That Donald Trump – uniquely amoral or what? Safe in the US, he orders a drone attack in the Middle East and kills General Qassem Sleimani, the second man from the top in Iran. Not just kills him but blows him to bits. Trump’s comment on the killing: “We gat him!”
I know quite a few Americans who find Trump uniquely repulsive and are ashamed to have him their president. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but we have a tendency to be a bit selective in these as in many other matters.
Remember Fidel Castro? Who in 1959 with a small band of men toppled the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista? Instead of being overjoyed by this brave act, the US tried to kill Castro on dozens if not hundreds of toccasions – always unsuccessfully. Many of these botched attempts were made at the instigation of the American family most revered by Irish people, the Kennedys.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the CIA tried to assassinate foreign leaders such as Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam. The list goes on – Salvador Allende in Chile, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. A rolling wave of blood as the US authorities interfered in the affairs of other countries.
And remember that nice guy, Barack Obama? The one we were so fond of, we got him to visit Ireland and had him photographed with a glass of Guinness in his hand, prompting newspaper headlines like ‘President O’Bama drops in for a pint”. Yes, Virginia, that one. Well, he ordered drone strikes on 563 occasions in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. These resulted in the death of between 384 and 807 civilians. Hope that hasn’t tilted his halo too much.
When those killed in such strikes are patently innocent, they’re considered “accidental” or even “collateral” damage. When those killed are undesirable leaders of their countries, at least in US eyes, they’re “taken out” in the interests of “regime change.”
There’s no attempt to deny these killings. The US military cheerfully concede and even celebrate them, especially when they involve a guy in a bunker somewhere in the US who can press a button (just following orders, dontchknow) and seconds later someone thousands of miles away is vaporized. In fact, if you follow TV series about fictional presidents, you’ll know that a roomful of higher-uppers frequently watch while their mission does its deadly work.
Don’t tell me this is appalling and must be stopped, because while it is appalling, it won’t be stopped. Why not? Because it shows the world what the US can do. It can bring about “regime changes” and “eliminations” with total impunity. Many on the right in the US, not least President Trump, cheer it on, seeing it as a sign of American greatness. Even worse, they’ve convinced a lot of people in our own country that the job of regime change is really a matter of stopping bad people doing bad things by killing them. We have been schooled to see such acts as the good guys doing unhappily-necessary bad things to the bad guys.
So tell me this and tell me no more: when did the nations of the world hand over the job of global law-and-order to the US? When did they agree that the Yanks could be judge, jury and executioner?
Here at home, you may remember how very upset we got on the matter of internment, with guys locked up without proof or trial for months and sometimes years, on the grounds that the ‘security’ forces saw them as a threat? Well, have you checked out the US’s favourite political prison? It’s in Cuba (of all places indeed, Virginia), is run by the US, naturally, and for more than fifteen years it’s been using torture, rendition and imprisonment without proof or trial. In 2009 , Barack Obama promised he’d close Guantanamo Bay prison/torture centre inside a year of election. He didn’t.
It’s the brazenness of all this that galls most. Trump has promised that if Iran retaliates in any way to the killing of General Sleimani, he Trump will retaliate by hitting at over fifty Iranian targets. Including cultural centres.
I hope that for you and yours 2020 will be a year of joy and justice. Today, throughout the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people who expect neither, and who know that the leader of the “Free World” is the one making sure they get neither.
When we rejoice in the links between Ireland and the US, we should keep in mind that US leaders have done, are doing and will continue doing some terrible things. And yes, they’re the people who lecture us about abandoning violence as a means to realizing political goals.