In 2016, Donald Trump turned the political world upside down, and not just because his victory prevailed against conventional wisdom. Trump claimed to want a new direction in foreign policy. Gone would be the trade deals that sent American workers on a race to an endless bottom. He said that he wanted a new relationship with Russia and felt that the two countries might become partners in a war against terrorism. This terrorism resulted from the United States reliance on jihadists in order to effect regime change. While Hillary Clinton was an openly provocative war hawk, Trump gave an impression of wanting change.
But his attack on a Syrian airfield shows adherence to the worst of United States foreign policy tradition. In less than one week the Trump administration went from saying that “Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people,” and “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out” to parroting Obama’s mantra that “Assad must go.” Vladimir Putin had already dispensed with calling the United States “our American partners.” He suspended Russia’s participation in an air safety agreement between the two countries. The likelihood of unintended consequence is now higher.
Trump was accused of being under Russian influence throughout the campaign and after his inauguration. Democrats used the charge to divert attention from their electoral failures, weaken the new president and force him to join the war party. They were determined to maintain foreign policy continuity and crush any nation that insisted on exercising sovereignty in the face of American attempts at full hegemony. They were also determined to crush Trump if he didn’t go along with their plans for a new American century.
The attack on the new president was unprecedented. After less than three months in office he was threatened with a severely damaged administration or impeachment. The Democrat’s vitriol had nothing to do with judicial appointments, deregulation of environmental protections or civil rights retreats back to the days of Jim Crow segregation. None of the issues which concern their base of supporters are the cause of their opposition. The fight was all about his willingness to carry on the drive for imperialism and the attempt to bring about regime change in Syria and in Russia too.
Years of demonizing Russia and president Vladimir Putin have had the desired impact. Democrats began by invoking the language of right-wing discourse and endlessly repeated assertions of intelligence agencies. They are now praising him for bringing the world to the brink. Only one Democratic member of congress, Tulsi Gabbard, has dared to question the veracity of claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The rest either heartily commend Trump or waffle by asking whether he should have asked for permission that they would surely have given.
The antiwar movement is weak, nearly killed off by the marketing that made Barack Obama look like a peace candidate. The U.S. Navy heads to Korea to threaten the DPRK, which correctly points out that America’s aggressions force them to seek nuclear capability as a means of self-defense.
Syria is a living hell for millions of people because Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, wanted another notch on their regime change guns. Refugees flee from Libya and Syria because of their state sponsored terrorism. Trump is now making good on what his predecessors thought they could get away with easily when they began their plot in 2011.
In attacking Syria Trump upped the ante, bringing the world closer to war than even Obama did, and Democrats are praising him for it. The New York Times and the Washington Post both repeat lies about Assad and Putin and laud the man they disregarded just two weeks ago.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support his actions in Syria. Sanders says, “We must get rid of Assad.” He proves himself to be a phony progressive, supporting the empire while claiming there is some difference between himself and his once and future rival.
Trump is still bringing out all of the contradictions in America at this stage of disintegration and crisis. He is certainly no match for the neocons, who had no intention of moving backwards from their Obama glory days. Republicans like Lindsay Graham and John McCain talk of “boots on the ground” and corporate media talking head Brian Williams says that deadly bombs are “beautiful.”
And what of the resistance? The pink pussy hat wearers and their ilk? They too approve of an American hegemon willing to kill at the first sign of a propaganda lie. They aren’t resisting anything at all. Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau have backed Trump too. If we didn’t know before we now know who the imperialists are in this country and around the world.
The peace movement has an uphill climb. The demonization of Russia and Syria and the skillful manipulation of public opinion will make the work difficult. But someone must be willing to resist Trump and the Democrats too. Hillary Clinton was a threat to world peace but her electoral defeat did not mean the end of neocon dreams perpetrated by Democrats, Republicans and the corporate media.
The struggle is always the same. Presidents may be Democrats or Republicans. They may say they want to change foreign policy. But bloodshed persists. The fight against it must be equally relentless.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.