Wednesday 21 August 2019

Katrina vanden Heuvel : 'President promised restraint on foreign soil - but instead is bringing calamity'


Donald Trump (Alex Brandon/AP)
Donald Trump (Alex Brandon/AP)

Katrina vanden Heuvel

The lie of "promises made, promises kept", a favourite phrase in US President Donald Trump's stump speech for re-election, is perhaps most apparent in his foreign misadventures. The candidate who scorned "regime change", and promised to end the policy of "intervention and chaos", is sowing chaos and intervening from Yemen to Iran to Venezuela and beyond. Instead of wasting money on endless wars, Trump would rebuild America's roads and bridges. The candidate who promised restraint has only delivered more calamitous intervention.

Last week, Trump vetoed the bipartisan joint resolution of Congress directing the president to withdraw US support for the war in Yemen. This veto is a particularly execrable folly. The administration is continuing to support Saudi Arabia in its unconscionable savaging of that impoverished country, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Fourteen million Yemenis are facing war-induced starvation. A cholera epidemic has broken out.

After the Saudi regime assassinated 'Washington Post' contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside its consulate in Istanbul, Congress - led by Ro Khanna, in the House, and Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee, in the Senate - backed a joint resolution, under the authority of the War Powers Resolution, directing the president to end complicity in this horror. Bipartisan majorities in both houses voted to end this shameful policy started under Barack Obama. Instead, Trump reasserted the claim of untrammelled executive prerogative in matters of war and peace, and vetoed the resolution. Sadly, Congress failed to overturn the veto.

Meanwhile, the latest US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela has sputtered, tramples international law and gives lie to Trump's promise that "we will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with". The administration decided that the misrule by authoritarian Nicolás Maduro, whose election as president was marred by voting irregularities, must end. It rushed to support the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, when the opposition leader announced that he was the legitimate leader of Venezuela. In an economy that has already shrunk by half over the past five years, sanctions have been tightened and tightened again, to the point that former UN special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas has called them "crimes against humanity".

Trump announced that "all options were on the table". His truculent trio of advisers - National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and viperous special envoy Elliott Abrams - openly threatened US intervention. Frustrated by the public embarrassment of the failed coup, Pompeo warned that "military action is possible". Bolton asserts that "the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well. It's our hemisphere", and invokes the Roosevelt Corollary, claiming the US right of unilateral military intervention anywhere in the hemisphere. In 2015, Trump argued that "we're nation-building. We can't do it. We have to build our own nation". Now, his administration's aides are boasting about plans to revive the economy once Maduro is ousted.

Venezuela is a bitterly divided nation of nearly 32 million people. If the administration's coup does succeed, horrific chaos is sure to follow. And the "endless wars" that Trump promised to end, continue - Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and so on. Libya is a failed state, mired in violence since the "humanitarian" intervention. Trump apparently believes that a bellicose position on Venezuela can help him win Florida in 2020. His broken promises about opposing regime change and ending endless wars should cost him far more.

Irish Independent

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