Piling on the invective against Donald Trump, an op-ed in the New York Times this week castigated him as a «lawless president». The business tycoon-turned politician has already been roundly condemned in the US media as a traitor, stooge, buffoon and much more. Now the Times has marked him down as «lawless».
What is particularly galling about this latest anti-Trump tirade is the conceited notion that Trump is somehow singularly lawless as an American president. The cited op-ed piece by David Leonhardt laments that the principles of law and order have largely been respected by both Republican and Democrat occupants of the White House – but Trump is now bringing the office into disrepute with his alleged lawlessness.
It would no doubt come as a shock to the New York Times and its readers to consider that almost every American president – certainly every one since the Second World War – could be prosecuted as a war criminal owing to gross violation of international law.
Trump’s bullying personality and feckless ego are indeed grating. His clumsy self-aggrandizing boasting are doubly cringe-making. But the accusations thrown at him of lawlessness seem overblown. The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN are among the main US media outlets that have been running a non-stop campaign to discredit Trump since his surprise election last November against their favored candidate Hillary Clinton.
This president is accused of breaching the US constitution by undermining the judiciary and over-extending his executive power over other branches of government. True, this president has made plenty of uncouth remarks against judges and the judicial system. And he has pilloried the media and intelligence community with scathing language, referring to them as «enemy of the people» or likening them to «using Nazi practices».
Trump is also accused of obstructing justice by allegedly pressuring the former head of the FBI, James Comey, into dropping investigations into claims that his election team colluded with Russian state intelligence or cyber hackers to win the presidency. Trump has dismissed the Russian collusion claims in characteristically brusque fashion as «fake news» and a «total hoax».
The Russian government has also separately rejected the collusion claims as absurd speculation for which no credible evidence has ever been presented. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently remarked that US politicians and media seem to have «lost their minds» in persisting with making such outlandish claims.
There are also ethical concerns – probably valid – that Trump is abusing the office of the presidency to advance his family’s business empire. His daughter Ivanka is an unelected «special adviser» while also owning an international fashion conglomerate. Her husband Jared is too among Trump’s White House coterie of special advisers. Like Trump’s own sons, Jared has ongoing real estate business interests. When Trump is dealing with China and other foreign nations, there are plausible concerns of «conflict of interests».
However distasteful and potentially unethical all of this is, it is nevertheless so far unproven to be lawless. For the New York Times to lambast Trump as a lawless president is a leap of hyperbole.
In the list of alleged lawlessness presented by the Times the one issue where a case of criminality could be solidly made is glaringly omitted. On April 7, Trump ordered the bombardment of Syria with over 50 cruise missiles. The attack was an act of aggression against a sovereign country. Trump’s claim of «retaliating» for an alleged chemical weapons massacre by the Syrian army of President Bashar al Assad are besides the point. The US has no legal mandate for any military action in Syria. And at any rate, no verifiable evidence has ever been presented to support the allegation of chemical weapons use.
As Russia pointed out, the cruise missile barrage ordered by Trump was an illegal act of aggression. Trump should be prosecuted for war crimes on that instance alone. Moreover, the ongoing US air strikes on Syria, which have resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, are further grounds for Trump to be prosecuted for crimes against peace.
Other international issues where Trump stands accused of gross criminality is his support of Saudi aggression in Yemen and towards Iran. His reckless saber-rattling against North Korea is another prosecutable case of this president engaging in warmongering.
But none of this provable lawlessness in international relations warrants a mention in the New York Times’ condemnation of Trump. The so-called «newspaper of record» confines itself to delving into Trump’s alleged abuses of power in the realm of domestic politics, much of which seems exaggerated in order to serve the Times’ own dubious agenda of discrediting Trump.
This oversight of Trump’s provable international violations is hardly surprising (albeit unacceptable). For on that score, he is simply carrying on the ignoble tradition of all American presidents who have used aggression and war as an instrument of power against other nations.
His predecessors Obama, Bush Junior, Clinton, Bush Senior, Reagan and all the way back to Eisenhower and Truman have abused military power, invasion, subversion, proxy wars and assassination as a prerogative for American subjugation of other nations. Even Jimmy Carter and John F Kennedy, considered to be two of the more enlightened presidents, oversaw criminal programs to pursue regime change in Cuba and other Latin American states.
Not a single American president over the past seven decades since the Second World War can be counted as innocent when it comes to gross violation of international law in the pursuit of US power. All told, it is estimated that American state-sponsored criminality under the orders of any given president has been responsible for over 20 million deaths from wars and aggressions in myriad forms against dozens of nations.
Donald J Trump is just the latest name in this sordid pantheon of lawless American leaders.
For the New York Times to single out Trump as somehow uniquely lawless is testimony to how much in denial the US media are about the truly rogue, criminal nature of their government.
Trump a lawless president? Yes, sure he is. Just like all the rest of them.
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About the author
A former editor and writer for major news media organizations, Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages
Photo credit, Ivanka Trump: EPA / Justin