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Editorial: Trump is impeached, but remains a threat to peace

DONALD TRUMP may have been impeached — again — but with any Senate conviction only possible after he leaves office, he remains armed (as commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military) and dangerous.

The shock of members of Congress at the invasion of Capitol Hill by far-right thugs is real — that legislators in the country calling itself the leader of the free world had to hide in their offices from the president’s rough-em-ups has set alarm bells ringing across the US Establishment.

Amid the many emotional speeches decrying the affront to US democracy just one — that of new St Louis, Missouri, representative Cori Bush — made the political connection of Trump as “white supremacist in chief” and the need to oust him on that basis — making his impeachment a blow against an emboldened and violent far right, rather than retribution for the outraged dignity of the US state.

There is a real risk that Democrats will react by signing up to what has so far been a Republican agenda of harsher crackdowns on protest generally, rather than the mobilisation of left and labour movement forces against a radicalised right that is needed.

A practical reaction to Trump’s abuses of power in the dying days of his presidency would focus on how to stop or undo the flurry of damaging decisions aimed at cementing his legacy.

Within the US, that has included an acceleration of the pace of federal executions — these, of course, can never be reversed — as well as the sped-up sale of drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But it is on the international stage that the president is least accountable and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone into overdrive.

Adding Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terrorism is the height of hypocrisy given the US’s long history of organising terrorist attacks on Cuba, and its harbouring of individual terrorists responsible for atrocities such as the downing of Cubana de Aviacion Flight 455 in 1976, killing 73 people. 

More serious still are the provocations to Iran. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has warned that the Trump administration may well be seeking to ignite a conflict with Iran before it leaves office, writing from experience as a former Pentagon employee who was party to the US’s manoeuvres to force North Vietnam into conflict in the 1960s. 

Pompeo’s absurd suggestion that Iran is now the global headquarters of al-Qaida — despite the terrorist organisation’s long record of targeting Shi’ite Muslims and the fact that al-Qaida affiliates fought directly against Iranian forces allied to the Syrian government over the course of the civil war there — is chillingly reminiscent of the attempts in 2002-3 to link Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to the 2001 Twin Towers attack in New York, part of a tissue of lies that led to war.

The murder of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — which took place following Pompeo’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — was a bid to provoke a violent Iranian reaction that would scupper any normalisation of relations under Joe Biden.

Its failure to do so — so far — explains Pompeo’s latest move.

The drive to sign up Arab governments to recognise Israel without progress on an independent Palestine aims to invest US regional allies in Trump’s “deal of the century,” making it harder for a Biden administration to change course, and the ratcheting up of tension with China — with a new ban on imports from Xinjiang — is similarly aimed at tying down Trump’s successor.

A courageous response would not rest at impeachment but call out this whole catalogue of aggression and make it clear it faces resistance.

In Britain, ministers who are distancing themselves from Trump are continuing to fall in line with his policies.

We must put pressure on them to stop doing so and oppose any US move that heightens the risk of war.

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