It’s been encouraging to see people act in a spirit of intuitive solidarity with Muslims in rejection of Trump’s discriminatory edicts. But, thanks to the liberal media’s veneration of Obama and Hillary, and dismal silence on that administration’s own authoritarian policy crimes, the real issue of ongoing US power, and Trump as its latest manifestation, is being neutered. And the convenient effect of this is to paint Obama and previous presidents as, somehow, rational and benign.
How many of those worthy protesters are likely to know that Trump’s executive order banning Muslims is actually the continuation of a policy initiated by Obama? How many realise that the seven Muslim countries ‘picked out’ by Trump are the same seven countries targeted by his predecessor?
Most crucially, how many of those engaged in moral protest against Trump’s barring of Muslims are more exercised by Obama’s and Clinton’s bombing, as well as banning, of people from those countries?
American comedian and commentator Jimmy Dore makes the point with sharp, sardonic effect:
Everybody was cool with bombing them, but banning them? Oh no! That’s where I put my foot down. You can bomb the shit out of them, but as soon as you try to bar them from coming into the country…you’re a monster, you’re a monster.
Citing an article by Seth Frantzman, Dore shows that, in fact, “Obama’s administration selected these seven Muslim-majority countries.” For all his ugly motivations, Trump actually acted upon an existing list underwritten by Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, and Obama’s Terrorist Prevention Act (2015):
The public should be suspicious of Trump’s policies and the media should speak truth to power and demand answers from the administration. But the media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should note that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries. It should have told us about the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017. Trump’s executive order said “countries of concern,” it didn’t make a list. That list was already made, last year and years before. (Bold text, original.)
Pointing out that Trump is exploiting the framework that Obama and Bush built isn’t an excuse for Trump. It’s just fact.
No, I’m not willing to allow Democrats [to] lie about history and what the foundation for policies are.
In an incisive piece, highlighting Obama’s own banning policy, Greenwald insists that we must see Trump in full context, as the product of an already repressive and aggressive system:
Beyond U.S. support for the world’s worst regimes, what primarily shapes Trump’s list is U.S. aggression: Five of the seven predominantly Muslim countries on Trump’s list were ones bombed by Obama, while the other two (Iran and Sudan) were punished with heavy sanctions. Thus, Trump is banning immigrants from the very countries that the U.S. government — under both Republicans and Democrats — has played a key role in destabilizing and destroying…
In a further article, Greenwald cites the murders of two members of the same family in Yemen as evidence of the seamless US bombing of that country, from Obama and now to Trump. Again, for Greenwald, you can’t see Trump’s actions outwith the past and continuing US war machine. He also reminds us that Obama’s ‘counter-terrorism’ agenda on drone killing and Guantanamo, adopted from Bush/Cheney, has enjoyed considerable support among liberals and left Democrats.
Yet, liberal fear and loathing abounds. Anticipating the death-knell of ‘liberal democracy’, post-Obama, Sunny Hundall, in the Independent, has implored Angela Merkel to step up to the mark as ‘true leader of the free world’, rather than granting that ‘right’ to the ‘undeserving’ Trump.
Other left-liberals are berating ‘errant lefties’ for ‘not seeing’ the coming Trump threat. Citing Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s first statement that “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice”, Mehdi Hasan tweeted: “Remember when some lefties thought Hillary would be the hawk, not Trump.”
It’s highly likely, of course, that Clinton’s first action would have been to ‘put Russia on notice’, intensifying the crisis in Syria, and ramping-up Nato’s already dangerous militarism across Eastern Europe. Nor can Hasan, apparently, entertain the more prosaic possibility that both Clinton and Trump could be hawks; a continuity of warmongers.
Hasan also tweeted:
Given past 7 days, everyone who said ‘there’s no difference between Trump & Clinton’ should hang heads in shame & owe rest of us an apology
There is. Libya, Syria, Iraq… Trump’s a demagogue, Clinton’s a crazy war criminal. And it’s largely BECAUSE of her, we got him. #MuslimBan
Hasan’s baitings are the default line of a coy commentariat that refuses to see Trump as the consequence of systemic neoliberal failure, and the liberal class’s own complicit part in that crisis.
As Ian Sinclair observes, a service liberal media continue to lambast Trump as beyond the pale, simply “unpresidential”, an historical joke when set against Sinclair’s own damning list of previous presidential villainy.
Alas, media fear and fury over Trump also seems to be having an insidious effect on much other ‘alternative journalism’, in its all-too-easy adoption of the same liberal memes. Consider, as illumination, this twitter exchange with pro-Scottish independence site Bella Caledonia over its representations of Trump:
Trump is a Dalek, Bannon’s his Davros
Moreyes very good, all agreed. Obama’s not in office now.
MoEvasion. Nothing useful learned about Trump and what to do about him without crucial context: https://theintercept.com/2017/01/28/trumps-muslim-ban-is-culmination-of-war-on-terror-mentality-but-still-uniquely-shameful/
I don’t disagree. I’m not sure why I’m the focus of your hostility.
MoreNot “hostility”, reasoned comment, drawing attention to what looks like usual liberal omission.
Bella Caledonia: More
Well I agree with your analysis but articles have to have some focus.
Some of the ‘but what about Hillary’? stuff just sounds like flailing about posturing ‘radicalism’
MoreIsn’t it more posturing ‘leftism’ to dismiss criticism of Clinton’s system-serving as ‘whataboutery’?
What Clinton, Obama and the liberal establishment uphold is precisely the key issue for radicals today.
We have written critique of Obama presidency recently
Your narrative often much too Guardian-like. Where’s radical context like Pilger, Greenwald, @medialens?
Feel free to submit an article for consideration John.
No, thanks. Go well.
Bella produces much good work, and, yes, we’ve had the occasional critique of Obama. As an advocate for Scottish radical independence, I also feel a desire to show common cause. Yet, there’s also cause for concern over how this nascent site is already sounding so lamentably ‘mainstream’ fearfully, a ‘new Guardianista’ in the making?
Bella’s lame lines here claiming to have ‘looked previously at Obama’s presidency’, and ‘Clinton not being the issue now’, are not only token, but highly revealing of the defensive liberal mindset. It’s a dismissive reprimand, basically saying: ‘that’s all past politics, with no bearing on today’s key issue, Trump.’ And it’s highly typical of the ways in which the liberal media selectively pitch Trump as some ‘sudden’ and ‘abnormal’ threat, rather than a continuation of vast US policy crimes.
As argued by Greenwald, Trump is the creation of an already deeply-authoritarian system of corporate power, long propagated by Obama, Clinton and their predecessors. How can any serious, progressive assessment of Trump view his actions outwith that vital frame?
Bella also joined in the liberal media’s facile attack on Putin during the great ‘Russia hacked the election’ uproar. Again, thankfully, we had real, probing journalists like Greenwald and Adam Johnson on hand to confirm Clinton’s and the Democratic Party’s dark deeds, and the liberal media’s system-serving role in that affair. As with other liberal media, Bella resort to lofty denunciations of Putin and Assad, without any serious attempt to represent Syria and other Middle East conflicts in their deeper context. And that involves paying particular attention to ‘our’ mendacious part in the great imperialist game.
In ‘virtue-signalling’ their relentless loathing of Russia, and playing to the Guardian gallery, such outlets are as ‘radically useful’ as Jonathan Freedland on ‘Trump the unpresidential’, or Timothy Garton-Ash in pitching him as some unprecedented agent of global disorder. Any progressive media worth its salt should be meeting that propaganda head on. As Patrick Cockburn shows, there’s been almost total, one-sided establishment ‘reporting’ of Syria and Iraq. Isn’t it the imperative task of real left journalism to correct, rather than amplify, such liberal distortion?
One landmark guide, in these regards, is the recent piece by John Pilger on Obama’s “Ascension”, the depth of US crimes, and the poverty of liberal journalism in addressing it all. For Pilger:
The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves “left/liberal”, as if to claim political decency. They are not “left”, neither are they especially “liberal”. Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations such as Obama’s.
The same lack of serious critical dissent can be seen in the widely-signed petition stating that Trump:
should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen. Donald Trump’s well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales.
Again, while commending the honest rejection of Trump, how many stopped to question the framing of this loaded missive? How very troubling that Trump’s misogyny and vulgarity might discomfort our unelected, feudal elite. Did anyone consider the criminal vulgarity of Britain’s‘visits’ around the globe, past and present? Did indignant liberals stop to wonder about the moral right of this warmongering state to feel queasy about a visit from that warmongering state? What, alone, of the million souls they both took in Iraq?
Again, how easily our liberal-left jumped to attention. Perversely, just as the anti-Trump protests and petition provide cover for Obama and major US crimes, so does it allow a veil of respectability for Britain’s high vulgarians including Prince Charles, the sword-swinging arms ambassador to a Saudi regime currently slaughtering civilians in Yemen, without much media interest.
All-too-eager to play-up the UK as some bastion of ‘higher values’, the BBC gave ready voice to the ‘anguished’ establishment:
Theresa May’s decision to invite Donald Trump to a state visit has put the Queen in a “very difficult position”, a former head of the Foreign Office says. In a letter to The Times, Lord Ricketts said the offer had been “premature”.
How easily the liberal class rail against Farage and his cohorts for protecting Trump. How passive they are when the Guardian and other system-serving media indulge and protect people like Obama and Clinton, Blair and Straw.
As Neil Clark notes:
Liberals, for instance, fawned over the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright when she said she “stands ready” to “register as Muslim” in “solidarity” against Trump. The very same Madeline Albright once declared that the death of half a million (predominantly Muslim) children in Iraq due to sanctions was a price that was “worth it.” Will Albright be met with large-scale protests next time she comes to the UK for defending infanticide in Iraq? Don’t hold your breath. She’s against ‘The Donald’ so must be a good ‘un.
Any serious awakening and challenge to power requires us to see the larger canvas. Yet, our liberal media play a crucial part in keeping public concern narrowly framed, the structural causes shielded, the system itself intact.
One of the most pernicious effects of the liberal media is the way in which it obscures any such comprehension of connected power, thus neutralising meaningful action. In the case of Trump, it has led to an outpouring of virtue politics, rather than outrage over systematic US villainy.
Yet, this is still a protest movement with enormous potential, one that requires a re-kindling of purpose. Beyond so much liberal angst and distraction, I commend the sober and instructive analysis from Stop the War’s Andrew Murray, laying out the emerging Trump dynamics, including his possible engagements over Russia, Nato and Syria, his more threatening pivots to China and Iran, the intensification of support for Israel, the implications of his ‘America First’ economic nationalism, and how all this impacts on the long-standing US/UK aggressive pact, otherwise known as the ‘special relationship’.
As Murray notes, we should be under no illusions about Trump as a new war president, but one already primed by a war-driving system. And it’s on that more radical understanding of Trump as the latest product of a pernicious authoritarian order that any broad and effective opposition to it can be built, exposing and resisting US power in its totality.