There really is no point any more in talking about Donald Trump or US foreign policy. They do not exist. Indeed, the Trump “presidency” is about as real as “Palestine”. Both deserve inverted commas although the first fantasy would clearly represent white and largely Christian Americans trying to make their country great again at the expense of lesser creatures, while the second – which is not even a state – obviously qualifies as a Trump “s***hole country”; its people are not exactly white, they are largely Muslim and many seek asylum from the enslavement of the longest military occupation of modern times. For Norway, of course, read Israel.
So in the crazed mind of the booby who thinks he’s running the United States, there’s not much point, surely, in peace between a modern and much loved ally and the third world people forced to live in the manure pits further east and south. Jerusalem is thus the capital of Israel, the Oslo of the Middle East, built on the “green hill far away” – though in the hymn it is supposed to be “without a city wall”. But what the hell? Trump likes walls, and Cecil Frances Alexander, the 19th century Irish hymnodist of “There is a Green Hill Far Away” also wrote “All Things Bright and Beautiful” which surely appeals to the crackpot in the White House who speaks so eloquently about “beautiful babies” (in Syria, when they are dead) and “beautiful weapons” (in Riyadh, before they have killed any babies).
In fact, to talk about Trump’s Middle East, it’s necessary to enter the lunatic asylum. After all, “Palestine” does not qualify as a state and Israel, which does, has not the slightest idea where its eastern border lies geographically. In the middle of Jerusalem? Halfway across the Palestinian West Bank? Along the entire length of the Jordan river? And what about poor Gaza? When the Israelis bombed the place to bits in 2008-2009 (they did the same again in 2012 and 2014), they dropped munitions on the Palestinian sewage system and contaminated both drinking water and the sea with … Oh well, yes, of course, they turned part of Gaza, quite literally, into a s***hole.
Not even Jared Kushner, the beloved son-in-law and real estate magnate and dealmaker supreme – a woeful Dickensian hero, if ever there was one – can work out the dimensions of this particular Middle East property or, for that matter, either part of it. Since, along with the US ambassador to Israel, Kushner supports the Jewish colonisation of the Arab West Bank – and, believe me, there are no s***holes on those hilltop settlements – even he will not be able to tell us exactly where the eastern border of Israel runs, or may run or will run, eternally and forever and ever, Amen.
And that’s the problem, I fear, for the crank in the Oval Office. Much of the world is a land of “vapours” – the kind that supposedly affected your brain (Trump might consult Caliban about this) – and apparitions. The Middle East, as we all know, is a place of djinns, ghosts, Crusaders, Saracens, Apocalypses, 12th Imams and Christ figures and bearded men in caves. But all of them have a greater chance of appearing or reappearing in the second year of Trump’s “presidency” than a peace between two states whose physical dimensions are way beyond the comprehension of Jared and his “Kushner Companies”.
Acknowledging all this has a price, of course. Several times, most recently in Dublin, I have pointed out – in discussions about the Middle East, especially after the US claim that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – that Donald Trump is mad, insane, crackers, and should be in a mental institution. And on each occasion I’ve been reminded – by presenters or producers – that I am not qualified to say this since I am not a medical doctor. I find this strange. If, for example, I had stated that Trump was utterly sane and level-headed, I don’t think I would have been reminded of my lack of medical qualifications. Nor would this have happened if I had described (as I have) Muammar Gaddafi as a lunatic, which he was.
But you have to watch out for those Trumpites who pop up to call you “fake news” and who frighten radio station editors. The media’s continuing respect for “fair play” when discussing a president who is self-evidently a dangerous and racist xenophobe (as opposed, for example, to the Arab variety) should one day be examined. Gaddafi, mad. Ahmedinejad, mad. Abu Nidal, mad. Saddam, mad. But try that on Trump and, hem hem, you’ll have to produce your general practitioner’s certificate to make any such aspersion about this infantile person.
So, let’s not be fooled. Trump, in whatever fantastical, delusional form, is making the Middle East a more brutal and cruel place, and will continue to do so, aided by his ever-smiling, ever hopeless son-in-law and his clutch of generals – “Mad Dog” Mattis did not earn his nickname because of his military wisdom, and his conviction that Iranian Shiites rather than Iraqi Sunnis messed up America’s plans in post-invasion Iraq suggests that he is dangerously emotional rather than professionally rational. It’s easy to convince oneself that very odd soldiers – chaps who ride across the Rubicon, capture Moscow when it’s on fire or wear moustaches after serving as Unteroffiziers on the Western Front – don’t really have much influence on history.
The Arabs know all about the power of soldiers. Remember Colonel Nasser and Colonel Gaddafi, Colonel Ali Abdullah Saleh, Air Force Commander Assad and Air Chief Marshal Mubarak and former Second Lieutenant Sadat and Field Marshal al-Sisi? Three were assassinated, two died of heart attacks and two more are joyfully still with us. Of course, they all live or lived in nations which Trump would presumably categorise as “shithole countries”. But at least they weren’t all fantasists.