Donald Trump and Husni Za’im

I was posted in Damascus in the early ’50’s, not long after the brief but memorable rule of Husni Za’im. Za’im led a coup d’etat in April of 1949 and was deposed himself 100 days later, and executed. My Syrian friends were still chortling about those hundred days and all the memorable things that happened during that brief period.

Za’im, according to my informants, was a true revolutionary who overturned everything, or tried to. He wore a three-cornered hat and strode around with his hand in his jacket, a la Napoleon. He had quite a temper.

One day he saw an Aleppo newspaper editorial that roused his ire. He barked a command at two of his bully boys who drove their jeep to Aleppo as fast as they could. The road was terrible in those days and it was close to midnight before they reached the house of the offending editor. They yanked him out of bed, threw him in the back seat of the jeep in his nightshirt, and drove back to the presidential palace in Damascus. It was morning by then; the editor was dragged up the steps and presented to the Za’im, who barked at him, “Did you write this editorial?” The editor, hardly able to speak, assented. The president turned around, dropped his pants, bent over, and said: “Kiss my ass.” The editor complied. His guards plunked him back in the jeep and drove him back to Aleppo. When they got to his house they released him with this message:”Don’t do that again”. He didn’t.

I was told that during Za’im’s short rule a lot of progressive laws and regulations were promulgated by competent technicians who had been able to crawl out of the woodwork during the chaos following his accession and get things done that had been undoable in the calmer and more settled days that had gone before. It was a period of creative chaos, as it were.

I can imagine Donald Trump playing a role something like that if he should win the election and become President. The problem might be getting rid of him after 100 days but that’s another issue. It seems likely, though, that something like a period of creative chaos might well reign, for a while at least. While a lot of bad things would probably happen during such a period there might be an opportunity to sneak a couple of sensible changes through in the way we govern ourselves. Who knows? Fifty cents a gallon consumer tax on gasoline? A carbon tax? At least we might be thinking about the possibilities. It would be a small patch of silver lining in an otherwise pretty cloudy outlook.

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1 Response to Donald Trump and Husni Za’im

  1. Diana Echeverria says:

    Carlton, I am so glad you are still writing!!! I laughed when I read your piece today. Thanks. I am so appalled by our political spectrum of candidates and the level of engagement abroad – the lack of statesmanship and leadership is a gap which needs to be filled. I am in DC now after returning from living in the country of Georgia for 5 years working for DTRA but as a clinical and epidemiology trainer. I was there to build capacity for infectious disease surveillance – one project that our former senators Nunn and Luger had the foresight to realize – disease crosses borders and can not be contained by money spent on bullets and hardware. It was an interesting project.

    You may not recall me or my family but we knew your family since 1956-7 in India and I was good friends with William and Howie in the 60s-70s.

    Please keep writing – I wlll feel better. Diana

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