Every day it is becoming clearer that President Trump’s “partial shutdown” of the federal government is affecting more than the 800,000 federal workers and hundreds of thousands of contract workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay. Families are facing homelessness, going to public soup kitchens for food, taking money from their retirement and savings accounts, falling behind on bills and damaging their credit ratings, bankruptcy and an increasingly uncertain future. The economic impact on these families is developing into a crisis, and angry protests are erupting throughout the country. Trump claims with a straight face to empathize with them but has refused to back down from his imperial demand that the Congress authorize $5 billion to build a “border wall.”
The difference between the situation in the U.S. and in Zimbabwe is that in the U.S. some of those affected have the “safety net” that they will eventually get back pay.
In Zimbabwe there is an entire country for which there is no safety net at all.
The United States’ economic sanctions on Zimbabwe have one goal—regime change. The original Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 was co-sponsored by then Sen. Hillary Clinton and North Carolina’s notorious racist Sen. Jesse Helms. It was designed to destroy the land reform program of the Zimbabwe government led by President Robert Mugabe and his party ZANU-PF that had begun returning the land stolen by white settlers to the indigenous people of Zimbabwe.
Since 2001, the United States has misrepresented ZDERA as targeting individuals in government and business. The truth is, these illegal sanctions affect all Zimbabweans. The U.S. said the problem was former President Mugabe and the need for “democratic” elections. But, in July 2018, President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, of ZANU-PF, was elected by the people of Zimbabwe in a free and fair process observed by international representatives of states and organizations, including the U.S. A week later Trump signed a congressional amendment to ZDERA that further tightens the old sanctions. These sanctions affect trade relations, development, employment, agriculture, industry, health care, transportation and education. They are designed to “make the economy scream” and to encourage Zimbabweans to blame and then rise up against their elected government. Sanctions kill.
U.S. residents who think the ZDERA sanctions are harmless are now getting a lesson in the direct and collateral damage caused by the weaponization of economics for political purposes.
The other clear example of the use of sanctions for political purposes is the decision by Trump to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama. That occurs while the president and his administration face an onslaught of investigations involving Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and during the convictions of several of Trump’s minions.
Trump’s economic sanctions are abusive and deadly when applied to developing or what he calls “shithole” nations and to the crude exploitation of unpaid labor of U.S. workers who “will make adjustments.” Sanctions are weak or non-existent when they would interfere with those countries that benefit his personal, economic or political interests.