“The speculators made their money on the blood you shed
Your momma’s pulled the sheets up off your bed
Profiteers on James Street sold your shoes and clothes
Ain’t nobody talkin’ because everybody knows”
— Bruce Springsteen
— Gypsy Biker
Amid the chaos and blowback from Trump’s moment in Helsinki, the American establishment is once again missing the mark.
While it is clear that Trump is a catastrophe, that it is impossible for any reasonable person to assume Trump is not being blackmailed by Putin Incorporated, and that America and its allies’ security has been compromised, there remains a ghost they are not exorcising.
Speaking to the media in 2015, and pressed about Putin’s record of thuggery, including murders of political rivals, and journalists, Trump’s response was: We killed people in Iraq.
This is viewed as an example of Trump’s lack of depth, his use of false equivalencies, and further circumstantial evidence that Putin’s blackmail goes back for years.
While all of that is true what is being lost amid the concern and chaos, is that Trump’s point about Iraq, speaks to a deeper truth that is part of the core that makes up Trump’s base.
Iraq, by which we mean the Bush Cheney Junta’s imperial adventure, based on lies, and incompetence, born of decades of corrupt bargains and support for mass murdering oil barons, which led to the rise of death cults, genocide, the collapse of regimes that in turn have generated humanitarian crisis that in turn, are stressing and compromising the stability of Europe, which in turn is fueling the rise of reactionary atavistic tribalism, all speak to a systemic corruption in the American empire.
And within all of that, amid the economic gulag of contemporary America, there are tens of thousands of American veterans missing limbs and living with addictions and traumas and the knowledge that they were used and discarded. And then there are the dead.
The hard truth that must be told, is that America’s history has been a star spangled parade of mendacity and imperial gangsterism. And for every gesture of honorable intent, for every gift to the world from the extraordinary engine of America’s creativity, there has been murder, and genocide, coups and counter coups and a mountain of skulls on every continent.
Our legacy is vast and ranges from a cure for polio to tea with Chairman Mao. For every refugee given shelter there is another, nameless and buried in a shallow unmarked grave.
And Iraq, yet another boneyard of American idealism, and corruption, contains ghosts who refuse to be silent.
Trump the idiot, the Caligula of presidents does not parse anything with this degree of exactitude. He is a blunt rusty tool for whom everything is a wall that must be knocked down, shit on, and laughed at as he wobbles off to the next encounter.
But he carries with him the butcher’s bill of generations of Americans who have been lied to and abused.
Trump is right when he says there is an equivalency between Putin’s murderous regime and ours. He is right for all the wrong reasons but he is right and until or unless the establishment comes clean, until or unless it finally tells the truth about the countless times we have overthrown or undermined foreign governments, and destabilized regimes, murdered and tortured people, and paid others to kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, then Trump and what he represents, will continue to fester and grow.
George W Bush was the public face of a private corporate junta put into power by a judicial putsch. He and the senior members of the junta are mass murderers and should be arrested and tried as war criminals. It is undeniable that Osama Bin Laden was a murderous, messianic psychopath. It is also undeniable that he was at one point, and for years, an asset of the CIA. But when the establishment media and the assortment of bureaucratic mandarins respond to Trump’s expression of equivalency between America and Russia, they sneer, scoff, and express languid contempt as if the idea is so absurd they can’t be bothered to muster genuine outrage. It is, they say, the sort of thing you hear from Noam Chomsky which, their tone and expressions indicate, means anyone who agrees, is living at the bottom end of the bottom feeder’s corner of the dark side of history.
More than one thing, even contradictory things, can be true at the same time.
Trump is a dangerous lunatic who poses a clear and present danger to America’s security.
And to be clear, the true nature of Trump’s cynicism, and his pathological mendacity, is that even if America’s legacy was adjudicated and the ghosts were laid to rest, Trump would find some other cause to attach to his ego and would use it for his own ends. Trump is a perfect example of what the late and sometimes dearly missed Christopher Hitchens meant when he said, a hallmark of the end of the age of ideologies, is a dictator without any ideology at all. Trump is not a fascist because he believes in fascism. He is a fascist because he is a sadistic, selfish, pathological liar and a bottomless pit of narcissism. If he concluded that being a liberal would turn a profit, he’d switch allegiances in a heartbeat. But his new faith would be as shallow as his current one and his liberalism would be as ethically flexible and feckless as his conservativism.
But that only means, that in addition to his persistent evil, there are still more causes for him to manipulate for his own selfish reasons. And as long as those causes are not dealt with then, if not Trump, someone more like him than not, will rise from the American sewer, and slouch toward Bethlehem to be born again.