In what was a sickening parody of the military strongman returning home in victory, the President took a car and a helicopter from the hospital to the White House, promptly ripped off his mask, gasped for air multiple times, and then walked inside the building in order to infect God knows how many more innocent government workers and sycophantic members of his administration. This was just hours after forcing Secret Service personnel to risk their lives by taking him on a Sunday drive in a hermetically sealed SUV in order to view his faithful followers, shedding COVID-19 inside the vehicle the whole time.
The White House is now the epicenter of a super-spreader event, potentially one of the largest the country has seen during this pandemic. The Joint Chiefs of Staff can not meet in person because of their need to quarantine after a Coast Guard Admiral became infected, presumably at a White House event for military families the day after the Amy “Covid” Barrett super-spreader event. Of course, we can’t be sure that event was responsible for the infection spread because the White House refuses to engage in contact tracing, presumably because the President himself may be the source of the outbreak.
There is certainly circumstantial evidence to that effect. The White House now admits the President does not get tested daily. More importantly, as Jamie Dupree noted, on September 28 the White House suddenly and for the first time set up separate lecterns, one for Trump and the other for the other speakers at the event. Add to this the fact that the White House refuses to say when Trump’s last negative test was taken and that the Trump entourage arrived in Cleveland too late to be tested, it seems more than likely that Trump was positive and knew it when he debated Biden. If true, that should also put Trump’s loud and obnoxious performance and his team’s refusal to wear masks in an entirely different light, including the outrageous possibility that they were intentionally trying to get Biden infected as well.
Trump’s cavalier attitude toward reducing the spread of the virus and infecting others is the primary reason this country has over 7 million infections and over 213,000 deaths. It is why 44,000 meatpacking workers have become infected and why over 200 of them have died. It is why Herman Cain is dead. It is why we still don’t have enough PPE and why we still have no national mask mandate and no national program for testing, contact tracing, and isolation. It is why hundreds of people in Washington, Bedminster, Cleveland, and Minneapolis, or who attended Trump-related events in those cities, are now either quarantining or desperately trying to get tested to see whether they have contracted the virus. It is why this country has tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths from COVID-19. And it is why, as one of the nation’s foremost public health intellectuals noted, the administration’s response to the pandemic has resulted in “a slaughter”, adding, “So much of this is the deaths. It’s the deaths”.
But callous disregard for others has been the hallmark of this administration and the Republican party apparatus that supports it since its first days in office. The Muslim ban has effectively separated families in separate countries for years now. And now we know that family separation was, in fact, the point of the zero-tolerance immigration crackdown on immigration at the southern border. The rationale was that separating families, basically kidnapping children and putting them in cold, overcrowded, and unsanitary cages, would reduce the flow of immigrants. The directives to implement this program came straight from Stephen Miller and Donald Trump. Jeff Sessions was explicit on that point, saying, “We need to take away children”. The result, as one DOJ prosecutor noted was that “We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants. I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log”. Just as alarming was the DOJ’s belief that keeping track of the children that they separated from their families was not the agency’s responsibility, with Rod Rosenstein stating “I just don’t see that as a D.O.J. equity.”
The Trump administration’s own report showed that “separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated. Separated children experienced heightened feelings of anxiety and loss as a result of their unexpected separation from their parents after their arrival in the United States. For example, some separated children expressed acute grief that caused them to cry inconsolably”. The report merely confirmed what medical experts have long known, that “family separation causes lasting and profound psychological trauma”. Under existing law and international treaties of which the US is a signatory, the family separation policy fits well within the legal definition of torture. As Beth Van Schaack writes, “the neurological, physiological, and psychological impact of acute childhood traumas like forcible family separation and indefinite detention rises to the level of severe pain or suffering-and thus torture-under international law…In addition, to the extent that instances of detention do not rise to the level of torture, they constitute CIDT [cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment], which is also prohibited by U.S. treaty obligations and constitutional principles”. Perhaps Adam Jentleson summed it up best, writing, the family separation policy “describes crimes against humanity committed by white supremacists operating at the highest level of the US government”.
When the top leaders of the country are advocating for crimes against humanity, it’s understandable that a similar attitude will filter down to the rank and file who are asked to carry out those crimes. At an ICE facility in El Paso, guards systematically physically and sexually assaulted women in various “blind spots” within the facility. ProPublica reports that “Guards in an immigrant detention center in El Paso sexually assaulted and harassed inmates in a ‘pattern and practice’ of abuse”. In Georgia, a doctor who had previously settled charges of Medicaid and Medicare fraud was performing unwanted and unnecessary hysterectomies on women detained at an ICE facility. The detainees referred to him as the “uterus collector”. This atrocity brings to mind the fact the additional fact that DHS actually tracked the menstrual cycles of detainees in an effort to prevent them from getting abortions and then, after a forced child-birth, the children were taken from their biological mothers and put into foster homes.
There is an axiom that the abuses an empire inflicts in foreign countries eventually get used at home. There is a through line from the lies that got us into the Iraq War that, at minimum, resulted in 200,000 innocent civilians dying to the lies about COVID-19 that have resulted in over 200,000 dead Americans. There is a through line from Karl Rove’s “we create our own reality” to KellyAnne Conway’s “alternative facts”. There is a through line from the war crimes of the Bush administration’s black-site torture programs to the crimes against humanity of Trump’s separation of children. There is a through line from Abu Ghraib to the hysterectomies in Georgia and the sexual assaults in El Paso. And most of those through lines run through the Republican party. They are not unique to Trumpism.
Obama failed to hold the torturers in the Bush administration — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, and Yoo — to account, preferring to simply look forward. The absence of such accountability is why the Trump administration felt that it too could get away with torture. The abuses of the empire always come home to roost. Under Trump, we have now moved from torturing non-citizens in foreign countries to torturing non-citizens on American soil. The next step will be torturing Americans. In a country where the President demands his political enemies be arrested and charged with fictitious crimes, where the President and Vice President refuse to say they will accept the results of the election, and where senior Republican leaders are openly disavowing democracy, such a step hardly seems far-fetched. If America is to survive as a liberal democracy, those who have committed these crimes against humanity must be brought to account and the Republican party as presently constructed must be marginalized as a political force.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on October 8, 2020.