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Something For The Weekend... 07/01/20

by Chris Proctor


You have to wonder about Americans sometimes. I know all our elected leaders after Harold Wilson have considered them a superior breed of humanity and doffed their caps to them whilst fawning in the kneeling position, but I venture to suggest that these US paragons aren’t entirely faultless.


Naturally, I make an exception for Bob Dylan. But he aside, I have my differences with the nation. For one thing, it’s terribly difficult to know what they are thinking, if indeed they ever are.


Take their attitude towards state murder, for example. Not long ago, they were definitely against. They exploded into paroxysms of outrage when the turned spy and double agent Sergei Skripal was hospitalised after being poisoned in Salisbury. Old Trumpy dismissed 60 Russian diplomats and nailed up the doors of the Russian consulate in Seattle.


(Why Seattle was chosen is beyond me. What was wrong with the Russian consulates in Washington, San Francisco, New York or Huston? How come they were allowed to escape? It’s discrimination if you ask me. Anti-seattleism at its most blatant.)


Trumpy was appalled that Russia could ‘use military-grade chemical weapons on the soil of the United Kingdom’. So there we have it: against.


But then how are we to account for the US patting itself on the back for murdering the Iranian Qasem Soleimani? Is it a capital offence to be considered a bad man by the President of the US? I must declare a vested interest here and say I really hope not. I bet Don wouldn’t think I was through-and-through good.


I assume the essential difference to be the choice of weapon. That is, Americans think if you scatter some powder around the place and make a chap ill, that is a crime of prodigious magnitude. If you simply blow someone to smithereens with an explosive carried by an unmanned drone, this is reasonable. Laudable, in fact.


And as Trumpy points out, this Soleimani fellow was ‘plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and and personnel’ before he was ‘terminated’.


Only the previous day, Don’s US Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf said that although Yanks are ‘always vigilant and ready to defend themselves’, ‘there are currently no specific, credible threats.’ Except, presumably, the ones Trumpy knew about but hadn’t mentioned to anyone from security.


Even Blair’s war-mongering wasn’t usually this ill-adept!


But then you think, all American politicians can’t be as bad as Trump. And indeed they are not. Some are even more absurd.


One of my favourites is a Congressman called Mark Green. Asked to comment on the Soleimani killing, he began giving ‘a shout out to the men and women of the U.S. military who took this murderous thug out.’ Mr Green is a thoughtful chap: on another occasion he defined his ‘duty as a state senator’ as ‘crushing evil’. He was talking not about international assassinations on other nations’ sovereign territory, but about transgender individuals attempting to enter the ‘wrong’ lavatory.


You wouldn’t believe old Greeny, who was Trump’s choice to be Secretary of the Army (more or less the equivalent of Qasem Soleimani’s role in Iran). Obviously he opposes any abortion after conception and rejects the absurd claim that human activity plays a major role in climate change, asserts that vaccines cause autism and holds that Darwin was incorrect. The world, he points out, was created in its present form by God between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.


This bloke is a congressman. He’s been elected. Can you believe that?


Mind you, as a politician he understands the positives of a good old-fashioned war. Yes, you have corpses, bereaved, mental and physical casualties, savagery, bloodshed and gore: but more importantly, you also have votes.


Thatcher was happy to exchange 649 young Argentines and 255 British soldiers for an election boost, and it’s a handy lesson not lost on Trumpy. Get that old flag wrapped round you, and you can’t go wrong. George W’s father’s approval ratings rocketed when he opted for the 1991 Gulf War , just as his own shot up after the 11 September attacks.


And given that the Yanks are having a Presidential election just before Bonfire Day this year, I would strongly advise purchasing a tin hat if you are considering going outdoors before November. I’m expecting an explosion of support for him; but I have no idea where it’s going to go off…

Chris Proctor has been head of communications at ASLEF and the Communication Workers Union, written for the Sunday Times, The Guardian, the New Statesman and Tribune, and is a columnist for the NUJ’s magazine The Journalist.