If an Iranian president talked like Trump we’d think them all nut cases

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Over the years the smug Western pundits have had a good deal of fun at the expense of unhinged Middle Eastern rulers. There was Daffy Gaddafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. One headline in the 1990s spoke of ‘the fruitcake ravings of Gaddafi.’ A book about Saddam was entitled “The Demonic Comedy.” Columbia University president Lee Bollinger ridiculed Ahmadinejad to his face.

All three of these leaders were indeed a piece of work and perhaps the ridicule was well deserved.

But it did not stop there. American politicians are fond of the phrase “the civilized world.” We (they mean northern European white people) belong to it. Countries with looney and authoritarian presidents do not.

Bollinger said to Ahmadinejad,

“And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for.”

A lot of Iranians were revulsed by what Ahmadinejad stood for, too, and when the regime stuffed ballots for him in summer 2009 the country exploded in protest. But a lot of American observers saw Ahmadinejad as emblematic of Iran, and as a sign of its lack of civilization.

Ironic, since Elamites and then Persians were among the inventors of civilization. The Book of Isaiah praised Cyrus the Great as virtually a messiah for his emancipation of the Jews in exile in Babylon. It is odd that a lot of Americans are so illiterate about archeology and history. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was also often advertised as a civilizing mission, as though Mesopotamia had not given us so many of the basic elements of civilization, including the Code of Hamurabbi and astronomy.

Bush once said that Iraq would soon be able to take the training wheels off, as if the country he destroyed were a 3 year old and he was the adult. That bike crashed.

So you see where I am going with this. Now it is America’s turn to be ridiculed for having a madman as a president.

If Iran or the Sudan had a president who went around saying the things Trump says, we’d consider them a bunch of nut cases.

In just the past week, think of the erratic and fascist things Trump has said. He virtually threatened to nuke North Korea and refused to walk that back on Thursday. He gushed, thanking Russian president Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 US diplomats from Moscow. He had, he said, wanted to find a way to fire them anyway. “There’s no reason for them to go back there” he said. Just last week he let the alt-NeoNazi wing of the White House propose a “White America” immigration policy. He is signaling he wants to cancel US support for the Iran nuclear deal. He is toying with putting rogue mercenaries in charge of Afghanistan.

European diplomats and politicians consider Trump a “laughingstock”. About 80% of the European public say they have no confidence in him.

It isn’t just Europe. The Chinese Communist Party, which under Mao’s cultural revolution in the 1970s had some erratic moments itself, is privately worried about Trump’s lack of consistency.

And if you do not think the antics of the Orange One affect how Americans and the United States are seen around the world, you’re not reading very widely.

Being perceived as a country full of nut cases who voted for a nut case can have deadly downstream consequences. If the US abruptly needed allies in some struggle, as George H. W. Bush did in his quest to save Kuwait from Saddam, would any sign on?

The poor opinion of us generated by our election of Trump and by his continued freak show even has economic implications. Chinese consumers are not sure they want American goods any more.

The difference between the US and those Middle Eastern countries with unhinged dictators is that the latter usually came to power in a coup of some sort. Americans freely elected Trump, even after they knew the worst about him.

So those Congressmen who hold forth in stentorian tones about our leadership of the civilized world might want to tone it down a bit. Our club membership has been revoked and there may even be a charge for broken furniture.


Related video:

Charlie Sykes on Trump & North Korea: ‘Erratic Narcissists Playing Chicken’ | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

11 Responses

  1. election results of some of the countries you mention Professor are often of dubious validity, but a recent presidential election in the USA was hardly a paragon of virtue. Clinton won more votes than Trump, but Trump became president. Had this happened in any other country there would have been cries foul and fraud etc. Libya was a highly successful country before the West decided on regime change and had Saddam Hussein not been toppled and sanctioned half to death, Iraq would now be a highly successful country and a leader in middle East affairs. As it is they are both basket cases with no sign of anything changing any time soon.

    • Libya was a highly successful country? Why did it fall to pieces so quickly after the strongman Gaddafi was gone?

  2. The problem is (corrupted) Congress that continues to support Trump as the President of the USA.

  3. Yesterday we saw Trump the showman doing what W did. We all remember the Bush team issuing a red alert on their ridiculous multi color chart when their popularity numbers were tanking.

    The North Korean dictator is the perfect villain for a president looking to rally the base. Unfortunately for us Kim is not Saddam.

  4. How about David Frum?

    At the top of his twitter account we read,

    Senior Editor, The Atlantic. Author, “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic” (HarperCollins, Jan. 2018)

    Wow! That sure sounds like solid liberal credentials and just look at the title of the book that will be out in January!

    On the other hand, there was an article published yesterday

    The warhawks who drove the Republicans rightward in the early 2000s likely bear more responsibility for Donald Trump’s ascendancy than all the Russian hackers and “fake news” websites put together, but liberals are more than willing to let them off the hook if they provide limp critiques of their own party as penance. Naturally, many of them are doing just that. The neocons’ strategic retreat from the smoldering wreckage they created was a clever gambit, in many ways reminiscent of a classic insurance scam. Like an insurance scam, it can be wildly successful when carried out with adequate skill and commitment — and no one is more committed than David Frum, the George W. Bush speechwriter who introduced America to the “axis of evil.”

    Frum has disowned the claim to “axis of evil” term, but he is getting around these days ….

    CNN. MSNBC. CNBC. CBS. ABC. Newsweek. The Daily Beast. New York Magazine. Vox. The New Yorker. NPR. The Atlantic. They all either have David Frum as an editor, grant him bylines, or allow him to flap his enormous jowls about Trump and Russia live on the air. In the last year, Frum has appeared 40 times on MSNBC and 10 times on CNN to talk about Trump, a hectic schedule that often leaves him no time to shave. If you count the networks’ websites, where Frum writes vital commentary like “Marijuana use is too risky a choice,” the number of Frum appearances is far higher. The Atlantic made him a senior editor in 2014, and in return, he writes them four or five columns a week about how Trump is an affront to political decency. While Frum is certainly given a platform disproportionate to his skill as a writer, he isn’t terrible on a technical level. He can write a column without including too many mixed metaphors and bizarre anecdotes, a rare skill among center-right commentators. He knows how to provide exactly what his audience wants, whoever they may be at the time. But overall, Frum is nothing more than a mediocre man with bad opinions, which makes it all the more puzzling how much personal history his benefactors are willing to overlook.

    don’t you know, being nice is what matters

    If the policies Frum backed at the peak of his influence are so close to those of the current administration, why does he hold Trump in such contempt? The descriptions of Bush in The Right Man suggest a similar motive as other #NeverTrump conservatives — a non-negotiable commitment to good manners. Frum’s recollections show a particular reverence for Bush’s demeanor. Bush brought a certain evangelical stoicism to the Oval Office, as Frum painstakingly pointed out. No one in the administration drank, smoked, cursed or referred to Bush as anything other than “the president.” Frum wrote that he once made the mistake of using the word “damn” in a meeting, at which point the entire room went silent and shot him icy glares……

    And they fostered wars that have cost trillions of dollars, made the world less secure, and the biggest crime is not facing The New Climate Regime. In the mean time, “liberals” are embracing him in the breathless TV shows that describe the latest Trump atrocity. And the democratic establishment has maybe begun to move back to that radical position, The New Deal.

    Link to article on Frum

    Things are bad, and David Frum makes them worse:
    The ubiquitous commentator has been beating the war drum for nearly two decades.

    • Don’t know what provoked this invective against a guy whose really just another neocon. Give Frum the discount he’s due and move on.

      My comment is that its not only worthwhile but important to read those who at least pass for “conservative thinkers” on the right (as they certainly abuse the idea of people who do their homework and plan for doing the smart thing over the long haul). Brooks, Wills, Frum, etal: the better ones are at least good writers and (other) people follow do their lead.

      This is as opposed to the congress, who are simply bought off. For all their lack of values and judgement, as a group these pundits are as appalled by T as anyone else. The hope is that the right will join the left in limiting the damage Trump seems determined to inflict on the US and the World. And that may be what we should all hope and aim for.

      A even more dangerous future might just be Pence, unencumbered by Trump’s fundamental incompetence and empowered by a genuinely terrifying sense of his personal God-Given destiny.

  5. “Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was also often advertised as a civilizing mission, as though Mesopotamia had not given us so many of the basic elements of civilization, including the Code of Hamurabbi and astronomy”
    That was a long, long time ago though. Had Saddam’s militaristic Sunni dictatorship generated Noble Peace Prize winners and discovered exoplanets then perhaps the Bush administration would have not used that phrase.

  6. The Aussies have already been signed up as partners in this madness, thanks to their PM, a faithful puppet of Uncle Sam. No more thoughtless questions asked about Australian citizens gunned down by trigger-happy cops in Minneapolis.

  7. When a new president in Iran starts his term of office, he meets with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who officially “endorses” his election. In the ceremony that was held last Saturday when Khamenei endorsed Ruhani as Iran’s 12th president Ruhani made a speech in which he said:

    “Freedom, independence, democracy, security and social justice are among the great achievements of the Islamic Revolution. The other advantage of religious democracy is that we have all accepted that we have different political, economic and cultural opinions in our society of 80 million, and we have accepted that ultimately it is the people’s votes that choose their desired path.”

    Iran may not be the world’s best example of democracy, security and social justice, but it is important for Ruhani to utter those words in the presence of Khamenei and in a ceremony broadcast live throughout Iran. Referring to US policies towards Iran, Ruhani said:

    “Today is the time for the mother of all negotiations, not the mother of all bombs. The U.S. has showed a lack of commitment in its implementation of the nuclear deal because its policymakers are addicted to the illegal and futile policy of sanctions and humiliation. This has proved the U.S. to be an unreliable partner to the world and even to its longtime allies. We do not wish to engage with political novices . . . Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life by doing so and the world won’t forget their noncompliance.”

    It seems the roles have been reversed. Now, the US president speaks about “fire and fury” and nuclear bombs being “locked and loaded” while Iranian president speaks about negotiations not bombs.

  8. As a Canadian living just above the 49th parallel about the only thing I can keep reminding myself is the North Korean government is more mature than Trump and won’t fire the first shot. Trump, in my opinion is, bat shit crazy. he talks like he is at some fantasy world.

    In terms of nut bar world leaders, at this point, I’d suggest Trump wins. Who talks about nuking another country for trying to defend what it considers its sovereignty. I’m not crazy about North Korea having nukes, but hey I’m not crazy about India and Pakistan having them either, but that is life.

    North Korea is a sovereign nation and who is the U.S.A. to tell them what they can and can not do with their weaponry,. Its not like they’re good friends. North Korea has always seemed a tad “nervous” about the west and not without reason. those years of sanctions didn’t help things.

    Trump makes the Iranian leaders of the pas seem very reasonable and sane.

  9. In a similar vein, on his August 4 HBO program, Bill Maher ended the show (his “New Rules” segment) with an Obama impersonator reading Donald Trump quotes in Barack Obama’s voice.

    The humor derived from how absurd it would be for Obama to say such ludicrous things, but it also threw into sharp relief how conservatives would have FREAKED-OUT if he did.

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