With his blatant racism, cult-like following, hyper-nationalism and antidemocratic agenda, Donald Trump’s fascist traits were more than tendencies. He is perhaps the scariest of politicians elected to represent a western nation-state since the Second World War. Getting rid of him is something to celebrate, and those who stuck with him in the past four years cannot be trusted to stand up against the next fascist, who will feed on rising racism and inequalities and likely be more competent than Trump.
One thing to be hopeful about is that the man who comes in his place, Joe Biden, will probably work towards rebuilding US relations to organizations that are crucial for the survival of vast numbers of people around the world. International efforts – mostly spearheaded by the UN – have drastically reduced afflictions such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola and leprosy, and have almost eliminated polio – though the prevalence of any of such deadly diseases in a world of plenty is still a moral scandal. Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization, as the organization encounters one of the biggest global challenges in its history, was, as Richard Horton – the editor-in-chief of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet – aptly called it, a “crime against humanity.” What else could one expect from a corrupt real estate tycoon who does not value brown and black lives, and does not even bring relief to his own people in a time of crisis?
The wars to come
Unfortunately, Biden has a long history of being deeply culpable in human rights abuses. Our instinct may be to jubilantly proclaim that the suffering for vulnerable population will now end, but that wouldn’t be the case for, say, civilians in war zones. Biden’s decision to actively advocate for the disastrous war on Iraq and the crime bill, which imprisoned millions of African-Americans, are rightly notorious.
Biden certainly also did not embolden Obama’s more peaceful and internationalist inclinations, which he demonstrated in his speech to the Muslim world and opposition to the Iraq war, when he served as his vice-president. As the Guardian reported about 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, “the (…) administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.” Under Obama/Biden, ten times more drone strikes were authorized than under Bush, and the US joined the coalition to bomb Yemen, which has exacerbated a famine that had killed 84.701 by November 2018.
Biden has never seriously reflected on the lives there were wrecked and the traumas that were imposed during the post-9/11 wars, and there is no sign that he will deescalate US foreign policy in 2021. But there is hope: In opposition to Trump, movements to bolster domestic human rights in the US have been invigorated. The heroes of the last four years – the Dreamers, as well as the BLM, anti-detention and Sanders activists – will not go away. Can their call for moral transformation take on global dimensions?
None of our doubts about Biden should diminish our recognition of the racist horrors of the Trump years. Some of his supporters claim that “Trump never started a war”, and submit this statement as proof that Trump is less damaging to the world than a centrist Democrat only tell (or know) half the truth. The trend in US foreign policy has been to drop more and more bombs since 09/11 – and the Trump administration, which was packed with notorious Islamophobes, represented the sad, recent pinnacle of a trendline that will hopefully not be continued under the Biden administration. In Afghanistan, warplanes dropped 7,423 bombs and other munitions in 2019, which was the highest number since the Pentagon began tracking how many bombs it drops in 2006. Consequently the US, and its allied Afghani forces, killed more than the Taliban within 2019. Trump would have certainly further undermined international humanitarian law in war zones. After all, he pardoned a war criminal as an intentional symbolical gesture, and advocated for bombing the families of terror suspects, which is, of course, a crime per the Geneva Convention.
If the past years have shown anything, it is how important it is to limit the war powers of presidents no matter who is in office. The next in line usually turned out to be worse in important respects when it comes to questions of war and peace. The only antidote is holding Biden accountable on foreign policy, starting today.