The shock waves emanating from Donald Trump becoming the presumptive Republican candidate for President have not subsided. Much of the world is alarmed over the statements and policy pronouncements that he has been making, and the racist and xenophobic tendencies that he and his supporters have been demonstrating. Everyone is well aware that the President of the United States has immense power and influence on the rest of the world, which is why the world is following closely this year's elections in the U.S.
As an immigrant from Iran living in exile in the United States who advocates peace and democracy, I am keenly interested in and deeply concerned about the upcoming presidential elections. The Middle East is on fire and its destruction and slaughter of its people have been continuing unabated for years. Like many others, I believe the horrible state of the Middle East is largely due to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the so-called humanitarian intervention of the NATO Alliance, including the U.S., in Libya, the intervention of the U.S. and its regional allies in Syria, and the U.S. support of Saudi Arabia's military rape of Yemen. Aside from invasion Iraq, everything else has happened during the Presidency of a Nobel Peace Laureate, Barack Obama, who was elected twice on an antiwar platform. Thus, the question that hundreds of millions of people from the Middle East and the Islamic world, including me, have been asking is what would happen to our region if Trump is elected President?
Even seasoned politicians are deeply concerned about the Trump Presidency. James Baker, Secretary of State during the first Bush administration, testified in the Senate that Trump would make the world less stable. General David Petraeus, former CIA Director and commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, wrote in the Washington Post that Trump's anti-Muslim bigotry aids Islamic terrorists. Both believe that a Trump Presidency would threaten U.S. national security and vital interests. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Trump's suggestion for banning Muslims from the United States "stupid, divisive and wrong." The Economist Intelligence Unit recently listed a Trump Presidency as one of the top 10 global risks. When such prominent people are so concerned, it is clear why ordinary people, and in particular those from the Middle East are so deeply worried.
Trump has been using and abusing the setbacks that the United States has suffered over the years to his own advantage, creating an image of this country that is simply not true. All societies, whether democratic or dictatorship, grapple with real socio-economic problems, ranging from poverty and unemployment, to inflation, national debt, discriminations, murders, suicide, rape, addiction, and illegal foreign immigrants, and the United States is no exception. The various solutions that are presented for such problems usually divide the people into right and left, liberal and conservative, far right and far left, etc.
Undoubtedly, the United States is not as powerful as it used to be, and there are several reasons for it. The U.S., the largest economy in the world, and its 5 percent unemployment are competing with powerful rivals, such as China that may surpass this country over the next 10-15 years. China holds over $1.2 trillion of U.S. bonds. It exported $481 billion worth of goods to the U.S. in 2015, $365 billion more than what it imported from America. Chinese citizens own property in the U.S. worth at least $110 billion, and their investment in the U.S. real-state market is increasing rapidly. The average rate of economic growth of China from 1981-2014 was estimated to be 9.5 percent.
Compare these statistics with those of the U.S. Its public debt stands at $18.5 trillion. Its average rate of economic growth from 1981-2014 was 2.7 percent. The growth rate decreases to 1.5 percent, if we consider only the last 15 years. And, the economic gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the population has dramatically widened. The incredible gap, coupled with the decline of the American power worldwide requires explanation as well solution. In fact, solution and explanations have been offered. In his book, The Price of Inequality: How Today's Society Endangers Our Future, Noble Laureate Joseph Stiglitz offers one solution. Harvard Professor and political philosopher Michael Sandel analyzes the problem in his book, What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.
Politicians may emphasize non-economic factors that have given rise to social inequalities, and ignore the fact that markets may transform governments into servants of the top 1 percent, and trap the vast majority in unjustified discriminations and inequalities that eventually destroy democracy.
In every nation the far right blames foreigners for the country's political and economic crises. Good examples include the National Front in France and the Neo-Nazis in Germany. The far right dismisses the structural problems and the domestic developments as the reasons for the crises, attracts attention to the foreigners, and blames them for their own plights.
Trump as the American Version of Europe's Far Right
Trump has repeatedly used the "us against them" slogan. He blames foreigners for the decline of the American power and its domestic crises. In his view immigrants and foreign powers are responsible for all the problems in the United States. His simplistic view can be reduced to the following: "innocent America" has helped everybody, but has been shafted by others who have looted the U.S. national wealth.
Compare Trump's view with Stiglitz's that he discusses in his book, Making Globalization Work. Stiglitz is not just an academic, or inexperienced. He worked for the Clinton administration and the World Bank. In his book Stiglitz demonstrates how the U.S. government imposes its own discriminatory interests and those of the American corporations on other nations.
Let us consider Trump's claims about foreign governments and immigrants, to see better his far-right views.
Trump and Foreign Powers
Trump has raged against several nations. Consider the followings:
Iraq: We all know that the George W. Bush administration lied to the American people in order to justify its illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, if not more, were killed, Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed, it has been partitioned into three regions one of which is controlled by Daesh (also known as the ISIS or ISIL), tens of thousands of American soldiers were killed or injured, and the war will eventually cost $3 trillion or more.
Instead of discussing and emphasizing the U.S. destructive role in the carnage, whose least consequence has been Daesh, Trump speaks as if the U.S. has been cheated. And, why? Because Trump believes the U.S. should have confiscated Iraq's oil fields for the cost of the way. "In the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong[ed] the spoils," he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC in 2011.
"You go in. You win the war and you take it. . . . You're not stealing anything. . . . We're taking back $1.5 trillion [worth of Iraqi oil] to reimburse ourselves."
Iran: Trump has emphasized that the nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 has been "very bad," that the U.S. was cheated again, and that the agreement has endangered Israel's security. He said in March that the U.S. has given Iran $150 billion and asked rhetorically whether that was not stupid, given that Iran purchased Airbus passenger planes, instead of Boeing's. He repeated his claim in April, claiming that Iran is using the $150 billion to purchase weapon from others. He declared that if he is elected President, he would sell to Iran $12 billion worth of missiles that are defective and do not work, hence deceiving the Iranians. Trump's claims about Iran are all false.
First, any money that Iran has received or will receive is its own that had been frozen in banks outside Iran due to the crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iran. Second, the Obama administration has stated repeatedly that Iran has $55 billion in the frozen accounts, not $150 billion. Third, a short while ago Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran has so far received only $3 billion. Fourth, the U.S. took away $2 billion of Iran's Central Bank money to compensate the families of victims of the Beirut bombing in 1983, which Iran has called it "the greatest theft."
Saudi Arabia and the Arab Nations of the Persian Gulf Area: In January Trump claimed that the Saudi regime will not last without U.S. support, and that Saudi Arabia makes $1 billion a day from their oil export and thus they should pay the U.S. for its protection of the Saudis. Trump also claimed that Iran will soon develop nuclear weapon and devour Saudi Arabia. Then, in March Trump claimed that,
"We're not being reimbursed for the kind of tremendous service that we're performing by protecting various countries. Now Saudi Arabia's one of them," adding, "We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher."
Syria: Trump has suggested creating a safe zone in Syria, paid by the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf.
Mexico: Trump believes that Mexico is a dangerous country, which exports its worst people to the United States. His solution is building a wall along the border with Mexico, paid by that nation.
Japan: In an interview with the New York Times Trump said that the U.S. used to be a very wealthy nation that provided free service to other nations, but it is no longer that rich. He added that the U.S. protects Japan against various threats and do so for free. Thus, he asked rhetorically why Japan does not take responsibility for its own defense against North Korea. Trump also said that the reason the U.S. is so much in debt is that its powerful and costly military does not serve the United States, but is used to protect others, including Saudi Arabia, but they are not willing to pay for it. Trump pointed out that North Korea threaten Japan with nuclear warheads, not the U.S. Thus, perhaps Japan should have nuclear weapon to defend itself.
The NATO Alliance: Trump believes that NATO is obsolete, and that the U.S. pays a disproportionate share of its cost. "NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger -- much larger than Russia is today," he said in March, adding, "As a concept [NATO] is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved. I'm not even knocking it, I'm just saying I don't think it's fair, we're not treated fair." Trump believes that U.S. national debt will soon reach $21 trillion and the U.S. is "getting to be a large-scale version of Greece." He said that the U.S. infrastructure is collapsing, whereas those nations that use U.S. aid are making progress.
China: Trump has claimed that China is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy. Its tactic, according to Trump, is keeping China's currency, the yuan, undervalued, thus hurting the U.S. ability to export there. "On day one of the Trump administration the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China as a currency manipulator," declares Trump campaign's website, adding,
"China's ongoing theft of intellectual property may be the greatest transfer of wealth in history. This theft costs the U.S. over $300 billion and millions of jobs each year. China's government ignores this rampant cybercrime and, in other cases, actively encourages or even sponsors it."
Trump and Immigrants
When it comes to immigrants, Trump has amply demonstrated his xenophobic and racist tendencies. Consider the followings:
Mexican Immigrants: It is estimated that there are 12 million undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the United States. Both Ted Cruz and Trump called for their deportation. Trump blames the high rate of crimes in the U.S. on such immigrants, claiming that Mexico sends its rapists, criminals, drug dealers, etc., to the United States. To solve the problem, Trump wants to build a wall on the border, with its cost paid for by Mexico.
Muslim Immigrants: In view of Trump and other Republican candidates, Muslims are the worst, and [all] are terrorists. Former Republican candidate Ben Carson called Muslims "rabid dogs." Trump believes that,
"There will be attacks [on the U.S.] that you wouldn't believe. There will be attacks by the [Muslim] people that are [here] right now that are coming into our country, because, I have no doubt in my mind."
He also said,
"I mean you look at it, they [Muslims] have cell phones. So they don't have money, they don't have anything. They have cell phones. Who pays their monthly charges, right? They have cell phones with the flags, the ISIS flags on them. And then we're supposed to say,
'Isn't this wonderful that we're taking them in?'" He has suggested a three-step program to solve this "problem":
"Donald Trump's ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe - it risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists. Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam - London has proved him wrong."
"We're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We're going to have to look at the mosques. We're going to have to look very, very carefully."
So, he wants to surveil the Muslim community in the United States.
Third, terrorist suspects may be tortured, such as waterboarding used during the second Bush administration, in order to provide information. Last November Trump said,
"Don't kid yourself folks, it [torture] works, okay? It works," adding, "Only a stupid person would argue otherwise."
And, during a GOP debate last December, Trump even suggested to take out not just the terrorists, but also their families.
What does Trump represent?
The question is, what do Trump's racist anti-immigrant views represent? Listening to him takes us back to the 1930s, when Germans believed their country was a victim of foreign powers' conspiracy. It takes us back to the era when it was claimed that Jews were leading those efforts and the capitalist system. It reminds us of the time when the Nazis were trying to implement their "final solution." They all happened because one leader, Adolf Hitler, could deceive millions of Germans, unifying them for World War II and the Holocaust.
Now, in view of Trump and his supporters, Muslims and Mexicans have replaced the Jews. Instead of focusing people's anger on the discriminatory economic system, Trump tries to turn them against Muslims and Mexicans. He is riding the waves that have been created by the political oligarchy, but redirecting them toward foreigners and immigrants. His views about women are just as obsolete.
Fascism grows by simplifying complex societal problem and faulting "they/foreigners" for "our" problems. In this view "they" are different from "us," and in fact we are "superior" over them. This is an extremely dangerous development in the United States that threatens not only the U.S. national security and true national interests, but also peace and stability in the entire world.
This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei.