I have been sitting on this one for a while. When the war crime pardons happened in 2019 I was appalled. They finally made it crystal clear for me that Donald Trump was something far worse than some amoral, vaguely racist grifter. We’re lucky that he is incompetent, because his vision of this country is not compatible with constitutional liberty. As with every fascist in history, Trump has started by targeting the weakest. If he’s given another term, he, or, more dangerously, the people surrounding him, will not stop there. I have known since last year that these pardons would be the centerpiece of my case against Trump. I hope that I’ve done a decent job delivering it. This video doesn’t just come from a place of outrage for the minorities persecuted, but out of a sense of self-preservation. This man is not good for the country. We need to vote him out.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Ladies and Gentlemen, Donald Trump is a fascist. This is obvious to me, and by the end of this video it should be obvious to you too.
Now there are a million ways to explain why all the fascist things the US government has been doing over the past 4 years aren’t really Trump’s fault. His decimation of all forms of immigration in an effort to keep the country whiter can be blamed on the creepy people he chooses as subordinates. Trump didn’t set-up the corps of publicly funded brownshirts that make up much of the Department of Homeland Security, George W. Bush did. And many of the nastier, “papers please” policies carried out by ICE and Customs and Border Protection actually originated under Barack Obama.
The Trump policies I want to talk about today, however, can’t be blamed on anybody else. These actions each caused a minor stir, before we all moved on to the next outrageous tweet, but I think they deserve more sustained attention. Because these actions, unlike everything else Trump does, are his and his alone. I am talking of course about Donald Trump’s presidential pardons.
Now before I can tell you that Donald Trump is a fascist, I have to tell you what I believe fascism to be. No, we are never going to see Trump strutting around in a uniform bragging about making the trains run on time like some mid-20th century dictator. Trump’s never been a military man, and he’s not actually competent at governing. Fascism has to go beyond the normal nationalist love of country and fear of the other. It has to be violently exclusionary. For me, fascism seeks to define who the good people are, through law and practice, and it actively seeks to place other kinds of people outside the protection of the law. And that’s exactly what Trump’s pardons do.
Trump’s pardoning of corrupt people with deep connections to himself and his party isn’t new. All presidents do this. They usually wait until the end of their terms, but these pardons of Trump’s aren’t as out of the ordinary as the New York Times wants you to think they are. A few of Trump’s pardons are legitimate corrections of injustices, which usually come about because some celebrity called him up and asked him to do it. Most presidents do these, but most presidents do more of them.
…and then there are the fascist pardons. These pardons send a very clear message. They say that killing people of color is OK, and good white Americans that use government power to kill Brown people shouldn’t suffer any consequences for it. These pardons are horrifying and they are Donald Trump’s and Donald Trump’s alone.
In recent years we seem to be deciding as a culture that police brutality is unacceptable. This is a very positive, but very new development. As recently as ten years ago, it was possible to become famous and politically successful in some parts of this country for brutalizing minorities on an industrial scale. And that’s exactly what Joe Arpaio did.
Between 1993 and 2017, Joe Arpaio was the elected Sheriff of Maricopa Country, Arizona. The prisons he ran were legendary for their bizarre cruelty and widespread abuse. He cheerfully called his tent prisons concentration camps, and denied medical attention and air conditioning to inmates in the brutal Arizona summers. He used fear of illegal immigration to systematically harass all Latinos in his jurisdiction. When challenged, he used his powers to investigate and baselessly arrest journalists and rival political officials. Finally, after costing Maricopa county 140 million dollars in settlements for his numerous abuses, including wrongful death, he lost an election in 2016. After repeatedly denying court orders to end a program of racial profiling, Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court in July of 2017. Arpaio had yet to be sentenced, and was unlikely to serve any time. But he was finally suffering a minor consequence for his lawless, racist career. Until August of 2017, when Donald Trump pardoned him.
When this happened, I was reluctant to call Trump a fascist, though I recognized the pardon itself as super fascist. Maybe it was a one off, I thought, carried out by a stupid old man who is easily influenced by what his TV tells him. But then it got so much worse.
It is extraordinarily difficult to prove, or even find evidence of crimes by US soldiers in war zones. The process usually doesn’t even start unless other US soldiers decide a crime worth reporting has been committed. Then the US military has its own highly evolved system to protect the rights of the accused. These careful investigations can last years before any conviction. In 2019 four men had either been disciplined by this process, or were in the middle of it. The crimes committed against innocent and not so innocent Iraqis and Afghans were chilling. Indiscriminate killing of women, children and old men, the cold blooded execution of naked prisoners. The people these men were accused or convicted of killing were not American citizens, but they were people we were honor bound to protect. I am very critical of US interventions abroad, but the people who serve this country are not Nazis. The Uniform Code of Military Justice is one of the most important things that makes us different from the Nazis. This already flawed, inadequate system is the basis of our claim to be liberators, not just conquerors. And over the course of 2019 Donald Trump eviscerated it.
Trump used his pardon power to reach into these complex, careful judicial procedures and said they didn’t count, because the people these guys murdered, or are alleged to have murdered just don’t matter. This isn’t just horrifying to anti-interventionist hippies like myself. It seriously undermines the self-respect of every fighting man and woman who believes that our missions are worthwhile and just. Trump’s pardons drag our flag through the mud. Why would any US soldier ever report another crime after this?
There is an old joke I used to love. Fascism always seems to be descending on the United States, but it only ever seems to land in Europe. Well withTrump it has landed here. Many aspects of American life, from our wars, to counter-terrorism, to law enforcement, have been trending fascist for decades now. With Trump, we have at last arrived at a president that embodies and approves of that trend. If you doubt Trump’s fascism, all you have to do is read about his pardons. We need to vote this poison out.