If the Roman historian could read Piers Morgan’s self-serving apologia of Trump, he’d probably repeat his aphorism “they make a desert and call it peace”.
Tacitus clearly realised that peace is a relative rather than absolute entity: not all peace is equally desirable.
For example, peace may result from craven appeasement. Or from surrender at the very beginning of a war. Or from capitulation at its end. Or from both sides running out of soldiers after a devastating carnage. Or from indeed both countries reduced to a desert. Peace may be a victory of virtue or it may be a triumph of evil.
Neither Morgan nor his best friend Trump seems to realise this. They both try to peddle the unqualified notion of peace qua peace, with Morgan acting as Trump’s mouthpiece. For, according to them, the only alternative to appeasing Putin is a nuclear conflict.
Whether you want to call this a misapprehension or a lie is a matter of taste. I’d call it demagoguery at its most soaring, accompanied by contempt for the audience. These imbeciles will swallow any canard, seems to be the underlying assumption.
One gets the impression that Mr Morgan only ever writes about the US president to have an occasion to mention for the umpteenth time that he regularly hitches rides on Air Force One, chatting to Trump throughout the flight.
Uninteresting if true, is my reaction. That is, it would be interesting if as a result of such intimacy Mr Morgan treated us to some illuminating insights. But he doesn’t.
He merely quotes Trump’s banalities and then puts his own spin on them, making them sound even more banal.
For example, here’s one quote from Trump (note that he calls Morgan by his first name) “Look, if we can get along with Russia that’s a good thing… Piers that’s a good thing, that’s not a bad thing. That’s a really good thing.”
“Whether you love or loathe Trump, and notwithstanding his horrendous performance at that Helsinki press conference, he’s got a point hasn’t he?” comments Morgan, displaying the same disdain for punctuation as his idol.
No, he doesn’t, Piers (if I may enjoy the same privilege of familiarity as Trump has). This isn’t a point. It’s an utterly pointless platitude.
Like all platitudes, it raises more questions than it answers. Such as, exactly what does getting along with Russia entail?
Accepting as irrelevant peccadillos all of Putin’s rabid attacks, past, present and future, on Russia’s neighbours? Allowing Putin to ‘whack’ with impunity anyone he dislikes, anywhere in the world? Turning Western countries into giant laundromats for Putin’s purloined cash? Dissolving NATO because it bothers Putin? Accepting that all of Europe is Russia’s sphere of influence, while its eastern part is her dominion as of right?
Is that what getting along with Russia means, Piers? Er… not quite:
“If Trump can now build a new relationship with Putin going forward that enables the US and Russia to collaborate on many mutually important issues rather than being at each other’s throats all the time, then surely we should encourage this?”
No, we shouldn’t. Not before finding out what price we must pay for such collaboration and what those mutually important issues are.
Diving into the sea of platitudes, Morgan then picks from the very bottom the pearls left by others: “As Sir Winston Churchill said: ‘Jaw-jaw is better than war-war’.”
First, Churchill didn’t say that, not in so many words. The exact wording was uttered by Harold Macmillan, repeating something Churchill said to that effect.
But even disregarding this minor lapse, annoying as it is in an experienced journalist, a platitude remains just that even if uttered by a respected source – especially if it’s taken out of context.
Churchill was a loquacious man, and it’s possible to find all sorts of quotations, including mutually exclusive ones, in his writings. But looking at his actions, say in 1940, one doesn’t get the impression that his commitment to ‘jaw-jaw’ was unqualified.
Churchill knew the disastrous consequences of the ‘jaw-jaw’ at Versailles, which fertilised the soil for the growth of a satanic tyranny.
He must have been aware that the 1922 ‘jaw-jaw’ at Rapallo led to the mutual rearmament of the two most evil regimes in history.
Nor was Churchill ignorant of the disastrous ‘jaw-jaw’ at Munich that emboldened Hitler to go to war. As he knew that the 1939 ‘jaw-jaw’ between Stalin and Hitler pushed the button for that war.
And when Churchill did put his putative affection for ‘jaw-jaw’ into practice, at Yalta, he signed his name to an abject surrender, delivering half the world to the red, as opposed to brown, variety of fascism.
Trump needs no lessons in demagoguery from Morgan. He keeps justifying his sycophancy to Putin by asking: “So what am I supposed to do? Start a war?”
No, Mr President. You’re supposed to prevent a war, and the best way of doing so when facing a criminal regime is to display firmness and strength.
By all means, we must talk to Putin, but only in the language he understands: that of strength. The message must be unequivocal: if you want to do business with civilised countries, you must behave in a civilised manner.
If you do, we’ll be happy to meet you halfway. If you don’t – and so far you’ve behaved as an out and out criminal in every conceivable way – we’ll resist you with all we’ve got. And make no mistake about it: we’ve got much more than you have, for all your nuclear braggadocio.
But look at Trump’s actions, not his rhetoric, begs Morgan: “He’s imposed far tougher sanctions on Russia than Obama, severely punished dozens of Russian oligarchs and government officials, threw out 60 diplomats after the Skripal nerve agent attack in Britain…” and so on.
Give the man credit: he does have the gall. Morgan is either ignorant or, more likely, he feels his readers are so stupid they’ll accept every falsehood at face value.
All those things were shoved down Trump’s throat by Congress, with Trump kicking and screaming every step of the way. If those who understand the evil nature of Putin’s kleptofascist regime didn’t constitute an overwhelming majority, Trump would have vetoed every one of those punitive measures.
It may be argued, as Morgan does indeed argue, that saying nasty things to Putin publicly is no way to conduct diplomacy. There’s truth to that statement, but it’s not the whole truth.
For Trump doesn’t seem to be excessively constrained by considerations of diplomacy. He neither minces his words nor pulls his punches when talking to, and about, his European allies. He doesn’t mind hectoring them rudely on what he thinks (correctly, in most cases) is the truth.
At the other end of the political spectrum, he often uses rather undiplomatic language when addressing the tyrants ruling such countries as China, North Korea and Iran.
So why is Putin singled out for velvet-glove diplomacy? Granted, he’s no Kim or Rouhani, but then neither is he a Mrs May or a Frau Merkel.
Morgan insists that we don’t know how Trump talked to Putin behind closed doors. Quite. However, every indication is that he was even more, rather than less, supine than in his public pronouncements.
I’ve said this a thousand times if I’ve said it once: I like many of Trump’s policies, and I dislike relatively few. This ratio is much better for Trump than for any of his predecessors, certainly since Reagan – and infinitely better than Obama’s.
But if he’s indeed singing Putin’s song because Putin has something on him, none of that would count for toffee. He ought to be not only impeached, but put away for life.
So what does Putin have on Trump, if anything? The answer is a resounding I don’t know. But it’s extremely likely that he has something.
According to Trump’s own sons, the financial ties between Trump and Putin have been more than intimate for a long time. ‘Putin’ in this context is shorthand for history’s unique fusion of secret police and organised crime that rules Russia and disposes of her wealth.
Eric, Trumps younger son, once explained in an interview that neither recession nor Trump’s multiple bankruptcies prevented his companies from getting financing: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
The elder son Donald reiterated that “… Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Anyone who thinks that the Russians are so generous simply for altruistic reasons knows nothing about the modus operandi of either the KGB or organised crime.
And when in 2013 Trump brought his travelling bordello of the Miss Universe contest to Russia, only very inept or lazy intelligence operatives would have been unable to gather heaps of compromising material (kompromat in Russian).
Trump dismisses such charges by saying that, if the Russians had kompromat on him, they would have used it long ago.
No, they wouldn’t. That would mean blowing their agent while he’s still of use. It’s only when Trump stops being useful to Putin that such material – if it exists – will see the light of day.
Conjecture? Of course it is. But it isn’t groundless conjecture, with Trump providing more than enough encouragement for it.
As to Morgan, read your Tacitus, Piers. Useful exercise, that, unless you’re happy piling up truisms on top of banalities and platitudes.