Between Thursday and Saturday of last week, President Donald Trump made two reversals: he cancelled the order to attack Iran with military force over the downing of a U.S. drone that supposedly flew into Iranian airspace; and he halted the implementation of raids to detain some 2,000 undocumented immigrants with final deportation orders, which would have begun on Sunday across the country.
Trump claims that the delay of two weeks is to give time for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to arrive at an agreement over the $5 billion the administration is requesting to manage the humanitarian crisis at the border, adding more beds in detention centers, among other things. Trump also wants changes to asylum law, which he has already been trampling on for months at the southern border, to keep Central American migrants who are fleeing brutal violence from soliciting refuge in the United States.
Without an agreement, Trump affirmed, the raids would proceed. At the end of this week Congress begins the 4th of July recess, so the possibility of such an agreement is unclear.
To the uninitiated, one would think that Trump was demonstrating some common sense in both instances, avoiding a war and deportations, but scratch beneath the surface and see that Trump has no problem whatsoever inflicting terror by military means or through immigration agents with strictly political goals.
No one believes the story that he stopped the attack against Iran just minutes before it was scheduled because he found out that 150 Iranians would lose their lives. What is strange is that he authorized it over the downing of a drone and after 18 years of U.S. military presence in the Middle East over the course of one war, the war in Iraq–a war kicked off by a Republican President George W. Bush, based in falsehoods like the government of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction which never materialized. Trump paid attention, initially, to the same advisors responsible for the fiasco in Iraq. He appears to be following his own ego, ordering and cancelling military operations without fear of the consequences, as if it were a child’s game of soldiers.
And the situation of the deportations is even more clear. Trump announced national raids that not even those charged with carrying them out were sure were a good idea. Once again, Trump wanted to show his base that his hard line is real, without any thought to the terror he could be generating in the immigrant community, and without understanding that the affected families are, in large part, of a “mixed” immigration status, with citizens and legal residents and, as always, the most vulnerable of which are the children, many of them U.S. citizens living under constant threat that at any moment their parents could be deported.
Of course, no one expects Trump to demonstrate a bit of humanity toward the immigrant population and citizens in the country’s interior, since we have already seen what is happening at the border.
Because you have to be ruthless not to shudder at the reports that have emerged about the inhumane treatment of children in detention centers operated by U.S. authorities. Every day, additional horrible details are revealed about children without adequate medical care; children taking care of other children in unsanitary conditions, unable to bathe themselves for weeks, without any clean clothes, sleeping on the floor in frigid temperatures and without blankets, without access to sanitary services, ingesting expired or raw food. At least six children have died in custody of immigration authorities, and one has to ask how there haven’t been more victims given these precarious conditions.
The video that circulated of a Justice Department lawyer, arguing before a panel of judges in the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, that the government does not have to provide soap, toothpaste, and blankets to children in order to guarantee conditions are “sanitary and safe,” is bone-chilling.
This is the intensification of cruelty as a mechanism of “deterrence,” the same as the separation of children from parents at the border, something that continues to occur, according to reports.
That the central government of a powerful nation, which boasts of defending human rights across the world, would act this way toward children is aberrant. And it is perfectly clear that this is happening because it primarily concerns children of darker complexion from Latin American countries. Perhaps if they were from Norway, the situation would be different.
With these two reversals, Trump did not demonstrate common sense, something that really would have been demonstrated had he not made the two initial decisions: attack Iran over the destruction of a drone and announce raids as a political weapon and legislative pressure mechanism.
What is left is that, in order to obtain his political objectives, Trump has no qualms about infringing terror among civilians on the other side of the planet, or among children, at the border or interior of the country.
This is the politicization of cruelty at its maximum expression.