Freedom Rider: Capitol riot brings U.S. foreign policy home

There needs to be soul searching and truth-telling about invasions, interventions, coups and sanctions that are far more destructive than the Trump lovers could ever be.

The attack on the United States Capitol was yet another trauma created by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. The scenes of his supporters literally breaking down the doors and causing members of Congress to flee or seek shelter were not the images that Americans want to connect with their country. Of all the reactions created by the riot, defense of American exceptionalism is the most pervasive but unfortunately the most damaging. Many of the people and institutions now bemoaning the state of the republic have given Trump and his predecessors the green light to subvert democracy around the world.

Donald Trump has committed the unforgivable sin of making people here feel less proud of their country. Angry mobs storming seats of power are for “shithole” countries and “banana republics.” Of course, the United States undid the popular will in nations like Guatemala because the United Fruit Company didn’t want a government that would work on behalf of the people and not on behalf of their interests. Even the expression banana republic conveys acceptance of the imperialist narrative.

Let us remember that Donald Trump has waged war using economic sanctions against Venezuela, Syria, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua and other countries. Their citizens suffer from lack of food and medicine as a result of this aggression and the physical and economic infrastructure of these nations are severely impacted. Destruction is the goal after all.

Yet millions of people are aghast that what happens in other countries might now happen to them. Just a few days before the Capitol riot, a recorded conversation between Trump and the Georgia Secretary of State was leaked to the media. Trump can be heard demanding to have an additional 11,780 votes counted on his behalf in order to win that state.

The bizarre effort wasn’t a new tactic for Trump. It was akin to what he did in Venezuela. His administration declared Juan Guaido the president of that country and connived with 50 other nations to recognize the unelected usurper as well.

Not only do presidents undo democracy around the world, but they are supported in these efforts by corporate media and the political duopoly. When protesters instigated by the United States and surveillance state cut-outs like the National Endowment for Democracy ransacked the Hong Kong Legislative Council, they received words of praise from the same members of Congress who ran from the Trumpian mob. Even supposedly progressive members of Congress don’t step out of line when the U.S. decides who should govern far away places. When asked where she stood on the coup attempt against Venezuela, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “I defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this.”

A combination of right-wing reactionary racism and political cynicism led to the debacle on Capitol Hill. Outrage is justified and so is any punishment that can be meted out to Trump before he leaves office on January 20, 2021. There also needs to be soul searching and truth-telling about invasions, interventions, coups and sanctions that are far more destructive than the Trump lovers could ever be.

All the living former presidents have made statements condemning Trump and his minions but none of them should escape scrutiny.  George W. Bush should not be allowed to opine on the MAGA marchers’ vandalism without being questioned about his lies which led to the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of one million people or the kidnapping of Haitian president Aristide. Barack Obama destroyed Libya and tried to destroy Syria and created an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Bill Clinton supported Boris Yeltsin’s 1993 attack on the Russian parliament in 1993 which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people. He intervened in Russia’s 1996 election to keep Yeltsin in office.

Nor should foreign leaders who act as U.S. puppets be allowed to point fingers. NATO is a proud member of America’s crime syndicate and Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and others gladly work with the U.S. to undermine other nations. They shouldn’t be permitted to wring their hands about damage to democracy when they act as junior partners in crime when Washington tells them to do so.

The United States is not a “beacon of democracy” or “shining city on a hill.” Euphemistic nonsense that hides criminality must be tossed out in favor of truth telling. This moment of crisis is not the time to sweep dirt under the rug. Scrutiny should begin at home and the acceptance of U.S. interventions in the rest of the world must end.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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