Americans awoke this morning to word of yet another act of lethal terrorism in a faraway part of the world. This time the carnage is in Afghanistan, where at least 80 people have died in a Wednesday-morning truck-bomb attack on the diplomatic compound in Kabul, the nation’s capital city. The attack appears to have targeted the embassy of Germany, the once-close ally of the United States with which our nation now has strained relations, thanks to verbal abuse unleashed on its leaders by President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday.
For better or worse, a key player in the seemingly endless U.S. war in Afghanistan is NATO, the alliance of Western powers disparaged by Trump as “obsolete” (a remark he has since kind of walked back), and whose member nations were hectored as deadbeats by the president during the organization’s recent meeting in Brussels. These events have taken place against the backdrop of a scandal involving Trump administration and presidential campaign members’ questionable contacts and cozy relationships with Russian officials and oligarchs. You may recall that the former Soviet Union (now reconstituted in truncated form as the Russian Federation) has long counted Afghanistan as within its geopolitical sphere of influence. You might remember that NATO was formed in the aftermath of World War II as a bulwark against Soviet aggression in Europe.
Add to that the fact that the United States, under Trump, does not appear to have a functioning State Department, thanks to Trump’s failure to appoint department officials of his own choosing (other than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson), and the sidelining of career diplomats from their traditional roles as the curators of relationships between America and its friends and foes. On Tuesday, for example, Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, was at pains to answer a reporter’s question about why Trump disparaged the fairness of Iranian elections, while remaining silent on Saudi Arabia’s. In this clip, posted on Twitter by The Intercept’s Alexander Emmons, Jones takes a pregnant, 20-second pause before offering up a nonsensical answer to the question posed by Dave Clark of Agence France-Presse. Jones, a career diplomat drafted into the acting assistant secretary role, appears unable to make sense of the administration’s display of fealty to the Saudi king during Trump’s recent visit to the kingdom. No one but Trump and those who appear to have sworn personal loyalty to him seem to be in the loop.
Meanwhile, we are in a missile-launching skirmish with North Korea, a nuclear power, and knee-deep in brutal conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Wednesday morning brings reports that Trump is poised to pull out of the Paris climate accords, an action that, if taken, will further damage U.S. relations with any number of countries. And nobody appears to be managing the chaos.
Wednesday also brought word from the Associated Press that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, reversing course, has agreed to cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee, and will provide documents subpoenaed by the lawmakers that he had previously denied them when he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The committee had demanded the documents as part of its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has refused requests for documents by the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the Russia scandal.
Then there are the labor activists in China who mysteriously disappeared after launching an investigation into abuse of workers at a factory that manufactures items for the clothing line owned by presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.
And Jared Kushner, the influential White House official married to Ivanka Trump, is under scrutiny for numerous hinky connections to less-than-benevolent Russian figures, including his meeting (while part of the Trump transition team) with the head of a state-owned Russian bank that is currently hindered by U.S. sanctions imposed after Russia’s seizure of the Crimea in Ukraine. The meeting took place just weeks after Kushner met with someone from China’s Anabang Insurance Group who is married to the granddaughter of China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping. In the meeting with Anabang, Kushner sought a partner in one of his company’s most vexing real-estate deals, the botched redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is unclear whether his meeting with Sergey Gorkov, chief of the Russian bank, was for personal or diplomatic reasons.
It’s difficult to see how any president so mired in international scandals involving the personal fortunes of his family could ever competently helm the ship of state. But Donald Trump is worse than that: He’s impulsive and vengeful against any who would challenge him, rendering his pledge to act in the interests of the American people the stuff of rueful laughter heard ’round the world.
He is a danger to the world. He must be removed from office by constitutional means. Just make sure the connections of any potential successors to the Russia scandal (I’m looking at you, Vice President Pence) are investigated, as well.
There was a time when some of us hoped against hope that the purportedly competent experts in the Trump administration—National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense John Mattis, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly—might save the world from Trump’s excesses. On May 29, however, they were all over the Sunday shows, defending Kushner’s attempt to create a backchannel to the Kremlin with Russia-operated communications lines during the period between Trump’s election and the inauguration.
As Heather Digby Parton noted, these so-called “grown-ups” will not be America’s salvation. To save the republic, Congress must sweep from power this president and vice president (who led the Trump transition team), and show the entire administration the door.