Despite protests from President-elect Joe Biden and other officials that the Capitol insurrection was “not who we are,” the U.S. government has a long track record of disrupting democratic processes elsewhere.
What has shaken the U.S. media and population so badly is really nothing by comparison to what U.S. operations have done in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, to other democratic movements and elected governments over the years.
World leaders reacted in horror over the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called on U.S. political leaders to demand their followers refrain from violence. Leaders of the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, France, Germany, NATO and the European Council called for a peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.
In statement, Venezuela’s government condemned political polarization and the spiral of violence, adding, quote, “With this unfortunate episode, the United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression.”
Trump lost his chance to actually seize full power on election night in November when he failed to stop the vote count. But on Wednesday he proved that he does have a street mob and that many in law enforcement are ready to stand back and let them rampage because they in see themselves as being on the same team as the Trumpists.
The Capitol was under siege from the outside, from the crowd, but at the same time, it was also under siege intellectually from the inside. You had about a third of the Congress that was toying with the idea of abolishing presidential elections.
Biden said, “This isn’t who we are.” But, in fact, this is consistent with the deep traditions of the U.S. rulers, restricting the franchise. The Founders always sought to do so, and the U.S. right today sees this as their only hope for political survival. It also the basic bipartisan U.S. principle of the current establishment that no election is sacrosanct.
Any election can be overturned as long as it’s a foreign election. The U.S. has supported coups consistently, nonstop, through every administration. After the Egyptian Army staged a coup and overthrew the country’s elected president, Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, said they were acting to restore democracy. Trump, along with General Kelly, his chief of staff, supported the stealing of an election in Honduras, where the candidate, Nasralla, was winning the vote count. Shortly before the U.S. had supported a coup to overthrow the elected president of Honduras, Zelaya. That was under Obama.
More recently, Trump supported a coup in Bolivia to overthrow the president, Evo Morales. After that, Elon Musk, the second-richest man in the world, worth $184 billion, tweeted this on July 24, 2020, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” That’s a pretty good statement of U.S. foreign policy. But now Trump is bringing that foreign policy home.
It has always been the case that the U.S. establishment was willing to use terror and kill civilians overseas, either to do things like seize oil, seize political power, or basically on whim. The presidency of George W. Bush was a prime example of that.
But Trump brought a unique aspect. He has the ability to unleash the beast in white America, to reach into people’s souls and bring out their worst aspects. He also has the ability to create a fascistic atmosphere. He’s a product of the American elite. He’s an oligarch himself. But he takes a different approach from the respectable presidents, who have been the soft, friendly face of ruthless American power. In a way he is exposing the American system for what it is through his behavior and the way he talks. But the movement that he has incited is a unique threat. And it has to be stopped.
At the same time I think it would be a huge mistake for people who are anti-fascist to respond to that by embracing the establishment, embracing authoritarian measures. Imagine how the laws and security procedures are going to be rewritten now. It’s almost a guarantee that it will be much harder now to hold demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and in the vicinity of the Capitol. It’s going to be harder for legal movements like the Black Lives Matter to go out on the streets again. There are sure to be more restrictions, including speech, through the newly empowered corporate censors, like Facebook and Twitter and perhaps through the government itself.
I think we have to be clear-eyed and not let this Trumpist movement coopt the idea of rebellion. Rebellion against injustice is a good thing. The problem is that the U.S. system is indeed unjust and murderous. But the Trumpists are rebelling against the aspects of the U.S. system that happen to be good: democracy, tolerance, and the chance for a democratic space in organizing. That’s what they’re rebelling against, on behalf of evils, like racism, madness, and blind obedience to the leader, Trump. But we have to be careful and stand against both that, but also the establishment, which is still the main power in the United States and that is now is now gutting the American poor, the American working class. That has to be rebelled against, just as we resist these fascistic forces. It is not easy to do both at the same time, but it’s necessary.
As for what Trump might do next, one deep tradition of the American establishment, and especially the corporate press, is to rally around the flag whenever an American president launches a new war. So, if Trump wanted to and if he could get the military to go along, he could bomb Iran. In fact, he recently sent a U.S. warship toward Iran, just to be prepared for that possibility, if his whim pulls him in that direction. He had previously been calling for his law enforcement authorities to do things like arresting Biden, arresting Hillary Clinton. He wasn’t able to pull that off, but clearly there’s still a lot he could do.
But even after Trump is gone, Elon Musk will still be there. He’ll still have his money. The American oligarchs will still be there. The U.S. security establishment will still be there, ready to do to capitols around the world what Trump’s mob just did to the U.S. Capitol.
What has shaken the U.S. population so badly, this assault on the Capitol yesterday, is really nothing by comparison to what U.S. operations have done in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East, to other democratic movements and elected governments over the years. Just days before this, remember, the U.S. Congress, by an overwhelming margin, passed the defense authorization bill to pump more money toward the Pentagon and overseas special operations, and, through other measures back operations of the CIA to go in and overthrow democracy. So, Americans are now getting a mild taste of their own medicine, in a sense.
- Victor Rothman’s article is based on a January 7, 2021, interview of Allan Nairn on Democracy Now.