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The Financial Express

US Capitol siege: The face of crises ahead

| Updated: January 16, 2021 21:20:33


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Pro-Trump protesters storm into the US Capitol during a rally to contest the certification of the presidential election results, January 06, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton Pro-Trump protesters storm into the US Capitol during a rally to contest the certification of the presidential election results, January 06, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump wielding "Jesus Saves", anti-communist banners, confederate and US flags stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday,  January 6 and forced lawmakers into hiding in a bid to halt Congress's counting of the electoral votes to confirm the victory of President elect Joe Biden.

The rioters surprisingly met with minimal police resistance. In fact, some police  officers were seen posing for selfies with the rioters. Also, video clips circulated show police officers allowing the rioters to get through a gate thus facilitating their ability to gain entry inside the building. Police were also seen walking with the rioters down the steps of the Capitol. It is now revealed that the authorities are deeply concerned that active duty soldiers and veterans as well as police officers also took part in the riot on January 6.

Ahead of the mob violence, Trump addressed his cheering supporters and urged them to march to the Capitol to protest against Congress's approval of Biden's victory. Earlier in the day, Trump promised to join the planned "Stop the Steal" March down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol but instead decided to stay back in the White House from where he frantically  phoned his loyal  Republicans to press them to reject Biden's certification when the session resumed.

President Trump has spent weeks alleging widespread election fraud. Even some Republican lawmakers were also getting  ready to raise objections to the election outcome on behalf of Trump when the proceedings were abruptly halted by the rioters. Also, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), an evangelical Christian and a Yale law graduate gave a fist-pump up of encouragement as he passed the violent mob attacking the US capitol. He also put out a fund raising appeal while the siege was underway.

The Trump-instigated mob violence caused five deaths including a police officer. Police shot and killed an Air force veteran and three other Trump supporters died due to unspecified medical emergencies. The police officer was killed after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.

The kid glove treatment of the rioters stood in marked contrast to brutal treatment meted out to the peaceful DC mass demonstrators to protest the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police claim they were surprised by the size of the crowd even though Trump supporters announced their intention ahead of  time. Rudolph Giuliani who filed 60 failed law suits challenging the election result urged the Trump supporters "Let's have trial by combat...Stand up and fight".  It was simply impossible to notice the bias in policing. White privilege was on full display during the riot with the police displaying clear political preference.

Finally, Congress reconvened in the evening to resume counting to confirm the Electoral College vote for Joe Biden's election. Before dawn on Thursday, January 7, lawmakers completed their task, confirming that Biden won the Presidential election. While Trump refused to concede, he issued a statement immediately after the vote that there would be an orderly transition of power on inauguration day. The statement backfired, and his position became tenuous as Democrats took control of the Senate by winning both the seats in Georgia.

But Trump is incapable of realising that he is losing ground. His continuing insistence on claiming that the election outcome  is different from what evidence points to is also getting him nowhere. The Wednesday March to Washington was no March to Rome that brought Mussolini to power in 1922. But what happened on that Wednesday is a foretaste of what is in store for the future of  American politics.

Trump is a self promoting political opportunist incapable of providing leadership. He never commanded a fascist party,  but was  successful in hijacking the Republican Party. Once in control of the Party, he galvanised a disparate group of people like white supremacists, far right militants, para-militaries, white Christian fundamentalists, neo- Nazis and the like with a call to "Make America Great Again".  At the core of his political opportunism is a promise to put all White Americans in a position of relative privilege in relation to all non-Whites.

It was a terrible strategic mistake by the power-obsessed  President  in his attempt to cling to power by unleashing a mob to undo the electoral outcome legitimised by the democratic system that is operational now in the USA. A man like Trump is simply incapable to  give leadership to a movement poised to seize the state power. That does not mean he will not try or some one more capable  and much younger seizing the rein of leadership will not lead the White supremacists' drive to capture state power!

In fact, there are growing worries that renewed violence will erupt on the Inauguration Day across whole of the US, especially in all 50 state capitols. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the base of his supporters and they are not going to go anywhere.

Amid renewed fear of violence on Inauguration Day, in an unprecedented step, the US  military leadership, including Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs issued a written statement to all service members reminding them that the violence at the Capitol was anti-democratic and a criminal act, and that right to free speech gives no one the right to commit violence.

They further stressed that it is wrong to disrupt the constitutional process. In an extreme level of instability and conflict within the state apparatus itself, this statement now gives clear seal of approval to the Biden presidency by the military establishment. But, this statement not only indicates that the military is not sure whether it will be able to control its own forces or have their full loyalty but also civilian politicians' increasing inability to break the political stalemate.

ABC, CNN and MSNBC reporters reporting on the riot from the safety of the parking lot gushed out comments like "never seen anything like this" in their life time or feeling like reporting from places like Bogota, Baghdad or Kabul but "this is Washington D.C.". Such a racial bias in news reporting by people belonging to otherwise considered "Liberal America" is very symptomatic of the very deep root in the historical construction of white identity in the US and its politics and the cultural milieu. Even President elect Biden has had a decade long record of complicity with southern racist segregationist norms.

The Capitol building has for centuries been a scene of protests and occasional violence. During the four years of the Civil War, the Confederate forces came close to capturing it on several occasions. Machine guns were set up around the Capitol during the Washington riots in Spring 1968. But on this occasion it was done with the blessing of the president to subvert the outcome of an America presidential election as if the American style of  democratic system is a kind of contact sport.

President Trump projected an unprecedented defiance even at a time when he was impeached for the second time on Wednesday. He is the only US president to be impeached twice. The reason cited for impeachment this time was for inciting "insurrection". House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described President Trump as a danger to the country indicating further increased political polarisation and hardening of position on both sides.

But, according to current polling,  a large number of Republicans as well as the majority of Republican lawmakers in Congress still support the President's claim of electoral fraud that deprived Trump of presidency. They are now in the process of mobilising a new array of grievances against the incoming Biden administration to stimulate party followers into further action. And that may enable them to stage the sort of electoral coup which Trump failed to materialise in 2020.

The rioters storming the Congress, naturally  prompted outrage from both the Democrats and a section of the Republicans. President elect Biden said that American democracy was "under unprecedented assault", a sentiment equally shared by many in Congress and outside. Former President George W. Bush said that he watched the events in "disbelief and dismay". Former President Barak Obama described the events in the Capitol as "a moment of great dishonour and shame" but admitted it was not a surprise.  Also, weighed in former President Bill Clinton claiming he (Trump) "lit the match".

Many political observers also described  the storming of the Capitol as an act of "insurrection" directed at the very heart of the American political system. Some even go further to highlight the event as comparable to the last phase of Germany's ill-fated Weimar Republic. In the late 1920s, extreme political polarisation led  the Nazis taking to the street to break the political stalemate. They also point out that the storming of the Capitol on January 6 certainly reflects  dangerous new trends in the expression of white supremacist terror in many ways like the Nazis did.

Many of the Trump supporters are former police and military personnel, well versed in tactics and methods to subdue those they come up against. More disturbingly, federal prosecutors have revealed the most unsettling details as to the extent of arsenal that were available to aid pro-rioters who stormed the Capitol.

In many ways when one looks from outside at the recent siege of the US Capitol by Trump supporters, one gets  a feeling that at long last the US is having a small dose of its own medicine. The US has been dispensing  this medicine all over the world since the end of the WWII and still continuing to sponsor overturning election results it does not approve. The  list of US sponsored  coups right until now under both Democrat and Republican administrations to remove democratically  elected popular governments is rather long.

A few of the popularly elected governments overthrown with direct US involvement include the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Salvador Allende (also murdered)  in Chile in 1973, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, and Mohammad Morsi  in Egypt in 2013. With bloated budgets, the Pentagon and the CIA still have the list ready and are continually updating it to cause insurrections against elected governments who refuse to  submitting to the US diktats.

No wonder a political commentator described the recent siege of the US Capitol by white supremacist mobs as an example of the "chickens coming home to roost".  Trump in his attempt in staging a coup to stay in power has also peeled back the veneer of democracy in the US and revealed what it is.

Biden does not represent democracy any more than Trump. The impending Biden presidency will continue with the business as usual like the Clinton-Obama era with renewed confrontation with China in its  own territorial waters, re-energising NATO. It will also continue military support for  US backed terrorist activities in Syria and Libya,  military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and  supplying military hardware to the Saudis to bomb and starve Yemini children and the people. All these will, of course,  be done  in the name of providing US leadership the "Free World" against its enemies.

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