The storming of the US Capitol by a mob of pro-Trump vandals was a thuggish attempt to overturn a free and fair election. Those involved must face a reckoning, including President Donald Trump himself. It is important that all sides, including those once sympathetic to Mr Trump in Australia, accept the seriousness of what has happened and, worse, what might have happened.
This was not simply a random act of unrest that has cost people their lives. Or even just a desecration of one of the sacred sites of world democracy. It was part of a plot to prevent President-elect Joe Biden taking office. Mr Biden rightly described it as an "act bordering on sedition". It came after two months in which Mr Trump has falsely claimed the presidential election was stolen and refused to concede.
At a protest in Washington, Mr Trump told the crowd again about his illegal strategy to stay in office. The mob took this as incitement to disperse the joint sitting that had started in Congress to certify the result of the November 3 election. Mr Trump, who had no hesitation last year in sending troops against Black Lives Matter protesters, did nothing to protect the Capitol from the mob he directed to its steps.
Credible sources report the President rebuffed requests to deploy the National Guard. A belated order to do so was issued by others in his administration, who, to their credit, have refused to play Mr Trump’s game. Without their intervention, the anarchy could have continued. Thankfully, the mob achieved nothing. Congress resumed sitting after several hours and continued certifying the election of Mr Biden.
The US now faces a terrible choice in deciding what further action to take. Punishing those involved might be seen as political persecution and could even turn them into martyrs. That is a risk, but actions must have consequences. Those who broke into the Capitol should be prosecuted and those who incited the violence indirectly may have committed crimes.
More urgently, Mr Trump must be prevented from doing further damage in the two weeks before Mr Biden is sworn in. He has betrayed his oath of office and continues to do grave damage to the Republican cause. There is a case for impeaching him or removing him as ‘‘unfit for office’’ under the 25th amendment to the constitution, but both options will take some days.
There must also be a reckoning for the fringe players that contributed to these events. An
investigation is needed into why police allowed the mob to enter Congress after weeks of warnings to expect trouble.
These events also raise sickening questions about the extreme right of US politics and what former President Barack Obama has called the “media ecosystem” which whipped up insane doubts about the results of the presidential election.
Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, must look again at their role in spreading obnoxious propaganda for the far right while Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and more extreme outlets should stop peddling conspiracy theories.
The whole Republican Party must purge itself of those who, by backing this fiasco, have shown they hold the constitution in contempt. The mainstream right should also reject those fringe politicians here in Australia who are channelling US paranoia.
We in Australia, who have such close links with the US, also felt our hearts miss a beat when watching the events on television. We must wish the US good luck as it tries to turn the page on this nightmare. We must also ensure that nothing similar will ever be allowed to happen here.
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