by Waseem Shehzad (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 12, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1442)
Donald Trump is not an aberration. He is also not a freak phenomenon that will simply disappear because he is out of the White House. Following the January 6 Capitol Hill attack, his opponents can keep bleating, “That’s not who we are” but the reality is, that is exactly what America is.
The world has heard this refrain after the exposure of every US crime: Abu Ghraib, torture videos from Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding at black sites supervised by Gina Hansell (elevated to the post of CIA director by Trump). This is the tip of the iceberg.
Commenting on the terrorist attack on Capitol Building led by a pro-Trump white mob, Joe Biden said: “Let me be very clear: The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are.” While calling it “disorder” that “borders on sedition,” he insisted it was “a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.”
Estimates of the number of people that stormed the Capitol Building range from 30,000 upward. What would constitute a ‘large number’ for Biden, sworn in as president on January 20 amid tight security? We will deal with the numbers shortly but first let us see what other former presidents said.
Calling it “sickening” and “shocking”, former president George W. Bush said in a statement: “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic—not our democratic republic.” Bush should know: he delivered ‘shock and awe’ to Iraq in March 2003 when he attacked the country. Bush and his minions alleged that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was a pack of lies. Millions died including through depleted uranium poisoning when US troops used DU shells against Iraqi civilians.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama said: “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise,” referring to Trump’s reckless behaviour. The oldest of all the living former presidents, Jimmy Carter, described the Capitol assault as a “national tragedy” and insisted “[this] is not who we are as a nation.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Senators and Representatives from both sides of the political spectrum calling the assault on Capitol as “un-American”, according to a statement they issued. So, what is the real America? Let us look at the facts.
First, the numbers. Trump received nearly 74.2 million votes—the highest number ever received and more than even a winning candidate in the past, much less one who lost. True, Biden secured 81 million votes but what the numbers indicate is the deep divide in America. Trump—a self-confessed billionaire (he made his fortune through fraud but that is another story!)—was able to tap into such a large vote bank and hoodwink so many Americans into believing that he represents their interests.
The divide in America is real. One only has to look at the electoral map. At the two extremes of America (East and West Coasts), it is blue (representing Democrats); in the middle is red (representing Republicans). It makes for a very neat partition of the US into three distinct states. But what about the canard repeated ad nauseum after the exposure of every evil act “that’s not who we are”? For more than 200 years, Americans have been told that they have the “best democracy in the world,” that “America is a beacon of light unto nations,” and that “it is spreading democracy worldwide” even if it is delivered through cruise missiles and B-52 bombers.
When Americans torture other people, mainly brown or black-skinned, that is not torture. “We don’t do torture”, they insist. They call it “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Does it make it any less painful?
The US currently has more than 800 military bases worldwide. Is it with the consent of the people at the receiving end of American brutality? In an ironic twist, at Biden’s inauguration, there were more troops stationed around the Capitol Building than the US has deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The chickens come home to roost.
But what about the storming of the Capitol Building; is it a freak phenomenon?
In a January 11, 2021 article in The Atlantic, Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, provides some examples from white America’s horrific conduct.
“In March 1783, Continental Army officers plotted mutiny against the Confederation Congress until George Washington convinced the officers to remain loyal. In 1861, pro-slavery insurrectionists assembled at the U.S. Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes for Abraham Lincoln. The Civil War came, lasting until 1865. White terrorists laid siege to the county courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana, on Easter Sunday 1873, and violently overthrew the local parish government, massacring roughly 150 Black people in the process.
“On September 14, 1874, the White League violently attempted to overthrow the newly elected governor of Louisiana in the Battle of Liberty Place, in New Orleans. White terrorists rioted; destroyed ballot boxes; and intimidated, wounded, and murdered Black voters in Alabama’s Barbour County on Election Day in 1874, securing victories for their candidates.
“In 1898, white supremacists murdered dozens of Black people and violently overthrew the democratically elected and interracial government of Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1921—in one of the most devastating economic coups in history—white supremacists murdered hundreds of Black residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and destroyed their prosperous Greenwood District, known affectionately as ‘Black Wall Street.’ In 1933, financiers attempted to persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to hand over power so they could establish a fascist government.”
Why do Americans continue to deny these past horrors?
In the January 6 assault, Ashley Bobbitt, a 14-year air force veteran, was the first person to get shot and killed inside the building. A retired air force lieutenant colonel, Larry Brock, in full body armour was among the white terrorists leading the assault. He has since been arrested. How many other military personnel—retired or on active duty—as well as members of congress were involved is a question CNN has raised. Was that the reason why the sergeants at arms of both the House and the Senate did not call for National Guard help when the Capitol Police chief Steven Sund asked for it? He has since resigned.
Many commentators have pointed to the contrasting response of the police and other law enforcement agencies to Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the welcoming mat thrown for white terrorists. Had the January 6 mob been members of Black Lives Matter, there would have been a bloodbath. Whites can do no wrong even when they storm the citadel of US power.
America is a racist and deeply divided society. For centuries it has terrorized other people. Now this terrorism has struck home.
Trump has removed the mask off America’s ugly fac. Perhaps, he deserves our thanks.