One of the more horrific right-wing moments this week, though it was unfortunately not all that surprising, was Donald Trump’s appalling response to the death of Otto Warmbier, an American citizen detained in North Korea in 2016, who died of a brain injury shortly after returning home to his family in Ohio.
North Korean government officials blamed his condition on a combination of food poisoning and sleeping pills – claims that doctors couldn’t find any evidence to support. In fact, an American official received intelligence reports suggesting the 22-year-old man was singled out for abuse by his captors. After he died in June 2017, the White House statement blamed “the brutality of the North Korean regime” on his death. In a press conference, Trump lamented that Warmbier should have been brought home “much, much sooner,” his trademark swipe at President Obama.
Nearly two years later, the tone from the White House is a little bit different. Trump is no longer threatening “fire and fury” against Kim Jong-Un. Instead he’s showing an all too familiar and disturbing pattern of behavior that we already saw following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi: believing the despot over U.S. intelligence. After his farce of a summit, Donald Trump affirmed that he believed Kim Jong-Un’s position on Warmbier’s death – even going so far as to say he didn’t believe that the dictator “would allow that to happen.”
He went so far as to make excuses for his friend – yes, they’re still “friends” as of his latest TV appearance – attributing Kim Jong-Un’s ignorance of the incident to there being a lot of people in the camps – as though the dictator’s leadership has nothing to do with the camps’ existence in the first place. This would be an astounding display of ignorance coming from one of Trump’s supporters. From him, it’s downright horrific – confirming the worst that we’ve suspected of his instincts.
Any normal president would rightfully be impeached over this incident alone. Of course, when the expected blowback came, Trump claimed he was misinterpreted, but he did it over Twitter rather than facing the cameras. The world’s despots all heard him right the first time, and so should we. Just so we’re clear, North Korea’s abysmal human rights record was meant to be discussed at the summit, but was scratched. Donald Trump is guilty of crimes far worse than collusion – his greed has cost the lives and freedoms of innocent American civilians.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making