Prominent US liberals targeted by terrorism
Donald Trump has spent the past three years inciting his supporters against the media and his opponents. Last week he almost got his wish. Just hours after letter bombs were intercepted targeting figures such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, along with TV network CNN, the President was already blaming the media for these attacks, accusing TV outlets of “purposely false and inaccurate reporting” while his media allies claimed that the whole thing was a hoax.
Trump’s public rallies are terrifying things to behold, with their star performer demonizing the media and leading chants of “lock her up” against Clinton. Having spoken to journalist colleagues who covered such rallies, being in the press pit with thousands of rabid Trump supporters baying for your blood is chilling.
The targets of these letter bomb attacks reads like a Mafia hit-list of people Trump has denounced most vociferously; Clinton, Obama, Joe Biden, ex-CIA director John Brennan, George Soros, Robert de Niro... Brennan had been spitefully stripped of his security clearance after Trump took exception to his public comments.
Leading up to the mid-term elections Trump has ramped up his racist rhetoric. He ludicrously claimed that convoys of migrants supposedly heading through Latin America toward the US border had been infiltrated by Middle Eastern terrorists. The President is known for his unfamiliarity with the truth, but with elections on the horizon his falsehoods have escalated to a whole new level, whipping up a frenzy of panic against all foreigners approaching America’s borders.
Although experts warn that the biggest terrorism threat currently comes from right-wing extremists who absorbed the President’s denunciations and conspiracy theories and acted upon his words, Trump appears to recognize terrorists only if they are brown-faced Muslims. He likewise refused to condemn the Nazis who assembled in Charlottesville last year, during which courageous liberal protesters were injured and one was killed by a murderous thug in a car.
The President’s words and actions embolden white supremacist tendencies across the Western world. These letter-bomb incidents have unsettling precursors in previous attacks, such as the 2016 murder of British MP Jo Cox, known for her advocacy for Syrian refugees, whose death occurred immediately before the fateful British referendum for quitting the EU; this decision itself was the product of disturbing nationalist tendencies.
These letter-bomb incidents have unsettling precursors in previous attacks, such as the 2016 murder of British MP Jo Cox.
Trump’s forcing-through of conservative judges into the Supreme Court – despite allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh – continues this lurch toward the populist right by turning the clock back on progressive reforms, hamstringing immigrants from enjoying their democratic rights, and other pending legal rulings taking the US closer to being a one-party state.
Hoping to rouse his grassroots voters ahead of the midterm elections, the President has annulled the landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia and promised to accelerate the US’s production of new nuclear weapons. This will almost certainly prompt Moscow and Beijing to follow suit while making it far more difficult for America to take the moral high-ground in its negotiations with North Korea, Iran and others — leaving aside Israel’s warheads.
As well as taking the world closer to nuclear Armageddon (if the planet doesn’t boil first due to Trump’s climate-denying pull-out from the Paris Accord!) this drags us toward worldwide anarchy: For the past seven decades the earth has been profoundly bound together by international treaties and legal systems governing trade, the environment, human rights, international justice and multilateral defense. Trump has taken a sledgehammer to every one of these legal regimes, not just absolving the US of its international obligations, but also allowing rogue states to behave similarly.
In the Philippines, thousands have been caught in the crossfire in President Duterte’s brutal war against drug barons, yet Trump showers him with praise. Kim Jong-un represses and starves his long-suffering nation, but because he agreed to a photo opportunity in Singapore earlier this year, he is now the President’s best friend. Putin violates all international norms but, for reasons which Trump alone understands, the occupant of the White House is incapable of offering a word of criticism. Meanwhile the genocide of the Rohingya people proceeds without any prospect of justice, and a million Uighur Muslims are cast into immense “re-education” internment camps as part of a Chinese experiment in cultural extermination.
After the Second World War, while Europe still lay in ruins, it was the US which spearheaded and bankrolled this UN-centered rules-based system in which we were reared. The US leader is now hell-bent on tearing this up. For those such as John Bolton, this is the culmination of decades of polemic against multilateralism. For Trump this mindless vandalism wins him cheap applause from xenophobic supporters.
Trump recently praised a senator for assaulting a journalist. When he denounces the media as the “enemy of the people” it is inevitable that hardcore supporters take him seriously. All attacks against journalists must be condemned, including the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. As violence against journalists becomes normalized in America and elsewhere, a 2020 Trump victory could mean that this is just the beginning.
Democrats had looked ready to storm the House of Representatives in November’s mid-terms. The Kavanaugh furor and Trump’s fearmongering about mass-immigration changed the dynamic by galvanizing the Republican base. Now the President is exploiting terrorist attacks encouraged by his own words to mobilize his supporters against liberals targeted by this bombing campaign.
If we fail to shake off the current mood of shell-shocked apathy to halt this wilful dismantling of the international system of laws and rights, there will be no escape from this dystopia where the media has been terrorized into silence and nuclear or environmental apocalypse lie just a step away.
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.