Even by the wild standards of what may well be the most deranged individual ever to inhabit the White House, the man who calls himself Donald Trump has had a prolific and remarkable week. Just to recapitulate. In the space of five working days Trump has:
a) publicly humiliated the admittedly creepy attorney general he himself appointed
b) suggested that immigrants are criminals who cut up the bodies of beautiful young women
c) turned a Boy Scout Jamboree into an anti- Obama hatefest
d) given the police permission to smash arrestees’ heads against the wall even though many police chiefs have stated that they don’t want this ‘right’
e) tried and failed to take medical care away from millions of Americans
f) threatened Congressmen who didn’t do what he wanted
g) fired his chief of staff because his chief of staff didn’t ‘return fire’ after one of the most blisteringly foul-mouthed rants that any press secretary has ever made
h) kept said press secretary in post instead of firing him – as any president with even the faintest glimmer of decency and political nous would have done
i) banned transgender people from the armed forces even though his own generals don’t want this
No one can say that Trump isn’t productive, even if what he produces is chaos, confusion and mayhem. But what one can also say is that this must the worst anti-establishment rebellion ever. After all, this is a man who came to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and who positively reeks of the swamp itself, a man whose stupidity, narcissism, incompetence and downright malice are so spectacularly grotesque and egregious that it is difficult to believe he is actually a real character and not some fictional monster from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Preacher.
After all, if you were going to make some kind of sci fi fantasy film about Satan getting himself elected to the presidency of the United States, you could do a lot worse than pick Donald Trump for the role. Watching this insanity unfold would be entertaining, in a blackly comical kind of way, were it not so dispiriting and so dangerous.
First of all, one cannot contemplate Donald Trump without being constantly reminded that this was the man who millions of Americans used their democratic right and voted for, supposedly in order to give ‘the establishment’ a bloody nose.
That is difficult enough to swallow. But then there is the very real possibility that an administration in crash and burn, that is painfully headed for historical ignominy on an epic scale, might just do something really, really bad – far worse than the lunacy that we have seen so far – in order to silence its critics and prevent the inevitable meltdown from occurring, or at least ensure that we all meltdown with him.
That’s right folks, I’m talking about a war, because if there is any one thing that can pull a failing president out of the fire and give him credibility, or even a political halo, it’s a war, the bigger the better. You know the kind. The one you have to fight because national security is at stake. The one you fight because if we don’t get them they will get us. The one where you can’t stand idly by.
Who could that war be fought against? As Trump might say, whatever. It could be North Korea, because apparently the Trump mafia have decided ‘the time for talk is over’. It could be Iran, of course. After all so many people have been itching to whack Iran for years, and if Trump did it, who would care? It could even be Russia, despite (because of?) the ongoing Russia investigation. And why not throw China in for good measure, because as Trump keeps saying, they haven’t done everything they can to stop North Korea.
Wait! I hear you sceptics say. Would Trump be prepared to start a war that might destroy much of South as well as North Korea, and possibly drag in China as well? Would he, perhaps with his Saudi buddies,really start a major war with Iran and possibly Syria that would set the Middle East on fire, just to protect his presidency and his reputation? Come on!
Well that is exactly what I’m saying. After all, do you really believe that Trump’s son-in-law sold the Saudis $110 billion worth of weaponry just to bomb Yemen into a state of near-famine? Consider that the only time Trump has been popular since taking office was when he fired a brace of missiles at Syria. That’s all it took to make him ‘presidential’, according to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Yep, it really is that simple.
And consider this also. For all Trump’s lunatic freakshow, he has yet to inflict the levels of mayhem and destruction that his far more sensible and ‘presidential’ predecessors left behind them in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and many other places. George W. Bush turned a crime against humanity – the 9/11 attacks – into an excuse for endless war against an array of targets that had nothing to do with the attacks. I
His administration was stacked with political schemers who were far more ‘sensible’ and intelligent than Trump’s insane clown posse. They were ruthless, cunning and utterly amoral, and had absolutely no hesitation about manipulating intelligence in order to justify the wars they had always wanted and pave the way for the ‘new American century.’
They lied openly and blatantly, and they were aided and abetted by the very sensibly British Tony ‘ I did the right thing’ Blair. Between them they unleashed a swathe of violence of which the ‘liberation/destruction of Mosul is just the latest chapter.
All of us are paying the price for their decisions, and many many people have paid that price in blood. Yet oddly, none of those responsible have ever paid a serious price for it. On the contrary, some of them have become respected elder statesmen – in certain circles at least. Their crimes and mistakes are largely forgotten or glossed over. They write memoirs, cut sagebrush on their ranches, get jobs with the World Bank, pontificate about Brexit.
No one really cares about what they did, at least no one who matters. No one spurns them. No one holds them to account. True, their reputations have been tarnished, but a bad reputation needs people to identity and recognize the disgrace in the first place and then to remember it afterwards. Fortunately for them, we have too many politicians and too many journalists who are experts at forgetting, who are all too willing to put aside a few bothersome facts like the destabilisation of the Middle East and the destruction of entire countries in exchange for some sage advice on our contemporary predicament.
So no one should discount the possibility that this could happen even to the orange-haired freak howling, bawling and spewing demented tweets at the White House. Because as freakish as he is, he is the product of systemic failure and systemic impunity that goes beyond the vagaries of personality. It’s a system in which you can inflict limitless ‘creative destruction’ on the rest of the world, start wars in which tens of thousands of your own countrymen and women are killed and maimed, and a few years later Bono will pop on your ranch for a selfie.
In such a system, even an administration that has gone completely off the rails can still find its way to greatness or at least to some kind of rehabiliation, still find a way to ensure loyalty, compliance and even approval. All it takes is a blaze of cruise missiles at dawn, the steely glint of fighter planes on the runway, the appearance of yet another evil enemy who we have no choice but to fight before it’s too late.
We discount that possibility at our peril, and we should watch the madness of Donald Trump very closely, and be prepared to do anything we can to prevent him from dragging us down into the swamp that he crawled out from.