Al-Jazeera / November 12, 2020
He is no different from his predecessors. He has just not masked his cruel instincts.
Last week – as results of the United States presidential elections started to trickle in – the reaction across the country, at least on the left, was incredulity. Many could not believe the race was so close after four years of Donald Trump, who – the consensus was – has led an aberrant, evil administration.
They are right that overt racism, incitement to violence, and explicit misogyny have been more pronounced during his presidency than others in the recent past. His predecessors mostly tended to mask their impulses for all of the above with social spit shine.
It is also without question that Trump lacks minimal compassion for others. But is he really so different from his predecessors? More brutal? More racist? More egomaniacal? I do not think so.
Trump has been the most honest face of the United States we have ever known. It may be hard for most Americans to grasp that, but for those of us who have watched the sheer barbarity of the US’s imperial exploits, both inside and outside the US, the picture is quite clear.
Of course, the horror and outrage US citizens feel against the Trump administration have been justified. The separation and caging of families seeking refuge at the border under his watch, his denigration of women, his promotion of white supremacy and emboldening of racist paramilitary militias, his in-your-face nepotism, conflicts of interest, use of public office for self-enrichment, his mismanagement of the pandemic, shady businesses, and tax avoidance are all shocking to both Americans and the world.
But the truth is what separates him from Washington insiders is that he has not tried to mask, or is incapable of masking, his destructive, racist, and divisive instincts. And more importantly, he turned this national ethos inward, whereas his predecessors – in all their polish, at times eloquence, winning smiles, and even tempers – unleashed it on the defenceless world.
Tell me, how is Trump saying “stand back and stand by” more egregious than President Bill Clinton carpet bombing Iraq’s water infrastructure to distract from his domestic sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky?
Or more egregious than US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright declaring that 500,000 dead Iraqi children as a result of US sanctions are “worth it” (presumably worth the destruction of an ancient civilisation to get their oil and ensure Israeli hegemony in the region)?
Or more egregious than Secretary of State Hilary Clinton quipping “we came, we saw, he died” about the gruesome murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and utter decimation of yet another previously high functioning Arab and African nation?
It is true that Trump winning almost half of the votes points to the already well-known sentiment that Black America has been talking about for decades – that this country is racist as hell – but what does the sheer shock, incredulity, and outrage of the other half say about America?
It says they have never seen – or even bothered trying to see – the ongoing ineffable generational destruction and pain it has inflicted on the Global South and in particular, Arab nations who have done nothing to the US, but who lay in indescribable tatters and anguish as a result of the US war industry.
To this half of America, I say: You are wrong, Trump is not an aberration. He is the truest face of this country, all of it, save for the minority who have a sense of history and global human solidarity.
To this half of America now celebrating Biden’s victory, I ask: What will you do when he launches a new war? Because he will. That is the only thing American presidents know to do when they need to increase their popularity.
And with a nation, so divided now, it is almost certain Biden will take that route. He has already hinted that Iran needs to be put in its place, and as the US seems to do Israel’s bidding in most things, it may well be the latest target of US imperialism.
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010); she is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children