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Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, The Enemies of Our Enemy Are Not Our Friends

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a modest reminder that we're on a planet where supporting places like TomDispatch matters. In that context, let me point out that, for a donation of $100 ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can still get a signed, personalized copy of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, the latest book from today's author, Rebecca Gordon. It seems like a particularly topical book since it's already possible to start imagining the kinds of war crimes trials that might someday be appropriate for the crew now taking over the U.S. national security state. And speaking of imagining our future world, I want once again to urge all of you to pick up a copy of Splinterlands, John Feffer's stunning dystopian novel about our fracturing world (and the latest entry in the Dispatch Books publication list). It's a genuine must-read in the age of Trump and signed, personalized copies of it are similarly available at our donation page. Just go there and check it all out! Tom]

We're in a strange new world -- of fantasists (see Kellyanne Conway's terrorist "massacre" in Bowling Green, Kentucky), delusionaries (see Sean Spicer's account of the "Iranians" who attacked an "American" naval vessel), and dreamers (if having a nightmare is your idea of dreaming). Only the other day, for instance, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said definitively, "We're taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It's not going to happen anymore." Honestly, you have to wonder what planet the former reality show host has been on these last decades.

And all of this has, in a couple of short weeks, started to change our world. Just ask Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway, who was stopped at Dulles International Airport on his way to that same prayer breakfast, held and questioned (even when it was clear that he had indeed been the prime minister of an allied country) because he had traveled to Iran three years earlier. Of course, looked at another way, he had also been the head of one of the many freeloading nations on the planet who, as President Trump now points out, have taken our country for a ride, so he undoubtedly got what he deserved. After all, in 2008, pressured by a "multi-departmental American lobbying effort," Norway caved and agreed to buy the most expensive, cost-overrun-prone weapons system in history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, rather than a perfectly reasonable Swedish plane. (If they hadn't, it might have adversely affected sales to other U.S. allies ready to take us for a ride.) And nine years later, in 2017, despite endless delays and soaring costs, the Norwegians are still buying the planes -- 52 in all at an estimated price tag of $40 billion. What a crew of moochers!

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Admittedly, it's been a one-way planet for one hell of a long time, but Donald J. Trump is finally readying himself to reverse that and turn it into... well, possibly a hell on earth. At least, European leaders (Britain's excepted) seem to think so, as they find themselves packed into more or less the same unfriendly basket of deplorables as Iran. I had a friend years ago who told me that I'd know I was on a different planet when European powers -- Charles De Gaulle's long-gone France aside -- started to say no to Washington. We may now officially be on that altered world, one where even Australia, America's most faithful ally, might start uttering a no or two to a president who considers hanging up on its prime minister good form. (I assume by now that somewhere in the Forbidden City, the Chinese leadership is dancing in the streets, knowing that on Donald Trump's planet their country is likely to look like the only reasonable imperial power around.)

These days, you may hear a similar chorus of "No's" coming out of the U.S. government where federal employees are beginning to form support groups and take courses "on workers' rights and how they can express civil disobedience." Consider this my way of saying that, in the Trump era, you're going to have to buy a scorecard to figure out what "team" the various players on this increasingly confused world of ours belong to, creating endless complications for those of us already thinking about how to make it into the post-Trump years. Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, has been thinking about friendship, alliances, and how to figure out who's who in a world in which, even with that scorecard, it may be difficult to sort the players and the teams out. Tom

Through the Looking Glass
How Can We Recognize Our Friends in the Mixed-Up World of Donald Trump?
By Rebecca Gordon

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You know you're living in a looking-glass world when former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out against one of Donald Trump's executive orders. He's a good example of how past adversaries of movements for peace and justice are lining up against our current adversary, the new president.

The United States, Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt, should not exclude people from our territory on the basis of religion. That was just a few days after Trump had signed an executive order entitled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." Such a move, said Cheney, "goes against everything we stand for and believe in."

In the same interview, Cheney revealed the origins of his personal affinity for Muslim refugees. His own ancestors, he said, arrived on this continent to escape religious persecution. "They were Puritans," he explained, adding, "There wasn't anybody here then when they came." No one? It was a sparkling display of precisely the European-American solipsism that so deeply marked the Cheney years in power.

Refugees, he acknowledged, do represent "a serious problem." To begin to solve it, however, "You gotta go back and look at why they're here. They're here because of what's happening in the Middle East."

The refugees Cheney refers to aren't "here," of course, or what would be the point of Trump's entrance ban? Otherwise, I'd have to agree with the former vice president: you do need to look at "what's happening" but also -- something he didn't mention -- what happened in the Middle East to explain their need for refuge. Refugees from Iraq and Syria (among other places) have indeed lost their homes and homelands by the millions, in significant part because of the very invasions and occupations that Cheney and his president, George W. Bush, launched in the Greater Middle East, radically destabilizing that part of the world.

The Enemy of My Enemy?

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What should it mean for those of us hoping to resist the grim presidency of Donald Trump to find Dick Cheney, even momentarily and on a single issue, on our side? One thing it certainly can't mean is that Cheney stands for the same "everything" that moved thousands of people to rush to U.S. airports, demanding the release of visitors, immigrants, and green card holders detained under Trump's new order. Although in the Muslim refugees of today he may indeed recognize a reflection of his Puritan ancestors, Cheney's disagreement with Donald Trump does not, in fact, make him a friend of the cause of compassion, justice, or the rule of law.

Few of us who spent eight years opposing Bush and Cheney or who remember their record of invasions, occupations, torture, black sites, and so much more are likely to imagine that his opposition to the ban on refugees makes him our friend. But that doesn't mean that we can't take some satisfaction from where he's landed on this issue.

It's been harder, however, for many of us to find clarity when it comes to certain of the other war hawks who, for their own reasons, don't trust Trump.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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