professors.
The 1996 act morphed into the USA Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks. The new act undermined the U.S. Constitution, giving the government unprecedented authority to arrest, detain people and spy on whoever they wished, with no legal consequences.
The Obama administration had no qualms using and abusing such undemocratic, unconstitutional powers. But where were the millions protesting “fascism,” as they are doing now? Was Obama simply too elegant and articulate to be called “fascist” even though he embraced the same domestic policy outlook as Trump?
Trump is extremely wealthy, but if one is to examine the U.S. wealth inequality gap under Obama, one perceives some uncomfortable truths.
While the rich got richer under Obama, “inequality in America (grew) even at the top,” reports Inequality.org. In fact, the gap between the rich and the super-rich continued to expand, barely phased out by the Great Recession of 2008. In 2014, a Mother Jones headline summed up the tragic story of unfair distribution of wealth in America: “The Richest 0.1 Percent is About to Control More Wealth than the Bottom 90 Percent.” Therefore, Trump is but merely one profiteer from an economy driven by real-estate gamblers and financial opportunists. The truth is, today’s political conflict in the U.S. is not a clash over “values,” but an elites versus elites war, par excellence.
It is also a war of brands. Obama spent eight years reversing President George W. Bush’s bad brand. Yet, Obama did so without reversing any of Bush’s disreputable deeds. On the contrary, he redefined and expanded war, advanced the nuclear arms race and destabilized more countries.
Trump is also a brand — an unpromising one. The product — whether military aggressions, racism, Islamophobia, anti-immigration policies, economic inequality, etc., — remains unchanged.
And that is the uncomfortable truth.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for 20 years.