I normally avoid patriotic events. They invariably remind me of the flag-waving idiocy that led to World War I.
In fact, I was even kicked out of the Boy Scouts in New York City after loudly commenting that their uber patriotic display of flags, drums, crashing music and paramilitary uniforms looked like the old Hitler Youth.
But watching the inauguration of President Donald Trump (that’s the first time I write these words) I must admit the ceremony moved me way beyond my normally cynical self.
Mind you, I’ve been observing presidential investitures since my father flew us down from New York City to observe President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953. I vividly recall being awed by the giant atomic cannon being towed down Pennsylvania Avenue. I remember reading a fine biography of Genghis Khan on our Eastern Airlines flights.
What I found most impressive this time was the reaffirmation of America’s dedication to the peaceful transfer of political power. This was the 45th time this miracle has happened. Saying this is perhaps banal, but the handover of power never fails to make me proud to be an American and thankful we had such brilliant founding fathers.
This peaceful transfer sets the United States apart from many of the world’s nations, even Britain and Canada, where leaders under the parliamentary system are chosen in a process resembling a knife fight in a dark room. The US has somehow managed to retain its three branches of government in spite of the best efforts of self-serving politicians to wreck it.
Each new president inherits a sea of problems from his predecessor. Donald Trump’s biggest legacy headaches and priority will be in the Mideast, a disaster area on its own but made far, far worse by the bungling of the Obama administration and its dimwitted attempts to put the US and Russia on a collision course.
Thanks to George W. Bush – who dared show his face at the inauguration – and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, Trump inherits America’s longest war, Afghanistan, with our shameful support of mass drug dealing, endemic corruption and war crimes. Add the crazy mess in Iraq and now Syria.
This week US B-2 heavy bombers attacked Libya. US forces are fighting in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and parts of Africa. For what? No one is quite sure. America’s foreign wars, fueled by its $1 trillion military budget, have assumed a life of their own. Once a great power goes to war, its proponents insist, ‘we can’t be seen to back down or our credibility will suffer.’
Trump will struggle to find a face-saving retreat from these unnecessary conflicts and shut his ears to the siren songs of the war party and deep state which just failed to stage a ‘soft’ coup to block his inauguration. Waging little wars against weak nations is a multi-billion dollar national industry in the US. America has become as addicted to war as it has to debt.
If President Trump truly wants to bring some sort of peace to the explosive Mideast, he will have to reject the advice of the hardline Zionists with whom he has chosen to surround himself. Their primary interest is Greater Israel, free of Arabs, not in a Greater America. Trump is too smart not to know this. But he may also listen to his blood and guts former generals who lost the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Trump appears to have been gulled into believing the canard that Mideast-origin violence is caused by what he called in his inaugural speech, radical Islamic terrorism. This is a favorite device promoted by the hard right and Israel to de-legitimize any resistance to Israel’s expansion and ethnic cleansing. The label of ‘terrorism’ serves the same purpose.
Trump should be reminded that the 9/11 attackers cited two reasons for their attack: 1. Occupation of Saudi Arabia by the US; 2. Continued US-backed occupation of Palestine. Persistent attacks on western targets that we call terrorism are, in most cases, acts of revenge for our neo-colonial actions in the Muslim world, the ‘American Raj’ as I term it.
Unfortunately, President Trump is unlikely to get this useful advice from the men who now surround him, with the possibly exception of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Let’s hope that Tillerson and not Goldman Sachs bank ends up steering US foreign policy.