Thanks to the President of the United States (POTUS), the politics in the USA is heating up once again.
Twelve days after four Americans were killed on Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger, Mr. Trump called the widow of Sergeant La David T. Johnson and said that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” referring to the soldier only as “your guy,” according to Sergeant Johnson’s mother and a Democratic congresswoman, who both listened to the call.
The President’s condolence call exploded into a ruckus that deluged the White House last Wednesday when Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the soldier’s grieving mother, accused the president of disrespecting her family. As he has done many times in the past nine months, Trump angrily disputed that account, insisting that he “had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman”. He accused the congresswoman, Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, of politicizing a sacred ritual after initially saying that she had “fabricated” it. Ms. Cowanda Jones-Johnson backed the congresswoman’s version.
It was a self-inflicted wound. Mr. Trump opened the issue on Monday, Oct. 16, when he deflected a question about why he had not spoken publicly about the deaths of the four soldiers by falsely accusing his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of not contacting the families of fallen troops. The feud with Sergeant Johnson’s family was reminiscent of a public fight Trump began with the parents of a Muslim American soldier, Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 in Iraq.
The POTUS kept up his feud with the National Football League (NFL) over players who take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality against unarmed black men. He ignores that the constitution of the USA gives those players every right to protest. Trump became a catalyst last week when during a campaign rally in Alabama he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch of the field right now, out, he’s fired.’”
Some football teams chose not to come out onto the field at all, after Trump’s comments, while other teams have allowed their players to protest at their own discretion. Some baseball and basketball players – Black and White – have also joined in the protest.
Trump also revived his unproven charges that the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had lied, leaked information and protected Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election.
Earlier this year, Trump faced criticism after the comments he made following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying there was a fault on “both sides” — the white nationalists and the counter-protesters who opposed them — for the violence that led to the death of one counter-protester.
President Trump’s insensitive remarks and kowtowing with the emerging fascist forces around the globe is widening the racial and religious-divide within the USA.
Former president George W. Bush on Thursday rebuked President Trump’s divisive policy without mentioning his name. He called on Americans to reject bigotry and white supremacy. In a speech for the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York, Bush made bold statements criticizing the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party that has rallied around Trump.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain said — a reference to the Nazi slogan that the nation was built on the purity of its blood and soil. “We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism,” Bush said without directly mentioning Trump. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
“When we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with protecting and defending democracy,” he said.
Later, Bush added, “We need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have great advantage. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”
Bush said American children need their leaders to be role models of civility. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” he said.
And he took a clear stand against racism, something Trump’s critics have said he has been unwilling to do. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” Bush said.
He added that people today are too often “judging groups by their worst examples” and ourselves by our “best intentions.”
Three days ago, GOP Senator John McCain gave a speech similar in tone to Bush’s remarks, calling for a return to American ideals and rejecting bigotry. In his speech, McCain warned against “half-baked, spurious nationalism” that is being perpetuated by Trump and his supporters: “To fear the world, we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Following Bush’s address, McCain tweeted Thursday morning: “Important speech by my friend, President George W. Bush today, reminding us of the values that have made America a beacon of hope for all.”
If such wise remarks and rebukes were meant to sober up President Trump and his white supremacist supporters those surely failed miserably. Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser, blasted George W Bush depicting him as bumbling and inept, faulting him for presiding over a “destructive” presidency during his time in the White House. Speaking to a capacity crowd at a California Republican party convention on Friday night, Bannon said Bush had embarrassed himself, didn’t know what he was talking about, and had no idea whether “he is coming or going, just like it was when he was president”.
On the other side of the Atlantic, on Oct. 19, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK published a report which showed that police recorded 5.2 million offences in England and Wales in the year to June 2017, up from 4.6 million the previous year, with violent offenses experiencing a 19% rise.
The crime report must have excited Mr. Trump who next day (Friday) tweeted: “Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid the spread of Radical Islamic terror.’ Not good, we must keep America safe!”
Apparently, when it comes to blaming Muslims, President Trump is all agog to share his obscenity; no one has to wait for weeks to fathom where he stands. However, as before, he got it all wrong.
The crime report, in fact, cover only England and Wales, as opposed to the entire U.K. By way of comparison, while the current homicide rate in England and Wales is 11 homicides per one million of the population, the U.S. has an intentional homicide rate of five homicides per 100,000 people (which is nearly 5 times that of England and Wales), according to the World Bank. Of the 664 recorded homicides in England and Wales (a 2% fall compared with the year before), only 35 (i.e., 5 percent) related to the terrorist attacks by radicalized Muslim extremists.
There’s not only one problem with Trump’s assertion. There are many: More substantially, the 13% rise is not specifically linked to Islam or terrorism. In fact, the increase is largely attributed to a surge in stalking and harassment (up 36% from June 2016 to June 2017) and sexual offenses (up 19%). A jump in robberies (up 25%) and car theft (up 22%) were also to blame.
Overall, the crime in England and Wales is falling long-term despite year-to-year fluctuations. A decade ago, 24 in 100 adults were victims of crime. Today, it’s 14 in 100. In 1995, it was 40 in 100. This fall continues despite an uptick in the number of high-profile terrorist attacks in Britain over the last few years.
As USA TODAY has previously reported, the number of attacks and deaths from terrorism in Western Europe is down significantly from 20 to 40 years ago, when political — rather than religious — extremism was the cause.
As I have noted elsewhere, if Trump and white supremacists and fascists are serious about combatting terrorism they need to identify root causes behind such incidents. The home-grown terrorism committed by some Muslims in the West also has its roots in problems that many young Muslims face today. Ignoring such causes from their effects are simply stupid! Consider, for instance, the statistics on hate crimes and racist incidents recorded by the police in the UK, which was published two days before the ONS report that showed a 29% spike in recorded hate crimes (including any crime motivated by religion, race, sexuality, disability or transgender identity) in the 12 months before March 2017 compared to the same period between 2015-16. Arguably, hate crimes can trigger someone to snap and do the unthinkable.
It was not immediately clear who Trump was quoting in his tweet about the ONS report. Now we are told by the Media Matters that Donald Trump’s tweeted claim about crime rates in the UK being linked to “radical Islamic terror” was reportedly sourced from a pro-Trump, conspiracy news network – One America News Network (OANN) that aired such fake news early in the morning Washington DC time.
As we have seen many times, whenever an insane or radicalized Muslim commits mass killings, such events are overblown in the fascist-leaning media, and exploited by the xenophobes and white supremacists to create a public hysteria that, sadly, masks the fact that the number of attacks and deaths from terrorism in Western Europe is down significantly from 20 to 40 years ago, when political radicalism rather than religious fanaticism was the cause.
The region was targeted by 604 terror attacks that killed 383 people in 2015 and 2016, according to the most recent figures compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.
In 1979 and 1980, by contrast, 1,615 terrorist incidents killed at least 719, the most attacks and deaths since the database began tracking attacks in 1970.
“Terrorism in Western Europe remains less frequent compared to the number of attacks that took place in the region in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s,” said Erin Miller, a researcher who manages the database.
Terrorists in prior decades were political fanatics or agents of state-sponsored attacks, including Northern Ireland’s Irish Republican Army, Spain’s Basque separatists, Italian radicals and Libyan agents’ bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism director, said it is difficult to understand why people become terrorists, whether their cause is religious or political.
“There’s all these different factors involved: poor integration, poor education, discrimination, a difficult neighborhood, the need to be part of a group or to have a sense of purpose,” he said. “What we do know is that extremists want to conduct many more small-scale attacks,” de Kerchove said.
Although random attacks understandably cause great public alarm, research shows that the chances of being killed by a terrorist in Western Europe are extremely slim compared to terrorist hot spots in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and Pakistan, according to PeaceTech Lab/Esri Story Maps.
More than 100,000 people were killed in terrorist incidents in the Middle East and Africa since 1970, about a third of the global total. In Europe, the figure is around 6,400.
In 2016, Western Europeans were 85 times more likely to die of a heat wave than from terrorism, 50 times more likely to die in a biking or water-sports accident and 39 times more likely to be killed by consuming a toxic product. They were 433 times more likely to die of suicide and 32 times more likely to die by homicide.
“Our societies in North America and Western Europe have managed over the course of the last century to reduce the risks of a wide range of factors commonly associated with death, ranging from various forms of acute respiratory illness and cancer to heart disease all the way down to car accidents and homicide,” said Robert Muggah, a security specialist and co-founder of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank that computed the probability findings.
“We know earthquakes and floods kill far more people than terrorism, but we give a huge amount of attention to terrorism even when it involves small numbers of casualties,” he said. “It whips our society, which is a low-risk society, into a kind of frenzy and augments the perceived risk.”
The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents a number of groups, said in a statement: “Scaremongering based on intentionally misrepresenting data is often associated with the radical right – it is disappointing when such incompetence instead comes from the President of the United States of America.”
Some Britons, including politicians, took to Twitter to vent their frustration at Trump’s erroneous characterization of the report. “Stop misleading and spreading fear. Hate crime is up and it is fueled by the kind of populist xenophobia you peddle,” wrote Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats.
However, with the sources like the Fox News and OANN feeding ‘fake news’ to divide America along the racial and religious lines why would Trump seek out anything else? After all, his ascendancy in politics owes it to such divisions and fear-mongering hysteria.
No wonder that the president has been called a lot of names since entering the White House: ignorant, mentally unstable, an orange orangutan and even a dotard by Kim Jong Un. Now, Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson and conservative member of Parliament, has added another name to that list “daft twerp”. [Twerp is a common schoolyard nickname, it means a silly, insignificant or annoying person, and daft is an adjective meaning silly or foolish.]
The tweet from the Churchill family member may take Trump by surprise since the president has mentioned in the past how much he likes Churchill. He’s even got a bust of the leader in the Oval Office.
Will this latest epithet from Churchill’s grandson sober up Trump? Fat chance!