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On the complicity of the Republican Party in the Donald J. Trump affair

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Complicit, adjective. Involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing.

Although the charge of “complicity” was never part of any formal indictments at the Nuremberg Trials, the notion lurked over every moment of the proceedings.

Who was involved with the Nazi leadership to plan and conduct an illegal war? Who conspired in war crimes? Who helped to plan the Holocaust? These were among the looming questions the four victorious Allies (America, Britain, Russia and France) had to determine in the trials of 24 German political and military leaders, which lasted for a year in 1945-1946.

The root of the word “complicit” is from the Old French complice: an accomplice. Those roots, in turn, are from Latin: “com” meaning “with” or “together,” and “plicare,” to “fold” or “weave.” Other words stemming from the same roots are “complicate” and “compliant.”

The official charges against the Nazi defendants fell into three categories:

  1. Crimes Against Peace
  2. War Crimes
  3. Crimes Against Humanity

As I wrote, there was no specific charge of “complicity,” but the Charter of the International Military Tribunal explained that Charge #3, “Crimes Against Humanity,” would be leveled against Leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a Common Plan or Conspiracy.” In the event, 12 of the 24 defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Three others got life sentences. Four got sentences ranging between ten and twenty years, while three were acquitted. Such was the way the winning side dealt with those it considered, and found guilty of, being complicit in crime.

Lately, and every more strongly with each passing incident, the Republican Party is being accused of being complicit in Donald Trump’s regime. “The entire Republican Party is complicit,” declared Democratic strategist Stuart Rosenberg. “It’s Called Complicity,” Daily Kos wrote. Peter Wehner, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, said Republicans “need to ask themselves whether they want to continue to be complicit in [Trump’s] institutional assault.”

But it’s not just Democrats leveling the charge. Floyd Flake, the Arizona Republican Senator, told “Face the Nation” that “I do think so,” when he was asked if Republican leaders “who do not call out President Trump are complicit.” And no less than Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008, said Paul Ryan “has been complicit in his silence” in not condemning Trump’s outrageous conduct and words.

If Republicans are complicit, in what? The Nuremberg charge of “Crimes Against Humanity” that contains the word “accomplices” defined those Crimes in a convoluted way. Such Crimes are “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.”

No one is accusing Trump of “murder, extermination, enslavement or other inhumane acts against a civilian population.” “Deportation” might apply, in the case particularly of Mexicans, but Trump arguably has the law on his side on that one, if not humane considerations of compassion. On the other hand, there would seem to be serious evidence for charging Trump with “persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds,” particularly in his Muslim ban. But the charge of “complicity” in the case of Trump and the GOP extends far beyond the specific Nuremberg indictments. The Republican Party’s complicity is about standing by, silently, while Trump consolidates his hold on the government, thereby enabling him to run rampant over American institutions of civility, bipartisanship, truth, conduct becoming the resident of the Oval Office, and—lest we forget—while committing the various, and ongoing, crimes, including obstruction, collusion and financial improprieties, that Robert Mueller is currently investigating.

I personally expect this Trump scandal to end disastrously for him and for the Republican Party. I am not at all opposed to some kind of Nuremberg-style trial when the whole regime comes crashing down. There are many Republicans who ought to be accused of complicity: Ryan, McConnell, the entire Cabinet, the senior White House staff, and a good part of both Houses of Congress, as well as the Republican National Committee. As for the military–the Joint Chefs of Staff and the highest-ranking officers serving under Trump–their status as of right now is unclear; should Trump breach international peace in order to save himself, then the service chiefs likewise should be tried.

If such a trial does occur, Nuremberg’s results suggest that some of the accused will be found guilty while others will be declared not guilty. I would not expect the death penalty to be imposed on the guilty, but prison sentences should be, and given the gravity of the situation, they ought to be severe.

 

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