Trumpism: Is There a Connection to Ethnic Cleansing?

The Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University welcomes guest blogs and encourages our friends and supporters to submit them to the President of the GPI. In an effort to stimulate the conversation relating to global issues and problems, some of the submitted essays will be published on our website. Thank you.

We are pleased to publish this guest blog written by Irene Fowler, a lawyer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Ms. Fowler has a degree from the Harvard Law School, and her work appears in The Hill and other publications.

Michael A. Genovese
President of the GPI

Trumpism: Is There a Connection to Ethnic Cleansing?

Who can forget Trump’s descent on the golden escalator in Trump Tower, a prelude to his announcement of his intention to vie for the U.S. presidency in the 2016 elections?  The pivotal event was just as memorable for his overtly racially tinged opening salvo.  In front of the watching world, he promised the fortunes of his presidential campaign on the platform of demonizing Mexicans. To some the scene was a modern-day enactment of the ancient biblical account known as “Jacob’s ladder”, in which the angels of God descended from and ascended to heaven, symbolizing open heavens and copious amounts of goodwill and munificence to mankind.  However, to the voting majority in the U.S. and a host of onlookers around the world, our fears and misgivings have proved to be prescient and not overly dramatic or unnecessarily pessimistic, but in the final analysis, warranted. Indeed, as we approach the two-year mark of Donald Trump at the helm of affairs as U.S. president and de facto leader of the free world, the sheer scope of horror, outrage, and trepidation caused by Trumpism, not only boggles the mind, it is all-consuming.

Therefore, the quandary ceases to be what type of leadership values and style Trump will embrace and espouse. After a conveyor-belt series of escalating malevolent actions and rhetoric, it is now glaringly obvious that his preferred political currency is that of division and malice laden invective to all, save his loyal sycophants.  This is his “gold standard” and leadership hallmark. As someone with a notorious penchant for and magnetic gravity towards the golden – genuine, fake or imaginary, he will never countenance any other modus operandi.  The agonizing and increasingly urgent question with which we have to grapple pertains to the degree and extent Trumpism will impact domestic and global existential issues.

Seared in the modern collective consciousness of the world are certain hellish episodes and events which characterize man’s inhumanity to man and which will live on in infamy. These memories serve as a silent sentinel of the depravity we are capable of as a species.  Such an episode was the Second World War (1939-1945), the origins of which can be traced to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany. His rise to power was based on grievance politics and his primary targets of attack were members of the Jewish race, whom he vilified en masse.  Alongside persecuting Jews and others he deemed to be sub-human, he espoused the theory of the Aryan master race, which gained traction within the German populace.   The war claimed over sixty million casualties. On the African continent, we have witnessed episodes of genocidal terror motivated by ethnic cleansing. The situation is especially fraught as it is estimated that Africa is home to about 3000 tribes and historically our nation states were cynically cobbled together as a by-product of self-serving European imperial interests. Tribalism continues to remain the bane of our young and fragile democracies, with omnipresent tribal tensions incessantly percolating below the surface.  Not only do ethnic cleansing campaigns result in mass killings and orgies of mindless violence, but other dastardly effects are also the displacement of wide swathes of the affected populace and unimaginable trauma suffered by women as rape victims and children who are co-opted as child soldiers.  This is apart from the general toll such conflicts take on national development and the body politic. In addition, they swell the number of refugees seeking sanctuary in Western countries, compounding the already frayed socio-economic fabric of these societies. Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Africa Republic are countries where ethnic cleansing has occurred. The debate within the U.S. pre- Trumpism was whether the U.S. should intervene in ethnic conflicts. However, the burning issue we should now be addressing with Trumpism in “full flower”, is whether Trump is callously summoning the fiendish forces of “tribalism run amok”,  by his divisive and racist rhetoric, to take center stage and have full expression.

At home, he is reinforcing his extreme rhetoric against a raggle-taggle, motley crew of semi-wretched individuals, including women and children, fleeing torment in South America, to request asylum in the U.S., which is permissible under international law.  His incessant claim that the U.S. is being “invaded” which he asserts in his typical bellicose and alarmist fashion, is more befitting an aged ‘’drama queen’’ craving attention, than the Commander-in-Chief of the mightiest and most lethal armed forces the world has ever known.  In dispatching a 5000 strong contingent of active duty military personnel to confront the caravan of desperate souls, he is ”playing” the highly professional and laser-focused, patriotic service men and women, who deserve to be respected and not treated as props. At the same time, he is toying with the top brass at the Pentagon Command Center. Much the same way a pre-pubescent boy would move his tin soldiers around on a pretend cardboard battleground, in a fantasy high-stakes battle, Trump in his self-delusion believes this maneuver would be a stroke of political genius. This farcical policy serves no other purpose than to score cheap political points with his base and signals to unscrupulous governments, that defenseless minorities, refugees or dissenters should be met with immovable brute force.  The messaging has grave consequences inherently as it is open to nefarious interpretation and vicious implementation in many parts of the world. The sad tragedy is that not everyone will laugh off this latest caper,  as a harmless game or cynical ploy of an amoral septuagenarian, who happens to be the U.S. president and leader of the free world.  There are those who will use his words for their own ends in order to justify their actions.

On the heels of Trump’s implicit charge to U.S. military personnel deployed to counter the” invasion of the South American caravans”, to retaliate with lethal force, in the event that stones are hurled at them by the asylum seekers, members of the Nigerian military fired on stone-throwing, fleeing protesters in Abuja, killing several.  Inanely, the Nigerian army cited Trump’s words to justify the killings, which have been condemned by Amnesty International.  Given Africa’s mammoth and pervasive challenges centered on ethnic strife, will this be a convenient, umbrella response to cloak attempts at ethnic cleansing?