13 Jan, 2017
Bangkok – In a few days, the world’s most powerful country will undergo a change in leadership. As the transition nears, it is becoming more than apparent that trouble looms, trouble that will have a significant impact on the way the world works and, by extension, on global travel & tourism.
The Trump presidency will expedite the fall of the U.S. empire, which I have forecast since the days of the George W. Bush II presidency. No empire lasts forever. None. All make the same fatal mistakes as their predecessors, fall victim to their own hubris and arrogance, and assume that they are invincible.
That’s when the cycle turns.
When history begins to record the beginning of the end of the U.S. empire, it will probably be traceable back to the “Lie of the Century” – that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”.
Thanks to a cunning campaign of persistent and consistent lies, the world was hoodwinked into thinking this to be true, leading to an invasion that destroyed an entire country, killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people and destabilised the entire Middle East. The consequences of this are still being felt.
Today, Donald Trump is facing questions about his links with Russia, the role of intelligence agencies, fake news and a conflict with the media at large. None of this is new. It is no different from the era of former President George W. Bush Jr and the fake news produced by U.S. intelligence agencies about Saddam’s non-existent WMDs.
Tough questions are being asked of Mr. Trump. Too bad they were not asked when Mr. Bush and his coterie of Jewish neocon cronies were lying to send young Americans to die in pursuit of those non-existent WMDs.
Only a few journalists persisted in being a thorn in the side of the Bush administration and challenging the lies. One was the former Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas.
Neither Mr. Bush nor anyone in his administration were held accountable for the Iraq disaster. The outraged Ms Thomas wrote a book about her experience in order to leave behind a legacy for future generations of journalists and prevent history from repeating itself.
Appropriately called “Watchdogs of Democracy?”, its subtitle theme is “The waning Washington Press corps and how it has failed the public.” Publisher Simon and Schuster describes it as “a hard-hitting manifesto on the precipitous decline in the quality and ethics of political reportage” in the United States, once the vanguard of quality, investigative, pesky journalism.
Says the book’s sales pitch: “Thomas confronts some of the most significant issues of the day, including the jailing of reporters, the conservative swing in television news coverage, and the (Bush) administration’s increased insistence on “managed” news. But she is most emphatic about reporters’ failure to adequately question President George W. Bush and White House spokesmen about the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and on subjects ranging from homeland security to the economy. This, she insists, was a dire lapse.”
Ms Thomas died in July 2013 at age 92. Her bio on Wikipedia provides a wealth of detail about how she “paid the price” for doing her job perhaps a little too well. Eventually, she lost her job entirely because she committed the ultimate lese-majeste violation in Washington DC – criticising Israel for its occupation of Palestine.
Her book can be bought via the Simon and Schuster website. Selected excerpts from the book have been reproduced below.
Ms Thomas and I have a lot in common. In those days, I was writing a column in the Bangkok Post sounding clear warnings that claims of WMDs in Iraq were lies (fake news). Meanwhile, the editorials of the Bangkok Post, which claims to be the “newspaper you can trust,” were blatantly parroting the U.S. administration’s lies.
Like Ms Thomas, I too am a supporter of the Palestinians. Like Ms Thomas, I too paid the price of challenging the lies of freedom and democracy-loving countries such as the U.S. and Israel.
My column was terminated in July 2012, with no explanation. But I defied the gag order by uploading many of my columns to my website.
As I watched U.S. President-elect Trump give his press conference, it did not take much to see that Ms Thomas’ warnings were being realised. Media manipulation, disinformation, lies, distortions are now the order of the day – by both the President-elect and the media. Both sides attacked each other over exactly that.
On that day, both trust and truth died in the United States. That also handed a victory to Osama bin Laden and the global terrorist movement.
When Iraq was proved to have no weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush changed his tune. Attacking Iraq, he said, was necessary to spread “freedom and democracy” in the Middle East. More lies. The world fell for those too.
“They hate us for our freedom,” declared Mr. Bush. Well, freedoms are being frayed everywhere. Terrorists who hate those freedoms are winning, and every reaction to terrorist attacks with more curbs on freedom of expression and movement, racial profiling and privacy infringement means that they continue to win.
Because the U.S., once the true vanguard of global freedom and democracy in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate and Soviet totalitarianism, has been repeatedly lying to the world, and getting away with it, it is now reaping what it has sowed.
From what I saw on TV, Mr. Trump does not care one iota about being accused of lying. If Mr. Bush Jr got away it, so can he. He won the election inspite of enormous opposition from some heavy-hitters of global media. He attracted huge crowds during his campaign. He proved his powerful critics wrong. Those are his trump cards.
Now, he is putting in place a team of people who will tell him pretty much what he wants to hear in pursuit of an “America First” agenda. The facts will be dressed to suit the policy. Exactly as Mr. Bush did to justify his attack on Iraq.
Mr. Trump’s agenda goes well beyond. He, too, is surrounded by a coterie of Jewish neocon moneybag cronies, such as Macau casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose main agenda is to wipe Palestine off the map.
Mr. Trump will also be confronting China, reversing a number of international treaties, building walls with Mexico, safeguarding borders (read: creating a Muslim registry), and more. He says Russia will treat the U.S. with more respect under his presidency.
For the next four years, this is the “leadership” the world will see, and, I wager, eventually shun. It will realise the folly of putting too much faith in the U.S. and becoming over-exposed to an increasingly risky, unpredictable, untrustworthy country.
Countries will see that putting America First means that they come last. They will reduce trade, financial and investment exposure to the U.S., and accelerate a de-dollarisation of the global economy. U.S. multinationals will also come under suspicion about their links to the U.S. government.
That will only be a good thing. If the U.S. becomes more globally vulnerable and accountable, the New Year statements by both UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN WTO Secretary General Dr Taleb Rifai will come true. The world will be a more peaceful and better place.
The biggest threat to a better-world order are America’s merchants of death. U.S. arms dealers claim 40% of the global defence expenditure. The U.S. gun lobby remains as powerful as ever, no matter how many die in home-grown “mass shootings”. The U.S. entertainment industry spews out more movies reeking with unadulterated violence than any other country. Millions of impressionable young minds globally are inundated by this mind-numbing violence day in and day out.
The industry of violence and conflict has a far bigger economic and job-creation footprint than tourism, supposedly an industry of peace. A peaceful world is not good for the profit of the merchants of death. They are not about to let that happen.
Leadership is all about claiming the moral high ground, character, integrity, trust, credibility, mutual respect, fairness. Not much of that was in evidence at the Trump Press conference on Jan 11. The American people now have the leader they deserve. But, as I repeatedly asserted in the columns gagged by the Bangkok Post, unjust rulers always fall. Always.
The travel industry needs to accept this reality and initiate a more honest dialogue about the implications of the Trump presidency. It needs to prepare, prevent, pre-empt.
I am proud to be the only travel industry journalist with the courage to assert that the U.S. is on its way out. And I will be happy to say so in public. Industry conference organisers who have the balls to confront the status quo and hear alternative perspectives, email me at email@example.com.
Excerpts from Helen Thomas’ book: “Watchdogs of Democracy?”