The time for equivocation and satire where Donald Trump is concerned has passed. Indeed if the current US President’s address to the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York confirms anything, it is that satire must now give way to a sober and serious appreciation of the clear and present danger his administration poses to the world.
When Trump arrived at the podium at the UN to deliver his address to the world leaders and diplomats in attendance, it was impossible to resist pondering how it is that a man with zero political experience, whose dysfunctional relationship with the English language you would imagine would disqualify him from political office of any kind, could possibly find himself thrust onto the world stage in command of the largest economy and military, including nuclear weapons, ever known.
Some have attempted to posit Trump’s election to the highest political office in the United States as confirmation of the unyielding magic of the American dream, the power it has to make the seemingly impossible eminently possible, carrying with it the source of America’s promise.
However those of us who refuse to succumb to such illusions understand Trump’s election as evidence not of America’s greatness but of its weakness and decline. To put it another way, if Obama was our Emperor Augustus, a president who managed to succeed in cloaking the snarling beast of US imperialism and hegemony with the patina of peace and stability – a Pax Americana if you will – Trump is our Nero, a leader whose departure from reality knows no bounds.
America with its mask removed, is how I described the 45th President of the United States during the presidential election campaign last year, and never have I written a truer word. At least in this respect he has done the world a favor in disabusing it of the myth that Washington is or has ever been a force for good in the world.
In truth what we are dealing with is a juggernaut of chaos and destruction which, during the Obama years, was led by a president who perfected the art of speaking the language of conciliation while following the agenda of state long imbued with the ethos of might is right. In Trump’s case, we are dealing with a president who foregoes the language of conciliation, opting instead for the kind of violent rhetoric and bombast commonly associated with head of a New York crime family – a gangster in all but name.
During a speech that was more akin to an incoherent rant, Trump said, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.”
What are we to make of a passage that could have been lifted verbatim from the Old Testament? “The righteous many” Trump refers to does not, by any objective measure, include a nation which counts the use of nuclear weapons, the mass destruction of entire countries – North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – as part of a legacy so foul with the stench of hypocrisy it requires that we pinch our collective nose before engaging with it.
Not satisfied with destroying North Korea once – in a war unleashed on its people by the US and its allies between 1950 and 1953 – Trump levelled the threat that Washington may do so again, declaring that “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Listening to this in Pyongyang, you can bet the decision was instantly taken to ramp up the country’s on-going efforts to establish a nuclear capability for the purposes of defending itself.
The anti-Iran section of Trump’s speech could well have been written for him in Tel Aviv and Riyadh, such was its intemperance and brutal indifference to the facts. And the salient where Iran is concerned is that it has not attacked any of its neighbors in 200 years. Moreover, in our time Iran has played a major part in the struggle against the barbarism of Salafi-jihadism in Iraq and Syria, shedding the blood of its soldiers in the process. In return the world, including Washington, owes it a debt of gratitude.
But the world painted in lurid colors by Trump from the podium of the UN General Assembly is a world in which injustice and untruth reigns. In this regard, does anyone believe it is any coincidence that the two states in the Middle East which rest on foundations of ethno-religious supremacy – Israel and Saudi Arabia – are mortal enemies of a government in Tehran whose only crime is that it is a pillar of resistance to the axis of regime change of which both are card carrying members?
To ask is to answer.
Moving on, listening to a billionaire poster child for capitalism providing the UN with a disquisition on the evils of socialism and communism, which he did when railing against Cuba and Venezuela, was nothing if not surreal. Here, Alan Badiou usefully reminds us of the fact that “the huge colonial genocides and massacres, the millions of deaths in the civil and world wars through which our [capitalist] West forged its might, should be enough to discredit, even in the eyes of ‘philosophers’ who extol their morality, the parliamentary regimes of Europe and America.”
Cuba’s record and legacy of exporting solidarity instead of cruise missiles to countries around the world is not in dispute. Neither are its achievements in the fields of healthcare, education, and science – all of which have been reached despite the depredations of the sustained economic embargo and sanctions enforced against the island by the US, an embargo and sanctions that have been in place since the 1960s.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro currently finds itself under siege by a Washington-funded and supported opposition comprised of an entrenched oligarchy that has never once resiled from its hatred of the country’s poor and indigenous masses. This is the true locus of the ire in which the Bolivarian revolution is held, a revolution that was authored by the now departed Hugo Chavez on the back of popular support in the late 1990s, designed to redistribute the country’s oil wealth for the benefit of those whose very existence is an affront to the nation’s economic and hitherto political elite.
In point of fact, the grotesque verbal broadsides Trump unleashed concerning human rights and democracy when it comes to Caracas merely conceals and elides a truth that dare not speak its name – namely that Washington wants its country back.
When it comes to the list of nations and governments against which Trump vented his ire in his UN speech – North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and by implication Russia and China – the inescapable fact is that for all their differences they share a refusal to submit to the writ of Washington. This is their ‘crime’ in the eyes of an administration whose grip on reality becomes evermore tenuous by the day.
At a certain point, while watching Trump’s first ever appearance at the UN General Assembly, the sage words of Che Guevara intruded as in a warning from history: “It is the very nature of imperialism to turn humans into beasts.”
Yes, the time for satire has passed.