Protesters have to be protected, writes Robert Fisk – but the question is by whom? And from whom? Like in the Middle East, soldiers are key
14 hours ago
Donald Trump has threatened to send in the military to restore ‘law and order’ over recent protests ( Getty )
There’s only one thing that ultimately matters when a government, a prime minister or a president goes on the warpath: not what his generals and ex-generals think – but will his army go along with it?
Yes of course, this rule always applies in the Middle East – where the army either appoints the president, becomes part of the presidential elite or fights because the alternative to the president is even worse. Kings and princes don’t count in the Arab world because they are the army. Take a look through the CVs of Israel’s prime ministers and it’s much the same story. But what matters is that it always comes back to the soldiers.
In America, the people elect the president. So let’s forget the generals and ex-generals who are now obsessing us. The only serving general who might have been a threat to his president was Douglas MacArthur – and that was because he mistook his own ambition for God. Right now, it’s no big deal that the Pentagon is wringing its moral hands over Donald Trump’s potential use of the army – or air force, who knows? – against the American people. It didn’t study its ethical rule book very hard until now, enabling the president, for example, to betray the Kurds.
That’s why today – in Trump’s latest widescreen animated movie – I search every piece of footage for the faces of America’s National Guard and enlisted personnel. In 2017, 16 per cent of all enlisted men and women in the US military were black. Sixteen per cent were Hispanic. Are they now going to go into the “battlespace” to shoot down black protesters? I have my doubts. When I talked to American soldiers in Iraq, I always found black troops were politically smart, quicker to see the Middle East from the Iraqis’ point of view – just as I have, almost without exception, found that ethnic-minority Americans I have spoken to infinitely more sympathetic to the Palestinians – and far less worried about offending Israel by talking about injustice.