Credible sources indicate that Trump didn’t know about Bolton’s contradictory statement until reading about it in The New York Times or watching it on Fox News. But turnabout is fair play as Bolton was blindsided by Trump’s intial order to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria. No longer trusting his advisors, Trump acted after a phone conversation with Turkish President Erdogan who wondered why U.S. troops were still in Syria. Trump reportedly replied “You know what? It’s yours. I’m leaving.”
(Not part of Trump’s inner circle, super hawk Bolton is a pawn of billionaire, ultra-Zionist Sheldon Adelson who prevailed upon Trump to appoint him as National Security Adviser. Trump has been known to refer to Bolton as “Mike” Bolton).
In an earlier post, I asked whether we should care about Trump’s motives for withdrawing our troops. First, I agree with Arunhati Roy that focusing so much on Trump’s personality or possible impeachment is a serious mistake because it detracts attention from the structural forces at play in this in-fighting between elites. Second, we can readily assume that Trump doesn’t give a fig about the human costs of war. But then, neither do his globalist-oriented opponents. Perhaps his decision was about pleasing his base by fulfilling a campaign pledge. Sen. Rand Paul or Steve Bannon may have whispered something in his ear. Or was Trump simply animated by his America First rhetoric? Really, who cares?
Third, what’s critically important is the across-the-board, apoplectically negative reaction, especially from leaders of the Democratic Party. Why is this so important? Because for a moment the curtains were pulled back to reveal with acute moral clarity, the bipartisan support for American imperialism and endless wars. And the transparent contempt by our overlords for democracy was there for anyone willing to look.
Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, praised Bolton’s contradicting the president and his mission to maintain U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. Smith is calling former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis before his committee to offer his “invaluable” advice on Trump’s grievous behavior. In tandem, Sen. John Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, chimed in on Syria with “…our national defense is too important to be subject to the President’s erratic whims.” And the disregard for ordinary citizens is apparent in that poll results show that a majority of Americans, including 70 percent of veterans, favor getting out of both Syria and Afghanistan.
Fourth, I understand the widespread desire, oftentimes coming from well-meaning, decent people to identify some “good guys” here, not least because I’ve harbored those illusions in the past. However, it’s evident to anyone with a modicum of integrity that this battle is between Trump’s abhorrent America First nationalism and the political establishment’s neoliberal imperialism.
Finally, imperialism, as Chris Hedges put it the other day, is of one piece with the imperatives of U.S. capitalism: “The corporations that own the media and the two major political parties have a vested interest in making sure there is never serious public discussion about issues ranging from our disastrous for-profit health system and endless wars to the virtual tax boycott that large corporations have legalized.” In short, we don’t have a side in this intra-elite fight. If Trump is impeached it will be because the powers- that-be have concluded that he’s no longer a reliable tool for lining their pockets and advancing the empire.
Trump is a symptom of a deeply corrupted society, or as Glen Ford notes, “Trump is the ultimate logic of almost a generation of endless, bipartisan austerity and war that has drained the population of any prospect of a general improvement in their condition” Trump bashing, as smugly gratifying as it might be, only obscures this basic truth and handicaps our thinking about the best way to unite in struggle against a common class enemy. Call me naive but I believe that when enough people understand this, the odds of prevailing will shift strongly in our favor.
Gary Olson is Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA.
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