For liberals who saw last week’s missile strikes in Syria as a belated but welcome act of humanitarianism, Donald Trump was always going to be an awkward president to share the moral high ground with. One minute he might be talking about beautiful babies and the children of God, but then he gives interviews with a Fox News ‘journalist’ named Maria Bartiromo, which contains sequences like this:
BARTIROMO: You redirected navy ships to go toward the Korean Peninsula. What we are doing right now in terms of North Korea?
TRUMP: You never know, do you? You never know. I don’t want to talk about it. We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this. He [Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing. He is doing the wrong thing.
BARTIROMO: Do you…
TRUMP: He’s making a big mistake.
BARTIROMO: — do you think he’s mentally fit?
An interesting question, particularly when directed at Trump, who remains enigmatic and replies:
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know him. But he’s doing the wrong thing
This doesn’t actually answer the question of ‘what we are doing right now’ in North Korea, but the bragging about the power of American weapons and the barely-concealed threat in these observations ought to be as alarming as North Korea’s equally deranged and reckless nuclear diplomacy. Things do not get any better when Trump and his interviewer turn their attention to the bombing of Syria that thrilled so many liberal hearts:
BARTIROMO: When you were with the president of China, you’re launching these military strikes.
BARTIROMO: Was that planned? How did that come about that it’s happening right then, because right there, you’re saying a reminder, here’s who the superpower in the world is, right?
This is the kind of question that gives journalists a bad name. In Bartiromo’s world, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for a US president to order military strikes over dinner in order to remind a foreign head of state ‘who the superpower in the world is’. And Trump is as excited as she is:
TRUMP: You have no idea how many people want to hear the answer to this. I have had — I have watched speculation for three days now on what that was like (INAUDIBLE).
BARTIROMO: When did you tell him?
TRUMP: But I’ll tell you (INAUDIBLE)…
BARTIROMO: Before dessert or what?
Another crucial question, which gets the following astonishing answer:
TRUMP: But I will tell you, only because you’ve treated me so good for so long, I have to (INAUDIBLE) right? I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do? And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way. And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you. This was during dessert. We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.
So it turns out that the man who expressed the will of the ‘international community’; who finally stood up to evil after all these years of Obamesque caution and vacillation; who bombed Syria because he couldn’t stand the sight of dead babies, is also a man who boasts of firing missiles while eating ‘the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.’ And when he does so, he does it with the approval of a ‘journalist’ who can only shake her head in admiration and say:
That ‘brilliant’ is a darkly hilarious counterpoint to Trump’s troglodyte braggadocio. Bartiromo is clearly still stuck in the low-tech world where US pilots strapped themselves to missiles and waved stetson hats, which is sooo last century. Trump, on the other hand, knows that things have moved on. William Tecumseh Sherman did not love war, even though he waged it harshly. George Patton thought war was hell but loved it anyway. Trump just loves it, almost as much as he loves chocolate cake:
TRUMP: It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing. So what happens is I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.
Even the unctuous Bartiromo has noticed that these weapons were not fired at Iraq, and feels the need to point this out to the president:
BARTIROMO: (INAUDIBLE) to Syria?
TRUMP: Yes. Heading toward Syria. In other words, we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading toward Syria. And I want you to know that, because I didn’t want him to go home. We were almost finished. It was a full day in Palm Beach. We’re almost finished and I —what does he do, finish his dessert and go home and then they say, you know, the guy you just had dinner with just attacked a country?
Let no one say that Trump doesn’t understand strategy or diplomacy. Just because he won’t shake Angela Merkel’s hand doesn’t mean he is going to eat dessert with the Chinese premier and not tell him that he’s, like, attacked a country.
Several possibilities come to mind while considering these astounding words. Clearly Trump is a moral imbecile, who is too stupid to consider that juxtaposing making war and eating chocolate cake and dessert might be considered inappropriate, and perhaps just a little flippant, shallow and lacking in presidential gravitas. It’s also possible that war actually is a trivial activity for Trump, of no more importance and significance than eating chocolate cake, in which case he is probably a deranged psychopath who ought to struggle even to get a firearms license – let alone run the world’s only superpower.
But whatever the glaring defects in Trump’s monstrous personality, his psychopathic behaviour is also a systemic consequence of American militarism. It’s the same unlimited global military power that enabled Ronald Reagan to order the bombing of Tripoli on no evidence. It’s why Bill Clinton could fire missiles at a Sudan medical facility while he was being investigated for having weird sex with an intern, and why George Bush could invade Iraq on the basis of lies and fabrications. It’s why Hilary Clinton could giggle ‘ we came, we saw, he died’ following the extrajudicial execution of Gaddafi. And it’s also why the former community leader Barack Obama could sign off on a weekly kill list during his ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings.
They did this because they could. Because America has a unique ‘right’ and the ability to fire missiles and bombs at any country or target anywhere in the world for whatever reason. Trump – despite his previous aversion to gratuitous military adventures during his campaign – has now taken up this role with a dangerous gusto and a total lack of understanding of the world he is operating in or the potential consequences of his actions.
Domestic political considerations partly explain this volte face, but Trump’s childlike enthusiasm for all things military also exhibits alarming signs of megalomania that are more commonly associated with Kim Jong Un, with their references to ‘my military’ and ‘my generals’, and his glassy-eyed worship of America’s powers of destruction.
Following last week’s MOAB bomb strike on Afghanistan, Trump was quick to suggest that he was responsible for it, bragging ‘Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization.’
Trump’s choice of wording hinted that he had given the order to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, even though one of ‘his’ generals has since said that the decision was taken without consultation with the White House. Either way, the satisfaction that Trump has taken from it is not an encouraging sign, for those who would rather not see this crazed clown stagger into World War III with Boris Johnson’s head sticking out of his pocket like a pet gonk.
Because it is impossible to believe that the US would drop a 21,000-bomb simply to eliminate some 30-odd Islamic State terrorists. To do such a thing would be such an incredibly disproportionate concentration of resources that one could only conclude that Trump and ‘his’ generals have lost the plot.
It is far more likely that the MOAB is a message aimed at America’s other ‘adversaries’, including North Korea and Iran. That is the only thing about the use of this horrendous weapon that makes any sense, insofar as there is anything sensible about Donald Trump, and this possibility really ought to give some pause to those who believe that a man who conflates bombing with eating chocolate cake is the great moral hope of a new international order.