Tuesday 22 October 2019

Jennifer Rubin: 'Trump's 'fever-dream fantasies' pose real threat to US'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jennifer Rubin

One of the most alarming aspects of US President Donald Trump's unfitness for the job is the danger he poses to national security.

The 'Washington Post' reports: "It is not clear whether he does not comprehend what he is told, does not remember it, does not want to understand or chooses to deliberately mislead. Whatever the cause, the effect is dangerous and deeply harmful.

"Among [the issues involved] are North Korea's willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence and implications of global climate change, and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the killing of a dissident journalist."

In short, on the most volatile and far-reaching international challenges Trump is operating in an a-factual world, making decisions based on ignorance, impulsiveness and/or disguised self-interest.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI official, tells me: "The president is engaging in wilful ignorance and placing our nation's security in peril." He continues: "Claiming North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat or the Saudi crown prince is not accountable for a murder may bolster Trump's false narrative, but in the end, it erodes our standing in the world, gives licence to our enemies and diminishes our intelligence professionals."

Former FBI special agent Clint Watts agrees: "Whether it's Russia, Saudi Arabia, China or North Korea, he's being outplayed in fights he picks because he doesn't do his homework.

"President Trump lives in a world of his own choosing that is devoid of reality. He has the best intelligence community in the world and it's not helping inform any of our policies." He adds: "It's also demoralising for those risking their lives at times to get threat intelligence."

What can be done? "Those dedicated experts must continue to speak truth and attempt to influence those who can influence the president," says Figliuzzi.

Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin endorses that view. "In times like these, the best thing for intelligence officers to do is to just keep doing their jobs - striving to be models of objectivity and truth-telling at a time when such qualities are so elusive elsewhere."

At the very least, they should refuse to do what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis did in carrying up to Capitol Hill the president's blatantly false statements about evidence of Mohammed bin Salman's culpability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

They sacrificed their own credibility and ultimately could not persuade lawmakers to disregard what they heard and what common sense dictated about the crown prince's role in the murder.

I suppose at some point, officials (past and present) may be compelled to step forward publicly to warn the country if the problem worsens.

If Trump turns his fantasies into orders, imperilling our security and safety of our civilian and military personnel, we get into 25th Amendment territory. What, for example, would have occurred if Trump's hysterical focus on the caravan resulted in not just a useless border operation but an invasion of or military attack on an ally? At that point, we'd be in the midst of a true constitutional crisis.

There is a developing - and dangerous - gap between the hard reality of the US intelligence community and the "fever-dream fantasy" guiding Trump's imagination, according to Malcolm Nance, a former intelligence officer.

He further observes "intelligence analysis and reporting won't stop, because our intelligence professionals will always protect the nation first. But ignored warnings and alarms of our real enemies' intentions will cause [the US] to run hard aground."

In putting the US in this predicament, Republicans and Trump's enablers in the White House and cabinet bear a great deal of responsibility. The Faustian bargain they made - support and defend an unfit president to get tax cuts or judges or whatever - was a moral calamity.

Irish Independent

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