BY SAEED NAQVI
When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.
“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”
“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.
Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, it is aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.
If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”
Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security.
About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?
The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.
This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.
How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.
This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.
Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.
In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.
Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up air strikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.
The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.
The supremacist, neo Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter protestors.
From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus, have featured swastikas and worse.
Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping.
(Saeed Naqvi is a senior commentator on political and diplomatic issues. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)