May 23 Why has the Trump/Pence regime chosen to make their first overseas diplomatic visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican? Because these are all strategically important for consolidating fascism both here and abroad. Trump and key advisors, including Steve Bannon and Rex Tillerson, are in these countries gathering allies for their “strategic vision” – isolating Iran as a common enemy, escalating the wars in the Middle East that have already killed and displaced millions, and eroding civil and human rights of oppressed populations all over the world. All of these stops reinforce some aspect of the Trump/Pence fascist program.
First Stop: the Fascist Theocracy of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia: where Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with a regime that has already killed thousands of civilians in Yemen with American-made bombs. Where, in a joint press conference with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Rex Tillerson had the audacity to call out Iran for human rights abuses, a move that places Iran in the crosshairs of a U.S led military coalition. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia itself has a dismal human rights record. Arbitrary arrests and convictions of peaceful dissidents is commonplace. Migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are often in situations of virtual slavery. Women cannot travel, marry, and in some cases even get healthcare without the permission of a male guardian. Women are not allowed to drive and only gained limited voting rights in 2015. The Saudi vision of society falls right in line with what the Trump/Pence alliance of white supremacists and Christian fascists would like to achieve here in the U.S.
Next Stop: the Apartheid State of Israel
Ari Wohlfeiler of Jewish Voices for Peace made this statement: “Trump landed about ten hours ago in Tel Aviv – and when he’s talking about Israel/Palestine, I have to say: he sounds more or less like a normal American politician. But that’s only because the narrative around Israel/Palestine in US discourse is so dehumanizing, convoluted, and inaccurate already.” A UN report by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley has correctly labeled Israel an apartheid state. This report was withdrawn after Israel and the US pressured the Secretary General of the UN to squash it. 4.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip live under Israeli military occupation. Israel continues to build and support unlawful settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians under Israeli occupation are subject to various human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrest and detention and extra-judicial killings. It should be no surprise that Iran is also on the agenda here. A CNN live report stated it simply: “He visited the Western Wall. He criticized Iran. He met with Israeli leaders.”
Third Stop: The Vatican Patriarchy
Having a friendly meeting with Pope Francis would go a long way in normalizing the Trump presidency. Trump responded to criticism from the Pope by saying, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened.” But all criticism aside, Trump and the Pope can at least agree that women should be denied the right to abortion and birth control. Pope Francis says abortion is a “very grave crime,” and the Trump/Pence regime has emboldened severe anti-abortion measures across the country. In one of his first executive orders, he re-instated and expanded the global gag rule, which cuts US funding to healthcare agencies that even mention the word abortion, threatening the lives of millions of women around the world.
What happens during the rest of this trip remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. These choices follow the strategic and dangerous logic of this regime, moving us further toward the consolidation of fascism, with terrible consequences for humanity.