As I looked upon the ruins of the Athens Parthenon atop the Acropolis Hill from my favorite spot on Philopappou Hill, I reflected on the events that transpired in Washington, DC on and since January 6. As a naval officer and aviator I have gone into harm’s way and hostile territory to pursue those who were deemed a threat to America, America’s freedom and America’s democracy, but I never imagined seeing the US Capitol under siege and a US president and fellow Americans as the greatest threat to America and its democracy.
In the spirit and tradition of American democracy an outgoing American president and administration set aside partisanship to execute the peaceful transfer of power as a display of American exceptionalism for America and the world to see. Since the November 2020 victory of President Joe Biden, America and the world witnessed, instead, a shocking cross between political drama and reality show finale. The former president of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump’s psychological warfare campaign against American democracy culminated in a live broadcast on January 6 of the assault and siege on the US Capitol aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election through brute force. The heinous scenes from the day, summed up by the image of a rioter parading the Confederate flag of the US Civil War fought 160 years ago through the US Capitol’s majestic halls, “tagged” America in its most shameful moment for all posterity to see, share and replay. America and the world watched in “shock and awe” as a superpower that can target a terrorist on a mobile device in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan with a missile fired from a Reaper Drone, controlled by a 20-year-old US soldier in a trailer on a military base in the Nevada desert, was caught by surprise.
Zealous followers and enablers of the former US president willingly and unwittingly with ignorance, malice and blind faith, introduced bloody violence to his fight, now “insurrection.” Fueled by a narcissistic sense of righteousness, misguided patriotism and sinister pleasure in trashing and torching America’s core values and institutions, ex-president Trump was emboldened by his fanatical followers, and they by him, to give mob rule veto power in overturning the results of the 2020 US presidential election. Trump’s second impeachment by the Congress was a rushed affair to put him in “time-out” as he had clearly not grasped the gravity of damage he could further do to the Republic. Ten Republicans joining the Democrats affirmed the clear and present danger Trump posed. Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney stated what many others in her party lacked the courage to say, that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Big Tech, moving faster than the US government, cut him off of Twitter and social media. Corporate America imposed sanctions on the then-president and “sedition caucus” enablers, creating another controversy of its own. As the president with the power to destroy the planet at the push of a button couldn’t tweet or post on social media, despots around the world tweeted and posted with glee. The “Law and Order President” silent, but still defiant.
The timeline of Trump’s actions and inaction on that day will be reviewed during the US Senate’s impeachment trial in greater detail. All will be revealed, from his profanity-laced pressuring of vice president Mike Pence to violate his oath to the US Constitution, to the president telling the crowd assembled on the White House Ellipse at the height of the pandemic, “we will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and lies that we’ve been forced to believe over the past several weeks” and that “we will fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” to the vice president’s escape from the US Capitol building as rioters who had constructed a wooden gallows on the US Capitol lawn breached the building yelling, “Hang Mike Pence,” to the vice president’s call on the National Guard to restore order, which Trump had refused to do, to the president’s continued calls to enablers in the Senate to continue the effort, and more. Whether ultimately acquitted or not, the “official record” will show that Donald J. Trump failed the American people in the very job he was trying to keep by force and greatly tarnished America’s credibility and standing in the world.
Trump departed Washington, DC to the Frank Sinatra tune “I Did It My Way,” leaving an armed military “green zone” of his own creation with more than 25,000 US National Guard troops, more than currently deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined.
In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden highlighted “we’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.” In sharp contrast to the last four years, President Biden begins his presidency promising to “be a president for all Americans.” He begins the giant task of healing a nation and restoring its credibility with the world as his own “Herculean labors,” the US pandemic response, the economy and jobs, domestic terrorism and racism, healthcare, immigration, a rogue Turkey, China, Russia, Iran and climate change. President Biden’s affirmation that he will honor his oath and his presence before the American people on Wednesday came in a sharp contrast to the disturbing scenes of American democracy under assault just weeks ago. President Biden delivered a message to America and the world highlighting that America has come far, “but still has far to go.” And most importantly, the message that democracy had won.
Commander Demetries Grimes, a former US naval officer and aviator, has served as naval attaché to Greece and Israel, deputy commander of the US base on Crete and adviser to NATO’s maritime commander in London.