Last week Donald Trump launched his version of the Manhattan Project against the U.S. Constitution. This week judges all over the country saw the executive orders to prevent refugees, legal permanent residents, and citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering this country for what they are: illegal, unconstitutional. They halted enforcement.
Stymied for now on that front, this week Trump directed his bluster and aggression against smaller countries, albeit staunch allies and big trading partners of the United States.
Australia has shed and continues to shed blood fighting with the United States for a century. In the nineteenth century, Mexico shed a lot of blood fighting against the United States when this country lied itself into war by portraying a skirmish that took place on the Mexican side of the border as an aggression against the United States on its own soil. That was the pretext used to justify the U.S. war of aggression against Mexico by which this country stole almost half of Mexico.[ii]
The Mexicans have never forgotten or forgiven, but the last few presidents of Mexico have been friendly to the United States, sometimes to a fault. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, fits that mold in spades.
Yet neither a longstanding alliance forged in blood nor a series of presidents who have tried to mend a relationship marred by aggression and contempt by the north for the south matters to Donald Trump.
Last week Trump phoned the Mexican president and threatened to send U.S. troops into the country to take care of the “bad hombres” the Mexican army fears but the American armed forces do not.
The mind boggles at how many insults (for instance, to Mexican sovereignty), how many wounding barbs (the Mexican army is chicken), how much arrogance and historical ignorance Donald Trump can pack in a short phone call. It was a tour-de-force of chutzpah and stupidity raised to nth power by the certainty that the U.S. military can inflict harrowing damage against Mexico with impunity. It was the act of a bully and a coward.
The phone call to the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was almost mild by comparison, though not in the light of history or in eyes of Australians. Trump railed against the PM’s insistence that the United States honor an agreement by the United States, made during the Obama administration, to take in about 1,200 refugees currently being detained by Australian immigration authorities.
It was a small favor granted to a friend that provides invaluable intelligence and military support to the United States. Serious countries keep their promises, regardless of the administration in power. Serious leaders have their fact and numbers straight. Trump seriously overstated the numbers involved under the agreement, mislabeled refugees as illegal immigrants, and said they were being held in prison instead of in temporary immigration detention. Not able to bully Turnbull, Trump hung up on him.
“This is what we get,” the Australian people must be asking themselves, “for having America’s back all the time?”
The stupidity in Trump’s action lies in the fact that both the Mexican president and the Australian PM represent the side of the political spectrum in both Australia and Mexico that favors a cozy relationship with the United States. Trump’s actions can only bolster the chances of the sides in Australia and Mexico that favor a harder line toward the United States. Excellent strategy.
It should be noted with shame that right here in Miami-Dade County, the largest metropolitan area in the nation with a foreign-born majority, we have our very own ugly American, in our case, to make matters worse, an ugly Cuban-American.
Mayor Carlos Giménez has distinguished himself for being the only mayor of such a diverse city to cowardly cave in to Donald Trump’s threat to withhold discretionary federal funds from any city that does not turn its police and jails into de facto arms of the new regime’s deportation apparatus.
The irony is that Giménez, an immigrant himself, sold out the community for far fewer pieces of silver than he expects to get. Congress, with Paul Ryan and his merry band of Republican Robin-Hoods-in reverse in the lead, are getting ready to cut most of those funds to the bone marrow. Will Trump make an exception for Miami-Dade to reward our brown-nosing mayor? Giménez should ask Peña Nieto and Turnbull what bowing down to the United States got them in return.
[i] The web site for the publisher of the book “The Ugly American” (1958) explains that the book “coined the phrase for tragic American blunders abroad and is “a slashing exposé of American arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in Southeast Asia.”.[i]
[ii] “Alternative facts,” blatant lies, have been a part of American history forever. Ask the Native Americans who signed all those treaties which the government never kept.