So Donald Trump is going on his first visit overseas and the choice of countries is interesting. Starting with Saudi Arabia on Saturday, he then goes to Israel, the Vatican, Belgium to meet with EU and NATO leaders, and then to Sicily for a G7 meeting. One thing you can be sure of is that Trump will use these occasions to talk about how great he is. He may also give other leaders a map of his Electoral College win.
You can fully expect Israel and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put out the most luxurious red carpet for Trump and give him the most extravagant treatment. They would have easily figured out by now that Trump loves to be flattered, that this will cost them nothing, and in return they can expect him to ignore all their rampant human rights abuses and their illegal settlement policies in the Occupied Territories. It is true that he has not carried out his campaign promise to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem on day one, but they may be hoping that he will make that announcement on this trip. Even though president Obama continued and even increased the military and other aid to Israel that enables that country to have a high standard of living while it keeps Palestinians in abject poverty, Netanyahu would disparage both Obama and John Kerry with impunity, such is the power of the Israel lobby in the US. But with Trump, Israel does not need to use the lobby, except to keep members of Congress in line. Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley is even more extreme in her support of Israel than her predecessor Samantha Power.
It is the visit to Saudi Arabia that should be more interesting. The US has long been obsequious to that truly horrendous authoritarian regime, no doubt because that country is one of the biggest purchasers of US military equipment and has now become its proxy, fighting a cruel war against the defenseless people of Yemen. For all his high-falutin’ talk of human rights, Obama continued that practice, even attending the funeral of its monarch.
But Trump during the campaign was harshly critical of that country, no doubt pleasing his base who felt that Obama, being a secret Muslim and all, was pretty much a Saudi mole in the White House. Mehdi Hasan chronicles all the harsh criticisms Trump has made.
We will be expected to forget how Trump blasted the Saudi royals for being freeloaders and threatened them with an economic boycott.
We will be also expected to ignore the fact that Trump slammed the Saudi government for executing homosexuals and treating women “horribly.”
Perhaps above all else, we will be expected to brush under the carpet the fact that, twice in a single day, Trump accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the 9/11 attacks. “Who blew up the World Trade Center?” Trump asked his pals at Fox and Friends on the morning of February 17, 2016. “It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.”
Will Trump return from his Saudi jaunt with a big fat check? His much-hyped “reimbursement”? Will he dare raise the issue of gay rights while in Riyadh? Or women’s rights? Will he manage to bring back a Saudi royal or two in handcuffs for their (alleged) role in the 9/11 attacks? Please. There are greater odds of the American president coming back as a proud convert to Islam.
As to the last point, it is being reported that Trump is going to give a speech on Islam that will be written by Stephen Miller, the same person who drafted his ill-fated executive order targeting Muslim visitors, immigrants, and refugees to the US. Will Trump say in his usual grandiose style that ‘nobody knew’ that Islam was a complex religion and that nobody understands it better than him? I am also curious if Melania Trump will cover her head when she is in public, as women are forced to do there, and if so, how that will play with Trump’s supporters.
One thing that you can be certain of is that Trump will say and do things that will set off another round of media buzz. It may help to take attention away from his troubles at home.
Stephen Colbert previews the Trump trip and the precautions being taken to deal with this man-child.