There may come a time when top officials of the Trump administration, including the president himself, will no longer be able to travel abroad without fear of arrest by international authorities. Every day now, evidence accumulates that Trump and his appointees are perpetrating crimes against humanity on the southern border.
Even Trump’s conscience seems to have been shocked, momentarily, by the wrenching news video of a father and his little daughter drowned in the Rio Grande last Sunday. Or so he wants us to believe. The images of Oscar Alberto Martinez holding his 23-month-old Angie Valeria, their bodies face down in the river, forced the nation’s attention to the terrible effects of his administration’s crackdown. Driven away from safer ports of entry, those innocents perished as the father tried to save his child at a dangerous crossing point.
While Trump’s sadistic approach has failed to discourage migration, he has certainly succeeded in wrecking the international image of the United States. Make America great again? Not since the exposure of torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 has our reputation sunk so low.
For many months now, the world has looked on our government in horror as the truth has emerged about human caging, family separations and intolerable living conditions inflicted on migrants. With each episode, this situation has grown more intolerable, as we learned that thousands of children have been snatched from their parents and then somehow disappeared, with federal authorities unable to account for their location or condition.
Trump being Trump, he immediately sought to deflect blame onto “the Democrats,” suggesting that his opponents’ humane attitude draws refugees northward at their peril. But by now he knows that his ill treatment of those migrants has done nothing to dissuade them from fleeing violence and starvation in their home countries — a consequence of U.S. foreign policy that predated Trump but that he has only made worse.
The latest damning evidence comes from within Border Patrol facilities near McAllen and Clint, Texas, where a visiting physician and attorneys found kids living without any of the necessities for decent existence. According to Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, the minors she examined in those facilities were subjected to “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” They had been unable to bathe or even wash their hands for days, which could lead to outbreaks of illness. Several infants had come down with flu, which sent them to neonatal intensive care in a local hospital. All of these children have suffered trauma, said the doctor, which provoked her to compare their treatment to “torture.”
The lonely voice of sanity on Fox News Channel, anchor Shepard Smith, was moved to point out that the United States is now subjecting migrant children and adults to conditions not permitted for prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Which is another way to say that the government is perpetrating crimes against humanity. (When Trump claims that the underlying cause is a lack of funding, remember that he was fully prepared to seize money, constitutionally authorized or not, to build his border wall.)
What drives a government that once stood for something better to commit these acts? The earliest signal was that inflammatory speech delivered by Trump four years ago on the day he declared his presidential candidacy. Demonizing immigrants as rapists and worse, he commenced a campaign of dehumanization that has continued to the present. Since then, this administration’s innate barbarism has been reflected in both policy and personnel, starting with presidential adviser Stephen Miller, whose own family has publicly deplored his cruelty. The incoming chief of Customs and Border Patrol is Mark Morgan, a hardliner who says he can tell whether a minor child will join MS-13, the ultra-violent criminal gang, merely by “looking into their eyes.”
So now the children are to be demonized, too.
When a government intentionally harms a group of civilians through propaganda, policy decisions and physical mistreatment, resulting in the death of innocents and the destruction of families, its officials are committing offenses against both U.S. and international law. That is what is happening today in this country — and someday, those responsible may yet be held to account.
Trump and his associates should stand warned.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.