The well-known journalist, Seymour Hersch, has published an article in the German newspaper Die Welt refuting President Trump’s assertions blaming the Syrians for the chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun on April 4th. Worse, it accuses him of ignoring the intelligence that supported the Syrian and Russian version of events. Mr. Hersch’s source(s)? Senior U.S. intelligence operatives.
The subsequent bombing of Syria (after informing them and the Russians of the target) was mostly theatrical although lauded at home. In the eyes of many, it made Trump president.
The episode reprises his cynicism and an ability to ride a wave, as in the notorious ‘birther movement’ contesting President Barack Obama’s birthplace. And the same character flaw was apparent in the election as Mr. Trump shamelessly exploited a fear of the other to secure victory. The result has been a climate of hate and an exponential increase in hate crimes.
So it was that the meeting this week with Prime Minister Modi of India became a meeting of like minds for Mr. Modi’s party, the Bharataya Janata Party (BJP), has profited greatly from demonizing the other. While not much happened during the brief visit, other than the signing of previously agreed arms contracts, the peripatetic Mr. Modi got his photo-ops for the audience back home before flying off to the Netherlands next day.
Perhaps it was the missiles to Syria with dessert for the Chinese leader; perhaps it was Mr. Trump’s one-upmanship in keeping Mr. Xi Jinping and his wife waiting. Of course, the arms sales to India and the obvious partnering against China could not have helped. Whatever the reason, Mr. Modi returned to a Chinese military attack in India’s Sikkim province. Two border posts were destroyed by the Chinese.
Meanwhile, the epidemic of lynchings and beatings of minorities and lower caste Hindus like Dalits continues to expand faster after the cattle slaughter restrictions imposed by the Modi government. The attack on four young brothers on a train as they returned to Madhura from Delhi, after a holiday shopping trip before the Eid festival, has struck a chord and protest demonstrations have been organized. Taunted as beef eaters and beaten mercilessly, they got no help from any of the other passengers. Junaid, just 16 years old, died of stab wounds. The photo of the young teen lying bloodsoaked on the pavement, head pillowed in his brother’s lap, as life ebbs away has gone viral.
Mr. Modi finally decided to deliver a speech (last Wednesday) against the violence and the cow vigilantes but the genie is already out of the bottle. Barely 12 hours later on Thursday, paying no heed to Mr. Modi, cow vigilantes lynched a man in the village of Bajratar in Jharkhand. Alimuddin Ansari was a meat trader. He was attacked by a mob, dragged out of his van and killed, and his van torched. Worth noting that on Tuesday two days earlier a dairy farmer accused of killing a cow was also lynched in Jharkhand.
Needless to say, the new rules are jeopardizing the $10 billion meat industry, rendering more people jobless and worsening poverty. These cattle sale restrictions are also hurting farmers, already suffering through globalization and climate conditions, because when necessary they could sell old draft animals for slaughter through middlemen, a practice now prohibited. Their situation is so dire that more than 300,000, or over 12,000 each year, have committed suicide since agrarian ‘reforms’ in 1991.
Images of poverty, dirt and hatred broadcast across the world have dulled the gloss on Mr. Modi’s carefully crafted picture. That and Mr. Trump’s habitual falsehoods keep reminding us of how democracies falter when the demos fails to participate with careful deliberation.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.