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Community Perspective

Chasing a dangerous game of thrones

A letter to the editor by Alex Koponen called for “consequences for bad actions” regarding the handling of the pandemic by the former president.

He seems to think charges of manslaughter are appropriate. While no reasonable person, who isn’t a devoted supporter of Trump, would sing hosannas for his handling of the pandemic, it is a danger to the Republic to think that criminal prosecution in this instance would be a good idea.

I have no doubt that for the majority of his pandemic decisions Trump’s ultimate goal was his re-election with little to no concern for the American public. Furthermore, although it is impossible to quantify, it is likely that his decisions resulted in tens or hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Mr. Koponen compares the USA to New Zealand, a tiny island nation of less than five million. However, there are other more appropriate comparisons. For example, to the UK, where per capita deaths are identical to the USA, 187 vs. 185. Or, Italy which did worse than the USA, 210 vs. 185. Then there was Germany which did much better than the USA, 108 vs. 185. Or, Canada which also did better than the USA, 68 vs. 185. Given these highly variable pandemic outcomes in large, industrial countries, combined with the nature of American society, a New Zealand outcome was no more likely in the USA than it was in Germany. But, our outcome probably could have been closer to Germany had we a president who placed concern for the American people ahead of his own desires and narcissism, or, assuming a more charitable explanation, one who had a few more functional brain cells.

That being said, what I, or, Mr. Koponen believes doesn’t matter. What matters is, was a specific criminal code violated and should prosecution be an option? I don’t believe there is an answer to either of those questions that would result in Trump being frog-marched out of Mar-a-Lago.

If Mr. Koponen is thinking involuntary manslaughter due to negligence, he should be careful for what he wishes. All presidents screw up. Usually in ways that result in death, sometime mass death. Barack Obama ordered the U.S. military to follow President Bush’s plan to leave Iraq.

As a result, ISIL massively expanded, the death and suffering that followed was enormous. Was this decision based, at least in part, on improving his re-election chances?

Of course, Obama would not have had that choice and there would have been no ISIL at all if Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including over 5,000 American military deaths. Did Bush decide to do this, at least in part, because Saddam was, “the guy who tried to kill my dad”?

Today, President Biden, following the Trump plan, is leaving Afghanistan. Before the end of next year, Afghani girls will no longer be in school, Afghani women will once again be locked in their homes, or, should they violate one of the Taliban’s precepts, they will be led in their burkas to the soccer stadium to have a bullet fired into their brains, and, Al Qaeda or ISIL will be re-grouping in the mountains of Tora Bora. Could these atrocities result in Biden facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter due to negligence?

Trump was, and is, a-democratic. He and his followers have done, and continue to do, great damage to liberal democracy. With few exceptions, his pandemic leadership was appalling.

Mr. Trump is experiencing “consequences for bad actions.” Despite despicable attempts, including the incitement of an insurrection that resulted in the only time in American history where power was not transferred peacefully, he was removed from office in a free and fair election. He left office a loser who didn’t have enough human decency to admit his defeat and to congratulate the winner.

However, we are not, and never should be, a country that jails former leaders for policy decisions, no matter how horrendous and morally questionable they may be. We toss them out of office, either by the vote of the people, or a vote in an impeachment trial.

It is far from a perfect solution, and, our democracy is far more fragile than most believe.

But, revenge cloaked in the color of law? Hic sunt dracones — here be dragons.

Mark Douglas is a retired IT director, principal and teacher who first came to Fairbanks in 1977.

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