The neglected, ignored or justified suffering of the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine is only part of the great indifference of ‘liberals’ because in the US they are just as indifferent to the suffering of their own people.
By Jeremy Salt
David Remnick is editor of the New Yorker, a magazine renowned for its sophistication, its wit and the cuteness of its cartoons. Liberal elites like to brand themselves by reading the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Guardian and Le Monde and Le Monde Diplomatique, at least in the English translation, although the original French looks good tucked under the arm. Their consumption of these newspapers and journals establishes them as well-read and well-informed citizens of the world, so they might be inclined to think. Consequently, as those who live out there in the ‘rust belt’, terra incognita for the inhabitants of the east coast, have no real place in their lives or in the pages of the journals and newspapers they read, beyond the occasional feature story that examines them much as an entomologist might examine a colony of ants, it is not surprising that they were caught short by the election of Donald Trump.
The emergence of the slimy black beast from the depths could not have horrified Mr Remnick any more than the rise of Donald Trump. Overloaded with bile brought on by the Trump victory his spleen bursts and sprays muck over his cool New York manners like drunken vomit down an Armani suit.
‘An American Tragedy’ would have been more accurately entitled ‘An American Tirade.’ The subject matter could have been the layoffs, the loss of homes and suicides of those Americans who took out subprime loans and were caught when the financial institutions collapsed in 2007/2008.
The subject matter could have been the soldiers who lost their lives or their limbs during the invasion of Iraq. The subject matter could have been the first black man elected as president, promising change but refusing to close Guantanamo and signing off every Tuesday on the drone missile attacks that killed thousands of people in far-off lands during the eight years of his presidency. Included in this account would have been the war he launched on Libya, along with his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ending in the destruction of the country and the killing of perhaps 40,000 people before both moved on to the destruction of another country, Syria.
But ‘An American Tragedy’ was written about none of these things. It was written about Donald Trump and what he might do as president, not what Obama and Clinton actually did as president and secretary of state. For Mr Remnick the judgment is already in, ruling out any possibility that Mr Trump could change his views or modify them once he moves into the White House.
‘An American Tragedy’ is laden with pamphleteering invective. Trump’s election is shocking and sickening, a grievous event, a tragedy of nativism, misogyny and racism, representing xenophobia and white racism and disdain for women and minorities. Trump represents unbounded vulgarity. He is knowledge-free, his election ‘a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right.’ His world is characterised by vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth and recklessness. He is a demagogue who utilises the ‘populist rhetoric of blood and soil’, a ‘marginal self-promoting buffoon’, a ‘billionaire of low repute’, cruel and retrograde, a human being of dismal qualities, gross, mendacious, bigoted, a cheat, hollow, a flim-flam man and egotistical to a degree rarely exhibited outside a clinical environment. There’s not much left of him after this.
This extraordinary cascade of hate is coupled with praise for the sainted Obama, a man of integrity, dignity and generous spirit, and praise for Hillary Clinton, ‘a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled.’ Well, perhaps this is because these and even more odious aspects of her character are not an image but the reality, certainly as perceived by millions in the US and around the world.
The record unexamined by David Remnick or anyone else in the ‘liberal’ media shows that Clinton has a long record of deceit and chicanery going back to her time as the governor’s wife in Arkansas, apart from her flawless record of warmongering. She supported her husband’s war in the Balkans and the Bush wars on Iraq: she initiated the war on Libya and jump-started the war on Syria until she stepped down to contest the presidency. This woman, who seeks to make political capital out of her defence of the rights of women and children everywhere, is actually responsible for the death of untold numbers of them in various parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Feminists who support her overlook this rather basic point. Libya, the most advanced country in Africa, was destroyed because of a war launched by Obama and Clinton. Tens of thousands of Libyans were killed and Muammar al Qadhafi murdered in the most gruesome way, an event which amused Clinton greatly.
None of these horrors have any place in the world view of David Remnick and other ‘liberals’ blubbering over Clinton’s defeat. Trump will have to go a long way to surpass the crimes committed or sanctioned by Clinton and Obama in the Middle East and North Africa, yet in the view of David Remnick, it is Trump who is the repulsive, disgusting, sickening human being and not Obama and Clinton: they are decent, competent people of integrity. What the election showed is that a decisive number of American voters were not taken in by these two or the people who promote them. They were not prepared to trust them again.
Their indifference to the large-scale killing of brown people in far-off lands establishes certain truths about these ‘liberals.’ They have a conscience but only up to a certain point. They are liberals but only up to a certain point. They are outraged by affronts to gender and ethnicity but not outraged by the violent consequences of decisions taken by politicians they seem to idolise. Their indifference to the human consequences in the Middle East and North Africa of decisions taken by Obama and Clinton establishes them as closet racists. In Syria they are horrified by the excesses of the Islamic State while sucking up all the lies told by ‘activists’ embedded with dishonestly labelled ‘moderate’ groups supported by their government and other governments.
These ‘liberals’ support justice and truth but only up to a certain point. It was David Remnick who refused to publish Seymour Hersh’s account of the lies told about the (alleged) chemical weapons attack outside Damascus in August, 2013. Hersh is a truly heroic figure, a humble man but a great investigative journalist who has broken some of the biggest stories in the past half century, from the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968 to the torture and killings at Abu Ghraib exposed in his New Yorker article in 2004. The magazine was his home base until he submitted his article on the chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta district.
In line with the New Yorker’s propaganda output on Syria (‘Syria’s War on Doctors’, ‘Assad’s War on Aleppo’, ‘Bashar al Assad’s War Crimes Exposed’), Remnick refused to publish Hersh’s evidence that it was ‘rebels’, backed by outside governments and even provided by them with the sarin they used, and not the Syrian government, who were responsible for this most appalling atrocity. Shown the material, the Washington Post also refused to publish. The relationship with the New Yorker had started to fall apart in 2011 when Remnick refused to publish a Hersh article debunking the official account of the killing of Osama bin Laden, suggesting that he write it as a blog instead. Both investigations were eventually published by the London Review of Books.
The New Yorker’s hostile line on Syria can be matched with its long-standing indulgence of Israel. In October 2013, Remnick published ‘Lydda 1948’, an excerpt from a recently published book by Ari Shavit, My Promised Land, which justifies the massacre of Palestinians by Zionist armed gangs.
In this excerpt, Shavit describes the Zionist assault on the Palestinian city of Lydda in July, 1948. The expulsion of the population was preceded by the gunning down of people in the street and a large-scale massacre inside the Dahmash mosque which, Shavit writes, ‘may have been brought about by a tragic chain of accidental events.’ In fact there was nothing tragic or ‘accidental’ about it. This was a deliberate massacre, in line with numerous other massacres carried out across Palestine. Hundreds of people had taken shelter inside the mosque when Zionist soldiers machine-gunned them. Of the 426 Palestinians murdered in Lydda that day, up to 176 were killed inside the Dahmash mosque.
Here is Shavit’s summary: ‘Mula Cohen and Shmarya Gutman [the commanders of the operation but carrying out the orders of higher authorities stretching all the way up to David Ben-Gurion] were right to be angry with the critics of later years who condemned what they did in Lydda but enjoyed the fruits of their deeds. I will not damn the brigade commander and the military governor and the 3rd Battalion soldiers. On the contrary I’ll stand by them because I know that if not for them the state of Israel would not have been born.’
Well, is this not like standing by the German soldiers who massacred civilians in the Czech village of Lidice or in the French town of Oradur sur Glane? They also had their orders and their justification but no genuine liberal can possibly justify such behaviour and it is because Israeli ‘liberals’ like Ari Shavit and Benny Morris do, and because US ‘liberals’ like David Remnick go along with them, that Israel has been able to continue committing the most atrocious deeds for the past 70 years. Lydda was not acceptable, not justifiable for any reason and it is the capacity to justify the unjustifiable that is the sickness at the heart of Zionism.
The neglected, ignored or justified suffering of the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine is only part of the great indifference of ‘liberals’ because in the US they are just as indifferent to the suffering of their own people. The rust belt towns might as well be as distant from East Coast liberals as the shattered towns of the Middle East. Their ‘identity politics’ do not extend to identification with these victims of government policies. Taken by surprise, the only way ‘liberals’ could explain the election result was to attribute the meanest motives to the people who live in these towns.
Thus, they voted for Trump because they were resentful, maladjusted white middle-class males. They voted for Trump because they were racists or misogynists, a favorite line of befuddled feminist chatterers everywhere. They voted for Trump because they were ‘deplorables.’ The ‘liberals’ treated these people as if they did not have aspirations for themselves and their children and did not have the capacity to think rationally, above the prejudices the ‘liberals’ say determined their vote. This was arrogance on a grand scale. Not once were they prepared to concede that the reason these people turned on the political establishment was that it had failed them and that their idols – the sanctified Obama and the ‘flawed’ Hillary – were part of the failure.
Consider these basic facts. In 2008 – the year Obama was voted into the White House – 3.1 million foreclosure notices were served on American homeowners. 861, 664 families lost their homes. Foreclosures were up 81 per cent in 2008 and up 225 per cent compared to 2006. Since 2000 alone five million manufacturing jobs have gone in the US, partly through technology and the introduction of robotics and partly as the result of the relocation of US corporations overseas. At the same time as this was happening, the government was bailing out the financial institutions responsible for the crash of 2007, largely triggered off by the collapse of predatory prime-mortgage based hedge funds. At least $700 billion was allocated to Wall Street alone, with the Government Accountability Office estimating in 2013 that the crash had cost the US economy more than $22 trillion. It estimated that the paper wealth lost by US homeowners had amounted to $9.1 billion. Do ‘liberals’ think that Americans who lost their houses and jobs and had to watch their tax money being given to Wall Street had forgotten all this by the time they voted in 2016?
According to Mother Jones, the government bailout temporarily repaired the economic damage while worsening the underlying conditions that led to the collapse in the first place. According to Matt Taibbi (‘Secrets and Lies of the Bailout’, January 4, 2013), the bailout committed US taxpayers to ‘permanent blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash … the public has been lied to so shamelessly and so often in the course of the past four years that the failure to tell the truth to the general populace has become a kind of baked-in official feature of the financial regime.’
And who was it who bailed out these institutions, by digging into tax revenue? Barack Obama. And who has a very close relationship with Wall Street, who takes its money and furthers its interests? Hillary Clinton.
There are clear links here between the people of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine and the US rust belt. What the US election seems to have forced into the open is a class war waged against any individual or social group that upsets a local and global order supported equally by sophisticated New Yorker reading ‘liberals’ as well as the neo-conservative right.
Trump is no more than the bell wether of millions of Americans whose interests cannot be allowed to prevail, hence the campaign to destroy his presidency even before he is inaugurated. Globally, the same liberal class supports war and/or the marginalisation, exclusion or demonization of all those who transgress the limits they allow. The list includes Palestinians who reject a collaborationist leadership, supporters of Chavism in Latin American and of Fidel Castro in Cuba and indeed anyone anywhere who dares to stand against an established economic and political order dictated from Washington but now challenged by Russia and China globally and by millions of Americans locally.
The central problem for these ‘liberals’ and the political class they represent is that they are losing control of the narrative, and thus losing the power to control the course of events in their own country and beyond its borders. Hence the frustration, the rage, the abuse and the invective directed against Trump and his supporters. These thwarted ‘liberals’ are now clutching at any straw in their campaign of resentment and rejection. There is no evidence that Russia interfered in the elections but they keep repeating the lie, as Clinton did during the election campaign, in the apparent hope that people will finally believe them. They say Putin is the new Hitler, that Trump is his puppet, a smear taken further with Remnick’s allusion to Trump’s ‘blood and soil’ rhetoric.
They plan to close down ‘fake news’ sites, when they themselves have promulgated the greatest catalogue of lies, over Iraq, Libya and Syria, we have seen in our modern history and when the ‘fake news’ sites they abuse have opened the eyes of millions of people to facts and interpretations they have suppressed. The hypocrisy and double standards, as usual, are massive.
One does not have to like Trump to take the view that on balance he was a better option for many Americans than Hillary Clinton. This was certainly true for people of the Middle East. Neither are any good on the question of Palestine but whereas Clinton threatened more war, including the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria which could have led to a direct confrontation with Russia, Trump promised to spend the money wasted on trying to overthrow other governments inside the US. Whereas Clinton threatened to stand up to Putin, resurrecting McCarthyism in her own political interests, Trump said he wanted to talk to him.
There is much about Trump to dislike or to regard as threatening from a ‘liberal’ perspective. Where Trump will lead the US and the world remains to be seen but we have seen where the ‘liberal’ political and media establishment has led both in the past eight years, and whether inside the US or very far from its borders, especially in the Middle East, people want no more of it. David Remnick needs to unsaddle, get off his high horse, stop raving and ranting and do his best to understand why.
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.