The comparisons with Adolf Hitler were indeed unfair. The image may be a fake, but Donald Trump was America’s Osama bin Laden

Part 3 of my series on Insecurities.

In March 2003, the USA had just invaded Iraq. As an Iranian born in 1978, I left Tehran with my family in 1983 when Iran and Iraq were mired in a bitter war. During the first Gulf war and subsequent post-9/11 war in Iraq, I took no joy in seeing the death and destruction and was firmly against that invasion.

Americans were led by George Bush and his cabal, warning allies “you’re either with us or against us.” While Tony Blair and the UK walked steadfast with America, France refused. Americans renamed French Fries Freedom Fries, ridiculing the French for not storming into Baghdad alongside them… 

On November 22 2003, my then-girlfriend and current wife and I landed in Paris. The first thing that stood out were the American flags in storefronts, a reminder of the gratitude French people had for America’s role in liberating Paris from the Nazis during World War II.

The Iraqi War was the ill-planned and ill-fated reaction to 9/11 where 19 Arab men radicalized by Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda slammed three commercial jets into symbols of American military and political might. Having recently graduated from college with hopes and dreams of pursuing a career in finance, the stock market’s crash and subsequent shock from 9/11 made that impossible for many fair and unfair reasons. 

I thus gravitated to a career in media. During the 2000s, as a young 20-something, I was always very self-aware and insecure with the fact that while Iranians were not Arabs, as a born-Muslim, Americans were going to prejudice me because of the events of 9/11. To their credit, border customs guard never did, partly because they knew who wasn’t behind 9/11.

Over two decades, I built my reputation and network with Americans, predominantly. Throughout my journey, I would always feel the need to endear myself using humor to win people over and reassure them that I wasn’t, in fact, “the 20th hijacker” and was as [North] American as apple pie, embracing the Western principles that we all believed in.

The Real Terrorists

Over the past four years of the Trump presidency, many of us who have been alarmed by Trump’s grift, dishonesty, racism, as he has tarnished the highest office in the land. Most of us have said that the things he has done and voiced were not correct, normal, or acceptable, but we have hesitated to call out his supporters because, well, they are also our clients and consumers. 

Wednesday’s attacks were a game-changer and I am happy to see business after business, leader after leader step up and voice clearly that enough is enough. Disagreements are part of what makes America so great, but the incitement that led to the insurrection against the Capitol led no confusion as to who and what the real threat to America was: domestic terrorists. For the most part, these are people who have been lied to and whose fears have been stoked into hatred.

When President Trump got 70 million votes, I was quick to point out that 70 million were not racist. Some were lured by the promise of lower taxes, a conservative social agenda and a right-leaning Supreme Court.

I never bought into or liked the Hitler analogies other than to observe that like Hitler, Trump was a master manipulator of the media. But like post-Nazi Germany, I think that the insurrection at the Capitol was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back where most Americans, I hope, do draw the line and say that no matter how many tax cuts are implemented, no matter what kind of conservative social policy is enacted… nothing really justifies such vile conduct and attacks on members of law enforcement.

America at it best is the greatest nation in the world, but for America to reclaim that mantle, it needs to come to grips with its past which, as a historian, I am reminded is based on the genocide of Native Americans, the slavery of Black Americans, sexism against women and socio-economic injustices that have led to tens of millions of citizens now finding themselves in food lines and hundreds of thousands dying from the pandemic which Trump recklessly mishandled and amplified.

I am economically more Republican, though socially I am more Democrat. But I am relieved and happy to see President-elect Joe Biden come into office because we need to address the growing spectre of income and wealth inequality – something I explored in my 2019 documentary Fox in the Henhouse.

I think at the root of this is a lack of education. To see the reality TV president take the office and turn it into a spectacle shouldn’t have come as a surprise… but we now need to – a bit like post-WWII Germany – draw a line and show the intellectual honesty that there’s no place for what we have tolerated in America.

I spent two decades trying to convince people I wasn’t a threat while those who stormed the Capitol were coddled and radicalized into the real terrorists.

America’s Osama

The leader who egged them on, Donald Trump, was their Osama bin Laden. A son of a wealthy man who used his father’s riches to propel himself into infamy.

The Donald was the 20th hijacker. He hijacked the GOP, then presidency, and on Wednesday, he hijacked the Capitol.

Enough is enough.

To paraphrase George Bush: you’re either with America or with the terrorists. God bless America.