Con Man Hell – Moral Equivalency

Day 30     1,432 days to go until, judging by this week, Trump responds to losing the 2020 presidential election by continuing to insist he won and refusing to leave the White House

Pretty interesting week given the Putin-friendly West Wing and an amazingly delusional press conference. But right now I’m thinking about Trump’s response to the statement (based on quite a bit of evidence) that Putin is a killer, which was of course that the US has done a lot of bad things too. No judgment of Putin allowed, but what does Trump think of those “bad things” the US has done? Was he condemning them?

Trump is right, of course, but as you start to look at some of those bad things, and you remember what Trump has said over the past year plus, things get more complicated. Since 9-11, here are some of the bad things the US has done. We put people in Guantanamo Bay without charging them with a crime and without much access to lawyers, including people we simply picked up at the wrong place and time, people our government eventually admitted had not done anything to justify being arrested, much less put there. We tortured people, committing exactly the same acts we prosecuted as war crimes after World War II. Torture doesn’t work, and is highly immoral, along with, you know, war crime. We have also killed a lot of innocent people through drone attacks, which we feel bad about (well, we did under Obama) but keep doing because we are at war and we don’t mind people dying as collateral damage, as long as they aren’t white Americans.

Are these the kinds of things Trump meant? What we know is that he has already ordered one action in Yemen that killed a lot of children without it bothering him in the least, he has said he wants to bring back torture (but been batted back on that one, so far, by the people that would actually have to do the torturing), and he says he wants to fill Guantanamo Bay. And he wouldn’t be picky about whether someone was guilty, it has become very clear that when Trump is accused of something the other side is wrong/evil/the enemy, but when Trump accuses someone they are by definition guilty and, really, no trial needed.

How about earlier bad things? The US government locked up 120,000 Japanese-Americans citizens and Japanese legally living in the US, one of the government’s worst acts of the 20th century, but Trump advisors have used that as an example of why it would be ok to round up Muslims, when it should stand as the exact opposite: a warning that letting government decide on guilt or danger without evidence about specific people is completely wrong. Maybe the 19th century genocide of American Indians and their culture? Given that it was a land grab, it is reasonable to assume that Trump, who says we should have taken Iraq’s oil, considers this to have been a good thing, not a sin. What about slavery? Well, that was rich whites doing awful thing to people they saw as their “property.” Maybe Trump would condemn slavery, at least. He has no sense of history, so I doubt he meant any of these, though since he never gives specifics it is hard to know – deliberate on his part, so his supporters can imagine he means whatever sounds good to them.

If he actually meant anything, only recent comparisons would make sense. So if the recent things that come to a historian’s mind as awful are either things Trump says he wants to do again, or do more of, maybe he didn’t mean we couldn’t judge Putin too harshly because we did not have clean hands. Perhaps he wasn’t criticizing Putin and the US alike as much as aspiring to be like Putin.

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