Wednesday, August 16, 2017
A GOOD PIECE
لم أستطع ألا أعلق على تصريح السفير الأميركي السابق في دمشق، روبرت فورد، في مقابلة صحيفة الشرق الأوسط معه، والتي يصل بها إلى ما نشر اليأس بين السوريين، حين قال ببقاء بشار الأسد. هذه هي النتيجة التي أراد أن يوصلها، عن قصد، كما أراد أن يوصل رسائل مهمة حين ذهب، في عزّ توسع الثورة السورية إلى حماة برفقة السفير الفرنسي.
بقاء الأسد مستحيل في كل الأحوال، وهذا ما يطيل الصراع، حيث لم تستطعروسيا، بكل جبروتها، أن توصل مقاومي النظام الذين صنعوا ثورة عظيمة إلى هذه النتيجة. وسيبقي بقاء الأسد الصراع قائماً، ولن يفيد هنا كل جبروت قوة روسيا، واستخدامها أحدث الأسلحة. بالتالي، ربما أن فورد يكمل ما بدأه حين زار حماة، أي التشويش على الثورة، ودفع الشعب السوري إلى حالة اليأس.
ما استرعى الانتباه في تصريح فورد قوله إن زيارته حماة جرى تفسيرها خطأً، حيث فُسّرت دعماً للثورة، وبالتالي استخدمها النظام لتشويه الثورة، ودليلاً على أنها مدعومة أميركياً. ومن جهة أخرى، فهمها من "الثوار" المعارضة دعماً أميركياً لهم، وهذا ما أطلق الأوهام حول "الدعم الأميركي". ويحاول فورد في تصريحه أن يقول إنه تصرّف كأنه ساذج، ومن تلقاء ذاته، أي من دون طلب من الإدارة في واشنطن. وبالتالي، كان الأمر "مصادفة"، لكنه فُهم خطأ من الطرفين: النظام والمعارضة. ولا شك أن في هذا الحديث عن السذاجة سذاجة، حيث لا يقوم سفير أميركي بخطوة من هذا القبيل بشكل عشوائي، وبلا قرار من الإدارة في واشنطن، ومن ثم بلا هدف تريده هذه الإدارة.
بالتالي، يمكن القول إن تصريح فورد يوضّح اللعب الأميركي منذ بدء الثورة السورية. هكذا بالضبط. وهو اللعب الذي لا يزال قائماً، فما أشار إليه السفير السابق لم يكن نتاج خطأ في الفهم، ولا نتيجة سذاجة، بل كانت الإدارة الأميركية تهدف إلى أن يُفهم موقفها على الشكل الذي أورده. أي أن يستغلّ النظام الأمر من أجل تشويه الثورة، وإلصاقها بـ "المؤامرة الأميركية"، ويكون لديه مستمسك واضح هو "دعم أميركا الثورة"، حيث زار السفير الأميركي الشعب الثائر و"دعمه". وأميركا تريد ذلك، بالضبط لأنها تريد تشويه الثورة، وتقديم المبرّرات للنظام لكي يسحقها، حتى وإنْ كانت التهمة هي الدعم الأميركي لها. فقد أرعبها توسّع الثورة من تونس إلى مصر واليمن والبحرين وليبيا وبلدان أخرى كان يمكن أن يتطور الحراك فيها، وكانت تحتاج من يسحقها، بعد أن فشلت مناورتها في تونس ومصر، حتى عملت على تحقيق تغيير سريع لكي تنطفئ.
بهذا كانت أميركا تقدِّم للنظام السوري ورقة مهمة، يمكن أن يستغلها ضد الثورة. تمثلت المسألة الأخرى في دفع المعارضة وراء أوهامٍ تجعلها تزيد في تخريب الثورة، حيث تعمل انطلاقاً من أنها تُدعم من أميركا، وتتصرّف على هذا الأساس، وتلقي التصريحات، وتزيد في المطالبات، بما يعزّز اتهام النظام لها بأنها "عميلة" لأميركا. وهذا فعلاً ما حدث، والمعارضة تعلي الصوت داعيةً أميركا إلى التدخل العسكري، ومراهنة على دورها بدل المراهنة على الشعب، وفهم أن الارتباط بأميركا يعني حصولها على رفض شعبي، وتخويف فئاتٍ شعبيةٍ هي مع الثورة.
للأسف، نجحت أميركا في "خطتها"، واستطاعت أن تقدِّم للنظام ورقة مهمة ضد ثورة الشعب السوري، سواء بإظهار أنها مع الثورة، أو في إظهار تبعية المعارضة لها، فقد كانت تريد أن تسحق الثورة، لا أن تنتصر هذه الثورة، وكانت عبر، ما فعل سفيرها، تحرّض من أجل أن تتأكد مصداقية النظام في اعتبار الثورة "مؤامرة". .. ونجحت نتيجة غباء المعارضة التي صدَّقت أن أميركا يمكن أن تكون مع الثورة.
The US president has gone even further than before in condoning the racist right. He must pay the price, at home and abroad
A GREAT GUARDIAN EDITORIAL
A GREAT GUARDIAN EDITORIAL
In his angry and undignified press conference on Tuesday night, Donald Trump deliberately and shockingly crossed the line that separates the acceptable and the unacceptable in the conduct of an elected democratic leader in a multiracial society. Mr Trump must now face the consequences of this momentous and inexcusable decision. Those consequences should include the way that the leaders of multiracial European nations, including Britain, conduct their dealings with the US president from this moment on.
On Saturday, Mr Trump had already equivocated between America’s white racists and its anti-racists, after clashes in Charlottesville in which an anti-racist protester was killed by a car driven by a neo-Nazi activist. Mr Trump’s evasions drew widespread and instant condemnation, not least from within his own party. On Monday, he then read out a statement, clearly written by others, that sought to repair the damage. But the very next day, speaking with his own voice, he trashed his own retraction.
Mr Trump not only reasserted his view that the white supremacists and their opponents in the Charlottesville clashes were morally equivalent. He went further. He said that there were good people on both sides, thus implicitly lending at least partial presidential approval to a far-right rally in which swastikas were displayed, Nazi salutes made and antisemitic chants shouted. He also went out of his way to side with the supremacists against the removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee – the ostensible cause of last weekend’s clashes – suggesting this could presage similar action against memorials to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson since both were slave-owners. Mr Trump’s petulant and narcissistic demeanour made it clear that he is more outraged by criticism and with the American press than he is with his country’s racists and its neo-Nazis. He clearly cannot help himself. But that is no excuse.
This is therefore a moment at which America and the world need to display the moral clarity of which the US president is so embarrassingly incapable. There are not “many sides” to the arguments that came to the boil in Charlottesville and since. There is a right side and a wrong side. Racism, antisemitism, white supremacism and Nazism, new or old, are wrong. A leader who cannot bring himself to say this clearly and unequivocally is not just clueless. He also forfeits his claim to moral authority and much of his right to be respected as leader. Yet that is where Mr Trump has put himself.
The question facing America in the wake of these events is how to get through to 2020 with its values, institutions and social decencies intact. America has plenty of resources to show that it is a better country than Mr Trump makes it appear. It will surely succeed. The most important test is for moderate Republicans. They must find the right way to turn away from Mr Trump before the next election. If they do not, they will lose, and they will deserve to lose.
There are some signs that moderate and independent Republicans grasp this. The two former Presidents Bushissued a strong statement against racial bigotry, antisemitism and hatred on Wednesday. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did the same, stating “there are no good neo-Nazis”. House speaker Paul Ryan retweeted Mr McConnell’s remarks, and issued one of his own which said there can be no moral ambiguity about “repulsive” white supremacism and bigotry. Many other important Republicans made similar statements. Very few of them, however, called out Mr Trump by name. With all members of the house facing election in 15 months’ time – and a small cluster of off-year contests in November this year – Republicans will face many more demanding tests of their resolve well before 2020.
But Mr Trump’s behaviour poses questions for multiracial European nations as well. Politicians on this side of the Atlantic must show moral clarity themselves. British leaders responded well to Mr Trump’s remarks. Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable led the way on Wednesday. Others swelled the chorus, not least the communities secretary Sajid Javid with a “Neo-Nazis: bad. Anti-Nazis: good” tweet. Words, though, are not enough. Mr Trump is still US president, so governments must deal with him. But there is no place for special courtesies now. Mrs May was wrong to offer Mr Trump a state visit. This country does not want it. The Queen does not need it. It must not go ahead. We will all be better off without it, and Mrs May should now say so.
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Donald Trump’s press conference was a grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. At least it united the Republicans in disgust at their president
Donald Trump the neo-Nazi sympathizer has achieved what Donald Trump the president has singularly failed to do: unite the nation.
An immensely fractured country – riven by race, class, culture and politics – finds itself transfixed by one grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. These are the same violent racists whom White House aides previously called, in remarks that Trump read out loudly and very carefully: “criminals and thugs.”
But that was so Monday. One short day later, the leader of the nation – that daily proclaims its commitment to liberty and justice for all – declared there were “very fine people” in Charlottesville, who simply joined a neo-Nazi rally to protest about a statue.
“You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest – because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit,” Trump helpfully explained to the astonished press corps at Trump Tower. “The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story.”
Sadly for Trump, there is only one side to the political reaction to his comments: sheer disgust. As an apologist for racist protestors – even though they obtained a precious permit – Trump has magically created a sense of spine in his own Republican party.
This is something of a biological miracle because people like Marco Rubio, his vanquished former rival – the man he used to deride as little Marco – was previously classified by entomologists as an invertebrate.
“Mr President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain,” tweeted the Florida senator. “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”
Even in the abbreviated hashtag world of tweets, this counts for something. No doubt, Rubio will return to his spineless state when the next vote comes around. No doubt, he and his fellow Republicans in Washington will later excuse the abuse of a nation as the drunken talk of an otherwise good-hearted man.
But at this moment of testing, there is no excuse for standing on the sidelines in silence. Those who speak out deserve some praise for doing the right thing, if only to remember what the right thing looks like next month, when Congress returns.
So mazeltov to Paul Ryan for siding against the anti-Semites like this: “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
Of course this country also stands for the statues of Confederate generals. In fact, those statues were themselves erected in a concerted effort to resurrect the old evil that Rubio describes.
There’s a reason why so many of them rose up in the 1920s, a generation or more after the Civil War. This was the era when the KKK was reborn, thanks in no small part to the new media of its day: specifically, the moving picture known as The Birth of a Nation.
Those statues were the larger-than-life resurrection of the dead and defeated Confederacy at a time when lynchings were the strange fruit of the south, and the civil rights struggle was led by a relatively new group known as the NAACP.
Those Confederate statues had nothing to do with the statues erected to commemorate the slave-owning founding fathers, as Trump argued on Tuesday.
“So this week it’s Robert E Lee,” complained Trump. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
“You’re changing history,” he added. “You’re changing culture.”
Never mind that these statues themselves were an effort to change history and change culture. Never mind that the culture they represent was an abomination on America’s history and a moral affront to the values enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
There is no finer expression of the white supremacist mindset than this kind of cultural defense. The so-called citizens’ councils of the 1950s also argued they were just trying to protect their culture from sliding down the slippery slope of civil rights, integrated schools, voting rights and economic opportunity for minorities.
What drives Donald Trump to such extremes? Yes, we know he has a long history of racism: from his belief in the guilt of the Central Park Five to his announcementspeech riff about Mexican immigrants as rapists. Yes, we know Ivana Trump said he kept a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside.
But it would be an omission to leave out the driving force of his candidacy and his presidency: his visceral hatred of Barack Obama. Trump has no clear ideology and no clear purpose to his presidency, other than his obsession with overturning everything Obama stood for. His presidential campaign began with a racist lie about Obama’s birth certificate; his presidency continues to smolder with resentment about the enduring life of Obamacare.
As they say on Scandal, and in too many American homes for too long, you have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have. How it must pain Donald Trump to know that his predecessor was twice as good at everything from inauguration crowds to legislative victories.
Let’s be honest. Trump’s sympathy for neo-Nazis is no more shocking than his pussy-grabbing boasts, his continued profiting from the presidency, his coddling of (and alleged collusion with) the Russians and his obvious obstruction of justice by firing the FBI director.
There is, amid all the random tweets and undisciplined press comments, a remarkable consistency to Donald Trump. He is the very man Hillary Clinton warned us that he would be.
How he can continue as commander-in-chief of the world’s most diverse military force is something of a mystery. How he can continue as the leader of a big tent Republican party is inconceivable.
Perhaps the civil rights movement itself holds some lessons of what lies ahead: the moment of most violent white-lash is the moment when civil rights takes its biggest steps forward.
When James Meredith enrolled as the first black student at the segregated University of Mississippi in 1962, there were riots from a white mob, quelled only by federal troops. After a year of studies, racial harassment and protection by US marshals, Meredith graduated in a peaceful commencement ceremony.
Four decades later, Meredith returned to see his son graduate with the top honors from the business school at Ole Miss. He said he was far more proud of his son than he was of his own time there.
For his part in changing its culture and its history, the university made an important statement about Meredith, the man it had so roundly abused: it installed a statue of him striding towards its entrance.