20 June 2022

I’ve seen many coups in my decades as a journalist and connoisseur of exotic, turbulent places. The most exciting coup occurred in Paris under President Charles de Gaulle as I waited at Place de la Concorde with heavily armed paramilitary police as we prepared for an attack by elite paratroopers from French Algeria. Amid crackling radios and the rasp of machine guns being loaded, armored vehicles took position for combat. De Gaulle urged civilians to block the streets running from the airports to central Paris. And so, we did.

In the end, French paras did not come from Algiers because the Air Force commander grounded all the military transport aircraft. Interestingly, an attempt by anti-Gorbachev communist rebels to fly special forces into Moscow to back their coup was similarly thwarted when Russia’s then air force commander grounded all military transport aircraft.

Traditionally, air forces are more liberal/left than ground forces – and sometimes sailors are farthest to the left, as witnessed when mutinous sailors of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet seized the battleship “Potempkin” at Odessa.

I remember being in the middle of attempted coups in Trinidad and Haiti, Kuwait, Italy and Peru. But none, save France, can compare to the current explosive Washington investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse his electoral loss and re-seat himself in the White House. This was one of the most disturbing and ugly events in US history, and akin to the attempt to crush the Roman Republic, on which the US political system in based.

It’s by now clear that Trump and his far-right allies tried to stage a bureaucratic coup, using some of the myriads of lawyers floating in Trump’s orbit. I was considered for a senior foreign policy job by the incoming Trump administration but declined after meeting many of its key members, including Trump.

I was a lifelong conservative Republican, but the people I met at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida HQ, were nothing like the old guard Republicans I had known. They were shady denizens of New York City’s real estate industry and until then obscure far right. Not my cup of tea. My Republican Party lived on Manhattan’s Upper East side, not darkest Queens or the remote burbs.

I watched the January coup unfold with horror and dismay. Whose idea was it to send a mob of yahoos to storm the Capitol, the heart of our democracy? What kind of half-ass attempt was this?

Long ago, I helped organize and mount a coup against my Swiss school’s unliked student government, then led by a little leftwing worm from California.

We declared the student government dissolved, appointed ourselves as committee of public safety, and promised new free elections in six months. All classic coup blarney. One of our chief coup committee members was a chap named Firdaus whose father, a general, had helped overthrow the government of Indonesia. Another coup member was my Turkish pal Turgut. His father had been hanged by the US-directed military junta in Ankara.

All the parts of our coup in Geneva fell right into place. There was none of the rioting and window smashing, none of the storm of obscenities and fighting that we saw in Washington on 6 January. What transpired in Washington last January was worthy of a mob riot in some small African country. Its leaders deserved a long time in jail – for a brazen crime against US democracy, and for galloping incompetence.

Trump and his hillbilly mob should have read military strategist Edward Luttwak’s fine book about how to stage coups. Instead, they swallowed Fox TV propaganda and puerile internet rubbish.

The rioters should all stand trial for sedition. Starting with Mr. Trump, who has much to explain.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022

This post is in: USA


  1. As a Canadian looking at the news, I am not sure we are seeing the same stuff. I saw videos of the guards moving the barriers for people to walk in. I saw a line of people walking through the building. Whatever, I do see a total breakdown of real law and order by many people and organizations in the US. As long as people in high positions can break the law and not be held accountable, then you have a country no better than the banana republics. I do know Hillary had an illegal, unauthorized mail server., that she kept in the store room of a dry cleaners business, or something. I do know that her emails were subpoenaed and she destroyed everything. Not a thing done to her. Comedy admitted that he didn’t want to prosecute because of who she was. Her response to the deaths of their people in Iraq, “what difference does it make” Trump cannot face any real investigation until everyone in Government is held accountable when needed

  2. Alister says:

    “A nation’s greatest conflict is with itself”
    The “Donald Trump” phenomenon is just a symptom of the decline of American democracy; as U.S political elites increasingly resort to demagoguery instead of addressing the real challenges facing the nation; the decline of American Democracy is inevitable, a tragedy of our own making.

  3. oldcanuck says:

    Well said. Conservative and Con-artist are mutually exclusive terms. Direct sedition conducted from the Oval Office buys Trump a life sentence, or America kills any notion that it is a Nation of Equal Law and Justice for all.

  4. My son sent me an email this morning about some really technical stuff on quantum computing. He closed the message with this statement, “So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape.”
    This seems to be reflected in just about everything, today. You can find it in politics, and commerce. It extends itself into society and is clearly reflected in crimes committed. There is a total disconnect between the government and the people. There is no value to human life; gangbangers are killing kids on the corner. Americans have over a million Covid fatalities due to their laissez faire approach and lack of value on the human life. This attitude filters down from those on high. It’s reflected in cops killing unarmed blacks with impunity, and it does not appear to be getting any better.
    The problem starts at the top and invades the entire bureaucracy. Even the US Supreme Court is affected. I remember when Kavanaugh was vetted; Trump dictated the terms of the FBI investigation. They have become markedly political.
    This seems to be the reflection of current society. The problem appears to be worldwide. Among other things, this reflects the massive failure of the education system. Through our excesses, we have languished in our ‘core’ people values, if we ever had them. I see no improvement in the future. With a simple downturn in the economy, the world may be on the brink of chaos.
    The problem does not seem endemic; the world is affected it would appear. I don’t know if the human species was always like this, or that it’s possibly related to overcrowding or something else. It might be a feature of unbridled capitalism, where the one percent set the rules, and the object is to win, or succeed, at any cost. It doesn’t seem to matter whatever the cost.
    I’m pretty sure that the world’s choices in Biden, Trump, Trudeau Jr. (Turdeau (sp) is as bad as was his pop, just in a different way), the UK Boris, and others are simply a symptom of a much worse problem. I have no idea of how this will end, and it could get really ugly. It may be that things have to be broken to be repaired, with the terrible things that go between.
    With Covid, there was an opportunity for the world to act in unison; this didn’t happen, and there were millions of unnecessary deaths. The fourth horseman is on the horizon with climate change. This has a potential to be seriously life threatening. Lack of water and food can bring massive political change. The protagonists ‘looking after’ climate change fly ‘in mass’ to the next annual meeting to pat themselves on the shoulder telling everyone what great jobs they are doing. These meetings could be handled by ‘zoom’ or something of that ilk to show the people they are serious about tackling excess carbon. ‘Jetsetters’ still travel to their exotic vacation locations, and Formula 1 is expanding. There doesn’t seem to be anyone concerned.
    My son’s comment comes back to haunt.

  5. tyrionlannister says:

    I think it is wild overkill to call the January 6 fiasco an “attempted coup”. From what I’ve gleaned so far it looks like a standard run of mill demonstration in which a few participants went goon. The machinations behind the scenes were perhaps the usual legal barracuda stuff that surely isn’t anything more than the usual House of Cards goings on that pervade DC. But this is poison to Trump all the same. He has come across as a sore loser willing to punch low to get what he wants. I can’t see him retaining the credibility needed to have any serious shot at a 2024 run. It is truly time for a sector of the Republican Party to snap out of the Cult of Trump and pick from the wide choice of credible candidates that they must surely have. Trump is not a representative of the heart of the GOP anyway, but rather an opportunistic outsider intent on highjacking the party for his own ends.
    Small side note on hypocrisy in Politics, our constant friend. Strange how lefties are eager to call Jan. 6 the great barbarian invasion, while excusing the nasty hooliganism of the George Floyd rampages as “mostly peaceful protests”. There is rarely a politician or activist loud mouth that has an ounce of shame.

    • It was about as attempted as you could get. If it had have been successful, I wonder what the outcome would have been.
      The US is polarized by politics and individual interests. The Americans have rights and freedoms without learning about the responsibilities that come with them.
      On their current path, they are doomed, and I see nothing that’s going to improve this.

  6. Thank God, Eric! I thought all Republicans and Conservatives were total scumbags.

    • Your country has become so polarised, it’s been crippled. There seems to be not ‘fix’ for the future, and things could go further ‘downhill’. These are dangerous times for the US. My sincere condolences.

  7. Does anyone else think it strange that the people who can’t even get s cup of coffee without an assault rifle, two handguns and a rocket launcher supposedly tried to overthrow the American government completely unarmed?

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