In 1936, just prior to the final assault on Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalist General Emilio Mola was asked which of his four columns would take the city. Mola replied it would not be any of the conventional four columns which would lead to Madrid’s capture but, rather, a secret fifth column of supporters inside the city.
Throughout the years of the Second World War and the Cold War, the idea of a “fifth column” or “the enemy within” was, arguably, misguidedly invoked by members of the American establishment in order to defend the freedoms and values of the Republic. Indeed, the idea of the fifth column within American society often produced Government initiatives and measures which were nothing less than a total betrayal of the very freedoms and values they were instated to protect. From the internment of Japanese-Americans and the suspension of their right to habeas corpus following Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 to the second red scare and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s ironically named “House of Un-Americans Activities Committee”, the sole purpose of which was to accuse Americans, from various sections of US society, of treason and subversion without any regard to evidence or due process.
In present day America, the idea of the fifth column is very much alive and thriving in the slow draw, magic bean purchasing consciousness of the new American Right. However, the column’s modern day form does not compromise of one easily identifiable enemy of the American people. Instead it seems to be made up of various actors which can be seen in the eye of the Trump voter as the media (with the exception of such respectable publications as Breitbart, InfoWars, and the Washington Times), the democratic caucus, Islamic extremism, foreign meddling (although Putin’s Russia is to be revered in the same manner as Tzarist Russia idealised 19th century French society), John McCain, and pizzarias with a flair for pederasty. In fact, it is probably fair to argue that in the mind of those who wish to “make America great again” simply holding a high school diploma from a school in a reasonable proximity to the coast is enough to put you squarely in the lower ranks of the sordid intellectual elite fifth columnist.
These views can be easily viewed as the raving nonsensical theories of a group who are, by the day, losing words (I use the term “words” rather than “reasons” as they lost all reason sometime before the GOP Primaries) to defend what they saw as their presidential Trump card. However, this writer contends that these views are something far more darkly comical and deeply ironic than laughably nonsensical, these views are the views of a Fifth Column who do not have the self-awareness to recognise themselves as such, who do not realise that those they see as the enemy within are actually the majority of American society and the Constitution on which it is built. A fifth column which has both a political and grassroots membership.
The Column’s march from relative obscurity to the transparent, burning light of day has been one which has occurred over a number of years and one which has also moved from a march to a sprint in the last two years.
The pace began to quicken on 16 June 2015, the day a New York businessman declared his intention to become the 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump’s announcement that day was met with the same wry smiles and jokes as his unsuccessful campaign with the Reform Party 16 years earlier in 1999. The idea of Donald Trump in the White House, his name perched over the entrance in lights and the residential wing redecorated to resemble the same Gaddafi-esque golden interiors as his penthouse in Trump Tower was one which was laughable to the point that any television script writer who had the audacity to attempt such a twist would be labelled as a hack, taking his audience for fools. Reality, it would turn out, is far more bizarre than fiction ever could be.
As the campaign began to pick up pace, Trump began to level his sights on the now familiar targets of Mexico, Mexicans, and (as former Mexican President, Vicente Fox, termed it) “that fuckin’ wall”. Through the dubious claims that Mexico are sending the US their “rapists and criminals” to the “bad hombres” comments during the final debate on 19 October, Trump began to demonstrate to a section of American society that sweeping, racially charged comments and idiotic, untruths which can be easily shown as falsehoods are perfectly acceptable. This section of American society, in turn, showed Trump that they approved of his message by paving his way to the GOP nomination in primary-after-primary. The fifth column had begun to emerge from the shadows, their road map to racism and bigotry in one hand and an inconspicuous red cap, with the words “Make America Great Again” embroidered in white thread above its brim in the other.
It was during this time that another element of the fifth column began to expose itself. During a Florida press conference on 27 July 2016, several weeks after his son, Donald Trump Jnr, met with individuals suspected to be connected with Putin and the FSB (the Russian intelligence services which replaced, in name only, the KGB) and was allegedly offered information on the Clinton campaign, Trump Snr stated “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”. This was Trump’s first foray into publically encouraging a foreign, arguably hostile, power to act against US domestic interests; however, it was not to be his last. In a now notorious February with a then still employed Bill O’Reilly, Trump equated the Putin regime’s policy of violence against political opponents and journalists to mistakes made in US foreign policy.
In the last number of days, Trump has also appeared on Television and thanked Putin for expelling a number of US diplomats in response to new sanctions imposed on Russia by Congress and begrudgingly signed by Trump. Trump equated the diplomat’s expulsion to a termination of employment by stating “I want to thank him (Putin) because we’re trying to cut down our payroll…”. One has to wonder which conclusion, drawn from this statement, is more worrying; does Trump really think so little of the Federal employees who work for him that their service is to be thought of as an unnecessary extravagance to be cut down to size, or is it the realisation that Trump may believe that Putin has the power to fire employees of the United States Government.
Along with these very public outbursts by Trump himself, it has emerged that his campaign team and, subsequently, some of the 45th President’s administration may not be above reproach when it comes to questionable ethics and involvement (read: collusion) with foreign governments. The gallery of villains involved includes, but is not limited to, Paul Manafort (former Trump campaign manager and subject of an FBI “no-knock” warrant, a type of warrant usually reserved for those who may destroy evidence if warned), Donald Trump Jnr (Executive in the Trump organisation and First Prince of the United States), Jared Kushner (spouse of the First Daughter, Special Adviser to the President, and friend of Russian oligarchs and security officials alike) , Reince Priebus (former Trump Chief of Staff who was recently replaced and is rumoured to know where the bodies are buried), and retired Gen. Michael Flynn (a now disgraced 3 star general and former Trump National Security Advisor who accepted money from foreign governments to lobby on their behalf).
In the months since Trump’s inauguration and as a result of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey for Comey’s refusal to drop an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, an investigation has been set up by the Department of Justice and headed by former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, to investigate suspected Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election. The investigation has since been expanded to Trump’s finances and has resulted in a number of subpoenas, warrants, and, as of 3 August 2017, the empanelling of a Grand Jury, a device used in the US Justice system in which a prosecutor presents evidence of an individual’s wrongdoing to a jury who will then decide whether or not to indict the individual accused of the wrongdoing.
Whatever the result of the investigation, it is clear that the political wing of the new feckless fifth column has clumsily bungled its way into society’s view. This weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, the former home of Jefferson, Madison, and Munroe, the grassroots membership did the same in a violent, altogether uglier manner.
On Friday, 11 August, a group comprising of various white supremacist factions including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and armed right wing militia proudly displaying the Confederate battle flag descended on Emancipation Park to protest the removal of Confederate statues by Virginia’s State Government. The presence of armed men walking down the street unimpeded by the authorities while in full combat dress and adorned with the battle flag of the Confederacy, an enemy of the state is an oddity of mind bending proportions. One could not imagine a bunch of armed men walking down Grafton Street while dressed in UDA garb and protesting the Republic of Ireland’s existence without being met by quite a furious response from various members of the Garda Armed Response Unit.
The following day, the protests were deemed unlawful and a state of emergency was declared following clashes between the white supremacist groups and anti-fascist counter protesters which cumulated in a Neo Nazi driving a car into a group of counter protestors, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.
This terrorist attack by the far-right, employing the same terror tactics used by Islamic terrorists in London, slammed the grassroots membership of the fifth column directly into the harsh light of day. The blame for this weekend lies directly at the door of Trump Tower and the White House, 2 years of rhetoric to the aims of division and hate has finally reached its logical conclusion, one set of Americans using violence against other Americans for political reasons and gains.
Back lash against this attack and the unashamed display of the white supremacists’ fascist ideals has been met with near universal backlash on all sides of the American political divide. Republican and Democratic leadership and Members of Congress have been quick to label this as what it is, a terrorist attack by those whose views are as incompatible with the American way of life as the views and beliefs of Al Qaeda or ISIS.
The one voice which is missing from this condemnation is that of the head of the Executive Branch, President Donald J Trump. On Saturday, Trump, during a press conference in his private New Jersey golf club, rather meekly stated that he condemns the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides” thus seemingly tarring the victims of the violence with equal blame as the perpetrators. This statement was later followed up by a tweet (the president’s favourite form of address during a national tragedy) stating “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, WE ARE ALL AMERICANS FIRST”.
The use of the phrase “Americans First” is an odd choice in this scenario given its connection to “America First”, a phrase used by Trump previously and one which has its roots in the “America First Committee” which was established in 1940 to lobby against fighting Nazism and adopted noted aviator and all round American Nazi Charles Lindbergh as its spokesperson.
The President’s refusal to condemn this demonstration and attack for what it is has also been widely rebuked by the GOP at large, with one Senator, Orrin Hatch of Utah stating “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged”.
However, the truth remains, the President of the United States has not spoken out against these white supremacists, against these Nazis and enemies of the Republic’s ideals. Why would he? He has courted their support for years, his father had links with the KKK, he has never distanced himself from David Duke’s support, he has used their rhetoric and pushed their agenda to achieve his position and now he has blood on his hands.
The question now is will President Donald J Trump now move to condemn these transparent betrayals of American values and society or will he continue to wield them, push them to the fore front and, in doing so, promote them?
This writer thinks the road ahead is going to be paved with ever growing displays by the far-right of this nature as they begin to believe their views are acceptable and normal with the tacit endorsement of the President.
After all, why would the views of the fifth column within American society differ to those of its fifth column President.