As Americans cope with the possibility Donald J. Trump may soon be the next president of the United States, many have adopted the mindset that — because #NeverTrump — they must support Hillary Clinton’s bid for power. While this approach is flawed because Hillary Clinton is a reviled, corrupt war criminal and profiteer, resisting Trump’s looming fascism is doomed to fail for another reason: the United States government already does many of the most heinous things Trump has proposed.
1. The Surveillance State: An article in The Week published in February lamented that what makes Donald Trump truly terrifying “is the prospect of him at the helm of the American security apparatus. That could turn a merely bad presidency into a huge advance of authoritarianism, and perhaps the beginning of the end of constitutional democracy in the United States.”
It’s true that Donald Trump has called for a revival of the Patriot Act and the creation of a special court to issue warrants for access to metadata. These are all atrocious positions. However, in reality, the Patriot Act — along with the general ability of spy agencies to collect unmitigated metadata — have been policy. Though the USA Freedom Act, passed last May, was portrayed by the media as a block on the federal government’s ability to spy, in truth, it merely added a bureaucratic step to how the NSA obtains its information.
As far as a special court for issuing warrants on surveillance is concerned, the United States already has one. It’s called the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court, and it is notorious for rubber-stamping government requests, many of which are unwarranted. In fact, the government’s policy of collecting citizens’ metadata in bulk is sponsored by the FISA court. As the Los Angeles Times has explained:
“Originally created to provide a check on the executive branch, the court today behaves more like an adjunct to the intelligence establishment, giving its blanket blessing to mammoth covert programs.”
It remains unclear how Trump plans to concoct a warrant-issuing court independent of the pressures of the federal government — which is to say nothing of the webcam spying, facial recognition, and biometrics tools agencies already impose. Regardless, considering the omnipotence of the Deep State, it should be clear no potential president is going to rein in the government’s powers of surveillance.
2. The Border: Trump first terrified much of America and the world when he adamantly insisted the United States needed to build a wall — a really, really big one — on the U.S.-Mexico border. He continued to shock when he proposed rounding up millions of undocumented immigrants and sending them back to their countries (he recently backtracked on this promise). These are disturbing proposals, but in many ways, they’ve already been standard for years.
President Barack Obama has arguably deported more people than Republican president, George W. Bush, before him. Over two million people have been removed from the United States under the current president, though this has failed to satisfy staunch proponents of a wall.
The calls for such a wall, however, may also be redundant. As the Associated Press reported earlier this year:
“There are already about 650 miles of fencing, including the steel fence that divides the sister cities of Nogales in Arizona and Mexico and ranges from 18 feet to 26 feet tall. Much of the border fence was built in the last 15 years as immigration surged. The cost has been in the billions.”
Previous presidents have constructed miles of cement walls, along with fortified fencing, to keep the ‘others’ out — and these efforts have failed to stop determined immigrants. These apparent failures come even as “the number of border agents has risen to about 21,000, up from 5,000 two decades ago,” the Guardian reported.
While Trump supporters might be quick to emphasize that physical fortifications are not nearly strong or tall enough, they likely overlook other powerful forces at the U.S.-Mexico border. As Reuters reported, border patrol agents have been stocking up on surveillance drones and blimps, along with other technology:
“The bulk of the CBP [California Border Patrol]’s current $447 million annual budget for fencing, infrastructure, and technology goes toward surveillance towers, unmanned aircrafts, retired military blimps, and other advanced technological equipment.”
These efforts began in the 1970s, and as Gizmodo reported, they came into their own in the 1990s — courtesy of the United States military. They demonstrate the immense power of surveillance the United States already has on the border — so much so that an entire industry, dubbed the “border-industrial complex” by one law professor, has cropped up around border technology.
“The boots on the ground are getting iPhones in their hands, equipped with fingerprint apps with the goal of identifying migrants as soon as they’re stopped, rather than at often-distant processing centres,” the Guardian reported.
If these monumental efforts and billions of dollars cannot stop human movement, how will a costly, inevitably bureaucratic push to build higher walls?
Whether or not the United States already has enough security on the border — or has deported enough families — is already a moot issue. More Mexicans now leave the United States than enter it.
3. Killing Families of Suspected Terrorists: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said at a Republican debate in December. As (some of) the country gasped in shock at Trump’s willingness to kill innocents, this very policy is one of the central legacies of the Obama administration.
The president’s drone war has actually, literally, killed the families of suspected enemies. Such was the case when his drones dropped bombs on a wedding in Yemen, killing dozens. It was also the case when a drone strike killed sixteen-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the American son of an American man deemed a terrorist by the U.S. government. Neither U.S. citizens were given due process. They were simply ‘taken out.’
Further, the vast majority of drone attacks — 90 percent — fail to hit the intended targets, which is to say nothing of the fact the Obama administration’s definition of ‘terrorists’ is abysmally, albeit conveniently, broad.
While some may protest that Obama’s drone murders of families of
suspected terrorists are accidental — whereas Trump’s suggestion is sociopathically intentional — the result is the same: Innocent people die because of America’s insistence on waging war in far off countries.
After the backlash, Trump ultimately backtracked, arguing instead that America has to “go after” the families of terrorists. Euphemisms aside — for both Obama and Trump — killing families of suspected terrorists is already the norm.
4. Torture: Trump also drew intense disgust when he promised to bring back waterboarding, among many other forms of torture. He actually promised “so much worse” than waterboarding — and vowed his torture would be “much stronger.” He also incorrectly insisted torture “works.”
This is disturbing, but so is the fact that the CIA has long invoked torture. Following the release of the Senate’s nearly 7,000-page report on CIA torture, the country learned the CIA had done “much stronger” things than waterboarding. The CIA forced detainees at Guantanamo to stand on broken legs and feet and imposed forced rectal feeding and sexual humiliation, to name a few gruesome practices.
Of course, following the public relations fiasco over the CIA’s use of torture, the agency vowed not to employ it — and has specifically promised to disobey hypothetical orders to do so from a President Trump. But considering the CIA’s repeated lies, manipulations, and general secrecy, it’s difficult to believe the agency will actually make institutional changes. Even if it did, however, the fact remains torture has long been a lynchpin of American policy.
In the 1960s, the CIA produced a manual on torture, KUBARK, “the code name for a 1963 instruction manual on interrogation, which was used on subjects ranging from suspected Soviet double agents to Latin American dissidents and guerrillas,” Newsweek explained shortly after the release of the Senate’s torture report.
Even if such repugnant methods hadn’t been a cornerstone of American practices for decades, the United States’ widespread use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails — for adults and children — is widely recognized by the rest of the world as a form of torture.
As with mass deportations and killing families of terrorists, Trump recently said he would not use torture as it is a violation of international law.
5. The War on Journalism: Trump has called journalists “sleazy,” “extremely dishonest,” “unfair,” and “not good people,” and many Americans would likely agree, at least in reference to corporate media. However, to the cheers of his supporters — and to the shudders of journalists — he also claimed he would “open up” libel laws so he could sue publications like the Washington Post and New York Times.
Sensible Americans recognized the dire implications of Trump’s proposition, but his focus on libel laws — one debunked by the Washington Post, as it were — are only a sliver of the actual, current war on journalists in the United States.
In addition to the Pentagon’s decision to deem killing journalists acceptable in some cases, the Obama administration has earned a reputation for suppressing freedom of the press. His former Attorney General, Eric Holder, forced the Associated Press to hand over the phone records of 100 journalists when he ran the Department of Justice.
But the Obama administration’s restrictions on press freedom do not end there. The president, who promised to be the most transparent in history, has been criticized for for waging a war on journalism and leaks of information. On one occasion, the president personally intervened to prevent a Yemeni journalist — who had been locked up for reporting on the Yemeni government’s cover-up of a U.S. missile strike in the country — from being released from prison. Obama has also used the World War I-era Espionage Act to crush whistleblowers, and, therefore, the free flow of information.
6. Profiling: To the glee of Islamophobic Americans, Trump has said it’s “common sense” to employ profiling in the fight against terrorism. He previously failed to rule out a special registry, of sorts, for people who subscribe to Islam. However, his ideas are unoriginal.
In 2003, President George W. Bush banned profiling based on race but allowed for other types. At the end of 2014, Eric Holder updated the Department of Justice’s guidelines to ban forms of profiling beyond race. However, as the Washington Post reported at the time, “many officers and agents at the Department of Homeland Security will still be allowed to use the controversial practice, including while they screen airline passengers and guard the country’s southwestern border.”
The New York Police Department faced scrutiny after it was revealed they had specifically surveilled mosques in the region since 2002. The TSA, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security, is currently under investigation for allegations of profiling. Less obvious, but just as dangerous, following the terror attacks in Paris last November, Congress moved to restrict travel for individuals with dual citizenship in the United States and Middle Eastern nations, including Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Individuals who have traveled to these countries are now also subject to restrictions.
Yes, profiling is an affront to freedom. No, Donald Trump did not create it.
Is Donald Trump dangerous? Of course. Did he catapult onto the political scene suggesting brand new policies? Of course not.
Perhaps Trump’s stated goals simply serve to solidify the status quo as it is now, undoubtedly taking them a step further. But the truth is that the groundwork has been laid for decades, and Trump wouldn’t enjoy the popularity he does now if America’s totalitarian incrementalism hadn’t already paved the way for his rhetoric.
This article (6 Crazy Things Trump Said He’d Do That the Government Is Already Doing) is an opinion editorial (OP-ED). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Anti-Media. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article at firstname.lastname@example.org.