Trump Is No Isolationist, He Just Hates Democracy

When Donald Trump crawled into the White House like it was a tax loophole, everybody knew that his regime would be characterized by two axiomatic commitments: one to reactionary corruption and one to chaotic unpredictability.  Still, after three years of his scandals, stupidity, and sensationalism, nothing quite prepared me to hear the President borrow a line from the street-fighting folk-singing communist legend, Pete Seeger.  At a rally in Minneapolis last Thursday, Trump paused from name dropping and sexualized profanity for a moment to make a note on foreign policy: “We were supposed to be in Syria for thirty days, we’ve now been there for ten years.  We were supposed to be in Afghanistan for a short period time, we’re now going to be there for close to nineteen years.  It’s time to bring ’em home.”  He was answered in the same molossus tetrameter that made “Lock her up” and “Trump that bitch” into winning slogans in 2016 – his supporters, draped in MAGA red and American flags, broke into a new chant: “Bring them home!”[1]

The importance of this brief moment, barely noted in the American press, can not be overstated – its conclusions run flagrantly in the face of any conventional notion of the right/left polarity in American politics, and rewrites the history of Trumpism itself.  It is of course true that Trump’s reinvigorated Republican Party is more rabidly and overtly nationalistic, conservative, and bloodthirsty than any mainstream political organization in at least a century of American life, including when it comes to the forever war – recall that Trump courted his voters with explicit promises to “kill the families” of ISIS members and “bring back waterboarding, and a hell of a lot worse,” not to mention his threats to wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the earth,” his warning of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” in North Korea, and his tweeted all-caps pledge to make Iran “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”  In many ways, the President, who has survived a never-ending chain of unsurvivable political gaffes thanks only to his violent and paternalistic presentation of hyper-masculinity, acts as the personification of a society completely engulfed by the militarization that has long held our economy, politics, and culture hostage.  What could he possibly intend by invoking one of the most popular and powerful slogans of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s?

One potential answer lies in historical memory – was Richard Nixon not also, in his rhetoric, an anti-war right-wing militarist?  Though Nixon was fanatic anti-communist and profoundly corrupt politician with deep ties to the military industrial complex, his 1968 campaign for president was organized largely around ending the Vietnam War, organized around his famous statement: “I pledge to you that we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.”  One of his first acts as President in 1969 was to draft a six step plan for complete withdrawal of American troops from the country – his program to “Vietnamize” the war was released just eight days into his presidency.  To Nixon, the Vietnam War offered a chance to distinguish himself from his predecessors the Democratic Johnson and Kennedy administrations, who had committed millions of Americans to fight in the war in the first place – it was the catastrophic failure and apparently endless nature of the war that collapsed Lyndon Johnson’s otherwise largely successful presidency and allowed Nixon to scrape out an electoral victory despite being overall unpopular (at the time, that was rare).  Nixon spoke of the need to “bring them home” a full year before Pete Seeger premiered a song with that name on the Johnny Cash Show.[2]

Of course, though Nixon did ultimately “bring them home” and surrender control of South Vietnam to northern communists in 1973, the lives of the American soldiers under his command, and the broader cause of peace in general, were to him utterly trivial props.  A large part of the Johnson administration’s failure to end the war in 1968 can be traced to Nixon’s plot to deliberately sabotage peace negotiations through his proxy, Henry Kissinger, in order to prolong the war and shred the Democrats’ credibility.  The Nixon years were characterized by a rapid surge in the number of young men drafted into military service, a dramatic increase in mortality that included the deaths of twenty thousand American soldiers and over two million (mostly civilian) Vietnamese,[3] and the illegal and secret expansion of the war to neighboring Cambodia and Laos which killed hundreds of thousands more.  His Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird permanently expanded Pentagon and industry management of Defense Department policy, leading arms manufacturers to coin the phrase “Praise the Laird”; Kissinger, his National Security Advisor, funneled weapons to fascists everywhere from Chile to Pakistan.  Whatever public reluctance for warmaking Nixon may have performed was a cynical act; in reality the impact of his foreign policy makes him easily one of the most prolific mass murderers in American history.

But his performance was significant – as is Trump’s today.  Only three presidents in American history have courted anti-war sentiment to win voters: Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.  They are also three of only four presidents to have been voted into office in the midst of already-declared wars.  This speaks to a reality often neglected in elite discourse but critical to understanding American political life – in spite of all our saber-rattling and jingoism, war, any war, is experienced as a collective moral rupture and uneasiness, an all-encompassing anxiety and trauma that permeates every facet of a society and its unconscious and demands an answer.  Our country is currently engaged in seven separate wars, all with no apparent end in sight – wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approaching their third decade, as well as wars in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Central Africa.  Though these wars coasted seamlessly into being under cover of President Bush’s 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, and though they have been waged largely from the sky in the strategy former Secretary of State Colin Powell dubbed “war without casualties” (at least, not casualties we have to see), and though both liberal and conservative broadcasting networks have largely abandoned all but the most inspirational clips in their war reporting, Americans do understand we are a country at war, and that is disquieting.

Not enough work has been done to understand the role war played in the insurgent populist campaigns that reshaped both major political parties in the 2016 election.  Perhaps the only political position Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump held in common was their vocal opposition to the Iraq War.  With both the Republican and Democratic Party establishments firmly committed to the politics of never-ending war, both Sanders and Trump were able to establish credibility on a visceral emotional level with voters by their frank acknowledgment that the War on Terror was and is an unredeemable catastrophe – though of course Trump’s solution, to withdraw ground troops while intensifying brutality as a deterrence to terrorism, differed tremendously from Bernie’s detailed proposals for de-escalation.[4]  Now, as Trump faces the 2020 election with historic disapproval ratings, anti-war posturing might be the only legitimately popular tactic he has left to differentiate himself from his Democratic challenger.  The Democrats, as always, are making this easier for him: of the thirteen presidential candidates at the primary debate this week, only Sanders has unreservedly condemned American warmaking.[5]

Of course, rhetoric and policy are not the same thing.  It should go without saying that Trump and his junta of robber barons have been among the most militaristic and murderous administrations in American history.  Like Nixon, Trump enormously increased the casualty rates in the wars he inherited from his predecessors – his eagerness to target civilians, particularly in Afghanistan and Syria, and his energetic embrace of dramatic and ultra-destructive weapons mark a sharp departure from Obama’s already atrocious soft power-take on drone assassinations.  Though coverage of his crimes is thin, the few reports that can emerge from zones of American invasion tell tales of never-ending horror.  Just a few weeks ago, Afghan commandos trained and armed by American troops gunned down 40 people at a wedding; just days before that, American bombs fell for the fourth time on a UN water facility in Yemen, cutting off clean drinking water to twelve thousand people in the cholera-ravaged nation.[6]  Not only has Trump worsened the situation on the ground, his hyper-extractive-capitalist bull in the precarious china shop of the post-Cold War world order constantly threatens to unleash violence on a scale unheard of in human history.  By bowing to Saudi and Israeli pressure to dismantle the Iran Nuclear Deal, he has all but guaranteed a major hot war in the Middle East; by isolating Venezuela, he has all but collapsed the Central American and Caribbean nations relying on Venezuelan fuel subsidies and promised enormous forced migration; his brinksmanship with North Korea, as well as his support of nuclear-armed rogue states India and Israel and his consideration of a nuclear Saudi monarchy, has pushed the entire world closer to apocalyptic nuclear war; and his commitment to worst-case scenario climate change will unless reversed eventually lead to total global war of all against all as resources and survivable territory grows impossibly scarce.   But aside from occasional bouts of chaos, Trump’s foreign policy platform has been notable for its horrific similarities with his predecessors – from his massive nuclear rearmament plan to his sparring with China to his ongoing starvation of Yemen to his immense commitment to the War on Terror to his global rule by weapons sales, Trump’s most impactful foreign policy moves are simply carrying forward Obama’s policies.  Their continuity is marked in vanished lives and shattered families around the world.  Just days after Trump took power accusing Obama of “American carnage,” he slaughtered 30 Yemenis in a Navy SEAL raid, including eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki; her brother Abdulrahman had been murdered at age sixteen by an Obama drone strike in 2010.[7]

The administration has tried to square the circle of their policies by framing their orientation as “America First,” a program announced by Trump with rhetorical gaudiness reminiscent of Stalin or Mussolini: “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.  The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony.”[8]  The two components of this policy are simple: “I will never sent our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.”  These tenets simultaneously feed into a nationalist chauvinism – implying that the Bush-Obama wars have been experienced as social-moral rupture because of some liberal globalist refusal to take the gloves off and do what must be done – while miming compassion for that chauvinism’s prime subjects, the troops themselves.  Though the practical implications of being “America First” have always been deliberately vague, the aesthetic implications have (like Nixonism) have offered a resolution to the contradiction between hyper-militarized nationalism and the enormous collective trauma of wartime.  The potential political power of such a resolution is terrifying and immense; Trump’s only challenge has been offering enough symbolic gestures to the ideal of “America First” to convince his base without angering his business partners in the Israeli, Saudi, Emirati, and Turkish elite who have de facto control of his foreign policy mechanism.

Over the two weeks, with the House of Representatives closing in on impeachment proceedings and his political rivals growing ever bolder, President Trump made a final desperate attempt to assert his anti-interventionist persona.  On October 6, without any warning, the President took to Twitter to announce new orders for the American soldiers stationed in northwestern Syria to fight ISIS alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG.  His remarks (characteristically incoherent) are worth quoting at length if only to establish how desperate he is to frame himself and his policy as a substantial departure from what he (rightly and resonantly) calls “Endless Wars.”

I have held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.  WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.  Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out, and what to do with captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.”…We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us![9]

Immediately, chaos erupted from Washington to Syria.  Reporters soon revealed that Trump tweeted without consulting his own generals after a secret phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a fellow NATO member and American proxy in the Syrian Civil War.  Hours after American soldiers left the region, Erdoğan (as he has been threatening for decades) launched a massive air and ground invasion of the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region Rojava on the Syrian-Turkish border.  The two million Kurds living in the region now must flee or face massacres – including, the possibility of being slowly burned to death by the illegal chemical weapon white phosphorus, which Turkey has now used to kill dozens of Kurdish civilians[10] – while surviving Kurdish political leaders have been forced to turn to their long-time enemy, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for protection.[11]  The Free Syrian Army, a coalition of CIA-funded fundamentalist militias including former al-Qaeda factions such as al-Nusra Front, has sworn allegiance to Erdoğan, and videos have emerged of FSA forces executing Kurds on the street; they have also released their ideological compatriots, the 1,200 ISIS prisoners held in Kurdish prisons.  Vice President Mike Pence (perhaps anticipating presidential responsibilities some time soon) traveled to Turkey to negotiate a ceasefire, but the deal he accomplished did nothing but legitimate Erdoğan’s bizarre claim that the Kurds are terrorists – violence continues.

Back in the United States, politicians of every stripe have responded with horror to the fact that Trump spontaneously turned his back on the Kurds, who lost 11,000 of their own soldiers in the war against ISIS in part thanks to assurances that the United States would protect them from long-promised ethnic cleansing by the respective Turkish and Syrian governments.  At the Democratic presidential debate, Joe Biden called the withdrawal “the most shameful move any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy”[12] without a drop of irony.  Even Mitch McConnell broke with Trump to condemn the move, as did stalwart Trumpist Pat Robertson, who warned that Trump was “in danger of losing the mandate of heaven.”  An American Special Forces officer went viral telling Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin, “I am ashamed for the first time in my career.”  Both parties in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to condemn Trump’s move (though they did not revoke the 2001 Authorization of Military Force which allows the Commander in Chief to make such decisions without Congressional approval).  Their rebuke, approved on Wednesday 354-60, was not just the strongest gesture against the President in the history of the Trump administration; it is the strongest condemnation of a President’s foreign policy decision by Congress in American history.

Trump has stubbornly defended his move, saying in a press conference on Wednesday that the Kurds are “no angels” and that “If Syria wants to fight for their land, that’s up to Turkey and Syria, as it has been for hundreds of years, they’ve been fighting, and the Kurds have been fighting, that whole mess.”  But any claim that he withdrew American troops from Rojava to “bring them home” has been rendered conclusively moot.  Though Trump initially suggested he was pulling thousands of soldiers from the perils of the front line, in fact there were fewer than one hundred US ground troops in Rojava, which until the past two weeks was by far the most peaceful region of war-torn Syria: among their many successes, the Kurds have managed to eliminate both jihadist terror and Assad’s fascism in their region.  The mere presence of those Americans was enough to deter Erdoğan from invading – in 2018, he brutally invaded on the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin but did not push farther into Rojava for fear of harming US troops and provoking an American response.  The troops Trump “withdrew” have not been brought home but instead moved to immensely more dangerous postings in Iraq.  The most recent reports indicate that Trump now wants more American troops in Syria – not to deter a Turkish invasion or defend the Kurds, but to prevent the Russian government from using the chaos to access Syrian oil fields.[13]

A straightforward reading of this situation is alluring, but dangerously misguided: Trump is crazy and incompetent, and this withdrawal speaks to his dangerous erraticism.  We find this in the latest pipe of self-fellating elitist garbage churned into the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof, who believes that Trump is somehow “corroding the entire 75-year-old American postwar international order” by “failing to prepare for a phone call with Turkey’s leader.”[14]  But alas, this idea is not limited to the increasingly irrelevant neoliberal center – it has been adopted by some of the most lucid and promising voices on the left as well.  Bernie Sanders said the episode proves Trump is a “pathological liar.”  Jeet Heer wrote in Nation of “the erratic way in which Trump makes his decisions, often tottering back and forth like a drunk so that other world powers have no idea where he’s going to land.”[15]  Even the usually insightful Eric Levitz wrote, “This is not the messaging strategy of a diabolically brilliant manipulator of mass media.  It is a collection of irritable mental gestures from a 73-year-old rich kid with a personality disorder who is in way over his head.”[16]  None of these arguments are wrong, per se, but they cling to the technocratic critique of Trumpism: that his chaotic lunacy is an aberrational catastrophe of stupid governing that will best be solved by smart governing – this stings doubly because Sanders, Levitz, and to a lesser extent Heer are three of the most insightful, least technocratic critics of the President in the American mainstream.  To attack Trump on these grounds is perilous on two levels: first, on the empirical level, because it is factually incomplete; and second, on the political level, because it reinforces the (wrong) view of Trump supporters that our President is somehow essentially different from the preceding decades of expert rulers who left lives in ruins everywhere in the world, including in the United States.  Trump can only sell himself as an anti-war president, for example, by first selling himself as the president technocrats call “crazy”; every consumer of American media and culture understands at some level that the thing technocrats call “sane” is a status quo that includes an immeasurably devastating constant background of wartime.

The left here lays bare its substantial foreign policy weaknesses, which Trump and the right can exploit for their vile reactionary gain.  Imagine if instead Sanders did what he has so remarkably succeeded in doing in the economic and social spheres – attacked Trump not for his anachronistic pathologies, but for his far deeper consistencies with the previous decades of neoliberal apparatchiks who created the conditions for populist resentment in the first place.  It is easy for Trump to frame himself as the courageous anti-interventionist when he is called insane and different – it would be impossible for him to defend himself from being called more of the same, which is what he is.

This is not to say that betraying the Kurds is any less atrocious – on the contrary, it is a vastly greater crime than Trump’s mainstream critics can possibly comprehend, precisely because it is a normal component of global order under the constant interventions of American empire.

Trump treating Kurdish lives as easily expendable geopolitical props should be easy to read as an explicit echo of longstanding policy between the United States and the group commonly called the world’s largest stateless nation.  Rather than a moment of rupture, we can mark their latest abandonment as a moment of continuity stretching back to 1920, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I.  Kurdish nationalists had served as allies to the American, British, and French forces fighting against the Ottomans – but after the war, rather than granting them their own state as promised, President Woodrow Wilson at the helm of the League of Nations caved to the demands of oil-rich monarchs and divided the Kurds with four arbitrary borders.  Despite a population in the millions, the Kurds became a minority population in four nations where they remain to this day: Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.  Over the ensuing century, their ongoing struggles for independence and their geographic location surrounded on all sides by oil fields made the Kurds uniquely well-suited to American foreign policy interests.  The Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations respectively offered the Kurds military support to put pressure on various regional governments any time a temperamental petro-authoritarian voiced even slight resistance to American demands.  In six completely separate and yet virtually identical instances, the threat of armed Kurdish rebels was enough to scare one government or another into bowing to American pressure; in each of these instances, the US then switched allegiances and supplied the ruling regime with weapons to crush the Kurdish insurgency – most horribly in 1988, when Saddam Hussein used sarin gas supplied by Reagan’s envoy Donald Rumsfeld to kill between 50,000 and 100,000 Iraqi Kurds.  Spread between four intensely hostile and racist regimes, the Kurds have always been forced to accept any bedfellows in their struggle for basic political franchise, even if that means bearing with an ally as fickle as the United States – but, as the Intercept’s Jon Schwarz put it recently, “Nothing in the world is certain except death, taxes, and America betraying the Kurds.”[17]

The contradiction that Trump attempts to straddle for political gain is precisely the contradiction that has doomed Kurds to a full century of precariousness between genocides in four states.  It is the contradiction between self-determination and capitalism.  Wilson’s grand promise during World War I to grant democratic nationhood to formerly colonized peoples won the Kurds’ allegiance the first time; but the dictatorship of the market insisted that state lines be drawn not based on popular calls for community, but in accordance to the demands of aristocratic families who controlled access to the fossil capital beneath their feet.  American presidents have relished the publicity of supporting Kurdish freedom fighters against brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein or the Ayatollah Khomeini; at the same time, the market demands American presidents defend violent regimes from freedom fighters if those regimes do allow extension of American capitalism into their nations – for this reason, Bill Clinton was forced to literally distinguish between “the good Kurds” battling Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and “the bad Kurds” facing Süleyman Demirel’s genocidal campaign in southeastern Turkey at the same time.[18]  Likewise, Presidents Obama and Trump gained credibility even among those skeptical of American interventions by offering tactical support to the anti-fascist, anti-jihadist Kurdish democracy in Rojava; but that credibility can never be worth as much as Turkey (one of the largest military consumers in the world) spends on American weapons.  Despite the immense media attention to Kurdish-Turkish policy in the past two weeks, almost nobody has pointed out an obvious solution to the crisis: we could both bring our seventy troops home from Rojava and prevent a Turkish invasion simply by threatening to revoke Turkey’s license (issued by Obama) to purchase unlimited military supplies from the US – but doing so is unspeakable, because it violates the arms industry’s prerogative to expand without limits.

The longstanding American policy to first promote and then crush Kurdish statehood speaks to one of the more unsettling realities of Kristof’s precious “postwar international order”: ultimately, even the self-governing nation-state exists only insofar as it can be used an instrument by global capitalism.  Democracy and the rule of law can coexist only when they do so to legitimate bourgeois rule; when they stand to question market dictates, both democracy and the rule of law can disappear (or be disappeared) with remarkable ease.  The mere concept that forty million people who share a linguistic-cultural background could constitute the world’s largest “stateless nation” is a rhetorical invention to be deployed when that stateless nation can operate against a disobedient state – under other conditions, the Kurds are just one strata in a complex network of racial relations that play a secondary role to oil distribution networks in Middle Eastern geopolitics.  The premise that a people are also a nation is just a colonizer’s tool, an imperial vestige designed to facilitate the extraction of capital from the global poor to the global rich.  This is as true for Americans as it is for Kurds.  Trump defines his nationalism in opposition to globalism, but in fact, his nationalism is merely a secondary symptom of his globalism – even isolationism, in his conception, means outsourcing violence to the elites in client governments.  The mass movement he inspired, chanting “America First,” has only made one lasting political achievement: a restructuring of taxation that will redistribute wealth from around the world to the micro-fraction of the global population wealthy enough to own corporations and properties in the United States.  Who today can argue with Marx and Engels’s thesis that the modern state is “but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”[19]?

Incredibly, the Kurds are painfully conscious of this dynamic, and have devised the modern era’s most innovative and successful alternative to the nation-state and its contradictions.  In the 1999, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, by Turkish agents acting on a CIA lead.  Öcalan, who had up to that point been a Marxist-Leninist, began reading the works of Vermont’s anarchist visionary Murray Bookchin while in prison.  Öcalan became intrigued by Bookchin’s argument that “The nation-state makes us less than human.  It towers over us, cajoles us, disempowers us, bilks us of our substance, humiliates us – and often kills us in its imperialist adventures…We are the nation-state’s victims, not its constituents.”[20]  The solution, according to Bookchin, is a vision of a society that looks for inspiration to three fundamental rejections of the state itself: “to radical forms of feminism that encompass the psychological dimensions of male domination, indeed, domination itself; to ecology conceived as a social outlook and personal sensibility; and to community as intimate, human-scaled forms of association and mutual aid.”[21]

In 2005, from prison, Öcalan wrote a Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan which is, to my eyes, the most remarkable political document of the century.  “Neither nation states nor globalisation which supersedes them are sustainable,” he lamented.  “Democratic Confederalism [in] Kurdistan is not a state system, but a democratic system of the people without a state.  With the women and youth at the forefront, it is a system in which all sectors of society will develop their own democratic organisations.”[22]  What makes his declaration so incredible is not just the ideas it contains, but the fact that his idealism was implemented in the real world, and (unlike what we refer to with a tragic wink as Really Existing Socialism), his Really Existing Anarchism actually worked!  At first, only a few assembly-based communes could be established in Kurdish Turkey – but, finding an opportunity in the chaos of the Syrian Civil War which so weakened Assad’s power, the YPG of Syrian Kurds followed the PKK’s example and instituted a fully anarchic society for the two million Kurds living in Rojava.  There has been only one democratic society to emerge since the much-fanfared 2011 Arab Spring – who could have predicted it would be a society in which women and sexual minorities share full enfranchisement, in which the restoration and enrichment of nature is the prime economic mechanism, and in which every political decision is determined at the level of local assembly meetings?  American liberals and conservatives are enraged Trump would turn his back on the YPG after they defeated ISIS; if they understood the true implications of the Kurdish project, they would be applauding the Trump-Erdoğan axis for defending the possibility of a world order.

In his Declaration, Öcalan writes, “Democratic confederalism is opposed to global imperialism and seeks the global democracy of peoples.  It is a system by which all peoples and all humanity should be living in the twenty-first century…I call on humanity to create a new world under the umbrella of a global democratic confederalism.”  Of course this is a light Trump and Erdoğan are so intent on crushing.  What ruler would not?  Only through its spectacular and existential violence can any nation-state defend the plausibility of nation-states at large.  Fortunately, though the Kurds are yet again on the retreat, the success of Rojava can never be fully erased from the paranoia of the powerful.  Their light shines through in the endless cracks emerging in both nationalism and global capitalism everywhere in the world.  When the American labor troubadour Joe Hill lay waiting execution in a Utah jail in 1915, he wrote a final telegram to “Big Bill” Haywood of the IWW: “Don’t waste time mourning.  Organize!”[23]  As we continue to resist their elimination by every means possible, let us imagine the YPG in Rojava saying something similar.

[1] A decent accounting and video of the event can be found in David Smith, “‘Lock him up!’: Trumps team up on Joe Biden at vitriolic rally in Minneapolis,” Guardian, October 11, 2019.  Steer clear of the major American newspapers, whose only coverage of the comment was an Associated Press clip focused on the fairly trivial response by Taliban leaders, who said they would welcome further peace talks to facilitate an end to the War in Afghanistan.

[2] Richard Nixon, “Gridiron Speech,” Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, March 15, 1969.  Ironically, Nixon authorized the secret expansion of the war to Cambodia the same day.

[3] From Ziad Obermeyer et al, “Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey programme,” British Medical Journal 336 (2008): 1482-1486.  This study clarifies that the Vietnam War was the costliest conflict in terms of human lives since 1950.

[4] For a more detailed analysis, see Glenn Greenwald, “The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election,” Intercept, September 13, 2017.

[5] For a candidate-by-candidate rundown, see Sarah Lazare, “Finding the Lesser Evil,” Jacobin, August 27, 2019.

[6] For more on Trump’s wars the incredible Murtaza Hussain, “Civilian Deaths in US Wars Are Skyrocketing Under Trump.  It May Not Be Impeachable, but It’s a Crime,” Intercept, October 2, 2019.

[7] Greenwald, “Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen.  Trump Just Killed his 8-Year-Old Sister,” Intercept, January 30, 2017.

[8] Donald Trump, “Transcript: Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech,” New York Times, April 27, 2016.

[9] Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter post, October 7, 2019, 7:40 a.m.  His thread has been condensed for readability.

[10] Lara Seligman, “Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria,” Foreign Policy, October 17, 2019.

[11] For more details, see Meredith Tax, “Trump’s Betrayal of Rojava,” Dissent Magazine, October 15, 2019.

[12] Did he remember when President Bush invaded Iraq and killed at least half a million people?  At the time, Biden told the Senate, “President Bush did not lash out precipitously at Iraq after 9/11.  At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so.”

[13] Eric Schmitt and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Said to Favor Leaving a Few Hundred Troops in Eastern Syria,” New York Times, October 20, 2019.

[14] Nicholas Kristof, “Trump Takes Incoherence and Inhumanity and Calls It Foreign Policy,” New York Times, October 19, 2019.

[15] Jeet Heer, “Trump’s Erratic Syria Policy Deserves No Anti-Imperialist’s Cheers,” Nation, October 9, 2019.

[16] Eric Levitz, “Trump’s Betrayal of the Kurds May Be the Dumbest Move of His Presidency,” New York Magazine, October 10, 2019.

[17] Jon Schwarz, “The U.S. is Now Betraying the Kurds for the Eighth Time,” Intercept, October 7, 2019.

[18] See William Hartung, “Nixon’s Children: Bill Clinton and the Permanent Arms Bazaar,” World Policy Journal 12, no. 2 (1995): 25-35.

[19] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert Tucker (New York: Norton and Company, 1978), 475.

[20] Murray Bookchin, “Rethinking Ethics, Nature, and Society,” in The Modern Crisis (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1986), 44.

[21] Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 440.

[22] Abdullah Öcalan, “Declaration of Democratic Confederalism,” February 4, 2005.  See also Janet Biehl, “Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy,” New Compass, February 16, 2012, and Debbie Bookchin, “How My Father’s Ideas Helped the Kurds Create a New Democracy,” New York Review of Books, June 15, 2018.

[23] Joe Hill, “My Last Will,” in Voices of A People’s History of the United States, ed. Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004), 282.

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