Trump’s Real sin in DC is not distinguishing between “Good” and “Bad” Dictators

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald J. Trump’s peculiar comments about and relationship with dictators and loonies among foreign leaders have upset a range of observers, from sincere human rights activists to cold-blooded Think Tank Rats. First he welcomed the Philippines’ demagogue and possibly cold-blooded murderer Rodrigo Duterte to Washington. Then he said he understood the problems North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had battling off his bloodthirsty relatives.

But I would argue that the inside-the-Beltway Blob is mainly upset because Trump doesn’t seem to know the difference between the Bad dictators, whom you diss, and the Good dictators, whom you praise as strong allies. Trump just seems to like all the dictators.

Washington wants Trump to talk dirty about Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. (Two of the three were elected and Putin seems genuinely popular). But the Establishment is fine with him praising Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt (Sisi strong-armed opponents into not running against him, intimidated the press, declared a major party a terrorist organization and killed hundreds of them, and won office with a shameful 97% of the vote).

No one in Washington stands up and gives speeches criticizing Thailand’s repressive military junta. And the US Establishment was positively giddy when the corrupt Brazilian oligarchy impeached the elected president of Brazil and replaced her with a corrupt Brazilian oligarch. We haven’t heard anything more about either Brasilia or Bangkok on television news. Move along, nothing to see here.

Saudi Arabia would be too easy a subject here.

You’ve heard less about Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, who helped plunge his country into a deadly civil war and wreck millions of lives. Why, South Sudan was a US project, aimed at breaking up and weakening Arab Sudan. Sudan’s dictator, Omar al-Bashir is in the Washington dog house as Bad Dictator. Kiir Mayardit isn’t brought up.

The Bad Dictators are arguably Bad, and some are war criminals. But Washington tends to deal with the pro-American dictators by just not bringing them up much, or by stressing their friendliness rather than their rapaciousness when they are brought up.

Some of those Washington sees as Bad Dictators, however, are either not dictators or not bad, or not either one. Evo Morales of Bolivia was called “Taliban” by W.’s ambassador, presumably because he represents workers and the indigenous population rather than big business. I’m not aware that anyone has suggested he hasn’t been fairly elected, and he has been a good steward of the economy for workers and the middle classes.

Then of course above all you’re not allowed to bring up that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rules millions of Palestinians by military force, keeping them occupied and stateless and stealing their land while depriving them of the most basic human and civil rights. No Palestinian was allowed to vote for or against Netanyahu even though he rules them with an iron fist.

So get this. Evo Morales Bad, Netanyahu Good.

Nor is this a new phenomenon. Gen. Franco of Spain was at least informally part of the Axis, but by the 1950s Washington had rehabilitated him as an ally. We never heard about Franco’s crimes against humanity or embarrassing Fascism when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, but Communist leaders were constantly vilified. One’s attitude toward Capital seems to have mattered more than human rights considerations.

Is it as simple as American billionaires feeling threatened by some dictators but not by others, and instructing the US government accordingly? Be a popularly elected politician who talks socialism, and anything less than a perfect human rights record becomes a headline. Be a coup-maker who welcomes the foreign billionaires in to exploit your people, and you can sodomize prisoners of conscience with broomsticks all you like, and Washington won’t so much as cough politely in disapproval.

What the erratic Trump is doing in sucking up to people like Duterte is horrifying. But just keep in mind that he and his predecessors sucked up to people just as bad or worse, and it was never a headline if those dictators remained compliant with the wishes of America’s Chamber of Commerce.

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Related video:

CNN: “HRW slams Trump for Duterte invite”

8 Responses

  1. Trump has no clue about diplomacy and openly praising a leader like Kim Jung Un, saying he is a smart cookie, and he will be honored to meet him, is first and foremost, a weak position to be in. No American leader must and should shower praise on a man who has threatened the US, defies the world and keeps sending missiles around the neighborhood. Trump seems to have mental problems, and it is frightening to see it simply gets worse by the day. He is doing a lot of damage, and no one seems able to control it.

  2. Very well said, Juan. Hypocrisy prevails in the Washington swamp and the mainstream media as it has for generations.

    Let’s say Duterte is guilty as charged. How does he compare with the Clintons and the half million Iraqi children estimated to have died because of the sanction they maintained on Iraq with the support of Vice President Al Gore and SOS Madeleine Albright who said they thought it was worth it.

    Or, the Bush-Cheney wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

    Or Obama’s continuation of Bush wars and new ones in Libya, Syria and Yemen?

  3. When our President and his minions want to destroy our government, we are ALL AT GREAT RISK!! Even Trump loyalists. The Second Amendment means nothing when compared to nukes.

    Trifling with a man who can commit fratricide is not a good business deal under any circumstance.

  4. And of course we can’t forget Saddam, who went from being a “good” dictator while he was torturing and gassing his own people by the hundreds of thousands and making bloody war on Iran, to being a “bad” dictator when threatened the profits of U.S. and British oil companies.

    There’s a well-documented inverse correlation between a nation’s human rights record and the amount of U.S. aid it receives.

    The hypocrisy of the U.S. political establishment and media hangers-on is as boundless as it is shameless.

  5. China (the world’s largest dictatorship) has more people arrested and executed than these other countries combined but Americans are fine with buying their stuff at walmart and amazon. maybe because the US and China have so much in common with high incarceration rates and capital punishment.

    China is a member of the “nuclear club” and we want their help in excluding unwanted members like the North Koreans.

  6. “Saudi Arabia would be too easy a subject here.”

    It is worth writing about. Let us examine the ways Saudi Arabia commits human and international rights abuses:

    (1) Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid, and bans women from the most basic human rights, including but not limited to the (1) right to drive a car, (2) the right to self-representation in court and public offices, and (3) the right to assembly in public spaces. Of these offences, the second offence is particularly egregious. This offence is not repeated elsewhere on the planet.

    (2) Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that denies all it’s citizens the most basic democratic aspirations. It denies its citizens to contest the policies and governance of the largely uneducated and venal royal family. As the royal family lives off oil revenue, it denies the most basic services to ethnic and religious minorities.

    (3) Saudi Arabia commits the most egregious war crimes and international law violations worldwide, including but not limited to it’s actions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It has funded extremist groups allied with known terrorist groups that have committed pogroms in Syria and Iraq. In Yemen, it’s military has deployed clustered munitions and other heavy armaments to destroy Yemen. The result is that Yemen is food deprived and a humanitarian catastrophe.

    There are numerous other abuses that Saudi Arabia inflicts upon its citizenry and the world at large. In all of these listed cases, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed either tacit or overt support from United States and United Kingdom to enact these policies. Saudi Arabia sits upon half a trillion dollars worth of foreign exchange reserves. Instead of using this money for the betterment of its citizenry and the world at large, it pursues policies that are inimical to everyone.

  7. “Saudi Arabia would be too easy a subject here.”

    Saudi Arabia really reminds one of the Azadian Empire from the Culture novel ‘The Player of Games’ by the great Scottish writer Iain M. Banks. In the book the Empire has preserved its archaic imperial social arrangements well beyond the norm for a society with such advanced technology due the fact that every six years a complex game called Azad is used to determine social rank and political status. One is reminded of the role that Wahhabism and oil have had in preserving the absolute tribal monarchy of Saudi Arabia into the twenty-first century, a social arrangement most other countries left behind in the 19th century at the latest.

    Meanwhile being a (Latin American) left-wing politician automatically means the bar for what behavior constitutes ‘dictatorship’ is lowered to the minimum definition setting. Communist is still an easily reached for pejorative, though right-wing coups in Honduras in 2009 or Brazil in 2016 generate far more sympathetic treatment or at the very least a ‘nothing-to-see-here/man-we-can-do-business-with’ response. In some cases ‘bad’ dictators can become ‘good’ or a while (though they seem to get back-stabbed quite frequently). Look at how the Bush/Blair administrations used to send Islamist suspects to Syria and Libya to have them worked over by the local secret police services.

    Other than that, I suspect a great deal of Washington criticism has to do with how openly you as a leader will allow your territory and military to serve as auxiliaries in the US global garrison state, and how cheaply you will sell your resources to Western countries as opposed to Russia/China/Iran.

  8. The economic gain for Trump supporting cabal is the main governing principle behind all domestic or international decisions.

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