Donald Trump

Then-president Donald Trump addresses his supporters at a rally on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

We Need to Take Trump's Threat to Deport Millions of Migrants Seriously

Racist, violent, and genocidal rhetoric inevitably drives the process of forced expulsion, and Trump churns out a daily chorus of murderous bile that must bring a smile to Julius Streicher's corpse.

We often trivialize former U.S. President Donald Trump's racism—we consider his bigotry in passing while ruminating at length on his legal woes and alleged cognitive deterioration. Social media pundit David Pakman has been showing clips of Trump slurring his words or rambling chaotically on a daily basis—as if the primary threat posed by another MAGA presidency would be to allow an incompetent, confused, and mentally ill bungler to have another go at the Oval Office. One hears the word "unfit" tossed in Trump's direction with monotonous regularity, but unfitness may be the least of our worries.

Trump's drooling tirades should not be seen as a reflection of creeping Alzheimer's dementia—there is an inevitable and intentional structure to his meandering tale about sharks, the virtues of autocrats and gangsters, and the somnolent and absurd boasting of personal omnipotence. No matter how silly, pointless, or psychologically damaged Trump's soliloquy may appear to be, his rambling narrative returns to an epic promise: Trump vows to deport some 11 million so-called illegals from U.S. soil.

The obsession with mass expulsion has emerged at various times in history—in Rwanda, in pre-World War II Nazi Germany, in Turkish Armenia, in Palestine, in 19th-century America, in Bosnia, in Somalia—one could go on and on. Fourteen million ethnic Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II—the death count from that forced transfer of people has been estimated along a range from half a million to two-and-a-half million.

If one is nominally familiar with the history of genocide, Trump's memes and obsessions become ominously familiar.

There is an enormous and bloody climax forthcoming once mass expulsion leaps from being an act of political theater in the mouth of some ambitious autocrat, to becoming actual state policy. Once a nation assembles the bureaucratic and military force needed to move masses of people from their homes and communities—children and families—the act of genocide looms as a likely conclusion. Whether it is the mass extermination of Tutsis, Native Americans, Jews, Croatians, Armenians, Palestinians, or Yazidis, we should be exquisitely aware that genocide often follows on the heals of forced removal of ethnic, racial, or religious "others."

There has been an ongoing international debate since the year that Trump was born (1946) as to whether or not mass expulsion should be added to the five defining features of genocide that comprise Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention.

We all should know the basic history. in October of 1938 the Nazi government arrested and moved 17,000 Polish Jews, residing in Germany, across the Polish border. The Polish government did not welcome these refugees, and they languished in terrible conditions without adequate food or medical care. As an act of revenge, Herschel Grynszpan—whose family had been deported to Poland—assassinated Nazi official Ernst vom Rath in Paris. This led directly to Nazi anti-Jewish retaliation—Joseph Goebbels' speech on November 9 of 1938 initiated massive state orchestrated violence against Jews (Kristallnacht) and the subsequent arrest of 30,000 Jewish men to be incarcerated in the burgeoning Nazi concentration camp system.

The Armenian genocide featured the deportation of prominent Armenian intellectuals at the behest of the Ottoman regime. This act, ordered and carried out in April of 1915, delineated a new policy of clear genocidal intent.

In recent decades, the Indigenous people of Bangladesh have been systematically removed from tribal lands and subjected to murder, beatings, and sexual assaults. The escalating genocide of the "Adibashis" follows a familiar pattern. Mass expulsion makes territory available to colonial settlers.

The Nakba of 1948 drove some 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands under the assault of Israeli military forces. Like the Bangladesh intrusion into Indigenous lands, the Israeli policy targeted long-term inhabitants to make room for growing settlement. This mass expulsion now, 76 years later, plays out in the current genocide perpetrated by the Netanyahu regime with U.S. military aid lavishly provided by the Biden administration. Many of the Palestinians expelled from what is now Israeli territory wound up in Gaza, and their descendants now lie under the rubble created by U.S. bombs.

Racist, violent, and genocidal rhetoric inevitably drives the process of forced expulsion, and Trump churns out a daily chorus of murderous bile that must bring a smile to Julius Streicher's corpse. He refers to refugees at the southern border as vermin, animals, monsters, invaders, murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. He tells us that unsupervised American kids will be brutalized by marauding hordes from "countries we've never even heard of." Latin countries, Trump gleefully informs his followers, systematically empty their prisons and transport all of their psychopaths to the southern border. Do we take Trump's assertions to be easily debunked bromides—unhinged nonsense—or do we regard Trump's verbal routines as genocidal preparation?

Article II of the U.N. Genocide Convention defines genocide as:

a) Killing members of the group;
b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

A peer reviewed paper published in The University of Dundee (UK) Student Law Review concluded:

The discussion of the highly contentious and heavily debated topic of the inclusion of forced expulsion in Article II of the Convention is ongoing, and is likely to continue for many years to come. Decisions of international courts and tribunals have established the position of the law today—forced expulsion is only included as a contributory factor in a system of conduct directed against a particular group, or as an indicator of genocidal intent. However, it is likely that the law will progress, much like it has already progressed with regards to other acts, so that forced expulsion in itself will one day be established within the scope of Article II of the Genocide Convention.

It is unfortunate that forced expulsion is not yet included in Article II of the Genocide Convention. If one is nominally familiar with the history of genocide, Trump's memes and obsessions become ominously familiar. This story has been written and rewritten. We all know how the plot unfolds and how it ends.

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