Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It

Since at least the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: In a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policymakers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.


In sum, the post-World War II foreign policy of the U.S. — independent of its massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world — has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with, and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

All of this history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump’s embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.


Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is “extrajudicial killings” — including many who were feted at the White House — the central war on terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people — including his own citizens — who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.

What’s really going on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump’s inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker’s patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.”


Can anyone possibly believe that — even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements — there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries.


That’s how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to “ream” uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that “cooperate” with U.S. dictates, they get “at least a free pass” to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What’s really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades — supporting and praising heinous tyrants — is that he’s denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: What they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren’t angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn’t as effective or as willing to pretend that he’s not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

via Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It

« the oligarchical character of U.S. political culture »

At the same time, the victims of this recklessness — ordinary Americans — were forced to bear the full brunt of the fallout. Millions faced foreclosure, unemployment, and general economic suffering with little to no help from the U.S. government, which was busy protecting those responsible. Above all else, it was this inequity that spawned protest movements from Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, and arguably laid the groundwork of resentment and a collapse of trust that gave rise to the Trump presidency.

This week’s controversy over Barack Obama’s $400,000 payday from a Wall Street firm for a single speech resonated not because it suggested he had acted illegally or even unethically. Rather, it symbolized, in a particularly glaring manner, the oligarchical character of U.S. political culture: The same president who repeatedly acted to protect the financial industry after it wrecked the global economy, and who shielded its leaders from criminal prosecution, was being lavished with the rewards.

via Brazil Paralyzed by Nationwide Strike, Driven by a Familiar Global Dynamic of Elite Corruption and Impunity

« Imagine being a Brazilian laborer »

In sum, the vast bulk of the top-shelf political and economic elite have proven to be radically corrupt. Billions upon billions of dollars have been stolen from the Brazilian public. Recently released recordings from the judicial confessions of Marcelo Odebrecht, scion of one of Brazil’s richest families, depict a country ruled almost entirely through bribes and criminality, regardless of the ideology or party of political leaders. And yet, even in the wake of this oozing and incomparable elite corruption, the price that is being paid falls overwhelmingly on the victims — ordinary Brazilians — while the culprits prosper. The same Brazilian politicians implicated in this criminal enterprise continue to reign in Brasília, as they enjoy virtual immunity from the law. Worse, they continue to exempt themselves from the austerity they impose on everyone else.

Imagine being a Brazilian laborer, working in poverty, spending years listening to stories about how corporate executives bribed political officials with millions of dollars in order to corruptly win state contracts — bribes that these elected officials used for yachts and luxury cars and European shopping sprees — only to then be told that there is no money for your retirement or pension and that you must work years longer, with fewer benefits, to save the country. That’s the tale Brazilian citizens are being fed. The only mystifying aspect is that these types of protests have taken this long to erupt.

via Brazil Paralyzed by Nationwide Strike, Driven by a Familiar Global Dynamic of Elite Corruption and Impunity

« More than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000 »

In Mexico, the Committee to Protect Journalists blasted President Enrique Peña Nieto for failing to shield media workers, saying criminal gangs and corrupt officials kidnap and murder with impunity to silence critics. This is CPJ coordinator Carlos Lauría.

Carlos Lauría: « The reality is that violence against journalists is a problem that goes beyond journalism. It’s affecting fundamental human rights of all Mexicans, including journalists and reporters. It’s inhibiting the possibility that Mexicans openly debate the problems that afflict society. And indirectly, it is also affecting the stability of the country’s democracy. »

More than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and last March was the worst month on record, with at least seven journalists shot across Mexico.

via Headlines for May 05, 2017 | Democracy Now!

Executive Order Seeks to Expand Political Role for Religious Leaders

President Trump Thursday signed an executive order relaxing rules on tax-exempt religious groups that could expand the role of churches and religious leaders in U.S. politics. In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero promised a lawsuit, saying, « The actions taken today are a broadside to our country’s long-standing commitment to the separation of church and state. … It’s clear that the Trump administration and Congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination. »

via Headlines for May 05, 2017 | Democracy Now!