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A joke that bombs – the Trump tour continues

United States
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Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attend the Arab Islamib American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 21 May 2017 © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Donald is risible – but arms sales are no laughing matter, writes Mari Marcel Thekaekara.

There is no end, apparently, to the arrogance of a supremely arrogant man. No limits either. Donald Trump’s newest comment is that he will involve Muslim nations in fighting Isis terrorism. This comes immediately on the heels of signing a US-Saudi weapons deal worth nearly $110 billion this year, and $350 billion over 10 years.

It would appear that his past viral, headline grabbing remarks, have little to do with Trump in Riyadh. Yes. This is the same President who, citing national security concerns, issued a ban, later blocked by US courts, on several Muslim-majority country citizens from entering the US. In October last year, he blasted the Saudis as women-haters who push gay men off buildings.

Now, this same President, newspapers report, curtsied to the Saudi king as he was presented with a gold necklace. Is he the first US president to have done so, I wonder?

Politics and the world of international diplomacy can confound anyone. Watching the US television serial Madame Secretary, is an illuminating glimpse into the world of US international relations. One should, of course, remember that this is a Hollywood enterprise. But nothing can adequately prepare you for the real life drama that has unfolded almost every other day since Trump shocked the world and America, with his unexpected electoral victory.

He has taken cynicism and real-politik to a new high. His decision to view the Saudis, the ‘bad guys’ of his earlier speeches where he identified Saudi Arabia as the face behind 9\11, as those who will clean up the mess and end ‘Islamic’ terrorism, is too incredible for a Hollywood movie even.

By (hold your breath) selling the Saudis billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and arms to combat terror emanating from the Middle East, he confounds his voters and the world. His quotes relating to Saudi: ‘honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism’ and ‘people who want to protect life and their religion’, are breath-taking.

The trouble is people – the media included – treat all of this as a joke. The danger is that while we are all laughing (or not, as the case may be) we are on the precipice of an even bigger nuclear disaster. A huge explosion in Afghanistan, billions spent. Who cares? Apparently, even supposed liberals secretly, perhaps even ashamedly, experienced a frisson of admiration when the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (Moab) missile hit the mountains. Tough guy, they say.

In Britain, many decades earlier, I saw staunch Labour Party supporters turn patriotic when Thatcher attacked the Falklands. They didn’t say ‘why waste money on a pointless war?’

Happens back home too, whenever an Indian prime minister flexes his muscles in relation to Pakistan and puts his money where his mouth is.

There’s a widespread global anger about the terrorist attacks in the US, UK, France, Bali or India which makes people secretly pleased when Trump declares he will ‘bomb the shit out of Isis’. That billions are thrown away in obscene, futile military games while US soldiers return in body bags, is barely noted. Trump’s election promise to focussing on America and get out of unnecessary wars which were draining US resources, seem to have been quickly forgotten by those who voted for him.

Pretty much the same is happening in India. Our sabre-rattling, globe-trotting prime minister, promised better days will come. Modi and Trump are both exceptionally good at catchy, vote-grabbing slogans. In fact absolutely brilliant with the PR. Poor on delivery of election promises, but who’s worried about that? Bomb a few countries before the next election – bound to get you votes.

Now, the Trump entourage has moved on to Israel.

Is it a joke? No, it’s just Donald Trump doing his business as usual.

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