America is a gold mine for analysis and in the wake of Trump’s (or as some of my followers have called him -‘Cheetos Man’) successful campaign more and more people are becoming self-proclaimed Noam Chomskys. National and global media keeps echoing the sounds of his administration and we keep getting triggered by his blatant attacks on human rights. It would be fair to say that after 8 years of Obama, America has suddenly been put under the spotlight with Trump becoming a popular ‘trend’ in everyday discourse – and rightfully so. However, this does not mean that everyone who condemns Trump and the recent US election results is a dedicated political philosopher. In fact, in my experience, a lot of the rhetoric in media and in daily conversation is more a parrot of things we are told rather than our own original thoughts. Now hold your horses, I am not for one minute using an alt-right argument that ‘Trump’s great and everyone who disagrees follows fake news’ – Trump is indeed a dangerous political leader who I wholeheartedly oppose. What I am saying is that this current ‘trend’ suggests that America was once the bastion for democracy and fair practice, hence our previous silence, but now Trump has changed that but unfortunately this is not the case.
America has seen a drastic shift in political practice ever since the covert operations of the Cold War (L, Calhoun: 2014) and the expansion of secret operations have only served to undermine the anti-colonial principles that once united Americans against European imperialism many years ago. What we all must first realise is that in the modern day American foreign affairs are expansionist and often aggressive acts (see Chomsky and Laurie Calhoun) that serve as a means to preserve the power gained during and after the Cold War. I personally felt that, after the gruesome and arguably unjust campaigns of the Bush administration, Obama was a step in the right direction for America. However, during his 8 year presidency he was by no means a saint. For a start his drone campaign was, and still is, a devastating progression in technology which has encouraged the practice of assassination on the global stage and has somehow been accepted as legitimate in media and political discourses (please click here to read more about the drone programme and its use). Laurie Calhoun gives a nice summary of this:
“Obama’s expansion of the Predator-drone assassination program begun by former President George W. Bush was disappointing to those who had supported Obama as the peace candidate in 2008, but it elevated him in the eyes of some Americans, those who regard the willingness to kill stigmatized enemies as evidence of strength.”
– (Laurie Calhoun, 2014, P. 94)
What we should take from this is that some Americans (by no means am I generalising – not all Americans revel in killing ‘enemies of the state’ and there are many people who are critical) support these acts because of the popular belief in the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and because of the zeitgeist in public opinion, encouraged by policy makers and news, that military vigilante justice is not only acceptable but ‘American’. Of course, I am by no means the first person to realise this American hegemony on the global stage, academics and journalists have been critics for decades, but I would argue that the realisation of American illegitimacy is more relevant now than ever. I urge all of you who have become interested in American politics because of Trump to go further with your passion and investigate more examples of America’s abuses of power – it may shock you (Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and more – all of these have experience American hypocrisy and abuses of power both economic and social).
Of course, it is easy for me to just tell you that America has always been this way but, for those of you who are still sceptical, maybe I should try and persuade you further. Let me take you back to January 20th where Trump’s administration undertook a boots on the ground operation in Yemen, a state in which war has never been declared by the US:
“Medics at the scene said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed. Three US special forces were wounded.” – Click here for Guardian article
Innocents were killed and, disturbingly, some were children. This, naturally, sparked huge public criticism which was only furthered when Trump said on live television that this operation was a success. Let me break this down, American Navy Seals, under orders from Trump’s administration, went into a country which is technically at peace with the US and actively shot women and children in a raid. There was no attempt of a diplomatic or peaceful resolution or to minimise the human risk. In light of this we have to ask ourselves, how? How is this allowed? Well the answer is simple – America. And as much as I would like to say that Trump is the only American president to conduct such a violent operation it is sadly not the case. Yemen, 2003, witnessed the first ever use of a militarised drone to conduct what is know as ‘targeted killing’ by the Bush administration. Six occupants in a vehicle were obliterated by a drone strike, the justification for this was that the occupants were suspected terrorists. To this day the CIA has not released the official DNA results to prove who they once were. It is theorised by some (see L, Calhoun We Kill Because We Can) that one occupant may have been a militant and the other victims were his innocent family. This is one example of hundreds where US drones have assassinated human being without trial and without proper intelligence (click here for more on drone use). Sadly, Trump is only able to carry out these heinous war crimes because the institution he represents already has the means to do so and have carried out similar operations numerous times in the past. There is an argument to be made, however, that we have given a kid (Trump) a gun… and its loaded.
What I hope this post has addressed is that although the rise in critical opinion over America’s abuse of power (because of Trump) in public discourses is a good thing, we need to go further and recognise the formal, historic and institutional malpractices of the US that exist today and in times past. For further insight into these matters please refer to my bibliography.
News Items to consider:
Journals and Books:
Calhoun, L. 2013, ‘War and delusion’. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Calhoun, L. 2014, ‘The Limits of Lethality‘, Peace Review, 26, 1, pp. 94-101.
Chomsky, N. 2006, ‘Failed states’. 1st ed. New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.
Chomsky, N. 2017. ‘The Responsibility of Intellectuals’. [online] Chomsky.info. Available at: https://chomsky.info/19670223/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2017]. – A great read