Matthew Hoh is a former US State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over U.S. policy there in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, Hoh was deployed twice to Iraq as a Marine. Hoh is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. In an exclusive interview with Habilian Association, Matthew Hoh has answered the questions about Trump’s militarism and its impact on the health of U.S. citizens during the new coronavirus epidemic. What comes bellow is the full text of the Habilian Association’ interview with him.
Habilian: After four years of presence in the White House, was Trump able to fulfill his slogan to “make America great again”?
Hoh: In a very morbid and sinister manner Trump has made America great again, but that greatness is a greatness for capitalism and not for working class Americans, for the environment or for relations with the rest of the world. Trump has done many things to help corporations and the wealthy whether it be by providing tax cuts to the rich and powerful or by allowing corporations to expand onto previously environmentally protected land, abuse their labor forces and disregard health and safety regulations. This is how the US was at various points in its history, where industry and the wealthy dominated the US in a way that brought great hardship and suffering to the majority of the population, especially minorities and the indigenous. So, in that way, Trump has made America great again, but it is a greatness from which only the wealthy and the corporations benefit.
Habilian: How do you evaluate Trump’s measures in responding to the Covide-19? Could one describe the pandemic as the biggest challenge for Trump in his four years in office?
Hoh: Trump, like many other US politicians at local and state levels, both Republicans and Democrats, has been inconsistent, late and wrong in his decision making and leadership. He has put out and exaggerated inaccurate and dangerous information, has failed to support his scientific and medical advisors, and he has made sure only the corporations, banks and the wealthy are receiving the necessary support in terms of economic assistance at this time. To be fair such criticism can also be extended to almost all of Congress, including the Democratic leadership.
Yes, this is easily the biggest challenge for Trump in his first term, and he has done a poor job, however, the opposition party, the Democrats, have failed to show much leadership either, with their leaders being slow to recognize the enormity and seriousness of the problem and their backing of corporations and the wealthy, rather than individuals and families through the passage of various massive economic support packages.
Habilian: As you know, while the Pentagon budget continues at a very high level, the international affairs budget is cut in the President’s budget this year by 22% and almost $12 billion. As a former US State Department official who has also served in the US army, how do you analyze this issue? What will be its consequences?
Hoh: This is not a surprise and it is a continuation of decades of neoconservative (Republican) and liberal interventionist (Democrat) foreign policy that has prioritized militarism over diplomacy. In fact, prioritized is probably too weak of a word, as diplomacy has been nearly entirely excluded in many aspects of US foreign policy during this century. Again, this is true for both the George W Bush and Barack Obama presidencies. Even in the case where funding for non-military foreign policy was not cut or slightly increased, the concurrent increase in the military budget dwarfed the budget for non-military foreign policy. Additionally, it should be noted that for a great portion of this century, including almost all of the Obama administration, weapons sales have been the top issue for many US embassies, as opposed to actual diplomacy. So, even in its non-military foreign policy as carried out by the State Department, weapons sales have been the leading issue (weapons sales to foreign countries are the State Department's responsibility).
Habilian: Could US sanctions on Iran amid coronavirus pandemic signified as economic terrorism?
Hoh: Yes, absolutely. In general, sanctions are a form of terrorism. Terrorism is the use of violence towards a public in order to get a political change. In the case of sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, etc, the US is deliberately causing harm and suffering, to include causing people to die as a result of lack of access to medical care and technology in order for the US to achieve political objectives. The US does not apply such sanctions fairly so its allies, allies that have horrible human rights abuses such as Colombia, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Israel, etc., are not targeted by US sanctions.
With the coronavirus pandemic the effects of the sanctions are worsened and show the cruelty, immorality and illegality that underlies US foreign policy.
Habilian: We are hearing from many that the world after Covid-19 will be different. How do you predict post-Corona world?
Hoh: I wish I could say that this pandemic will help us all understand our shared humanity better, that it will lead to a tearing down of exclusionary structures and borders between countries (both in a literal and metaphoric sense), a renewed sense of internationalism, perhaps to include a reforming and strengthening of the United Nations (to include getting rid of the five permanent members of the Security Council) and increased intellectual, cultural and scientific cooperation across the world.
Unfortunately, I think the opposite will occur. You already see it with both Donald Trump and Joe Biden launching attack upon attack against China. I think we will see the opposite of what I have written above and that we will continue to fear one another, wage war against one another and hurt one another all to the continued detriment of ourselves and our planet. Eventually, whether due to war, climate change or possibly another pandemic, this division, fear and greed will be the downfall of us all.