Steve Bannon, the erstwhile White House strategist, has added a new project to his portfolio—one designed, like all Bannon projects, to harness the worst in a situation to make it worser. His latest focuses on an adversary that troubles those on both left and right: China. But Bannon’s aim is hardly to reduce tensions between the U.S. and China; he means to ratchet up the trade war, a prospect that surely plants a smirk on the face of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation.
Together with professional Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, Bannon leads something called the Committee on the Present Danger: China, a name risen from the ashes of the Red Scare of the 1950s.
On Thursday, Bannon, Gaffney, and a handful of ideological private capitalists gathered in the St. Regis Hotel in New York not simply to scaremonger about China—about which there is much to worry, from human rights to lack of any rule of law—but to declare war. Should Trump arrive at a trade deal with America's largest economic rival, Bannon said, we should think of it as “the beginning of an armistice—because it’s a war.”
Not that Bannon, despite his continued boosterism for President Donald J. Trump, is really down with that “armistice.”
Bannon, who is fond of deriding economic internationalists as "the Davos crowd," added, “I think we ought to walk away from this right now. We ought to start playing hardball. We ought to start playing smashmouth.”
Two days later, Trump appeared before the National Rifle Association, which seems to have had a chummy relationship with certain Russian agents, to announce that the U.S. will be withdrawing from the UN Arms Trade Treaty. Of course he did.
It was a no-brainer, a twofer: Feed red meat to the base while further destabilizing institutions of international governance and destroying the post World War II alliances between Western nations. The latter two goals play to Russia, of course.
Never mind that the UN treaty has effect on the Second Amendment or Americans’ access to the purchase of firearms in the U.S. The president saw the expedience of setting up the title of the treaty as a strawman, and then just lying about its contents.
“This treaty threatened to subjugate—and you know exactly what's going on here—your rights and your constitutional [protections] to international rules and restrictions and regulations.”
Actually, no, it regulates the flow of arms across national boundaries—like, say, those guns Trump falsely claims are carried by migrants into the U.S.
“We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedom,” Trump said to the NRA crowd. “And that is why my administration will never ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty. I hope you're happy.”
There’s no point in pointing out to people who love Trump that this whole rationale is based on a flat-out lie. They’ll never believe you. And note the use of the term “foreign bureaucrats”—as if the U.S. was not a part of the United Nations. Because, ultimately, that’s the aim here.
Back in New York, speaking of the American executives who have been doing business in China, Bannon complained, “Do you think for a second that these people do not fully understand what’s going on? Of course they do. But they have a higher calling—and that’s money.”
Bannon, who is flying around on private jets financed by who knows whom to break up the U.S. alliances with the liberal democratic nations of Western Europe, is pretending he’s not for hire. Bannon, who was a principal in Robert Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, which sold out the U.S. presidential election to Russia’s interests.
And of course there’s Trump, who shouted at one 2016 campaign rally, “[I]t’s hard for me to turn down money, because that’s not what I’ve done my whole life,” Trump said. “I grab and grab and grab. You know, I get greedy; I want money, money.”
At the time, his personal attorney was still trying to seal the deal for a Trump Tower Moscow.
And that, my fellow Americans, is the bottom line on this whole, despicable Trumpian enterprise, of which Bannon is still a part. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.