10 Trump Administration Atrocities Going Under-Reported Amid Russia Hysteria

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/05/politics/donald-trump-hill-republicans/index.html

The other day I asked my audiences on Facebook and Twitter what they think are some of the most under-reported stories about the awful things the Trump administration has been doing. The Russiagate narrative has sucked so much oxygen out of the room for criticism of the actual, real horrible agendas this president has advanced in the ten months he’s been in office, and for that reason it can be tempting to view him as either a treasonous Putin puppet or a poor misunderstood hero.

He is neither. Donald Trump has been facilitating the same neoliberal, neoconservative, omnicidal, ecocidal, oppressive and exploitative agendas as his predecessors, and has even kicked the death march up several notches in some key areas. One of the many, many dangers of Russiagate is that it causes those things to go unnoticed.

What follows is not a complete list of Trump’s misdeeds, but of those which don’t get enough airplay. Trump’s demagoguery, rudeness and ridiculous North Korean brinkmanship all play well on TV — his continuation and expansion of the evils of his corporatist predecessors, not so much. Not everyone will agree with all of these, and plenty will think that other things should have been included, and that’s fine. I just want to help get the ball rolling toward a real conversation. Here are ten things this administration has been doing that are going under-reported while everyone focuses on Russia:

1. Massively increased drone strikes

I still sometimes hear people referring to Obama as “Obomber”, unaware amid all the vapid hysterical nonsense that the current president has already put him to shame in that department. Numbers are hard to verify given the US war machine’s vested interest in hiding its bloodshed, but nonprofit monitoring group Airwars is reporting more civilian deaths via coalition airstrikes in the first seven months of the Trump administration than in the entire eight years of the Obama administration.

If you want a visual image to give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s one of the graphs from the Airwars website:

https://airwars.org/data/

That’s right, the current administration already facilitated the slaughter of thousands of noncombatants under the banner of “fighting terrorism”. It would be funny if it didn’t involve so many charred human corpses.

The monthly drone strikes of the Obama administration more than quadrupled under Trump, after they’d increased tenfold under Obama. And Trump has sought to ramp it up more by dropping some of the Obama-era limitations on CIA drone strikes.

So it looks like we’ll need a new nickname for the 44th president.

2. Saudi Arabia/Yemen

Participants in this article wanted this issue talked about more than any other, perhaps because the corporate media has been largely ignoring it. The United Nations has warned that millions of people will die in the worst famine in decades if the Saudis don’t lift a draconian blockade they’ve imposed upon the Houthis. Fifty thousand Yemeni children are expected to have died by year’s end.

Far from moving to help end the civil war which has already killed ten thousand, put millions in danger of starvation and caused a deadly cholera outbreak in what has been called a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the US has been helping to exacerbate the death and destruction instead. Trump signed the largest arms deal in US history with the Saudis in May and continues to provide them with extensive assistance in fueling their warplanes and targeting their airstrikes.

And where’s Trump’s priority during all this?

This one isn’t hard. Two of the most powerful nations on the planet are collaborating toward the destruction of one of the most impoverished. The specific dynamics of the conflict might be complex and difficult for outsiders to understand, but the abusive power dynamic is simple and obvious. There is no excuse for anyone not to take a strong stand against this, and Trump is actively facilitating it instead.

3. Environment

To the mainstream media’s credit (first time I’ve ever typed those words), this one does get a little attention, but that’s only relative to the near-absence of coverage environmental issues received prior to Trump. The administration’s plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the end of 2020 drew international attention for a couple of days before media leaders like CNN’s president Jeff Zucker reportedly told his staff to get back to focusing on Russia.

When you look at the reality that we are facing a looming catastrophe our species may not survive, however, it’s amazing we don’t talk about this stuff far more, especially given how aggressively the US president is attacking the ecosystem we need for survival.

National Geographic has a running list going of every jarring environmental deregulation the Trump administration has pushed through, so I’m not going to list them here, but there’ve been some months where they’ve come out on a weekly basis. Just yesterday he announced he’d hold off on a plan to lift an Obama-era ban on elephant head trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, but only after massive public outcry. We shouldn’t have to make a massive public outcry about elephant head trophies.

Oh yeah, and Trump’s beloved Keystone Pipeline has leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Some of this president’s earliest executive orders were to help advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

4. Killing net neutrality

On December 14th, the Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that there will be a final vote on whether to dismantle net neutrality once and for all. This is being defended by conservatives as an attempt to shrink the intrusiveness of an over-inflated government in the affairs of private corporations who are overburdened by excessive regulations, but this defense only exists in an imaginary fairy tale realm where increasingly consolidated media corporations don’t effectively own the US government. Net neutrality is one of the few governmental brakes placed on plutocratic power by inhibiting the ever-growing media conglomerates who provide internet services from being able to choke off smaller independent sites by slowing them down with an unaffordable fee for faster service, which will put fewer eyes on dissenting online media.

In a corporatist system of government, corporate censorship is state censorship. By allowing billionaire-owned internet companies to favor online mainstream media outlets, which consistently support the interests of the billionaire class, you are allowing your true rulers to censor you in a way that the US Constitution (authored by men who couldn’t have imagined the plutocratic dystopia in which we now find ourselves) does not protect you from.

On a related note, Pai is also leading the charge to consolidate local media.

Go to Youtube and watch some video footage of Ajit Pai right now. Ignore his words and just watch his face, listen to his tone of voice. That is not a sincere person. You know this. You can feel it in your guts. Trust that feeling. Trust the way that man makes your skin crawl. This former Verizon lawyer is not trying to dismantle net neutrality because he wants to help you, this former Verizon lawyer is trying to dismantle net neutrality because he wants to hurt you. He wants to take away your power and give it to the ruling class he serves.

5. Afghanistan

This one is not just a continuation and expansion of an insane military occupation that nobody can clearly articulate the justification for, it’s a total reversal on on a policy Trump campaigned on. The troop surge he authorized is now complete, with 14,000 US troops now on the ground in Afghanistan, and civilian deaths are rising tremendously as strikes increase.

Again, all officially in the name of fighting terrorism. The US occupation which began sixteen years ago, purportedly to overthrow people responsible for a day of terrorist attacks which killed 2,996 US civilians, has killed more than ten times that number at over 31,000 Afghan civilians and counting. This is not including the lives lost by combatants on both sides. And Trump authorized its escalation.

6. Allowing banks and credit card companies to block customers from filing class action lawsuits

At the beginning of the month Trump signed into law a congressional resolution which killed a rule banning the firms from using “forced arbitration” clauses, which forbid customers who sign contracts with the firms from participating in class action lawsuits against them. This makes it even easier for the predators who build their fortunes on the debt of working Americans to exploit their prey with underhanded practices free from consequence.

The resolution passed 51–50 after a tie-breaking vote by Mike Pence (that guy the Democrats keep trying to make president), prior to which Democrats had argued that forced arbitration is stacked against the consumer, and Republicans argued that forced arbitration bans only benefit the greedy lawyers who participate in class action lawsuits. All my readers know I view the Democratic party as one of the most toxic forces on the planet, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the ones more substantially in the wrong in this instance are the group trying to protect banks and credit card companies from class action lawsuits filed by the people they defraud.

7. Bringing back the TPP in a bunny suit and hoping no one notices

A July article by The Nation details how aspects of the Trump administration’s NAFTA renegotiations bear a striking resemblance not just to certain parts of the wildly unpopular TPP, but of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) as well. The goal is plainly deregulation for corporations, the subordination of national sovereignty, a tightening of the screws on intellectual property rights enforcement (to the benefit of Hollywood and the pharmaceutical industry), with very little in the way of any strong benefit for workers.

There are lines about removing “unnecessary differences in regulation” between the US, Canada and Mexico in industrial and agricultural goods, effectively lowering regulations standards toward those of the least-regulated nation. There’s a stated objective by the administration to reject measures that “restrict cross-border data flows,” dropping localization requirements preventing financial services or other countries from transferring personal data outside a host country. The Nation reports that these objectives have privacy advocates alarmed.

“It does appear that the globalists in the administration won this round before NAFTA negotiations even had a chance to begin,” the article concludes.

Key NAFTA talks opened up in Mexico yesterday, and Reuters reports that Canada and Mexico aren’t pleased with how inflexible the US is being in negotiations. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.

8. Puerto Rico

Yesterday the White House sent congress a disaster aid request for $44 billion to help rebuild from hurricane damage, which is already drawing outcry from Puerto Rico and Texas, who had requested far more. Asked for comment, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded (and this is a real quote), “I don’t think $44 billion is a low amount and my guess is if you asked any average citizen across this country they wouldn’t feel that it’s low either.”

They’re not even trying to sound sincere anymore. “Well the average person thinks that’s a lot of money, so obviously it’s enough to restore miles and miles of extensive hurricane damage.” You could ask the average American citizen if $100,000 is a low amount of money and they’d tell you no too, for God’s sake.

That’s how little this administration cares. While they’re over there working on tax cuts for unfathomably wealthy plutocrats, hurricane victims are being told to make due with far less than they need and publicly reprimanded on Twitter if they complain.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, the majority of Puerto Ricans are still without power in what ranks as the largest blackout in US history. Clean water is still a problem, as is living space, and there are severe labor issues. Some of this is the natural consequence of a severe natural disaster in a hard-to-access area, but it’s hard to imagine anywhere in the continental United States receiving such underfunded cold shoulder treatment.

On October 2, the poverty-fighting charity coalition Oxfam released a statement, saying that they had “monitored the response in Puerto Rico closely, and we are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US Government has mounted.”

“The US has more than enough resources to mobilize an emergency response,” the statement continued, “but has failed to do so in a swift and robust manner.”

On October 19th, Oxfam still sharply criticized the US government’s performance, saying “At this stage in the humanitarian response, these conditions are unacceptable and we need to see a more robust and efficient response from the US government now.”

Insights like these and the administration’s current attitude toward Puerto Rico indicate that the Trump administration is ignoring the island in the same way it ignores everyone who isn’t wealthy and powerful.

9. Gutting national parks and monuments

War propaganda has Americans so screwed up about what’s great about their country. They seem to think it has something to do with flags and freedom and the fact that they can destroy any country that crosses them, but from an outsider’s perspective that’s all a bunch of neurotic, cultish nonsense. What makes America truly remarkable, apart from its people, is its natural beauty. And from the looks of it Trump is trying to turn the whole gorgeous nation into a giant strip mall.

10. A DoD packed full of former military-industrial complex executives

When you’ve got John “Bomb Iran” McCain telling you you’ve got too many defense industry execs in top Defense Department positions, you’ve got too many defense industry execs in top Defense Department positions. McCain has always been a whore for military-industrial complex funding, so if you’re bothering even him with all the Raytheon and Boeing executives you’re putting in Pentagon leadership positions, you’ve got a problem.

Obviously if you’ve got people who have financial histories with the war profiteering industry running your war policy, there’s a potentially dangerous conflict of interest. Trump isn’t the first president to put defense industry execs in top DoD positions, but he’s definitely escalated the trend. Here are some of the war profiteers you’ve got running your military now, America:

  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former board member at General Dynamics
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who worked for a number of defense firms and was an adviser to DynCorp
  • Former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan for Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • John Rood, former Lockheed Martin executive, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy
  • Former Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper, now secretary of the Army
  • Former Lockheed Martin consultant Heather Wilson, now secretary of the Air Force
  • Former Textron CEO Ellen Lord, now undersecretary of defense for acquisition
  • National Security Council Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg, a former employee of defense and intelligence contractor CACI

Other assorted awfulness

I’ve covered the top issues my audience voiced concerns about when asked, but here are some other miscellanious awful things this administration has been doing if you’re curious, none of which have anything to do with Russia.

So as you can see, there is plenty to attack Trump for besides completely baseless accusations of Kremlin collusion. It says a lot that Trump’s opposition focuses on something wholly unsubstantiated instead of the actual, tangible things that he is doing.

As we’ve discussed before, it is possible to criticize Trump without being an establishment hack. Half of mainstream Americans are accusing Trump of Kremlin collusion, and the other half are defending him tooth and claw from all criticism. I try to do neither, and just look at the real, proven yucky things that are going under-reported and overlooked in the partisan melee.

The US president is not as powerful as the mainstream narrative would have us believe, but the executive branch is a part of the overall power structure, and should be analyzed accordingly. We should all be able to take as realistic a look at Trump as we did Obama, or as we would have with Hillary Clinton had she won. There is certainly plenty to criticize.

_________

Hey you, thanks for reading! My work is entirely reader-funded so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter, and maybe throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal.