The Highjacking of anti-Trump in Belgium
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By Oriana P.
additional research: Cherneyy Koshka
Despite the next to none anti-racist messages at the recent “anti-Trump” action in Belgium during Trumps visit to the NATO it was called a success by, who else, the predominantly white male leadership of the organizing committee and its fan club. By what standards is this a success then? If we are going to protest Trump then we need to protest what he stands for and that is largely – well, racism. Not only was the focus not on anti-racism - an unforgivable “mistake” - but there had actually been a deliberate effort to exclude the Muslim president, Mr Abou Jahjah, of Movement X, arguably the biggest anti-racist and anti-colonial organization in Belgium, from speaking at the rally on the grounds that he was “too controversial”. How exactly is he “too controversial”? How can someone who has been fighting his whole life against racism and discrimination be too controversial to have as a speaker at a protest against the president of the US, who had made racism and Islamophobia the cornerstones of his election campaign and who later tried to make good on his campaign promises by attempting to implement a Muslim ban?
However, the plot thickens because not only was the theme of anti-racism largely ignored at this supposedly anti-Trump protest, indeed the focus on Trump was largely shifted from Trump himself – you can’t even make this up – in favor of a focus against NATO. Sure, Trump visited NATO so it makes sense that criticism of NATO would be a theme but we are pretty much talking about a complete take over here. As a matter of fact, Trump himself has criticized NATO during his campaign calling it “obsolete” and even though he has since retracted the “obsolete” remark he remains critical especially on their spending, which not so coincidentally plays right into the hands of Putin who is eyeballing NATO.
"I think NATO's obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger, much larger than Russia is today. I'm not saying Russia's not a threat. But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism, NATO's not meant for terrorism." ~ Donald Trump
Note that Donald Trump dutifully echoes the aspirations of both Putin and Assad – the international community needs to come together to fight “international terrorism”. Russia wants an alliance with the west and the US because with an alliance the sanctions against Russia would need to be lifted that were put in place because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And since we are talking fighting terrorism - the real terrorists are Assad in Syria and Russia in Syria, North Caucasus, Ukraine and Georgia. Furthermore it has been widely acknowledged, including by John Kerry, that Assad is responsible for Daesh (IS) and therefore taking the Syrian genocidal dictator to an international court to answer for his grave violations of human rights would be a good place to start in the fight against terrorism instead of “negotiating” with him. Not accidentally Donald Trump also downplays the threat of Russia, a position that lines up nicely with the position of the organizers of the “anti-Trump” rally.
Indeed, at the core of the criticism against NATO by the organizers of - what should have been - an anti-Trump rally lies a distinctly pro-Russian agenda. According to their twisted logic, anything that seemingly opposes the neo-liberalism of the west and the US must be a good thing even if it is, as in the case of Russia, fascist and steeped in Islamophobia, human rights violations, mass murder, imperialism, occupation and colonialism. Those things don’t matter if it is ideologically convenient to ignore and for the simpletons having only one big evil in the world – the US/the West - is so much more within grasp of “understanding” the global complexities.
Instead of placing the Trump visit to NATO within context – as a Putin ally, some say Putin’s puppet, whose shitting on NATO is mostly beneficial to Russia - the criticism of NATO was largely the presumed direct threat against poor innocent Russia because of the possible NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia. However, this renewed membership bid is actually a direct result of Russian aggression against the two countries. In the case of Georgia, it has sought membership since the 2008 land-grab by Russia of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and in the case of Ukraine it is linked to the failed Budapest Memorandum from 1994 and breach of the agreement by Russia and subsequently the UK and the US. This left Ukraine vulnerable after it gave up its nuclear weapons arsenal as part of the agreement upon which Russia grabbed the opportunity to invade the country and illegally annex Crimea in 2014 after the Ukrainian uprising against the pro-Kremlin dictator Viktor Yanukovych. Russia’s excuse was that after Yanukovych’s ousting the agreement was nullified since there was a new sheriff in town. Putin needs control of Ukraine by all means – either through a corrupt dictator or through force – because Ukraine hosts pipelines that carry stolen bloodstained oil from the occupied territories in North Caucasus to Europe and Russia wants to be the dominant seller of oil to Europe.
The Budapest Memorandum is a set of security guarantees for Ukraine in which the US, Great Britain and the Russian Federation pledged to respect the independence and “existing borders” of Ukraine after Ukraine had voted overwhelmingly for independence in 1991 upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In exchange Ukraine acceded the non-proliferation agreement, which meant that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons it had inherited from the former USSR. This arsenal was about one third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal and the third largest in the world at the time. Not only did Russia breach the agreement by invading Ukraine but so did the US and the UK by not acting on Russia’s betrayal and help Ukraine kick the occupiers out. Clearly the sanctions are not enough to make Putin turn his troops around. One may ask what the point is of diplomatic agreements such as the Budapest Memorandum when nobody cares to respect them. All the west does, time after time, is appease Russia.
The only reason the bid for membership of Ukraine into NATO is explained the way these organizers do – as NATO aggression against Russia - and the only reason the breach of the Budapest Memorandum is ignored is when it is not acknowledged that Russia has in fact invaded and occupied Ukraine and has illegally annexed Crimea, which is absurd. “Anti-imperialists” seem to have a talent for not recognizing imperialism when it happens. According to them, non-western countries and empires cannot be imperialist per definition. They have clearly never spoken to any of the peoples occupied by the Russian Federation such as the Chechens from the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
The organizers correctly criticized Trump for putting pressure on NATO members to up their spending on weapons but they failed to see – refused to see - the elephant in the room. If the west teams up with Russia in the “fight against terrorism” and Trump is turning NATO into an army then Putin has indeed a very powerful army at his disposal to fight anyone he deems “terrorist”. That is a very scary prospect because Putin calls anybody standing in his way terrorists such as the peaceful Crimean Tatars, who never picked up weapons to fight back but whose Mejlis nevertheless have been designated as a terrorist organization by Russian law. In March 2003 Ilyas Akhmadov, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria addressed the issue of an accurate description of terrorism and the abuse of the term as a way to invade and colonize:
“Specifically, there is a vital need to differentiate between terrorism and victims of terror. The struggle against global terror must not become a convenient tool for repressive regimes to justify their oppression of innocent people, which among other things clearly jeopardizes the credibility of the genuine fight against global terrorism” ~ Ilyas Akhmadov, 2003
The Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism emphasized this point in its report in October, 2001:
“While terrorist acts are usually perpetrated by subnational or transnational groups, terror has also been adopted by rulers at various times as an instrument of control. The rubric of counter-terrorism can be used to justify acts in support of political agendas, such as the consolidation of political power, elimination of political opponents, inhibition of legitimate dissent and/or suppression of resistance to military occupation. Labelling opponents or adversaries as terrorists offers a time-tested technique to de-legitimize and demonize them”.
In this context the hopelessly naive and general “weapons are bad” slogan of the peaceniks becomes suspect especially when there is no alternative proposed. How exactly should countries such as Ukraine and Georgia react against imperialist aggression? Should they sing Kumbaya and hope the bear is moved to tears and leaves their territories? Calling for peace is fine as long as the aggressors are called out, which is distinctly and suspiciously not the case. On the contrary, they are playing nicely along the lines of the main aggressor – Russia – and become useful tools in Putin’s imperialist chess game. It should be more than obvious then that the way NATO was criticized is not anti-Trump, it is pro-Trump on all accounts because it plays right into the hands of a colonial Russia and Trump is pro-Putin and pro-Russian Empire. His very presidency is built on that alliance. The bromance between Putin and Trump is no secret and neither is the investigation of the Russian interference into US elections in favor of Trump.
Maybe the real reason Mr Abou Jahjah was called “too controversial” is because he has expressed his anti-Assad position openly on numerous occasions and Putin was invited by the Syrian dictator to militarily intervene against the popular uprising that wants to topple the genocidal regime – officially of course “to fight terrorism”. Who cares if the anti-racism message needed to be sacrificed in the process? Structural racism and inequality will of course disappear magically after Thee Great Revolution when capitalism is abolished according to the white male leadership who have never experienced these things. The struggle for equality is a mere distraction to that lofty goal and this is the real reason why Mr Abou Jahjah was blocked from speaking. It is not that these organizers are radically opposed to anti-racism, it’s that they just don’t care about it all that much unless it can be used as a vehicle to recruit in the “fight against capitalism”, which is the real fight as their dogmatic ideologies dictate. Manichean world views are always too easy to detect when one takes time to notice these manipulative shifts in focus at actions and in articles and the “leftists”, with their pea sized brains and tunnel vision, have decided that the good guys are the fascist genocidal rulers while the people that are being terrorized by the state are in fact the terrorists.
We need to become conscious of the way progressive spaces become hijacked and turned into vehicles for a pro-fascist and pro-imperialist agenda. Only two sets of people would call the “anti-Trump” rally in Belgium a success, those who have a vested interest in promoting this agenda and those who are blinded by crowds and propaganda. If we are serious about fighting fascism, racism and colonialism we need to fight for these spaces, reclaim them and keep the message on track. The “anti-Trump” rally was just one of many. There will be more and we better be alert.