In our series providing a glimpse of life at The Independent, Richard Hall finds that Trump is only the latest in a long line of strong-man leaders to scrawl their way into a bind

In the few years since he became president, Donald Trump has turned his beloved Sharpie collection into a potent political weapon. From his recent doctored hurricane map to the infamous marker-written notes for the Canadian prime minister, he has mastered the art of creating crises with a stroke of a pen.

But he's not the first world leader to do so. A closer look at history reveals that Trump is only the latest in a long line of strong-man leaders to scrawl their way into a bind.

Who can forget Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump's closest foreign allies, deploying an unnervingly thick red marker pen at the United Nations in 2012 to demonstrate the danger of Iran's nuclear programme?

In front of a silent and disbelieving audience, the Israeli prime minister drew a red line across a cartoon bomb to illustrate the level of uranium enrichment Iran would need to achieve before it would be able to build a nuclear weapon. The theatrical moment was criticised by some for trivialising a complicated issue.

The flippant use of a marker has been used for even more sinister purposes. Donald Rumsfeld, US secretary of defence under George W Bush, became known for casually scribbling in the margins of a memo an apparent authorisation to torture inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

"I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?" he wrote in pen underneath the briefing note. A number of civil and criminal suits were filed against Rumsfeld after he stepped down.

This is far from a modern phenomenon, however. Here in the Middle East, people are very familiar with the damage a quickly scrawled line can do. It was this region that perhaps suffered the biggest calamity to result from a scribbled line - this time with a pencil.

The Sykes-Picot agreement, a secret treaty between two colonial leaders which demarcated the new borders of the Middle East, contributed to more than 100 years of conflict and instability.

What does all of this tell us? We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what an unstable or authoritarian leader will do with their finger on the button, but less about what they will do with a pen in their hand.

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on The Independent

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