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War and Sanctions: Trump's Escape Route for COVID-19 Failures
By Mark Pilisuk
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration continues to pursue sanctions, which prevent certain countries from receiving needed medical equipment.
The virus knows no boundaries and requires help from every part of the world community. As sanctions limit the flow of medical equipment from China to the United States, states like Oregon are forced to send scarce materials to other states like New York, who need them more. Cuba, which has long faced US sanctions, has supplied doctors to Caribbean countries and to Italy. International cooperation, rather than sanctions is desperately needed.
Even before the spread of the virus, sanctions have been punishing the most needy and innocent parts of the population by creating impediments to needed food and causing resentment towards the US. Now, while the world needs to come together to stop the pandemic, the US government instead adds to the worldwide humanitarian crisis, through continuing its use of these inhumane sanctions.
The Trump Administration has been found by the scientific community to have underestimated the threat of COVID-19 and delayed the emergency measures that might have saved thousands of lives. The administration assumes no responsibility for the cuts it endorsed in the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and has recently, against the information provided by the public health community, sought to cast blame on the World Health Organization and threaten its funding. These actions repeat a pattern of willingness to say anything or take any action that the President feels may prevent public criticism in his effort to be re-elected.
Such a President may find the tragedies of the virus and its economic consequences to be overcoming his power to blame others and to congratulate himself. What is his most likely option? In the past, US Presidents have been able to arouse patriotic support by pointing to an immediate foreign threat that requires retaliation. The President has prepared us for such military action in Venezuela and Iran.
Critics of the Trump Administration, including the Democratic Party, have been vocal about the inadequacy of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, increasingly, to the suffering imposed by economic sanctions. They have not been very strong however in warning that a President, such as Trump, would select the appropriate moment to find or create an incident justifying a military intervention and potentially, riding him into office for a second term. In the first week of April, as Americans faced soaring numbers of deaths and infections from COVID-19, President Trump announced the deployment of a large counter narcotics operation, specifically aimed at Venezuela: "We're deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft, doubling our capabilities in the region." If the issue of narco trafficking were of genuine concern, the pressure would have been upon Colombia, which supplies far more of the cocaine flow into the US than Venezuela.
Another military event for which President Trump has primed us goes back to threats made against Iran in January in which he said the US had identified 52 sites, important to Iranian culture, which would be "HIT VERY FAST AND HARD" if Iran struck at the US. Iran has neither the capability nor the reason for military strikes against the US.
Wars, large and small, have been precipitated by incidents later shown to be false. The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Vietnam war taking 68,000 American and 2 million Vietnamese lives. The Iraq War, based on false charges of nuclear weapon development, has left a legacy of extremist groups, some engaging in terror. Such wars were lies serving military contractors and the hawks in government who deluded the public. That script must not be repeated. The lack of unified efforts to combat the virus, the suffering brought by sanctions, and the use of war to divert us, are all parts of the dangerous threat before us.
Marc Pilisuk is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Faculty at Saybrook University, Author, National Award Winner for teaching, research, and community service