US President Donald Trump began his political career with a bang and turned many heads with his contradictory and discriminatory statements against a whole host of minorities, but from an anti-war perspective, he was a breath of fresh air. Long before he set his eyes on his presidency, Trump had called for the US to completely abandon the Middle East militarily and was often quoted saying that the region was a “total and complete mess.” His presidential campaign promises included bringing jobs and money back to the US and to stop wasting trillions of dollars on military adventurism around the globe.
Long before his presidential candidacy announcement, specifically in 2013, he tweeted: “Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” Later that year he said the US should “stay the hell out” of the Syrian war. The entire world watched on as a prospective president was talking about finally taking the US out of international conflicts – an amazing feat considering the country has been at war for 93% of its existence, i.e. it had only been at peace for 20 years since its foundation in 1776.
Research by the Stimson group estimated that the US has spent $2.8 trillion during fiscal years 2002 through 2017 on the so-called “War on Terror,” or more accurately the “War of Terror”. With the US being approximately $22 trillion in debt, this $2.8 trillion figure accounts for over 10% of US debt, and what does the US have to show for it? The Taliban has not been defeated in Afghanistan; terror has continually gripped Pakistan as a result of the “War of Terror”; Iraq saw an ugly sectarian conflict emerge with the fall of long-time dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, as well as the rise of ISIS with a genocide and ethnic cleansing against Yezidis and Christians soon following; Libya has seen the emergence of slave markets, a refugee crisis, ISIS and Al-Qaeda since the torture, sodomization and murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011; and although the Syrian government has survived the US-led war against it, this was at the price tag of hundreds of thousands dead, the total destruction of cities and industries, and the emergence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda that previously did not exist in the country.
Ignoring the total chaos and destruction that has occurred because of the US “War of Terror,” trillions have been wasted on military adventurism, thousands of Americans have died and no geopolitical gains have been made as Russia and China happily fill the chaotic void left in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. With Hillary Clinton, running rival to Trump, only promising more of the same foreign policy, and explicitly making threats against Iran, Russia and other states not falling into Washington’s orbit, it was of little surprise that Americans went out and voted for Trump.
Although assuming the presidency in January 2017, it took Trump until December 2018 to finally announce the US withdrawal from Syria, and this was only after the US conducted several air strikes against Syrian Army positions at various times. His decision to withdraw was in total compliance with US and international law when considering former President Barack Obama invaded areas of Syria without the approval of the United Nations, Damascus or Congress. Although he is not totally withdrawing from Afghanistan, he is reducing the troop level by 7,000 soldiers. This is in addition to his advances in making a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and opening dialogue with the North Korean leadership, something previous presidents have never truly attempted.
It appeared that Trump would be one of very, very few presidents that would not lead his country into a new war while deescalating current conflicts the US is involved in. This was with major pressure and criticism with much of the neocons, so-called “progressives” and the media denouncing his announcement of withdrawing from Syria.
However, Trump’s supposed withdrawal from the Middle East and Asia is so that the US war-machine can refocus on its so-called “backyard,” i.e. the Western Hemisphere/Latin America. Only a month after announcing the US’ withdrawal from Syria, Trump in an extremely provocative move recognized Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, as President of the country despite having no legal basis to do so. His denouncement of Nicolás Maduro, the democratically elected president of Venezuela, triggered an international crisis that has pitted the 35-year-old US-backed Guaidó against Maduro who has received the full support of Russia and China.
With Guaidó announcing himself as president on January 23 at a rally, without constitutional basis, support from the country’s legal bodies or being sworn in, aggressor states such as leading European and South American countries unilaterally announced that Maduro had “no legitimacy.”
A peculiar choice of words when we add up the stats:
- Trump received 46% of votes from the 27.3% of Americans who voted in the last election.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May received 42.3% of the votes from the 29.1% of Britons who voted last election.
- French President Emmanuel Macron received 24.01% of votes from the 11.69% of French people who voted last election.
- Argentinian President Mauricio Macri received 53.2% votes from the 26.8% of Argentines who voted last election.
- Maduro received 67.8% of votes from the 31.7% of Venezuelans who voted last election.
- Guaidó received 0% of votes from the 31.7% of Venezuelans who voted last election as he refused to participate.
Yet we are told Maduro is not legitimate despite having greater legitimacy than those who denounce his presidency. Rather this demonstrates that Trump is not interested in the so-called “restoration of democracy” in Venezuela, because if he cared about democracy he would acknowledge the 2018 Venezuelan Presidential elections that were boycotted by the opposition. It is also worth noting that the Venezuelan opposition urged the UN to not observe the elections – but nonetheless, the elections had the presence of international observers who declared the elections as free, fair and transparent.
Most telling, or disturbing, is that on February 3 it was revealed that Maduro had reached out to Trump months prior to try and mend the difficult relations between Washington and Caracas. Trump proudly announced that he had rejected such talks and followed up an interviewer’s question about a military invasion of Venezuela with the response that it is “Certainly […] an option.” With a two million strong military and revolutionary militia, accompanied with mountain ranges and thick jungle, Venezuela has been described as a potential second Vietnam for the US where it would face even stiffer resistance than it has in Afghanistan or Iraq.
With Venezuela having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, an industry that was mostly nationalized and out of private American corporate control when Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, came to power in 1999, it is not difficult to discover why Washington has always wanted regime change in the Latin American country through economic sabotage, arming right-wing militias and denouncement on the international stage leading the way. However, Trump has specifically now prioritized regime change in Venezuela at the expense of operations in the Middle East and Asia as Russia and China continue to make significant economic inroads in “America’s Backyard.” With Venezuela being extremely receptive in recent years to economic and military relations with China, Russia and Iran, it is with little surprise that Trump has immediately prioritized the removal of anti-US Maduro and have him replaced with Guaidó, someone who promises to return neo-liberal economic policies to Venezuela and allow US energy giants to gobble up Venezuela’s oil. Although the US is willing to compete with Russia and China across the globe, it is intolerable in America’s “backyard.”
This demonstrates that Trump is not the anti-war president he advertised himself as. He is no different to his predecessors and is completely willing to drag his country into a new war to keep the Military Industrial Complex and oil giants in his country happy.
Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.