The world watched on Jan. 6, 2021, as thousands of the most extreme supporters of President Donald Trump marched on the United States Capitol after hearing his rallying cry to “fight” and “take back” the country. Inside the Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election in which the incumbent lost to Joseph Biden by more than seven million popular votes and 70 electoral votes.
As Voltaire wisely said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Compounding his many attacks on the rule of law, President Trump armed those who attended his rally with an arsenal of false, unsubstantiated allegations against the freeness and fairness of the 2020 US election whose legitimacy and accuracy had been confirmed in more than 60 court cases as well as by the Democratic and Republican leaders of all 50 states.
The nation and the rest of the world were shocked as the angry mob — some of whom were wearing white supremacist and anti-Semitic slogans; most of whom were flying Trump banners and confederate flags; and a few of whom were carrying guns and other weapons — attacked the Capitol; threatened the American lawmakers there; chanted their intention to “hang Mike Pence” and declared their plan to “shoot” the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; brutally killed a Capitol Police officer; and injured many others.
By attacking the institutions of American government and interrupting the US constitutional process, the mob betrayed the values of American democracy and the principle of the peaceful transfer of power.
The first victory against the insurrection came in the early morning of Jan. 7, 2021, when the joint session was resumed and Pence, defying the wishes of President Trump, certified the results of the Electoral College, thereby declaring Joseph Biden the president-elect and Kamala Harris vice-president elect.
The second victory came a week later, on Jan. 13, when the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump for inciting the insurrection, making him the first American president to be impeached twice.
It will be for the US state and federal prosecutors to determine which charges to bring and against whom. It will be up to the American people to unite their divided nation and to heal their wounded democracy. After the absurdities and atrocities of the last four years, however, it is for the rest of us to imagine what it will take to restore America’s credibility among the free and democratic nations of the world.
Here are 26 possible steps to achieve that goal:
Assembling senior Republican leaders, including Pence, at President Biden’s inauguration
Bringing messages of unity from former Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton and Obama to the American people
Censuring the senators and representatives who still deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election
Deploring the systemic racism and excessive use of force against Black and Hispanic citizens
Ensuring accountability for all persons who incited or participated in the insurrection
Freeing the children detained at the US-Mexico border and reuniting them with their families
Holding a bipartisan hearing on ending racial injustice in the US state and federal criminal justice system
Implementing the Abraham Accords in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions
Joining allies to prevent and respond to cyber and other threats to democratic elections
Keeping its obligation under the United Nations Charter not to use force other than in self-defense
Lifting the US sanctions on the prosecutor and other officials of the International Criminal Court
Making full and timely payments of the US’ assessed contributions to the UN
Narrowing the definition of combatants to comply with international humanitarian law
Owning the US’ past and present failings to live up to its self-proclaimed aspirations
Prohibiting products from the Chinese detention camps in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
Quelling concerns regarding the US’ commitment to its NATO allies
Rejoining the Iran deal, the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization
Seeking to regain a seat in the UN Human Rights Council and closing Guantánamo
Upholding the international status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory
Vowing to fulfill US treaty obligations toward the Native American tribes and their sovereign lands
Withdrawing the executive orders and proclamations forming the US Muslim travel ban
Xenially welcoming refugees and immigrants in keeping with its legacy as a nation of immigrants
Yearning to bend the arc of history toward freedom and justice for all
Zealously defending the US Constitution and the rule of international law
By taking these steps, with a measure of hope and a modicum of humility, the US can heal itself and restore its standing among the nations of the world.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts?
Mona Ali Khalil is an internationally recognized public international lawyer with 25 years of UN and other experience, including as a former senior legal officer in the UN and in the IAEA, with expertise in peacekeeping, peace enforcement, disarmament and counterterrorism. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in international relations from Harvard University and a master’s in foreign service and a J.D. from Georgetown University. She is an affiliate of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict and a nonresident fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. She is the Founder and Director of MAK LAW INTERNATIONAL, a legal advisory and strategic consulting service, assisting governments and intergovernmental organizations in the service of “We the Peoples.”