Noam Chomsky: Trump desperate to hold onto power

United States President Donald Trump is promising to unleash more federal agents on cities across the country, following their deployment to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. These agents are unidentified and have been wreaking havoc and terrorising residents in Portland. Agents have been filmed grabbing activists off the streets and bundling them into unmarked cars.

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden characterised Trump's Federal agent deployment as an “unconstitutional invasion” and raised the possibility that the US “may be staring down the barrel of martial law in the middle of a presidential election”.

Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor, linguist, author and activist echoed these concerns when he spoke with Democracy Now!'s  Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman on July 23.

President Trump is desperate. His entire attention is this one issue on his mind: That’s the election,” said Chomsky.

“He has to cover up for the fact that he’s personally responsible for killing tens of thousands of Americans. It’s impossible to conceal that much longer. Just compare the United States with Europe or even Canada. It’s becoming a pariah state, to the point where Americans aren’t even permitted to travel to Europe. Europe won’t accept them.

Martial law?

“His chances of victory depend on his doing something dramatic. He was trying very hard to set up military confrontations. You mentioned martial law. It’s moving towards martial law. He might even be able to try to cancel the elections. There’s no telling what he would do.

“He’s completely desperate. This is like the actions of some tin-pot dictator in a neo-colony somewhere, small country that has a military coup every couple of years. There’s no historical precedent for anything like this in a functioning democratic society. If he could send Blackshirts out in the streets, he’d be happy to do that.

“Exactly how this will eventuate is very hard to say. The courts are unlikely to do anything. We may even get to a point where the military command has to decide which side they’re on. The man is desperate. He’s psychotic. He is in extreme danger of losing his position in the White House. He’ll do anything he can to prevent it.”

Trump has signalled on a number of occasions that he may not accept the results of November’s election. He told Fox News journalist Chris Wallace on July 19: “I’m not a good loser. I don’t like to lose. I don’t lose too often. When Wallace asked: “But, are you gracious?” Trump responded with: “You don’t know until you see. It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do. Wallace followed up with: “Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?” and Trump responded: I have to see. Look, Hillary Clinton asked me the same thing.”

In the event that the elections proceed, Chomsky told DN! Trump could refuse to accept the vote, or refer the outcome to the US House of Representatives, “where there’s enough Republicans in the House to essentially turn the election into the kind of farce that you find, as I said, in some tin-pot dictatorship.

“That’s one possibility. Another possibility is he might just try to call out the military to impose martial law.

“And the point is he cannot lose. First of all, he’s psychologically incapable of losing. Secondly, if he loses, if he leaves the White House, he may be facing serious legal problems. Now he has immunity, but there’s a whole swamp around him. He’s tried to keep it from being investigated.

Legal problems

“He fired all the inspectors general when they were beginning to investigate it. The federal attorney for the Southern District of New York ... started looking into it. [Trump] fired him, replaced him with a [hack] from the private equity industry. There’s nothing he would not do to try to maintain office, virtually nothing you can think of.

“This is a major crisis.

“There’s been one or other form of parliamentary democracy for 350 years in England, and 250 years here, and nothing like this has happened before.

“We’re dealing with a figure who’s out of the political spectrum for functioning democracies. And he has a political party behind him which by now has just turned into cowardly sycophants. They’re terrified to cross His Imperial Majesty.

“He’s got a popular base of heavily armed, angry white supremacist militias. There’s no telling what he would do. I think the country, by November, may be a different country — and a different world, given US power.

“But that’s kind of the immediate issue. The reason why this is the most important election in history has nothing to do with this. Four more years of Trump’s climate policies and nuclear policies might simply doom the human species, literally. We don’t have a lot of time to deal with the environmental crisis. It’s very serious. Every prediction that’s been made by scientists has been too conservative. Each time it comes out worse.

“[I]t’s a major catastrophe looming. We have some time to deal with it. Four more years of Trump might well take us to irreversible tipping points. At the very least, it will make it much harder to confront this growing crisis.

“At the same time, Trump is dedicated to destroying the arms control regime. Last August, he terminated the Reagan-Gorbachev Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which helped control the potential for nuclear war growing from a European conflict. Now he’s dismantled the Open Skies Treaty, [which] goes back to Eisenhower.

“He’s imposed frivolous demands to try to delay negotiations on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the Russians have been pleading for for a long time. This is due for renewal in a few months.

“He’s now threatening to carry out nuclear weapons tests, tests that would undermine the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, [after] almost 30 years.

“All of this opens the door wider for other countries to react the same way.

“The arms industry is, of course, euphoric. They’re getting huge new contracts to develop major weapons to destroy all of us.”

Regarding the risk of the US descending into some form of martial law, Chomsky told Democracy Now! the US is in unchartered waters.

“There’s no precedent for this in any minimally functioning democracy,” said Chomsky. “There are countries, many of them, where the military has taken over, often with US support or even initiative, because we wanted to overthrow the civilian government. Nothing like this has happened since — aside from the fascist regimes, interwar regimes, totally different conditions, there’s just no precedent."

Chomsky referred to media reports about Trump “expanding his purge of the executive, which has almost been cleansed of any controls or dissident voices”.

“He’s extending this to trying to purge the military. Well, there were speculations at the time that the purge of the military might be preparation for a plan to try to bring the military in to carry out something which would amount to a military coup.

“The military so far has been refusing, pulled out the 82nd Airborne from Washington after Trump wanted it in there. They’ve been rejecting the proposals from the White House for more force and violence. That’s why he’s resorting to forces outside the official military in his current campaign to set up violent confrontations in Democratic-run cities, the plan right now. What the military would do, we don’t know.

“If you look for precedents in Third World dictatorships, it would depend on how those at the colonel level react, people close in contract with troops. But we have no precedent for anything like this. There’s nothing like it. This is a unique situation in modern history, in the modern history of the democratic — more or less democratic societies.”