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OP-ED: All those men in the shadow of disgrace

  • Published at 12:45 am January 21st, 2021
Donald Trump

Trump’s dark world of petty behaviour is closing in on him

There are the many stages of disgrace. Those who fall prey to it or bring themselves under its long shadow have been quite a few in our times. The latest in the queue is Donald Trump, who thought he would reshape history through insulting ts fundamentals. 

In the end, it was history which turfed Trump out of the society of civilized men. No individual who understands civility, who appreciates the rule of law, who looks with disdain on pettiness and arrogance will miss him, except of course to refer to him as a man who attempted to overturn the constitutional basis of the United States of America, a man who let loose a mob against civil order.

Trump has been condemned to perdition. With two impeachments in his record, with electoral rejection in his bag, with his criminal incitement of his cult members to storm the Capitol in Washington, he has ruined himself. He is a diminished man symbolizing everlasting shame. 

Not that it matters to him. But, then again, men without shame who occupy public positions and then try to undermine those positions are not overly concerned about their place in history. Trump is a man whom shamelessness has never touched. 

Now history has shamed him, to a point where America after his departure has begun to breathe in relief once again. Those lights at the mall in Washington in tribute to the 400,000 Americans felled by the coronavirus were a final indictment of his sinister presidency.

It has always been like this in twisted times. Every time a ruler begins to consider himself omnipotent and omniscient, there is that feeling arising in the souls of good men and women that his days are numbered, that he will soon be on his way to damnation. The shah of Iran, a pretentious man from head to toe, would not look upon humility in kindly fashion. 

His repressive rule, his cheerful use of his secret police Savak against his own people, could not but pave the path to his fall. He lies in his grave in Cairo, the only place where he could be buried when he succumbed to cancer in 1980. No country would take him in when the ayatollahs took over Iran and only when Anwar Sadat gave him refuge was he able to die, forlorn and shorn of all his earlier majesty.

Reza Pahlavi the shah is a forgotten man today, as forgotten and as despised as Khandakar Moshtaq Ahmed in Bangladesh. When Moshtaq died in March 1996, no one mourned his passing. It was just as well, for it was he who had presided over and sanctioned the murder of his leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and nearly his entire family. 

He would not stop there but would go on to have his killer-majors and killer-colonels murder the four leaders of the Mujibnagar government, his own colleagues, in prison. Moshtaq lies in his grave in his village, an object of derision, justifiably forgotten by Bangladesh’s people and history. 

His disgrace is forever, for his hands were soiled with blood. In that grave lie the bones of an arch-conspirator who planned murder and did commit murder.

Ferdinand Marcos, a leader who promised enlightenment in the Philippines when he was elected president in 1965, would take the road to humiliation when on his watch his rival Benigno Aquino was assassinated at Manila airport on his return home from exile in 1983. Marcos did not hear the sounds of disaster approaching his door and went on to declare himself victorious at the elections in 1986. That did not help him at all, for people power made sure that he did not stay in the country, that with Corazon Aquino taking charge he fled the country. 

His final disgrace was dying abroad. The disgrace has endured, as it endures in the case of Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan. The Pakistani dictator repudiated the results of an election, murdered 3 million Bengalis, and then lost half his country. If he is remembered today, it is in contempt -- for his womanizing, for his endless inebriation, for the mass murderer he was.

In the chronicles of the disgraced are those kleptocrats who have ruined the lives of their people through unbridled and unashamed corruption. Mobutu Sese Seko and Suharto ruled long and hard, filling their coffers with wealth purloined from their suffering people. Hosni Mubarak would not let his people speak, as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not let Egyptians speak today. 

Mubarak is in eternal disgrace and Sisi will be, at a point of time. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is a reviled figure, for besides murdering Salvador Allende he authorized the killing of thousands of Chileans. Place all these men beside Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Hideki Tojo. The dimensions of disgrace are made clearer; they become amplified for general understanding.

Trump’s disgrace is a journey back to earlier tales of political disgrace in America. Senator Joe McCarthy, obsessed with unearthing communists in every segment of government in the 1950s, went on destroying the lives of perfectly respectable men -- until he was brought down in shame. His final years were shoddy; he drank himself to gibberish and then died. He is remembered in disgust. 

With Richard Nixon, disgrace was inevitable in light of Watergate. He lied, he obfuscated, he was almost impeached. And the 20 years in which he lived after his resignation from the office of president were a long period toward rehabilitation of a sort. He wrote books, visited foreign capitals, and advised his successors. But Watergate was not to be forgotten. The disgrace of it marked him in life and will not be erased in death.

Donald Trump’s disgrace is complete. In power, he denigrated decent men and women. And Vladimir Putin will perhaps tell you someday what incriminating material he has on America’s newly disgraced, fallen leader. Trump’s dark world of petty behaviour and crude demeanour has now begun to close in on him. 

It will now be for Joe Biden to inform the world that an America without Trump is once more a land of promise, that it can claw back to ethics and morality, that it has the will to put such followers of the Trump cult as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley in their places.

History has no place for disgraced men. It consigns them to the dungeons of time. The world breathes easier. Good riddance, it says. Poetic justice done, it asserts.

Syed Badrul Ahsan is a journalist and biographer.

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