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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/22/21

The Coming Second Civil War

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

First shot marker. Where will it be next time, or has it already been fired, in the U.S. Capitol?
First shot marker. Where will it be next time, or has it already been fired, in the U.S. Capitol?
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Lpockras)
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"They simply can't treat this as a normal inauguration': counterterrorism professionals warn violence could plague the country for months." So reads the headline in a recent issue of Vanity Fair. The header goes on to say that "Extremists have likely been emboldened by the storming of the Capitol, and experts are worried about what will happen on Inauguration Day-and after."

As Ms. Noa Yachot, the Guardian (UK) US membership editor, has said: "After last week's attack on the Capitol, and with one week of Donald Trump's presidency remaining, the spectre of political violence has an entire country on edge. Today, the Guardian published a look at what happened on 6 January - not just in Washington, but at state capitols across the country: 'A guillotine outside the state capitol in Arizona. A Democratic governor burned in effigy in Oregon. Lawmakers evacuated as pro-Trump crowds gathered at state capitols in Georgia and New Mexico. Cheers in Idaho as a crowd was told fellow citizens were "taking the capitol" and "taking out" Mike Pence.' "

There are now an increasing number of accounts of what actually went on in the Capitol during the insurrection, takeover-for-a-time, and the search for national leaders of both parties who were on the kill list of certain insurrectionists (as they were not shy about telling any observer). One of the most chilling recordings is that of a brave, what chillingly can be called war-correspondent, Luke Mogelson, for The New Yorker magazine. As David Remnick, the Editor-in-Chief of The New Yorker put is in his column "The Inciter-in-Chief," "How surprising can Donald Trump's recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere?"

I am a supporter of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in New York City, which is a vast collection of documents arising from the actions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the US unit of volunteers that fought on the side of the Spanish Republic against the Spanish fascists, supported by the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists, in their eventual overthrow of the elected Republican government of Spain, 1936-39. Just the other day ALBA members were asked what we thought "The Lincolns" would say about the horrific events here. I responded so:

"I think that the Lincolns would have been very interested in the events of Jan. 6, and those leading up to it, since the (totally amateur) fascist's loss on Nov. 3. That is because in my view, there is a civil war (no arms, yet) going on between that element of the US ruling class which believes that the way to hold on to and control state power is through the bourgeois democratic process and bourgeois Constitutional government and forces that believe that the only way to do so is to move to a fascist form of State Control. The fascist forces, of which serious leaders are people like Cruz, Hawley, and Bannon, are certainly ready to start taking over the State by force and violence, if they cannot get control of it by voting through the elections of 2022 and -24. Last Wednesday [1-6-21] was, in my view, a dress rehearsal. A recent column of mine on Trump and fascism (a topic on which I have written frequently since my first, in 2015, that was entitled "Hair Trump or Herr Trump?") is found at click here.

As an article in Yahoo News said: "After ransacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, they walked down the building's broad steps unmolested and into the mythology of right-wing extremism. Many wore shirts identifying them as acolytes of QAnon, riders in 'the Storm' who believe the fever-dream conspiracy that they are foot soldiers in a war against Satan-worshiping pedophiles in the government's 'deep state' bureaucracy. There were also neo-Nazis and anti-Semites in the overwhelmingly white crowd, including a man wearing a 'Camp Auschwitz' sweatshirt. Racists rallied to the Confederate flag of rebellion that some of the insurrectionists waved in the halls of Congress."

The central issue for virtually all of the folk who have been rallied by Trump, and his predecessors going back to the Deconstruction of Reconstruction that followed the election of 1876, is race. As is very well-known to virtually all readers of these columns, as well as those of many other historians, journalists, and liberal-to-progressive-to-radical politicians, that is, hardly an original thought (and well-summarized in Project1619, which makes the racists so very angry) the issue that has riven this country since the 17th century is that of race. It was then that the Doctrine of White Supremacy was developed in order to justify the institution of chattel slavery of, at first, Africans, and then of African-Americans. The central issue of First Civil War was, at its beginning at least, whether the institution of slavery would be allowed to expand unhindered into the rapidly developing Western Territories on the United States.

As everyone knows, the North won the war militarily, but as I have been writing since 2009, in terms of the socio-politico outcomes, The South Won the Civil War. (See also the recent book by the same title, that is "How the South Won the Civil War," by Prof. Heather Cox Richardson.) And now, under the leadership of the first outwardly racist President since the Civil War, matters are coming to a head. For quite some time I have been calling what is commonly referred to as "The Civil War" "The First Civil War." Indeed, our nation may finally be on the verge of it.

The immediate cause is the Big Lie that Trump and indeed many elected Republicans are telling their constituents and the nation as a whole, that the election was "stolen" from him. (Otherwise, his party did fairly well, in the House and even in the Senate, holding on to seats that should have fallen, that is in states that they say held fraudulent elections, but they don't talk about those.) Trump is a well-known Little Liar, on a massive scale, but it is this massive Big Lie, a la Hitler and Goebbels, that the 2020 election was stolen, that is driving Trump/Republican policy now. And given what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, it could be driving our nation to a 2nd Civil War.

The Insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, driven by Trump, as has been widely noted was ideologically driven by racism. The Big Lie about how the 2020 election was stolen is rapidly being developed into the equivalent of the "Stab-in-the-back" Myth, about how the defeat of the Prussian Empire came about at the end of World War I, that drove Nazism in Germany from its start as a tiny party in the early 1920s through the establishment of the Hitler dictatorship in 1933. Where did that myth come from? Prussia lost the war in 1918 because they were running out of food for their army (which spent time that summer not fighting but foraging) and the civilian population, they were running out of soldiers, and they were running out of military supplies.

But at the end, it was a Reichstag (parliament) with a majority coalescing around the Sozialistische Partei Deutschland (SPD) that recognized that it was over and sued for peace. It happened that many SPD members were Jews. So that fit right in with the anti-Semitic ideology that drove the Nazi Party from its beginnings. And here in this country we have developing a Trumpist "Stab in the Back" myth, around supposedly fraudulent votes for the Democratic Party cast by, guess who, Black voters. And guess who are found to be among their strongest supporters in the Democratic Party. Why Jews, of course.

When President Trump was only one day away from an unceremonious departure from the White House (that is the date when the original version of this column was written), the vision of a mob desecrating the citadel of U.S. (capitalist) parliamentary democracy felt for many observers like the end of a shameful period of norm breaking and tradition smashing. But for counter-terrorism experts who have spent the two decades since the 9/11 terrorist attacks closely studying and fighting violent extremist groups overseas, the spectacle looked like something altogether different: the likely birthing of a violent American insurgency.

If the estimations of many well-recognized authorities in homeland security, law enforcement, history, and civil rights are correct, the United States could well be heading into a Second Civil War. Of course, in form it will not be like the First, in that vast armies will not be arrayed against each other on vast fields and waters of war. But in content it will be the same. It will be about race, about the Doctrine of White Supremacy as the controlling factor for the political and economic policies and practices of the nation. In part, on the force/conflict side, it will be domestic terrorism and terrorists against law enforcement, both civilian and military.

But one problem for the anti-racist forces is that both the police and various other non-military law enforcement agencies are themselves riven by racism. It has already been reported that the FBI is vetting members of the National Guard for Trumpist sympathies, which might lead to one or more "inside jobs" against the incoming Biden Administration. As for racism within many police departments in the U.S., well fuhgeddaboudit. Then there is the Cruz-Hawley wing of the Republican Party, with their ample number of supporters in the House of Representatives, several of whom may have led prospective rioters on "become acquainted" tours of the Capitol the night before the insurrection. Further there is The Representative from QAnon who is planning to file impeachment articles against President Biden at her earliest convenience. There are many Trumpist Representatives in the House among all the many who voted for the "Election-is-a-fraud" resolution who will think very carefully about whether or not to support the Resolution-from-QAnon. And of course, it would be interesting to see where Hawley-Smoot (oops, I mean Hawley-Cruz, equally if not more destructive to the United States than the aforementioned tariff of 1930) would go.

None other than Gen. William McChrystal, no radical he, has noted, that ". . . President Trump has updated the [post-Civil War] Lost Cause [narrative] with his 'Stop the Steal' narrative that they lost because of a stolen election, and that is the only thing holding these people down and stopping them from assuming their rightful place in society . . .That gives them legitimacy to become even more radical. I think we're much further along in this radicalization process, and facing a much deeper problem as a country, than most Americans realize." As I said above, it is difficult to see at this time how this might all play out militarily. But the ultimate outcome may be something along the lines of one that I have written on previously (as have others, of course). And that is secession, this time around mutually agreed to.

As I have said at the beginning of every column that I have written since Aug. 2018, "Either this nation will kill racism, or racism will kill this nation."


Note: On January 19, 2021 I published an earlier version of this column, under the title "The Civil War Never Really Ended; It Just Smoldered. Now It Is Reigniting as an Armed Insurrection," at: Click Here.

(Article changed on January 23, 2021 at 14:13)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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