The national security threats the behavior of President Donald Trump and his administration have posed to the United States have justifiably been the focus and concern of those members of congress leading the impeachment inquiry. After all, the Mueller report compellingly concluded that the Russian Government “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” and discovered numerous points of contacts between Russia and the Trump associates leading up to, and even after, the 2016 Presidential election. Trump’s recently discovered shenanigans in soliciting the Ukraine government to dig up dirt on his opponent Joe Biden and effectively interfere in the 2020 election.
The magnitude of the threat Trump poses exceeds the scope and dimension of national politics, though. While certainly American democracy and national security are gravely endangered under Trump’s rule, we need to recognize the hostility he bears to human life itself as he targets particular groups of people for dehumanization and even deadly harm. As I have suggested earlier and elsewhere in the pages of PoliticusUsa, Trump needs to be brought before the United Nations on charges of genocide.
Since I penned that piece two weeks ago, his rhetoric and ongoing behavior have clarified even more powerfully the genocidal ideology and practice that unifies his policies both domestically and internationally.
At a recent event in Dallas, Trump commented on the policy he is enacting in Syria, effectively disarming, if not actually removing, U.S. troops thus giving Turkey the green light to violently roll through the Kurdish people otherwise peaceably inhabiting northeast Syria. He discussed his foreign policy decision in the following terms:
“So you have a 22-mile strip,” said Trump of a Kurdish region along Syria’s border with Turkey, “and for many, many years, Turkey, in all fairness, they’ve had a legitimate problem with it. They had terrorists, they had a lot of people in there they couldn’t have. They’ve suffered a lot of loss of lives also, and they had to have it cleaned out.”
. . . . they had to have it cleaned out.
Experts and commentators quickly seized on the violent and deadly implications of Trump’s language, including Samantha Power, former U.N. Ambassador during the Obama administration, who pointed out how Trump’s language served as a direct endorsement of “ethnic cleansing.”
It is important to recognize that the genocidal rhetoric Trump applies to the border between Syria and Turkey, legitimating removal and even extermination of the Kurds, is really no different from the rhetoric he has deployed at home in his domestic policy regarding the southern border to validate an equally genocidal behavior.
When Trump talks about those peoples seeking to immigrate to the U.S. across the southern border, he has notoriously referred to them as “criminals” and “racists” and spoken about those “caravans” of people fleeing mass violence and seeking asylum as “invasions” or “infestations.” He uses similar language to talk about communities at home and abroad inhabited by peoples of color, referring to Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess” and Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.”
This language turns these groups of people, indeed entire nations of people, into problems that need to be “cleaned out.” Just as Trump insists that “Turkey, in all fairness,” has “had a legitimate problem” on the border with “terrorists” and “a lot of people in there they couldn’t have” such that “they had to have it cleaned out,” we see him using the same language with regard to people of color in our inner cities, to people of color from the south seeking to enter the U.S. legally, and to people of color in nations abroad. They all represent “a legitimate problem” needing to be “cleaned out.”
And, of course, even when he doesn’t execute policy, he inspires and mobilizes his racist army to action, as we saw both in the mass shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue and in El Paso. In both cases the shooters deployed Trump’s language of “invasion” to rationalize the mass killing of Jewish people and Mexicans, respectively.
And, of course, Trump does execute genocidal policy. His separation of children from their families at the border, and his caging of them, directly violates the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
Trump’s political vision and practice are genocidal in their objectives.
While an impeachment process might save American democracy from Trump and protect the nation from security threats, his political existence, his genocidal mindset, poses a much greater and larger threat to the world and its peoples.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.