A Progressive Step Forward

Mussolini made the trains run on time.  From the 15 November 2016 The Atlantic — “Stop Saying Mussolini Made the Trains Run on Time“:

Like other Italian Fascist-era coinages (turns out “drain the swamp” was a Mussolini thing, too), Il Duce’s timely trains are getting a workout these days. . . . .  Now that sci-fi speculation about President Trump has broken into the real world, perhaps it’s time to finally confront the minor-but-enduring falsehood about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his punctual trains.

Benito Mussolini seen in train window in Italy in 1943

Benito Mussolini seen in train window in Italy in 1943

We have to do with the War Against Trump By Any Means Necessary: the author of the short article has to admit that, to a large extent, he did get the main routes, used by most foreigners, modernized.

Starting with the indubitable thesis, then, that the modern founder of Fascism was able to accomplish some good things — can we not all agree that modern trains, running on time, on improved roadbeds, is a good thing? — it s no betrayal of progressive politics to acknowledge the valid positive accomplishments of the Blond Beast.

Yesterday, Donald Trump stated in a major news-media interview (with the prominent veteran anchor and author Bill O’Reilly), that the United States government has no business condemning the President of Russia Vladimir Putin because, as O’Reilly put it, “he’s a killer.”

“O’Reilly: But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.

“Trump: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think – our country’s so innocent?”

Despite the resulting uproar, to which I’ll get in a moment, as the editor of Antiwar.com writes, “What Trump said is something that every ordinary person recognizes [.]”  The most striking example is that of the assassination six years ago by the Obama Administration of the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, and, subsequently, his teenaged son, by drone-dropped weaponry.  The President clearly violated in that case the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing citizens the right to life  unless brought to trial.  From the 24 July 2014 Mother Jones:

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted—about one-third of the text is missing—Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

One thing that could be said, I think with assurance is, that were the prospective First Woman President to have taken office, we never would have seen this bit of common sense brought forward by the President of the United States.  The Democratic member of the House of Representatives Adam Shiff gave voice to the Party Line in that regard.

“This is the second time Trump has defended Putin against the charge that he’s a killer by saying in effect that the US is no better or different,” Schiff told CNN. “This is as inexplicably bizarre as it is untrue. Does he not see the damage he does with comments like that, and the gift he gives to Russian propaganda?”

For the Democratic Party in general, and for former Senator and Secretary of State H. Clinton in particular, the U.S. is an “exceptional nation”: we simply cannot do evil.  The Democratic Party nominee for President spoke of that before the American Legion, during the electoral campaign:

If there’s one core belief that has guided and inspired me every step of the way, it is this. The United States is an exceptional nation. I believe we are still Lincoln’s last, best hope of Earth. We’re still Reagan’s shining city on a hill. We’re still Robert Kennedy’s great, unselfish, compassionate country. [emphasis added]

For the Democratic Party — one could include almost all of the Republican Party as well, and call it, as Mr Raimondo does, “the War Party” — the idea that we have assassins in the employ of the United States government, deliberately and intentionally murdering political opponents of the régime, is “as inexplicably bizarre as it is untrue.”

Anwar al-Awlaki is not to be mentioned.  Implicit reference to that war crime is beyond the bounds of rational discourse.  Acknowledgement of well-established fact is “damag[ing]” and a “gift to Russian propaganda”.

At this point I think we can see how Mr Noam Chomsky’s unfortunate suggestion that simple morality dictated that Clinton was to be preferred to Trump, was indeed mistaken.  Here is a clearly stated breach in the Conspiracy of Silence over U.S. war crimes.  Here is the beginning of a discussion about the truth of the matter — that you cannot, and this country has not, run an empire without widespread brutality, oppression, and violence.

Having hailed this statement by Trump as a great step forward for humane foreign policy, I admit on the other hand that he will very likely (his orders have already produced the death by U.S. armed service members of Anwar al-Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter) conduct other war crimes, himself.

One of at least 14 civilians killed 29 January 2017, in Yemen, as a result of a raid ordered by of President D. Trump

One of at least 14 civilians killed 29 January 2017, in Yemen, as a result of a raid ordered by President D. Trump

I would compare this turn in the conversation about the conduct of the foreign policy of the United States to the momentous trial, decided on the 9 December 1789 speech by Thomas Erskine to the jury sitting in judgement of the Viceroy of India, in which in more memorable prose than Mr Trump’s the inevitable consequence of imperial rule was delineated ineradicably:

It may and must be true that Mr Hastings has repeatedly offended against the rights and privileges of Asiatic government, if he was the faithful deputy of a power which could not maintain itself for an hour without trampling upon both.  He may and must have offended against the laws of God and nature if he was the faithful viceroy of an empire wrested in blood from the people to whom God and nature had given it; he may and must have preserved that unjust dominion over timorous and abject nations by a terrifying, overbearing, insulting superiority, if he was the faithful administrator of your government, which, having no root in consent or affection — no foundation in similarity of interests — nor support from any principle which cements men together in society, could only be upheld by alternate strategem and force.

Hastings, the admitted criminal viceroy of India, was acquitted.  The jurors, ordinary men, agreed that criminal administration of an empire was not only possible but required.  That is the conception which led, eventually, to the abandonment of the British Empire in the face of Indian civil disobedience.

There is no consistency to Donald Trump’s attitude toward force as an instrument of U.S. foreign relations; but there has now been a long-overdue acknowledgement that our imperial conduct involves killing innocents.  That is a step forward for progressive efforts toward ending our empire.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Global, Inequality, Iran, John Schweibert, Pacific Green Party, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, Uncategorized, US Senate, War. Bookmark the permalink.

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