FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East

Watching them both yacking on about the Middle East as a pink dawn glowed from behind the Lebanese mountains above Beirut, I found the Trump-Clinton show a grimly instructive experience. In the few hundred miles east and south of Lebanon, hundreds are dying every week – in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq – and yet there were the terrible twins playing “I can beat Isis better than you can beat Isis”. Was this what the Arab world really meant to the reality show participants at the unpronounceable university campus on Long Island?

What was it Trump said to Clinton? “You’ve been fighting Isis your entire adult life!” And what did Clinton say? “Well at least I have a plan to fight Isis!” After an hour, I was praying that the Lebanese slept on amid the mountains. Please God there would be electricity cuts in Aleppo and Baghdad and Sanaa – just for these 90 minutes, you understand – so that the people enduring the Middle East tragedy did not witness how the next US president was using their homelands as a movie back-lot.

“He has no plan to defeat Isis,” quoth Madame Clinton. But does anyone? It’s a pity, for example, that they didn’t outline “plans” for justice, freedom and dignity in the Middle East and an end to the policy of bombing, bombing, bombing and more bombing that now seems to equal political initiative in the Arab world. But of course they did not, for all this was slotted into the last bit of the CNN show, the climax which was – wearingly and predictably – entitled “American security”.

There was a very brief mention by Trump of “Bibi Netanyahu” that must have left many American viewers completely floored – save for those supporters of Israel to whom, of course, it was addressed – but that was all we heard about another small conflict in the Middle East. Cliché and banality rubbed up against each other. Clinton claimed that Obama had stopped those “centrifuges that were whirling away” in Iran – I’m not sure that centrifuges do “whirl”, though Clinton may have been talking about the “whirling dervishes” who also live in the region. And then Trump came up with his apple pie throwaway.

“The Middle East is a total mess,” and Iran would soon be a “major power” – as if Iran was not already a major power in the region, as it has been for around 3,000 years. But what particular “mess” was he talking about? The “mess” in the hospitals of eastern Aleppo? The “mess” of Egypt’s civil rights – though I do suspect that Brigadier-General-President al-Sissi’s version would rather appeal to Trump – or the “mess” left behind by the bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan? Or perhaps the “mess” of Palestine – another word that mercifully was not dwelt upon by the duo who both plan to rule America? Didn’t “Bibi” mention that to Trump? Or the “mess” of Nato, whose killing of Serbs (and quite a few Kosovo Muslims) in 1999 was followed by the Alliance’s support for the Afghan war but which, according to Trump, “does not focus on terror”?

“We have to knock the hell out of Isis – and we have to do it fast,” the great man told the world. Well, sure, but haven’t we all been knocking the hell out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, even Lebanon (a few years ago), and achieving the constant rebirth of ever more vicious warriors, of which Isis – heaven spare us the thought – may soon generate another, even worse progeny? Trump apparently believed that Isis would not exist if Obama had left 10,000 US troops in Iraq – a strategy Isis would surely have applauded – while Clinton moaned on about how the Iraqi government “would not protect American troops”.

And there you have it, I suppose. It is the Arab world’s job, isn’t it, to “protect” America in its various military occupations, or – at the very least – the task (yes, this old chestnut was indeed produced) of “our friends in the Middle East”. And who were they, I wondered? Those fantastic Saudis who gave us 15 of the 9/11 hijackers? About the only nonsense left unuttered by Trump and Clinton was that Isis was born outside the United States. There they would have been on safe ground. Or would they? For I suspect there may be a growing number of Arabs who believe that Isis is indeed a child born in America.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

April 24, 2018
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail