Jan 11th 2021

Accepting Responsibility for January 6, 2021 

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of the Arab American Institute

 

On January 7, 2021, after two months of denial, false charges of fraud, and incitement, Donald Trump acknowledged that he would be leaving the White House on January 20th and promised a “seamless transition of power.” As welcome as this may be to some, it cannot be the end of the story. There must be accountability for the damage done to what we now see as our fragile democracy. 

One of my favorite philosophers, Jacob Bronowski, introduced me to an expanded understanding of the term “paternity.” For Bronowski, paternity meant more than just “who is the parent of a child?” When looking at the consequences of the injustice, poverty, or violence we encounter daily, he calls on us to ask​, “who has responsibility for this?” Or “who owns this?” For Bronowski, accepting paternity for the evil we do is essential to building a moral society.  

In the immediate aftermath of the nightmarish events that ravaged Washington on January 6, 2021, I thought of Bronowski’s lesson. The siege of the Capitol Building by rioters who shattered windows, invaded the House and Senate Chambers, and vandalized offices, didn’t just happen. It had paternity.

The President of the United States urged them to come to Washington. And once here, incited them with inflammatory rhetoric and literally told them to march on the Capitol. But paternity for this mayhem doesn’t stop with Donald Trump alone. 

We’ve witnessed elements of this tragedy unfolding for years now, with Trump’s coddling of extremist right-wing groups. He fueled their grievances with hatred of minority communities, immigrants, the judiciary, the media, Democrats, and anyone he perceived as standing in his way. He fueled their penchant for conspiracies with an alternate reality about how his many successes were being ​ignored. He insisted that he was always winning (his crowds were larger, the pandemic was being defeated, America was safer and greater than ever, and he had won the election by a landslide), but his enemies not only wouldn’t admit it, they were doing all they could to stop him. Action had to be taken.

He knew that individuals associated with white nationalist groups, armed militias, and the QAnon cult ​responded to his call to converge on Washington. He knew that they would commit mayhem. And yet, he persisted. Donald Trump, therefore, has paternity for what happened. But the responsibility for all that occurred cannot be visited on him alone.

He had enablers who supported his false claims. Some may have believed his distorted view of reality, but many others acted out of the callous political calculation that by courting the President’s faithful followers they could lay claim to be his political heirs.

Over one hundred Republican Senators and Congressmen endorsed Trump’s complaint that the election was fraudulent and vowed to turn the January 6th Congressional ratification of the results into a heated fight. Popular Fox News and radio talk show hosts added fuel to the flames by daily repeating every conspiracy and false charge of fraud that were already rejected by courts across the country.   

And then there were those closest to the President, from his Vice-President and his cabinet on down to his loyal White House staff. They too have paternity for what transpired on January 6th. For years now they should have seen sufficient evidence of the danger ahead. Just listening to his incitement against his foes at his campaign rallies should have provided warning signs.

Some of those in Trump’s retinue, ​including some of the GOP leaders in Congress, may have been “true believers,” but most had made a “Faustian deal.” They were conservatives at heart, and even though they never trusted or even respected the man, ​but ​​as long as they got the tax cuts, deregulation, and conservative judges they wanted, they were willing to hold their noses and remain silent.

What is so deeply disturbing is that after the damage wrought by their silence, these same silent enablers now feign horror. After the shocking scenes of insurrection in the Capitol, Republican Members of Congress have issued statements denouncing the violence. Members of the President’s staff and Cabinet are resigning, and even the President, in his January 7th remarks​, has sought to distance himself from those he now terms as “thugs” and calls for them to be arrested and prosecuted.

But this cannot be the end of the story for two reasons. In the first place, it’s not enough to punish the vandals. Those who lit the fire, fanned the flame, and poured fuel on it, must accept their paternity. Without accountability, there is impunity that threatens to very survival of our democracy.

Secondly, it is critical that we understand that lasting damage has been done. Members of Congress and others may believe that they are now absolved from responsibility by their recent “conversions.” But the reality is that there are millions of followers of various cults and militia, who remain not only unrepentant, but now more deeply aggrieved. They will not go quietly into the night. The white nationalist groups, the armed militias, and the far-right cults angered by what they will perceive as the humiliation of their leader will continue to pose a challenge to the country.

The answer can’t be to pretend that the crisis is now over or to believe that the way forward can be found by simply impeaching the President or using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. That will not do. January 6th had antecedents. And more than one man has responsibility for what happened.

To understand the roots of this crisis, President Biden and/or Congress must create a national commission – not unlike the Kerner Commission created to understand the root causes of civil unrest in the 1960s.  Only by a full examination of what led us to this tragic state of affairs will we be able assess paternity and make the course corrections needed to move forward.

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More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."