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Trump’s Night of the Long Knives

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He’s doing it.

As many of us had feared and warned, Trump is making his penultimate move to completely take over the U.S. government with his hand-picked flunkies. Last week he fired Kristen Nielsen, because she wasn’t tough enough, even though she masterminded the “Throw Brown-Skinned Babies in Jail” horror for which History will always condemn her.

Now, he’s fired his own Secret Service chief, the man responsible for protecting his life, and the lives of his family. There can be only one explanation as to why: Trump is seizing control of his security apparatus, in precisely the same way that Hitler did, after taking power in Germany.

“The Night of the Long Knives” is what they called that 1934 action, in which Hitler sent his men out to arrest, torture and murder anyone he thought was against him. Hundreds were killed overnight; it was an unprecedented act of vengeance. Hitler had waited more than a year after becoming Chancellor to get his revenge. He needed that time to secure his position, to make sure he controlled every aspect of Germany—including the free press, which he had systematically destroyed. Hitler even killed the head of own private army of thugs, the Brownshirts, Ernest Roehm, who until then had been responsible for his safety. After The Night of the Long Knives, all effective opposition to the Nazi terror regime was ended. Only a disastrous war that killed 100 million people around the world would stop Hitler’s psychotic death march.

Trump’s communications people—Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway—and his other propagandists are trying to describe the latest firings as routine. They’re lying. Nobody but Trump, and possibly Jared and Donald Junior, knows precisely what Trump is going to do next. But we can surmise. He’s in the middle of an historic power grab. The Election result of 2018 stunned him, but he decided it was only a setback, not a defeat. Then the Barr lie about the Mueller Report (carefully orchestrated by Trump) came out, and Trump became Godzilla Unleased. Like Hitler, he’s as angry as a man can be without having a stroke, and is hellbent on wreaking vengeance on his enemies, who are legion. He’s already cleansed his Cabinet and the West Wing staff around him. He’s been stuffing the Courts with rightwing ideologues. The Republicans that remain in the Congress are absolutely stupefied, in terror of him, as were the Nazi officials after The Night of the Long Knives, who rightfully feared for their lives. Today’s Republicans don’t fear for their physical lives but for their political lives.

So what’s next? Trump is looking around at every American institution over which he commands power, to determine which ones are solidly behind him, and which are wavering. My guess is that sooner or later it will be the Military that Trump interferes with. Whatever he’s got in mind, the Army (including National Guard) and Marines, in particular, are the only things that could effectively stand in opposition to him. It’s always that way in authoritarian regimes: if the Dictator can get the military, he’s home free.

I don’t think Trump has the military yet. His people like to claim that the rank-and-file soldier, sailor and Marine is with Trump. That may well be true, but it’s the senior command leadership, as well as the mid-level commissioned officers, we have to watch. Trump may already be quietly at work purging their ranks. Keep your eye on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford. On the surface he seems like a career Marine. His career has been boosted by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who liked him. He portrays himself as anti-political.

If anything goes down in this country of a serious internal nature, Dunford is going to play a very important role. Donald Trump knows that. If he’s not entirely sure he can trust Dunford, he’ll move against him.

  1. Beverley Polt says:

    Steve, this clear article stated so well what I have long seen as an extremely worrisome parallel between T and Hitler. I also worry about the unthinking enthusiasm of so many of his followers.

    Thanks for sending me the link to your site. I’ll see whether I prefer reading the Tales here or at Nextdoor.

  2. Thanks Beverly. Means a lot to me when somebody likes my writing.

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