‘The Emperor Is Naked’: A Note On US Politics
In a couple of days, we will know the result of the US elections. The latest polls say that Donald Trump might lose and thus close a chapter in US politics. But for students of global politics like me, the last four and a half years have been really interesting.
Since my late teens I have always found the notion of America being the “Exceptional Nation” and the US President the “Leader of the Free World”, delusional and vainglorious. America has had its moments; the emancipation was rightly guided and League of Nations had potential. America played an important role in WW2, albeit after being attacked by Japan though the decisive battles were won by Russia. Marshall Plan was a good initiative.
But most of US history is a continuous episode of self-aggrandizement at the expense of everyone else. The US was born from genocide of the indigenous people and on the back of slaves. Slavery was evil but what followed it was scarcely better. Jim Crow laws and segregation held down Black Americans and robbed them of basic rights. Even after Civil Rights movement, race continues to be an issue ripping across American society. The Monroe Doctrine made all of the Western Hemisphere a personal fiefdom of the US and its political class and corporations decided which regimes to pick and choose and when. United Fruit subjugated an entire country with full support of the US government and Teddy Roosevelt claimed the Panama Canal for the US which continued to be American territory till the last year of the Carter administration. The US propped up murderous dictators like Raza Pahlavi, Pinochet, Zia and Marcos and crushed the hopes of people in Latin America, Central Asia and Far East.
Since WW2 the US has occupied countries, caused regime change on political expediency, and overturned democratic governments. It supports an apartheid state like Israel and champions human rights while allying itself with the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, the military dictators of Egypt and other abusers of human rights. It launched illegal wars in the name of War against Terror and disrupted an entire region. It operates illegal prisons and makes its own rules. It does all this and more while carrying on like a global policeman and regardless of who was in power, Republicans or Democrats, the system continued, the industrial-military complex flourished. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Saigon, My Lai, Tehran, Mosul, Caracas, Tripoli, Guantanamo, and other places are like the roll of dishonor and America’s hands are covered with the blood of their people.
Observers of US politics knew all about that but for the larger public glib interlocutors such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped propagate the white hat theory. We are quick to condemn Reagan and Dubya but people conveniently forget that Obama ramped up the drone program, led the surge in Afghanistan and destabilized Libya and other parts of ME. The Obama administration supported Egyptian military dictator Fattah el-Sisi while its biggest ally Israel kept up its settlement drive. In Pakistan, the Raymond Davis incident and Salala both happened under Obama. There was not a single arrest after the 2008 financial crash and the Occupy Wall Street movement failed under his watch. Corporate America marched on. But people loved his suave manners and eloquence. A President who increased the US war efforts got a Nobel peace prize. A “smooth criminal” as Michael Jackson would say.Then in March 2016 Donald Trump burst upon the national political stage and since then regardless of the echo chambers of the liberal media he has been the choice of a large number of Americans. The NYT and CNN might wring their hands and cry themselves hoarse but the American public made their choice clear and sided with the jaundiced bigot. Those familiar with American history knew that the titles, the appeal to decency and image of reason was all a sham but Donald made it so obvious that a blind man on a moonless night would be able to stumble upon the truth.
The Emperor has been naked for centuries but now more people could say he was naked. In spite of his boorishness, his bad policies, his open racism and sexism and dozens of faults which should have sunk him, he not only won in a landslide but has maintained approval ratings around 40%. A large chunk of Americans still supports him and this exposed the hitherto latent issues and outright ignorance in American society. Coke, Hallmark, Disney and other companies might have fooled millions around the globe but Donald clearly proved without any doubt that the Emperor has been naked, ugly and covered in warts.
All its misdeeds can be understood in the normal course of history. Dominant countries build empires and do what they want to safeguard their interests. But what is gall most is the sanctimoniousness of the US. It warned colonial powers to end their empires while using economic hitmen to build its own and uses holy pretexts to expand it. It toppled democratically elected governments in the name of saving people from socialism and imposed its form of rule. A modern from of the White Man’s burden, the only things missing are imperialist poets like Rudyard Kipling to write odes about it.
In fact, Donald Trump is the perfect mirror to US society. The white supremacist, the fascists, bigots and other proud Americans have supported him for more than four years and still do in spite of more than 230,000 dead and massive unemployment. Trump looked steady even 6 months ago though COVID and the failing economy might get rid of him on November 3. But thanks to Trump, the next time an American president talks about global leadership and wags his or her finger at another country about human rights or good governance, we will always have these four years to ignore all that hogwash and call it out for its hypocrisy.