Trump looks at the reporter and an opaque gaze of confusion and vulnerability takes over his face as he mutters that he didn’t know Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court’s iconic feminist, had passed away. Many of us were left wondering if anyone is actually advising The Donald on anything. Shouldn’t the U.S. president have smart people around him keeping him informed of current affairs? Or world affairs?
This is not the first time that Trump has been blind-sided by a seismic news event. But it gives us a reminder that if he had any advisers on policy when he took office, that we now have a president in the Oval Office who believes he has learnt the ropes and doesn’t listen to anyone in the White House, doesn’t read memos and whose only contact with the outside world is via Fox news.
Trump has, single-handedly destroyed relations with China, empowered the North Korean leader, brought much more war in a troubled Middle East which he has succeeded in dividing further, brought relations with Europe to an all-time low and has made America a Goon Show on the world stage – so much so that even old allies are refusing to share intel with a man whose startling obsession with his own re-election surpasses everything else.
The Trump period is marked by satire or black humour. And yet it is real. Is it not The Truman Show nor The Onion.
But as we put down another completely nuts news report of Trump claiming that he wanted to have Assad assassinated – ho ho ho – (which he blamed on General Mattis), we are lad to ask ourselves, now that he has built a team of sycophants in ill-fitting suits, is he doing foreign policy completely alone? Do we have a rogue president in the White House who is literally making up foreign policy on the whim, based on ignorance, his own foibles and insecurity and his naked, arch objective of being re-elected?
The stultifying logic of Trump is enough to make the gorillas on his own personal TV channel vote for Biden. He doesn’t even understand his own baloney and is not vexed when others don’t either. His obsession, is simply to be on television every day. If he has to put on a clown’s outfit, juggle oranges or just talk like a child on subjects he knows nothing about, so be it.
But his sanctions on Iran and the strategy of late beggars belief and leads me to wonder if Steven Bannon, a vagabond who was struggling to make the headlines this year until his own arrest for illegality relating to a wall funding program, put him in them, is advising Trump through a conduit.
Confiscating four Iranian tankers on their way to supply Venezuela is exactly what Steve Bannon would advise Trump to do, knowing full well that this is a policy which can only lead to war with Iran. Bannon, who interviewed me about the Middle East for his own radio talk show in the summer of 2016 days after the attempted coup in Turkey, is charismatic, clever and certainly a maverick who journalists love to talk to. But one thing he is not is an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the Middle East. In fact, I doubt if he could find most of these countries which Trump’s policies throw a spotlight on, on a map of the Middle East.
But drawing Iran into a war, which the U.S. can say to their call-centre journalists in DC was a war “which Iran started” when Iran retaliates and blocks shipping – or confiscates tankers – in the Straits of Hormuz, is exactly what Bannon would advise. You can just see the headlines in U.S. press talking about “Iran’s unprovoked attacks” and how the U.S. “has to defend its allies in the region” etc etc.
The lunacy of Trump’s piracy in international waters where these Iranian oil tankers were confiscated, is that Trump is playing a double bluff with the Iranians, which he believes he can win. Pumped up with confidence after he saw no immediate retaliation for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, he thinks that Iran will not dare take on the might of the U.S. military in the one shipping lane in the world where it has a good chance of causing havoc and making the headlines completely dwarf all news coverage leading up to the climax of the presidential elections.
The only question about this is when it will happen, rather than if. Hardliners in Iran have already made it clear that they will not tolerate four more years of U.S. sanctions and the theft and absolute disregard for international law which Trump has sanction when he took the Iranian ships – is a point of no return. What is remarkable is that he believes that such a gambit will pay off. He believes that he can win both the actual war with Iran and also the media one back home when Biden’s press herd of left-wing commentators and analysts push the knife in deep.
Trump believes the payback will compensate for that and that he has a stronger chance of remaining in office, than winning the presidency without a war with Iran. This can be the only explanation for the bellicose reaction, which some might consider to be a suicide pill.
Even Trump’s own sycophants and their parody news websites are getting worried. One recently tweeted entirely malicious and fabricated claims about Biden using a teleprompter during an interview (when in fact he was looking at a monitor of people who were asking him questions), such is the level of concern about Trump not returning.
He must believe that a war with Iran is a vote winner. And he believes that he can defeat the present regime in Iran. This rancorous, misguided policy which holds the American people to hostage and threatens to seriously hit the U.S. economy – and threaten world peace – will be a defining moment though in both his presidency and no doubt a large part of a movie or book which Steven Bannon is no doubt writing as you read this article. Part of that story, in real life, will no doubt be a presidential pardon for Bannon’s fraud case. Bannon, we should not forget, more or less invented Trumpism and this latest Iran bluff is straight out of the text book. It is “auto-trump”.
The only way that America can come out a winner in this cavernous strategy is on the big screen, directed by Oliver Stone, called simply ‘Trump’. Bannon, a sort of dishevelled revenant hack who many of us wrote off when his efforts in Italy to create a pan-European far-right movement didn’t quite come off, will have his day, perhaps not in the White House, but in Hollywood, certainly. We are only waiting now. Will Iran strike before the final votes of the election, or in the coming weeks, after if Trump wins? The capture of the four Iranian vessels in August was a declaration of war, which even the hardest of all hardliners in Iran can no longer ignore or work around.
Bannon is back.