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Donald Trump: As the indictments pile up, his return looms over the planet

There is a real chance that the former president could return to office next year - an alarming prospect not just for Americans, but for the world at large
A demonstrator stands outside the E Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse in Washington on 3 August 2023, ahead of the arraignment of former US President Donald Trump (AFP)

Can the world afford another four years of Donald Trump? Given the terror he visited upon the weakest and most vulnerable in the US and the world during his first term in office, the question is surreal even to ponder. But this is the US, whose criminals and bullies are not just a domestic problem; they endanger the world at large. 

I remember when George W Bush was re-elected president for a second term in 2004. The UK’s Daily Mirror published an issue asking: “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?” (I also recall wondering at this outsized reaction among a people who elected Tony Blair, nicknamed “Bush’s Poodle”, as their prime minister for a third time soon after.) 

If you think Trump is a clear and present threat to our fragile planet, then perhaps you have missed the fact that almost half of American adults, all eligible voters in this dysfunctional democracy, cannot wait to rush to the booths and vote for Trump. They are not “dumb”, but driven - persuaded, convinced, born again, “seen the light”.

Recent polls show that Trump is at the top among Republican candidates, while voters are split between him and his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden. Do not be fooled by the predominance of leftist and liberal US media fearing the second coming of Trump; he remains an existential threat to the world. 

Trump’s popularity persists, even after he has been indicted four times over allegations that include attempting to overturn the 2020 election and orchestrating an electoral coup against the democratic system - a system he is again abusing in an effort to become its highest-ranking official. If this were any other person, in any other country, you’d think he would just crawl under a rock somewhere and disappear from public life. But not Trump, and not the US.

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Here in this la-la land, Trump uses the very same indictments - and before them, two impeachments - to his benefit, feigning victimhood as millions of Americans can’t wait to vote for him.

What is the world to think of the Georgia indictment? The historic 41-count document accuses Trump and other officials of being part of a “criminal enterprise” that attempted to overturn election results in the state. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were similar courts in Syria, Egypt or Iran where leaders could be held accountable? At the same time, the White House would do well to stop lecturing the world about the merits of democracy and the rule of law, while Trump remains able to run for the office he sought to subvert.

Losing count

So far, Trump has been charged in four criminal cases in a period of just several months. In New York, he faces 34 felony counts over alleged hush money payments to a porn star; in Florida, he faces 40 felony counts for mishandling classified documents; and in Washington, he faces four felony counts related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Now in Georgia, he faces 13 more felony counts for election interference. 

The Washington Post kept a tally of the number of lies Trump publicly told when he was the president - more than 30,000 false or misleading claims in a four-year span. Today, I am losing count of the number of criminal acts of which he now stands accused by the US justice system. 

Would Trump's second coming be a moment of delivery for evangelical Christians who cannot wait for him to return, or Armageddon for humanity at large?

Keep in mind that none of these indictments has anything to do with Trump’s dangerous actions around the world, such as withdrawing from the Paris climate accords, launching repeated drone strikes causing civilian casualties, or extrajudicially assassinating Qassem Soleimani, who (whatever you might think of him) was an official of a sovereign nation. 

People might wish the International Criminal Court had jurisdiction over the criminal atrocities of all US and UK leaders, with Bush, Blair, former President Barack Obama and Biden held accountable for their own share of war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

But the charges Trump faces relate only to his domestic actions. While many Americans are rightly worried about what another Trump electoral victory would mean for their civil liberties or what remains of their flawed claim to be a democracy, the world at large should be concerned about the implications of another round of his imperial presidency. The first included such highlights as the Muslim ban, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and delighting American Zionists with enthusiastic endorsements of Israel’s thievery of Palestine

They say Israeli politics is a good barometer for the US; whatever happens there first, happens here next. This would suggest that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bosom buddy, Trump, is on his way towards leading a proto-fascist Christian white ethno-state in the US, modelled on Jewish supremacism in Israel. How lovely is that! (Not that Biden or the Democratic Party are particularly critical of Israel, as they compete with Republicans to prove their loyalty and obedience to American Zionists.)

'Authoritarian plans'

The liberal and Democratic alarm bells ringing these days about Trump’s potential second coming are impossible to ignore. If it happens, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinks “We will not be the United States of America”. 

The usually cool Economist is frightened by the prospect of disciplined fascism: “Mr Trump is likely to win the Republican presidential nomination for 2024. You might think victory in the general election would foreshadow even more chaos - this time without the grown-ups who, it turns out, at first reined in their impulsive new boss. In fact, a professional corps of America First populists are dedicating themselves to ensuring that Trump Two will be disciplined and focused on getting things done. They are preparing the way and you should not dismiss their efforts.” 

“I am your justice,” the Economist quotes Trump as having promised his supporters earlier this year, in decidedly apocalyptic terms: “I am your retribution.” 

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Vanity Fair appears equally alarmed, noting that Trump “isn’t even trying to hide his authoritarian plans for a second term”. Rather, “he and his allies are openly talking about them - which makes you wonder what they’re not talking about publicly”. 

The New York Times has remained cool, but certain of what the Trump clan plans to do: “The former president and his backers aim to strengthen the power of the White House and limit the independence of federal agencies.” What does that mean? According to the Times, it would entail “increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House”. 

Obama is reportedly terrified at the prospect of another Trump term, as are many other Americans of certain liberal persuasions. Some Americans are equally concerned about Trump’s foreign agenda, either because they are militant liberal interventionists who fear he would be an isolationist nationalist, or because they worry he is a chaotic, confused and temperamental tyrant.

European leaders, too, are worried that Trump could return and dismantle Nato while the Ukraine war rages.

Globally, the issues we face today are serious: calamitous climate change, a massive refugee and migration crisis, incessant wars, widespread human rights violations, gender inequality, and widespread poverty, among many others. 

In the face of these urgent matters, would Trump’s second coming be a moment of delivery for evangelical Christians who cannot wait for him to return, or Armageddon for humanity at large? Only US voters get to decide. The rest of the world is at their mercy. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he teaches Comparative Literature, World Cinema, and Postcolonial Theory. His latest books include The Future of Two Illusions: Islam after the West (2022); The Last Muslim Intellectual: The Life and Legacy of Jalal Al-e Ahmad (2021); Reversing the Colonial Gaze: Persian Travelers Abroad (2020), and The Emperor is Naked: On the Inevitable Demise of the Nation-State (2020). His books and essays have been translated into many languages.
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