I’ll never forget the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11/2001. The attack traumatized me as a 7th grader and set me on the path to working on international security. But I’ll also never forget the 200,000 (and counting) Americans killed by Trump’s decision — recorded on tape — to downplay the threat of coronavirus even though he said it could have a kill rate as high as 5%. And we now know letting the virus run rampant was a conscious political decision because blue states like New York were hit hardest near the beginning.
Trump claimed he wanted to avoid panic, but all he does is incite panic after panic with exaggerated claims about “ANTIFA” or “terrorists.” Just this week, a top intel analyst at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed its Trump-appointed leadership manipulated intelligence reports and lied to Congress to exaggerate threats that fit Trump’s (bogus) political narratives and to downplay real threats, making us all less safe.
According to the whistleblower complaint by DHS Principal Deputy Under Secretary Brian Murphy, a former marine, DHS officials asked him to censor intelligence reports because they were concerned that sections on white supremacy and Russian influence would reflect poorly on Trump. Instead of white supremacists, which DHS draft documents say “pose the most persistent and lethal threat,” Trump appointees told Murphy to write about “left-wing” groups like ANTIFA and “anarchists.” And instead of Russia, which bipartisan Senate reports confirmed interfered in our election to help Trump, the appointees told him to write about alleged election interference by China and Iran. Murphy also pointed out that DHS officials lied to Congress by claiming that thousands of “known or suspected terrorists” were crossing the border from Mexico, which was pure political propaganda.
Trump knows what he is doing by assaulting our democratic institutions and insulting the intelligence of American voters. He is a master of propaganda, the way he seizes on events like 9/11 to stoke hate and division, and to distract from his own incitement of violence. Remember Trump’s tantrums claiming that Obama was the “founder of ISIS” and his rallying cry to “call it what it is” because he wanted to pump up his “Christian” base with the slur “radical Islamic terrorism”? Never mind that Obama and Biden avenged the victims of 9/11 by killing bin Laden. Never mind that Obama and Biden formed and led the international coalition that defeated ISIS. Never mind that there is nothing “Islamic” about terrorism, that most terrorist victims are Muslims, and that right-wing terrorism has grown under Trump and has killed the most victims in the United States.
We need to be honest about what Trump is doing and call it what it really is: fascism and terrorism. I’m tired of the gaslighting and complacency by people who don’t know history or who haven’t seen how fragile democratic institutions can be. Trump is playing with fire, using a fascist playbook to send the military and his vigilante supporters to attack peaceful protesters he mischaracterizes as “terrorists.” He is intentionally radicalizing violent extremists, including white supremacists and other militants, to commit acts of terrorism against his political enemies.
Our German friends are trying to warn us. They know how Hitler used a mysterious fire at the Reichstag just weeks before the 1933 election as a pretense to give himself emergency powers, suspend civil liberties, scapegoat communists, and hunt down his political enemies. We don’t know which fires Trump will set in the coming weeks, but we know he’s already laid the groundwork to scapegoat leftists, to refuse to accept the election results, and to incite his supporters to wage civil war.
These are the facts and the choice before us. If you give a damn about American lives and freedom, if you’re sincere about wanting to stop terrorism and fascism, if you’re a rational human being, you will do everything in your power to make sure Trump loses the 2020 election to Joe Biden in a landslide so decisive the results are indisputable.
Republican politicians love to beat their chests and yell “never forget” even though they’ve tried to forget the victims of 9/11. They had to be shamed by Jon Stewart into extending health care benefits to 9/11 first responders, and then the Trump administration still withheld payments to the survivors.
Let’s honor the 9/11 victims not as pawns to incite hate and division, but by countering violent extremism in all forms, curving the spread of Covid, and electing Joe Biden as the leader we need at this moment to stop the loss of life and defend our democracy.