Category Archives: Foreign Policy

United Nations Ambassador Haley Asserts US Stance of ‘Sovereignty’ over “Multilateralism’

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says, “We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable developing economies “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran –  but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.

“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.

“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”

Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.: © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)

“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.

“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”

Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.

There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.

Donald Trump addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. This year, he is expected focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”

The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.

“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share our values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”

That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.

With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.

“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says the US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.

“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.

“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”

She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.

The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”

Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.

“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”

Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.

Security Council representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish a Palestinian village © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by  representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.

They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.

In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.  The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation.  The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”

Asked whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things.  I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire.  And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”

The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

As Senate Considers Gina Haspel Confirmation to CIA, Foreign Policy Expert Says US Should Disclose, Apologize, Make Reparations for Torture

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke about “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like,” in March at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island. Wilkerson began his remarks challenging the United States to acknowledge and make reparations for its commission of torture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. 

His remarks are especially timely in light of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearings underway for Gina Haspel to become CIA Director. Haspel’s confirmation is controversial because she has been associated with running a rendition site in Thailand in 2002 and three years later, ordering the destruction of videos purportedly showing CIA officers using “enhanced interrogation techniques” which now are acknowledged to be torture. Haspel has refused to state unequivocally that torture is immoral, that it was wrong, only pledging not to restart an enhanced interrogation program again. But she sidestepped direct questions as to whether she would authorize torture if ordered to do so by the President – not a hypothetical question given Donald Trump’s repeated declarations that not only would he condone waterboarding, but waterboarding did not go far enough; Trump even proposed assassinating a suspected terrorist’s family as a method of discouraging recruitment. 

Several Senators, including Senator John McCain – the only person in Congress who knows firsthand about being tortured as a Prisoner of War – have said they would not support Haspel’s confirmation because of her refusal to own up to her responsibility and condemn the use of torture. 

In contrast, Wilkerson (not Haspel) stated that critical to a positive way forward in American foreign policy is to “right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system. Reparations are due. An apology is due. And a pledge we will never do that again.”

(See: Until Gina Haspel Denounces Torture, She Shouldn’t Lead the C.I.A., and I Have a Few Questions for Gina Haspel)

Here is an edited transcript of Lawrence Wilkerson’s remarks, which were delivered before Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, before he threatened to unleash a trade war against China.- Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, discusses “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Usually with enlightenment, there is strength. It is difficult to be enlightened today, to feel the world is sane, sober, bent toward peace rather than war –

At a press conference on November 7, 2005, the question of torture was raised. “We do not torture,” George W. Bush stated. The president was lying. Presidents have lied since time immemorial.

There are 119 people –that we know of – who have been tortured at the hands of the United States – documented in a 6000 page report (under the control of Senator Burr who chairs the Intelligence Committee). Failing to destroy the report, distribution is restricted; there are only 6 copies left.

One thing Trump is correct about: under the Constitution, the president is responsible for foreign policy in conjunction with Congress. Presidents forget that: both bodies are entrusted with foreign policy. From time to time, [a president’s unilateral action] is challenged: like Iran-Contra (Reagan). They almost impeached Reagan, had it not been for his incredible communicative skills.

When we destroyed the report, we have lost the accountability for 119 people, at minimum (about 30 had coroners write off their deaths as murder). Murder is ultimate torture.

There are 3-5 billion people in world, many in countries that are signatory allies, who think the number one security threat to their life is the United States.  You won’t find MSNBC CNN, Fox, or New York Times, Washington Post reporting on this. They won’t report on Yemen we are so horribly, brutally involved in, at the behest of greatest (terrorist) in the world, Saudi Arabia – It’s against the War Powers act [to conduct war without Congressional authorization. This is illegal participation in a Saudi war, yet Congress does nothing.

I would erase this incredible blot on reputation by not only releasing that [torture] report, but by recognizing those who we improperly treated – in violation of war crimes; pay reparations and make apologies. Canada and France have done so; we are the only ones who haven’t.

It is so egregious because the rest of world knows, knows we captured one individual and tortured him for 5 months simply because his name was the same as one on the watch list but was not the same person. Then, after we kept him in prison, tortured him for almost half year, we put him in a helicopter, flew him to a mountain in Albania in his underwear and dumped him and said nothing to him or his family.

We should right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system – reparations are due, apology is due – and a pledge we will never do that again.

We were the country who led the world, some kicking and screaming – like the king in Saudi Arabia – to the United Nations convention against torture. We were the ones who wrote most of that, ratified that – made domestic law conform – that under no circumstances, even extreme circumstances (national security) will we torture. Yet we did.

Part of our very real power in the world is our myth. Myth is not all bad – humanity, in many respects is based on myth – that is, partly true, partly hyperbole, in middle is true. There is the myth of the United States being Exceptional Nation, but it helps us maintain our cohesiveness – which we would register as part of that exceptionalism.

The myth that we are the number one protector of dignity and human rights in the world has as much truth as hyperbole. We violate it a lot, but it is a real part of our power in the world.

[In past diplomatic dealings] our first talking point was human rights, freedom of religion – that’s real power. We’ve diminished that. Now we’re just another big bully in the world.

[We must] change that image right away – before anything else.

In America, domestic politics has as much to do with national security as anythingPeople make these decisions – to go to war, to mount a covert operation and overthrow another country’s leader – usually from the perspective of bad decisions – we pick the least bad one. That’s the nature of power, but even with that comprehension of power, you can back away in foreign policy in both image and reality, in order to give image more robustness.

The Powerful Rule; those without power get ruled. 

‘Because I can’ – that’s power.

How do you take that kind of power, which the US has had possession of since World War II, and make it work on your behalf and a much as possible on others? 

Consider: the Number One world power is not us but China – economically, in terms of potential. [China is undertaking] two Marshall plans, and contemplating a third – Chinese money outstrips American spending in constant dollars by 15 to 16 to 1 – China’s initiative through central Asia, $2 trillion, initiative in South China Sea, around India, to Iran and pipelines up into Europe from Iran – one of richest gas countries in world. Those are two initiatives. The third they are thinking about: eliminating Russia as a possible threat to China.

Two possibilities, good or bad: if smartly carried out and others cooperative, these initiatives could lift more people out of poverty, could do more good than probably anything going. But how do you get that to happen and make sure what the Chinese are doing with their vast amount of money is beneficial, rather than detrimental? We have got to cooperate. We have to recognize world is changing, power is changing, shifting under our feet so fast. There are other templates at work in the world. 

[Which is why Trump’s foreign policy, trying to make America and the world of the 1950s, is to destructive as it is absurd.] 

The Chinese are already at purchasing power parity with the United States and in 10-15 years time, will be bigger than us in GDP. 

The first foreign policy initiative [should be to] establish some understanding of how we will help them and how they will help us help them, so those major initiatives – the major initiatives in the world today, affecting far more than anyone else is doing, including us (we’re probably killing far more people than the Chinese) – prosperity to as many as you can. 

That’s the number one foreign policy for the US – beyond shadow of doubt – because if not handled properly, things could go to hell in a handbag so fast and take so many – think World War I, World War II.

What we are doing is very dangerous. Trump said he would elevate the rank level, therefore the recognition diplomatically, of visitors to Taiwan. This is a red line to China. There are generals salivating at sinking a US carrier, so let’s continue encouraging Taiwan to take advantage of our support and extend middle finger to Beijing.

We should be joining things like Asia Development Bank, not spurning, so we could have our influence at work at various problems the Chinese could bring – don’t care if enlightened self-interest, as long as managed to help more than harms.

I haven’t seen China invade a country, fly drones, kill people in conjunction with Saudi Arabia. This is something that must happen if the world is to prosper and do relatively well, as it has since 1950.

Second: We need diplomats with finesse, extraordinary capabilities – like John Quincy Adams as a young man in Catherine the Great’s court, then as James Madison was as a diplomat to Russia. Adams was so smart and adept at reporting back to his president about what was going on in Europe (Napoleon), at a time when we still had 3 empires that would have loved to sever us – Spain, France, Britain.

Russia. Here’s where that framework comes back to play. What is preventing us from dealing with Moscow as we should – domestic politics. Even if we hate our president – despise, think he’s crazy – he can’t deal with Moscow as he should because of domestic politics.

One of the bloodiest conflicts on the face of earth is in Syria. What does it take to fix? The answer is simple, but complex: We need exquisite, capable diplomats, for Russia to bring pressure on Damascas, Tehran, Ankara.

[But Putin’s interest is not the greater good of Russia or the world, but a return to a Soviet Empire; his tactic is to sow chaos among the Western democracies, including the United States and he sees Syria as providing Russia with a base in the Middle East. Putin has no interest in solving the problem for the United States.]

If Russia and Washington make their mind up – Russia has a foothold in Mideast – will stay there as great power umbrella over Assad, and Assad will stay there – killing people just because we’re mad, is stupid..That’s the only way to bring requisite power on all the capitals concerned and stop the bloody civil war in Syria – threatening Israel, threatening Turkey in NATO, threatening western Asia.

The Chinese figure that’s their number one region. That’s why China building what they are: Djibouti, critically strategic, is occupied by as many Chinese troops as Americans. The leader there is counting renminbi dollars – playing both sides. There is no more intense example of the competition – other than the Taiwan Strait. Chinese are there to  “help” – plowing in $600 million with no strings while we give $50 million with [requirements of ] human rights, rule of law. We have to face reality: whose country leaders are we most likely to deal with?

That’s why [we should] talk about cooperation between world’s preeminent power: Russia– 10 time zones, enormous debt, and strategic problems with China.

If you’re going to deal with the energy needs of the globe – 9.5-10 billion people by mid-century – you have to cooperate, you have to get that energy delivered in a way that doesn’t cause conflict – you have to have Russia.

All Russia is today is a gas station – a lot of gas and oil. Those are the number one priorities in my foreign policy book.

[Shouldn’t the priority be to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels, therefore less dependence on Middle East, Russia, and toward self-sufficiency in decentralized, renewable, clean energy?]

The next country in the world we have to think about is Japan. What they doing under Prime Minister Abe – contemplating the loss of US [relationship], the untrustworthiness of the United States, contemplating what we just did with TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal which Trump pulled out of]; the arms market.

Of the 2017-18 Arms Merchants of the Year, US is so far in front, Russia just behind [recall that the big trade deal Trump returned from Saudi Arabia with was a deal for billions in arms]. … Between Russia and us, over $200 billion worth. But Japan could be the 2nd or 3rd biggest arms merchant – manufacturing submarines, fighter jets, ships. If you are Prime Minister Abe, Article 9 in Constitution (dating from Douglas MacArthur), the prohibition against nuclear weapons is a real inhibition. Japan probably has a latent capability that would allow it to become full nuclear power within 6-18 months. [And Trump has suggested that he would like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan to get nuclear weapons; he probably has already teed up sales, as Michael Flynn was doing, making deals for nuclear plants in the Mideast by cell phone during Trump’s inauguration.]

Korean Peninsula: The number one strategic objective of [North Korea’s] Kim dynasty for 40 years has been to sit down with the president of the United States and talk and begin the process of dividing the US from South Korea. Recognizing that they are a state to be reckoned with, we should begin a dialogue that would lead to a peace treaty. (The Korean War began in 1950, we never had a peace treaty.)

Does that mean the foreign policy developing now. [Trump is scheduled to go to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12]– is a riveting change that might bring enormous success to this administration?  Not necessarily. This is the number one objective of Kim dynasty: to be recognized.

At the end of Clinton’s administration, the foreign policy of US was about to do the same thing; Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang [in 2000] and danced with Kim. Clinton had every intention when Al Gore would be president of making a visit himself in January – the promise was almost in the air. It didn’t come about principally because Clinton got cold feet – given circumstances- George w. Bush was president, and the policy changed. But we were very close in 1999-2000. There was an agreed framework, negotiated, North Korea froze the only nuclear program they had – plutonium – were on a good trajectory to check their nuclear program, make sure inspectors on board, and have increasingly normal relationship – not like Trump just pulled out of head of Zeus – this is where we were. But how many Americans know that? We don’t do history in America. But this is very different moment than is anticipated by Trump.

It takes very detailed, exquisite, sophisticated diplomatic plan to do this right – there are so many holes you can fall in, not the least of which is alienating your South Korea ally – President Moon, disposed to be more liberal minded, is the right person to get on wrong foot.

We don’t know if [South Korea’s] national security minister reported accurately to Trump.

There could be some confusion – I wouldn’t put it past the White House to amplify confusion as long as it is positive for them with their base – because it’s really all about domestic politics, not about foreign policy or security policy.

To sum up: Don’t be an imperial hegemon, even if you are. Don’t be arrogant, Cheney-ish about it – be Dwight Eisenhower, Lincoln, George Washington about it. Know what the heck you are doing; have humility; use your bureaucracy [the career diplomats] they are not Deep State, they do more than issue visas and protect US citizens overseas, much more.

Recognize where the power is. That doesn’t mean you take away humanitarian efforts –economic, financial, but concentrate critical analytical thinking on where the real power problems are.

Be humble. Be magnanimous. Lose every now and again.

[Exactly the opposite of Trump’s foreign policy approach.]

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

The Trump Travel Slump: Tearing Down Bridges; Building Walls, Bringing Down Brand USA and Resurrecting ‘The Ugly American’

Ellis Island, New York City: Governor Andrew Cuomo had to put up state money to keep Ellis Island open for tourists following the federal government shutdown. Despite record tourism, which generates over $4 billion in tax revenues for New York City, the city attracted 100,000 fewer international arrivals in 2017 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump keeps rattling on about the US trade deficit. Yet he is singularly responsible for depressing America’s #2 export:  international travel.

It is ironic, really. The guy has his name on hotels around the globe but he no sense whatsoever of “hospitality,” nor a clue about how important face-to-face contact among people from different backgrounds is toward to greater issue of national security. Trump is more like the evil, ruthless landlord, Snidely Whiplash, who lashes the girl to the railroad tracks until her father signs the deed to their farm, than the international hotelier Barron Hilton.

President Obama understood the importance of engagement of people from abroad coming to the US and Americans – especially young people – going abroad – for work, study, volunteering, travel.

“Americans are now getting out – to build empathy and stewardship, for personal growth, to create a sense of global citizenship.” (Ah, the bad word: “global” when this guy extols America First.)

In 2016, thanks largely to Obama policies, the US saw a record 75.6 million international visitors who spent $245 billion and generated an $84 billion trade surplus. Travel and tourism in 2016 was a $1.5 trillion industry, employing 8 million and supporting 7 million more jobs, with every $1 million in sales of travel goods and services directly generating nine jobs. Globally, travel and tourism accounts for 10 percent of the world’s jobs.

Travel to the US has been in decline ever since Trump took office, causing the USA to slip to #3 behind Spain (#2) and France (#1) in popularity for foreign travel.

Indeed, despite 2017 being a strong year as the global economy, not just the US economy was surging (thanks Obama!), every area on the globe showed growth except the United States, which saw a 4 to 6% decline in international visitors. So what you ask? That represented a $4.6 billion hit to the economy and cost 40,000 jobs. What is more, the US, once #1 destination on the world’s bucket list, slipped to #8, boding ill for future international spending here. Brand USA has a lot of catch-up to do.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.

“Certainly it is the travel ban, rhetoric of Trump, the visa situation,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO, Apple Leisure Group said during an industry panel at the New York Times Travel Show to explain the drop in bookings to the US. “Brand USA is hurt.”

New York City received 100,000 fewer international visitors in 2017. And while the “strength of the American dollar” was likely a large factor in that dip, “There’s a real concern that this isolationism, this ‘America first’ rhetoric could lead to a decline in international travel,” said Fred Dixon, the head of NYC & Company. International visitors spend four times what domestic travelers do in New York City. The city, which garners $64 billion in economic impact from tourism supporting 383,000 jobs, collected $4.2 billion in taxes from tourists in 2016.

Instead of a welcoming place, this is the image that the US has broadcast around the world: gun violence (15 countries actually have travel advisories against the US because of this scourge); Charlottesville and the mounting White Nationalist attacks on the “other;” calls for erecting walls and closing borders, that defy international norms, treaties and American values and traditions by refusing to accept refugees and asylum-seekers (and withdrawing from the United Nations Treaty on Migration), that pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord as a big F-U to the planet and the global community. Trump said as much at Davos: America First and foremost, and you all should be doing the same. Attacking the United Nations, hollowing out the US State Department, loose nuke rhetoric. That’s the recipe for international conflict.

Recently, NPR interviewed  Jake Haupert of Evergreen Escapes, an inbound tour operator that organizes visits into his area from around the world. After a decade of steady growth, this year, his business volume plunged 25%  after 11 years of growth- he is looking to sell him business. What accounts for it?”

“There is a sense of fear – gun violence, homelessness, the political climate. Trump comes across as anti-foreigner. The rhetoric is affecting US representation around the globe.  Also the strong dollar. They are choosing not to travel. They are disinterested in coming to the US (once the most desired destination) or are waiting for this to pass.”

This undoes all the good that Obama had done – expediting travel visas, making visitors feel welcome at ports of entry, spending money to promote travel to the US, and yes, projecting the United States as a global leader advancing the betterment of the planet with climate action, eradication of poverty and disease, and spreading the institutions and values of democracy. What do you suppose the Trump CDC will do with another outbreak of Zika or Ebola?

Trump, the very opposite of a smart businessman (witness the number of bankruptcies including Atlantic City casino hotels), whose entire fortune including his ascension to the Oval Office is based on selling his “brand”, is cutting funding entirely to Brand USA, not just the title but a public-private coalition to inspire people from around the world to visit the United States. Every country on the planet has an entity that promotes tourism into their country, because tourist dollars are new dollars. In fact, Brand USA, which generated $615 million in incremental federal taxes and another $52 million in state and local taxes -produces a 27 to 1 return on investment – that’s $27 returned to ripple through the economy for every $1 spent on promotion. If Trump were actually a good businessman, he would appreciate that ROI as a great deal.

But Trump is ostensibly the president of the US, who should be concerned beyond mere dollars. He should be concerned about relationships, forging mutual understanding, dispelling myths about Ugly Americans. Travelers who come to the US, and Americans who travel abroad, take on the mantle of “ambassador” – presumably ambassadors of good will. It’s “minds and hearts” versus “bullets, bombs and bluster” that actually wins the day.

Trump in his State of the Union address will no doubt take credit for the economy (which grew only 2.6%, much lower than needed to support his tax cuts). But travel is the canary in the coal mine – it is the leading indicator for the economy – and because of its sheer size in the economy, supporting for one in every nine nonfarm jobs, what happens causes a ripple effect.

Travel spending is tied not so much to household income, but to consumer confidence – it is a manifestation of feeling, outlook.

Trump’s “Wall” is no different than the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain. It is a wall of ignorance, isolation, indifference, and just as anti-democratic and destructive. I would bet that 90% of Trump voters have never been outside their own province: they have no “world view” only a narrow view so easily shaped and molded by an autocratic regime that feeds on hate and mistrust.

Trump’s disdain for other countries and cultures, manifest in his “shithole” comment regarding the entire continent of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, communicates his prejudice and resuscitates the image of “The Ugly American.”

And that image of the US border patrol agent dumping water left in the desert for people desperately fleeing violence in Central America is the new “Brand USA.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump National Security Strategy: Up With the Wall, Down with Climate Action, Human Rights

Donald Trump outlines the Trump Doctrine in his National Security Strategy speech © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump’s “National Security Strategy” speech which he delivered at the Reagan Building on Dec. 18 is a rehash of his inaugural address which painted a dystopian view of the nation (“carnage”) and the world. He suggests that he is the first president to care about national security: “So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.” Notably, Trump’s national security strategy ignores the biggest national security threat the nation faces: climate change. He uses the speech to further his anti-immigrant policy, to again call for a wall, to advance tax cuts, and a policy of “liberating” the economy by eliminating regulations.

Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies like the CDC, scrubbing reports and websites from the EPA, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.”

While George W. Bush’s national security strategy boiled down to preemption, the Trump Doctrine is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.

“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity.  We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause.  We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”

China blasted Trump’s national security strategy saying, “It is completely selfish for a country to claim that its own interests are superior to the interests of other countries and to the shared interests of the international community. This mentality will only lead to isolation,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

“We call on the United States to abandon its outdated zero-sum thinking, and work together with China to seek common ground and engage in win-win cooperation,” the embassy said.

Here is a highlighted and annotated White House transcript:

December 18, 2017

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

ON THE ADMINISTRATION’S

NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

Washington, D.C.

2:03 P.M. EST

…We’re here today to discuss matters of vital importance to us all:  America’s security, prosperity, and standing in the world.  I want to talk about where we’ve been, where we are now, and, finally, our strategy for where we are going in the years ahead.

Over the past 11 months, I have traveled tens of thousands of miles to visit 13 countries.  I have met with more than 100 world leaders.  I have carried America’s message to a grand hall in Saudi Arabia, a great square in Warsaw, to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to the seat of democracy on the Korean Peninsula.  Everywhere I traveled, it was my highest privilege and greatest honor to represent the American people.

Throughout our history, the American people have always been the true source of American greatness.  Our people have promoted our culture and promoted our values.  Americans have fought and sacrificed on the battlefields all over the world.  We have liberated captive nations, transformed former enemies into the best of friends, and lifted entire regions of the planet from poverty to prosperity.

Because of our people, America has been among the greatest forces for peace and justice in the history of the world.  The American people are generous.  You are determined, you are brave, you are strong, and you are wise.

When the American people speak, all of us should listen.  And just over one year ago, you spoke loud and you spoke clear.  On November 8, 2016, you voted to make America great again.  (Applause.)  You embraced new leadership and very new strategies, and also a glorious new hope.  That is why we are here today.

But to seize the opportunities of the future, we must first understand the failures of the past.  For many years, our citizens watched as Washington politicians presided over one disappointment after another.  To many of our leaders — so many who forgot whose voices they were to respect and whose interests they were supposed to defend — our leaders in Washington negotiated disastrous trade deals that brought massive profits to many foreign nations, but sent thousands of American factories, and millions of American jobs, to those other countries.

Our leaders engaged in nation-building abroad, while they failed to build up and replenish our nation at home.  They undercut and shortchanged our men and women in uniform with inadequate resources, unstable funding, and unclear missions.  They failed to insist that our often very wealthy allies pay their fair share for defense, putting a massive and unfair burden on the U.S. taxpayer and our great U.S. military.

They neglected a nuclear menace in North Korea; made a disastrous, weak, and incomprehensibly bad deal with Iran; and allowed terrorists such as ISIS to gain control of vast parts of territory all across the Middle East.

They put American energy under lock and key.  They imposed punishing regulations and crippling taxes.  They surrendered our sovereignty to foreign bureaucrats in faraway and distant capitals.

And over the profound objections of the American people, our politicians left our borders wide open.  Millions of immigrants entered illegally.  Millions more were admitted into our country without the proper vetting needed to protect our security and our economy.  Leaders in Washington imposed on the country an immigration policy that Americans never voted for, never asked for, and never approved — a policy where the wrong people are allowed into our country and the right people are rejected.  American citizens, as usual, have been left to bear the cost and to pick up the tab. 

On top of everything else, our leaders drifted from American principles.  They lost sight of America’s destiny.  And they lost their belief in American greatness.  As a result, our citizens lost something as well.  The people lost confidence in their government and, eventually, even lost confidence in their future.

But last year, all of that began to change.  The American people rejected the failures of the past.  You rediscovered your voice and reclaimed ownership of this nation and its destiny.

On January 20th, 2017, I stood on the steps of the Capitol to herald the day the people became the rulers of their nation again.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Now, less than one year later, I am proud to report that the entire world has heard the news and has already seen the signs.  America is coming back, and America is coming back strong.

Upon my inauguration, I announced that the United States would return to a simple principle:  The first duty of our government is to serve its citizens, many of whom have been forgotten.  But they are not forgotten anymore.  With every decision and every action, we are now putting America first.

We are rebuilding our nation, our confidence, and our standing in the world.  We have moved swiftly to confront our challenges, and we have confronted them head-on.

We are once again investing in our defense — almost $700 billion, a record, this coming year.  We are demanding extraordinary strength, which will hopefully lead to long and extraordinary peace.  We are giving our courageous military men and women the support they need and so dearly deserve.

We have withdrawn the United States from job-killing deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the very expensive and unfair Paris Climate Accord.  And on our trip to Asia last month, I announced that we will no longer tolerate trading abuse.

We have established strict new vetting procedures to keep terrorists out of the United States, and our vetting is getting tougher each month.

To counter Iran and block its path to a nuclear weapon, I sanctioned the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support of terrorism, and I declined to certify the Iran Deal to Congress.

Following my trip to the Middle East, the Gulf states and other Muslim-majority nations joined together to fight radical Islamist ideology and terrorist financing.  We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another.  The coalition to defeat ISIS has now recaptured almost 100 percent of the land once held by these terrorists in Iraq and Syria.  Great job.  (Applause.)  Great job.  Really good.  Thank you.  Thank you.  We have a great military.  We’re now chasing them wherever they flee, and we will not let them into the United States.

In Afghanistan, our troops are no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies of our plans.  We are beginning to see results on the battlefield.  And we have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory.  And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan.  They have to help.

Our efforts to strengthen the NATO Alliance set the stage for significant increases in member contributions, with tens of billions of dollars more pouring in because I would not allow member states to be delinquent in the payment while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them.  We have made clear that countries that are immensely wealthy should reimburse the United States for the cost of defending them.  This is a major departure from the past, but a fair and necessary one — necessary for our country, necessary for our taxpayer, necessary for our own thought process.

Our campaign of maximum pressure on the North Korean regime has resulted in the toughest-ever sanctions.  We have united our allies in an unprecedented effort to isolate North Korea.  However, there is much more work to do.  America and its allies will take all necessary steps to achieve a denuclearization and ensure that this regime cannot threaten the world.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  This situation should have been taken care of long before I got into office, when it was much easier to handle.  But it will be taken care of.  We have no choice.

At home, we are keeping our promises and liberating the American economy.  We have created more than 2 million jobs since the election.  Unemployment is at a 17-year-low.  The stock market is at an all-time high and, just a little while ago, hit yet another all-time high — the 85th time since my election.  (Applause.)

We have cut 22 regulations for every one new regulation, the most in the history of our country.  We have unlocked America’s vast energy resources.

As the world watches — and the world is indeed watching — we are days away from passing historic tax cuts for American families and businesses.  It will be the biggest tax cut and tax reform in the history of our country.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And we are seeing the response we fully expected.  Economic growth has topped 3 percent for two quarters in a row.  GDP growth, which is way ahead of schedule under my administration, will be one of America’s truly greatest weapons.

Optimism has surged.  Confidence has returned.  With this new confidence, we are also bringing back clarity to our thinking.  We are reasserting these fundamental truths:

A nation without borders is not a nation.  (Applause.)

A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.

A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war.

A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future.

And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.

Today, grounded in these truths, we are presenting to the world our new National Security Strategy.  Based on my direction, this document has been in development for over a year.  It has the endorsement of my entire Cabinet.

Our new strategy is based on a principled realism, guided by our vital national interests, and rooted in our timeless values.

This strategy recognizes that, whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition.  We accept that vigorous military, economic, and political contests are now playing out all around the world.

We face rogue regimes that threaten the United States and our allies.  We face terrorist organizations, transnational criminal networks, and others who spread violence and evil around the globe.

We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.  We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest.

As an example, yesterday I received a call from President Putin of Russia thanking our country for the intelligence that our CIA was able to provide them concerning a major terrorist attack planned in St. Petersburg, where many people, perhaps in the thousands, could have been killed.  They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life.  And that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work.  That is the way it’s supposed to work.

But while we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

We know that American success is not a forgone conclusion.  It must be earned and it must be won.  Our rivals are tough, they’re tenacious, and committed to the long term.  But so are we. 

To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power.

Under the Trump administration, America is gaining wealth, leading to enhanced power — faster than anyone thought — with $6 trillion more in the stock market alone since the election — $6 trillion.

With the strategy I am announcing today, we are declaring that America is in the game and America is going to win.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Our strategy advances four vital national interests.  First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life.  This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders.  So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.  It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.  (Applause.)

In addition, our strategy calls for us to confront, discredit, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism and ideology and to prevent it from spreading into the United States.  And we will develop new ways to counter those who use new domains, such as cyber and social media, to attack our nation or threaten our society.

The second pillar of our strategy is to promote American prosperity.  For the first time, American strategy recognizes that economic security is national security.  Economic vitality, growth, and prosperity at home is absolutely necessary for American power and influence abroad.  Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both.

That is why this National Security Strategy emphasizes, more than any before, the critical steps we must take to ensure the prosperity of our nation for a long, long time to come.

It calls for cutting taxes and rolling back unnecessary regulations.  It calls for trade based on the principles of fairness and reciprocity.  It calls for firm action against unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.  And it calls for new steps to protect our national security industrial and innovation base.

The strategy proposes a complete rebuilding of American infrastructure — our roads, bridges, airports, waterways, and communications infrastructure.  And it embraces a future of American energy dominance and self-sufficiency.

[Where is the money coming from? Where is the $300 billion to rebuild after 2017 climate disasters?] 

The third pillar of our strategy is to preserve peace through strength.  (Applause.)  We recognize that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivaled power is the most certain means of defense.  For this reason, our strategy breaks from the damaging defense sequester.  We’re going to get rid of that.  (Applause.)

It calls for a total modernization of our military, and reversing previous decisions to shrink our armed forces — even as threats to national security grew.  It calls for streamlining acquisition, eliminating bloated bureaucracy, and massively building up our military, which has the fundamental side benefit of creating millions and millions of jobs.

This strategy includes plans to counter modern threats, such as cyber and electromagnetic attacks.  It recognizes space as a competitive domain and calls for multi-layered missile defense.  (Applause.)  This strategy outlines important steps to address new forms of conflict such as economic and political aggression.

[He signaled his interest in militarizing space in his call to Americans in the international space station.]

And our strategy emphasizes strengthening alliances to cope with these threats.  It recognizes that our strength is magnified by allies who share principles — and our principles — and shoulder their fair share of responsibility for our common security.

Fourth and finally, our strategy is to advance American influence in the world, but this begins with building up our wealth and power at home.

America will lead again.  We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but we will champion the values without apology.  We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity.  We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause.  We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace. 

[America was leading just fine under Obama – ie. Paris Climate Agreement, Iran Nuclear Agreement, getting Syria to get rid of chemical weapons, TPP. Second: he is talking about purely transactional agreements, the US will no longer be bothered defending human rights.]

We will pursue the vision we have carried around the world over this past year — a vision of strong, sovereign, and independent nations that respect their citizens and respect their neighbors; nations that thrive in commerce and cooperation, rooted in their histories and branching out toward their destinies.

That is the future we wish for this world, and that is the future we seek in America.  (Applause.)

With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride. 

[By that he means a return to McCarthyism.]

And we are returning to the wisdom of our founders.  In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.  What we have built here in America is precious and unique.  In all of history, never before has freedom reigned, the rule of law prevailed, and the people thrived as we have here for nearly 250 years.

We must love and defend it.  We must guard it with vigilance and spirit, and, if necessary, like so many before us, with our very lives.  And we declare that our will is renewed, our future is regained, and our dreams are restored.

Every American has a role to play in this grand national effort.  And today, I invite every citizen to take their part in our vital mission.  Together, our task is to strengthen our families, to build up our communities, to serve our citizens, and to celebrate American greatness as a shining example to the world.

 [Jingoism] 

As long as we are proud — and very proud — of who we are, how we got here, and what we are fighting for to preserve, we will not fail.

If we do all of this, if we rediscover our resolve and commit ourselves to compete and win again, then together we will leave our children and our grandchildren a nation that is stronger, better, freer, prouder, and, yes, an America that is greater than ever before.

God Bless You.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                 2:32 P.M. EST

Trump Stumps for War, America First Foreign Policy, in address to United Nations General Assembly

US President Donald Trump, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, lays out his “America First” foreign doctrine, threatening to annihilate North Korea, take action against Venezuela, end the Iran Nuclear agreement, overturn trade agreements © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

United Nations delegates to the 72nd General Assembly sat in stunned silence for most of Donald Trump’s speech in which he threatened to destroy North Korea, end the Iran nuclear agreement, renew sanctions on Cuba, threatened military action in Venezuela, and used trade agreements as ransom.

The speech, sounding more like a rehash of the dystopian vision he laid out in his Inaugural Address (“Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell”) and pitched more to his base than a world audience and sounding the themes more appropriate for his campaign rallies than the United Nations General Assembly, laid out the Trump doctrine: America First. Indeed, the only plaudits for the speech came from his Trump reelection committee: “President Trump’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly today was a fresh reminder of his America First principles that clearly comprise his foreign policy agenda.”

Trump came to a global body, founded out of the ashes of World War II which ended in a nuclear holocaust, to try to end war and violent conflict through peaceful discussion, cooperation and collaboration, but Trump was having none of it.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. “

He boasted of the US military might (a common theme), and spoke about the privilege of dying as a patriot, for love of country.

But he showed that his entire approach was about cash – chiding the UN for what it spends, suggesting that the US spends out of proportion (not to the size of the economy), threatening to upend trade pacts. “We are guided by outcomes, not ideology.”

The most often used word, “sovereignty” is the pillar for his America First doctrine – except that sovereignty is the justification for war, for invasion, for imperialism and exploitation. It is the very antithesis of the United Nations which depends upon countries coming to mutual consensus. It is why Trump never mentioned climate change – a top priority for this General Assembly – and the US was a no-show at the Climate conference convened by French President Macron.

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.  From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.”

The speech began with boasting and self-congratulations, then veered to take pot-shots at Obama (the Iran nuclear agreement was embarrassing, he said), and ended with “God bless America.”

Here is the speech, highlighted and annotated.Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

TO THE 72ND SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

United Nations

New York, New York

 

 

10:04 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates:  Welcome to New York.  It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.

As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid.  The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

(What does that mean, “more determined than ever before?. No acknowledgement of climate change or the need for climate action, or reference to his plan to withdraw or renegotiate the Paris Climate Accord.)

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th.

(All about Trump – a subtle attack on Obama Administration and a boast from him, in a world organization).

The stock market is at an all-time high — a record.  Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever beforeCompanies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time.  And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. 

Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.  For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly.  Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed.

US President Donald Trump addresses United Nations 72nd General Assembly, Sept. 19, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve.

But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value.  Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet.  Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity. 

 Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.

International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people; force dislocation and mass migration; threaten our borders; and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.

To put it simply, we meet at a time of both of immense promise and great peril.  It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights, or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape this better future.  It was based on the vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.

US President Donald Trump addresses United Nations 72nd General Assembly, Sept. 19, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe.  Those three beautiful pillars — they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free.  As President Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, “Our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations.  The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.”

To overcome the perils of the present and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past.  Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government.  But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties:  to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.  This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success.

Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.

Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny.  And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.

 In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.  This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example.  We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words.  They are:  “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history.  In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.  I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

 (Famous words spoken by every other dictator)

 In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty.  Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.

US President Donald Trump addresses United Nations 72nd General Assembly, Sept. 19, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.  (Applause.)

(Doesn’t this mean that if a country’s self-interest is in invading another country, like Ukraine, that’s okay? That a justification for war, if your country doesn’t have enough resources for its people, to just take it from someone else? Doesn’t it mean that a country doesn’t cooperate on climate, on alleviating disease and famine because it is n’t in self-interest?)

All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.

But making a better life for our people also requires us to work together in close harmony and unity to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people.

 (Oh)

The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies.  But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.  As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.

 (Everything is transactional; dollars and self-interest)

But in fulfilling our obligations to our own nations, we also realize that it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.

US delegation: US Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

America does more than speak for the values expressed in the United Nations Charter.  Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall.  America’s devotion is measured on the battlefields where our young men and women have fought and sacrificed alongside of our allies, from the beaches of Europe to the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia.

It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others.

(Not true; and US did impose its concept of democracy and capitalism on everyone else, constrained only by the Soviet Union)

 Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

For the diverse nations of the world, this is our hope.  We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife.  We are guided by outcomes, not ideology.  We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.

(Transactional; cash on demand, not ideology or values.)

That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room.  It is a question we cannot escape or avoid.  We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face.  Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?

If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfill our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent.  We must protect our nations, their interests, and their futures. We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.  We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow.  And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror.

The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based.  They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries.

 If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.  When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea.  It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.

We were all witness to the regime’s deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America only to die a few days later.  We saw it in the assassination of the dictator’s brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport.  We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.

If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life. 

 It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.  No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.  The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.  That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for.  Let’s see how they do.

Japan’s delegation to the United Nations 72 General Assembly, listening to Trump’s speech; Japan is the only country to have suffered effects of the atomic bomb and now has been intimidated by North Korean missiles © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.  The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council.  Thank you to all involved.

But we must do much more.  It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.

We face this decision not only in North Korea.  It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime — one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

 The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.  It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.  The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors.  This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.  (Applause.)

The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.  Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

(An attack on Obama)

© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.  It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained.  And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.  This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protestors, and imprison political reformers.

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice.  Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed, and terror?  Or will the Iranian people return to the nation’s proud roots as a center of civilization, culture, and wealth where their people can be happy and prosperous once again?

The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations.  We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them.

(A shout-out to Saudi Arabia, where he boasted of the big military armaments deal)

The Saudi Arabia delegation to the United Nations 72 General Assembly, listening to Trump’s speech © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.

We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology.  We must drive them out of our nations.  It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people.

The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.

(Can’t keep himself from using Trumpisms like “loser” terrorists, “beautiful”, “believe me” and “Rocket Man” for Kim Jong-un)

 Last month, I announced a new strategy for victory in the fight against this evil in Afghanistan.  From now on, our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.

I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.  In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS.  In fact, our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined.

(Another opportunity for undeserved self-congratulations since these campaigns were underway since Obama)

We seek the de-escalation of the Syrian conflict, and a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people.  The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assadincluding the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens — even innocent children — shock the conscience of every decent person.  No society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread.  That is why the United States carried out a missile strike on the airbase that launched the attack.

We appreciate the efforts of United Nations agencies that are providing vital humanitarian assistance in areas liberated from ISIS, and we especially thank Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict.

The United States is a compassionate nation and has spent billions and billions of dollars in helping to support this effort.

(Thanks to Obama and previous presidents; Republicans are cutting out foreign aid and shrinking the State Department and diplomacy by 30%, while spending $700 billion on military)

We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people, and which enables their eventual return to their home countries, to be part of the rebuilding process.

For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region.  Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region, and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible.  This is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach.

For decades, the United States has dealt with migration challenges here in the Western Hemisphere.  We have learned that, over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries.

For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform, and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms.

For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.

 (What does he mean? Where are the facts to justify statement? A report was squashed by White House because it found that immigrants produced a $63 billion net “profit” for the US treasury)

US President Donald Trump, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I want to salute the work of the United Nations in seeking to address the problems that cause people to flee from their homes.  The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilizing conflicts in Africa.  The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, including famine prevention and relief in South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria and Yemen. 

(Not if Trump and the Republican Congress can help it)

We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like PEPFAR, which funds AIDS relief; the President’s Malaria Initiative; the Global Health Security Agenda; the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery; and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.

(All of which Trump and Republicans would cut out, not to mention denying funds to any international group that has anything to do with providing family planning- belated applause comes here)

Delegates at the United Nations 72 General Assembly, listening to Trump’s speech © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We also thank — (applause) — we also thank the Secretary General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity.  Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.

 (Cash on demand, again)

 In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them.  For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

 The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more.  In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes.  The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but, to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.

 (US has 5% of world’s population but generates 25% of global-warming carbon emissions, and accounts for 25% of global economy; contributions to the United Nations are largely based on economy).

Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.  But the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems.

Secretary-General António Guterres and Miroslav Lajčák (center), President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly listen as Trump delivers his speech © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world.  In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially.  Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own regions.

That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.  My administration recently announced that we will not

We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.

The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.  This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried.  To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.

Venezuela’s delegation listening to Trump’s speech © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing.  Their democratic institutions are being destroyed.  This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.

As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal.  That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy.  I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.

The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable.  We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.

(Threatens Venezuela; how does this not contradict his statements about sovereignty)

We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today.  Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors.

 (Is he again using the threat of undermining trade deals to force cooperation with US policy?)

I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis.  We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. (Applause.)

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.  (Applause.)  From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.  Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime.  Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action.  All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity.

(Call to respect sovereignty seems to contradict his equivocation of socialism with brutal dictatorship that must be eliminated)

In America, we seek stronger ties of business and trade with all nations of good will, but this trade must be fair and it must be reciprocal.

 (Threatens trade deals. The worst of capitalism)

For too long, the American people were told that mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success.  But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared.  Others gamed the system and broke the rules.  And our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind, but they are forgotten no more and they will never be forgotten again. 

While America will pursue cooperation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government:  the duty of our citizens.  This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today.

 (Trump practices the Golden Rule: he who has he gold makes the rules.)

If this organization is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the “independent strength of its members.”  If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, and independent nations — nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies; nations that seek allies to  befriend, not enemies to conquer; and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.

(Trump’s love affair with all things military. He loves the sacrifice that others make, that life-death control a Great Leader has over the population.)

US President Donald Trump addresses United Nations 72nd General Assembly, Sept. 19, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved.

Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.

(He comes to the UN, a body that works for peaceful resolution to conflicts, and all he talks about is war, nobility of dying for one’s country. Harbinger?)

Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.

 (What does he actually refer to here, when he boasts about spending $700 billion on military, extols the glories of dying for one’s country.)

We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucrats — we can’t do it.  We must solve our problems, to build our prosperity, to secure our futures, or we will be vulnerable to decay, domination, and defeat.

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one:  Are we still patriots?  Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures?  Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?

 (This is a call to war)

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced.  The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation.  We realized who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend.  From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

 Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

 History is asking us whether we are up to the task.  Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion.  We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.

Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all:  a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.

This is the true vision of the United Nations, the ancient wish of every people, and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.

So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the nations of the world.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END                10:46 A.M. EDT

UN Ambassador Haley: Trump at United Nations General Assembly will be a Show of Strength by the US

Donald Trump will deliver his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning. Ambassador Haley, who said she has seen his speech, said, “I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People around the world are holding their collective breath as to what Donald Trump will do when he comes to the United Nations for the 72nd General Assembly. Will he be like a bull in a china shop, or will he stick to the speech written for him on the teleprompter? At a press briefing at the White House September 15, the National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlined what is supposed to happen, and the policies and positions Trump will proclaim. Here is a highlighted transcript – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I also want to begin by acknowledging the horrific attacks in Europe [London, England where an improvised explosive was set off in the underground during rush hour and in  Burgundy, France where a counterterrorism soldier was attacked].  The United States, of course, stands in solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom and France.  We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to prevent attacks.  And, of course, the United States remains committed to defeating terrorist organizations, as well as their evil ideology.

The President has been unambiguous here, energizing our defeat-ISIS campaign, and calling on Muslim-majority nations to combat extremism and to end financing of terrorist organizations.  We will defend our people and our values against these cowardly attacks, and we will always stand with countries around the world to do the same.

Now, I want to turn to President Trump’s trip next week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.  The President’s consistent message across all of his engagements throughout the week will emphasize three goals common to all nations who will be gathered there:  First, to promote peace.  Second, to promote prosperity.  And third, to uphold sovereignty and accountability. 

A peaceful world depends on the contributions of all nations.  We must share responsibility for international security, while each country protects the security of its own people.

Prosperity is also a shared responsibility.  The President looks forward to furthering economic cooperation, investment opportunities, and new business ties with other governments and businesses across the world.  As always, this administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair, and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks.

Sovereignty and accountability are the essential foundations of peace and prosperity.  America respects the sovereignty of other countries, expects other nations to do the same, and urges all governments to be accountable to their citizens.  That accountability is broken down in places such as Venezuela and Syria.  And we also see, today, revisionist powers who are threatening the sovereignty in the greater Middle East, Eastern and Southern Europe, and in East Asia.

Now, let me quickly run through the President’s schedule.  On Monday, the President will join senior U.N. leadership and the leaders of more than 120 other nations to discuss reforming the institution.  The President will express support for Secretary General Guterres’s reform effortsThe United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it’s run more efficiently and effectively.

That day, the President will also meet with the leaders of France and Israel, two of America’s closest allies.  While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus.

Monday evening, the President will host a working dinner with Latin American leaders.  He’s looking forward to discussing the crisis in Venezuela, as well as our increasingly strong economic ties, shared goals for elevating the prosperity of our peoples, and the extraordinary success of likeminded Latin American nations in recent decades.

The President’s Tuesday morning speech to the General Assembly will emphasize the need for states to promote peace and prosperity, while upholding sovereignty and accountability as indispensable foundations of international order.  He will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all.  If nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us. 

Later that day, the President will have lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meet with this year’s General Assembly President, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, and meet with the Emir of Qatar.  In the evening, he will host a traditional diplomatic reception.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Kingdom, and Egypt.  He will host a working luncheon with African leaders to discuss how the United States can help African nations develop their economies, address urgent challenges, and strengthen security relationships and economic relationships between our nations. 

Finally, on Thursday, the President will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.  The latter two countries in particular have suffered direct and persistent attacks on their sovereignty in recent years.

He will also host a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.  As Kim Jong-un’s most recent missile launch demonstrates, North Korea remains one of the world’s most urgent and dangerous security problems.  It is vital that all nations work together to do our utmost to solve that problem.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Haley.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Thank you very much.  And I will tell you that next week is not going to be short on topics.  I think, first of all, we can all say it is a new day at the U.N.  The U.N. has shifted over the past several months.  It’s not just about talking, it’s about action.

The members are starting to get used to act, whether it’s Security Council resolutions, whether it’s with U.N. reform, whether it’s with peacekeeping.  We’re starting to see a lot of changes at the U.N.  They are all anxious to see what the U.S. delegation looks like next week, and I think they will be heavily impressed with the fact that we have the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and many members of the National Security Council coming to really show the U.S. strength that we have in the world.

And I think — obviously this will be the first time that the President has addressed the General Assembly.  They are all very anxious to hear what he has to say.  And I think that he will make quite an impact in terms of all of the issues that we’re dealing with.

We have three events that will be extremely important.  First, the President will highlight the U.N. reform event.  It is very, very important.  We’ve got a massive reform package being led by the Secretary General that really streamlines not just the processes, but also the budget as it goes forward, and makes the U.N. much more effective.  We basically have the President headlining a U.N. reform effort, which would really support the Secretary General.  But the impressive part is, we asked other countries to sign on to their support of reform, and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance.  That’s a miraculous number.

The Vice President will be doing two very important briefings.  He’s going to do one on Human Rights Council.  Now more than ever, human rights matters.  We say all the time that if the government doesn’t take care of its people, bad things will happen.  And I think we’re seeing that in multiple places, and that’s all the reason why the Human Rights Council really needs to be effective.  We have offered reform.  I think the Vice President will go in and not only support the reform, but talk about why it’s needed and the areas that are really needing to be addressed when it comes to human rights.

The second one he’s going to do is on peacekeeping.  And in the last several months, we have taken every peacekeeping mandate and changed it.  Basically, we have saved half a billion dollars in peacekeeping.  But before anyone thinks that’s a travesty, basically the way they handled peacekeeping in the past was, if there was a challenged area they would throw more troops at it.  But they didn’t see if the troops were trained or give them the equipment to do their job.  Now we’re going towards the political solution, making sure the troops are trained and armed, making sure that we’re more effective.  So it’s smarter and it cut half a billion, and in some cases we’re having to increase, and in some cases we’re having to decrease. 

So having the Vice President talk about the importance of the peacekeeping being effective is going to be very important.

And then, as I said, there are no shortage of issues, with North Korea being front and center.  Iran will be an issue.  Syria will certainly be talked about.  Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic on what we’re dealing with.  And obviously the humanitarian issues that we face around the world.

So, with that, I think the General Assembly is going to be quite active next week, and I think the U.S. is going to be very strong next week.  And we look forward to a very good week.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Gentleman in the center.

Q    Thank you, General.  My question is about North Korea, which is perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge for President Trump right now.  About a month ago, the President issued a threat to North Korea; he warned of “fire and fury.”  And as you know, Ambassador, at the U.N. Security Council you’ve imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea.  Both of these efforts do not seem to be changing their behavior.  Is it time for the U.S. to change its approach to North Korea?  Is that something that you’re contemplating?  And, General, if you could weigh on this well.  I appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think what was really important with North Korea was that we try and push through as many diplomatic options as we have.  If you look at the resolutions that have passed in the last month, the two of them, they cut 30 percent of the oil.  They banned all the laborers.  They banned 90 percent of the exports.  They banned joint ventures.  We’ve basically taken and, in the words of North Korea, we have strangled their economic situation at this point.  That’s going to take a little bit of time, but it has already started to take effect.

What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless.  And at that point, there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil. 

So, having said that, I have no problem kicking it to General Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.

Q    General, can you weigh on that too?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I’d just emphasize the point that Ambassador Haley made.  These sanctions are just now taking effect.  What’s really important is rigorous enforcement of those sanctions so that we can really let the economic actions and diplomacy progress as best we can.  But I think we ought to make clear what’s different about this approach is, is that we’re out of time, right?  As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.

And so for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option.  Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war.

So that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place, and it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can and that it’s in their interest to do it.

What’s different, I think, about this approach to North Korea is worth noting.  First of all, there is consensus among all key nations that denuclearization of the Peninsula is the only acceptable objective. 

     The second thing is, this is not an issue between the United States and North Korea.  This is an issue between the world and North Korea.

And the third recognition is, there is a lot that we can about it together.  And so we need time, obviously, for any strategy to work.  It is a sound approach to a very difficult problem, and we’ll see if it succeeds.

Q    Ambassador Haley, a conference call preceded your briefing here.  Jonathan Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that next week’s UNGA will be as much the world taking measure of the United States as it is the U.S. speaking to the world.  He went on to say that the UNGA, because of its very quick meetings, is sort of like speed dating from hell, and that it’s a very sophisticated dance that neither Secretary of State Tillerson or the President have a particularly strong point on.  What would you say to people who are wondering how the U.S. will do at next week’s UNGA?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think there’s a lot of interest in how the U.S. is going to do, and they’re going to find out we are going to be solid, we’re going to be strong. 

If you look at all of the meetings that the national security team has, these are important meetings.  These aren’t just wasting time.  This is going to talk about terrorism; this is going to talk about the issues in North Korea; this is going to talk about the issue in Burma and what we’re dealing with there; Venezuela — all of these issues.  No one is going to grip and grin.  The United States is going to work.

And I think with all of the challenges around the world, I think the international community is going to see that.  This is a time to be serious, and it’s a time for us to talk out these challenges and make sure there’s action that follows it.

Q    One of the big questions from some of the people outside of this room and other countries is, in addition to what we do militarily is the humanitarian effort.  And we’ve been criticized for not being involved in the humanitarian effort too much, especially by the third world.  So when you go to New York, in addition to addressing the security measures, how are you going to address the criticism about the U.S. not leading humanitarian efforts?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  We actually have led humanitarian efforts and continue to.  Human rights, in general, is very important.  That’s something we’ve been loud on, which is the fact that you have to protect human rights. 

But the humanitarian side of what we’re seeing in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; what we’re seeing with the Syrian refugees that are in Turkey and Jordan; the fact that we are trying to deal with Burma and find out ways that we can get humanitarian access in there.  Yemen is something that the United States has been working very closely with the Saudis on and the U.N. to try and make sure we get humanitarian access.

So we have been as active and vocal and leading the charge on humanitarian access in all of these areas, and we are making a difference.  I think just in Syria, we’ve had over $3 billion that we’ve given, in terms of helping that situation.  Venezuela, you saw what we did with the sanctions, but we’re making sure they get that.  Right now in Burma, we are taking that very seriously, and that’s of utmost importance that we get front and center on that one.

Q    I have a question first to General McMaster before I get to one on North Korea for you.  General, you mentioned the, obviously, terror incident overseas in London.  The President tweeted this morning that it was “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.”  You may have seen Prime Minister may say it was “not helpful for people to speculate.”  Did the President share information that he wasn’t supposed to?  And if not, why was he speculating?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think what the President was communicating is that, obviously, all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat for years.  Scotland Yard has been a leader, as our FBI has been a leader.

So I think if there was a terrorist attack here, God forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI.  So I think he didn’t mean anything beyond that.

Q    I’m sorry, I’m not clear.  Meaning he was saying generally terrorists are a focus for Scotland Yard, or was he saying in this specific incident, Scotland Yard knew potentially this was coming?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we’re trying to prevent.  And so these organizations that are responsible for it, whatever comes out of this investigation, that remains to be seen.  It is likely that law enforcement had been working on that problem set.

Q    And did that come up in the call with Prime Minister May?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I was not on that call this morning.

Q    Ambassador, to you, on North Korea.  Obviously there’s more U.N. Security Council action that could be taken.  Are you at all hopeful that there is any chance for a full oil embargo as this administration had wanted?  Or at what point — President Trump himself said this was a small step, the last U.N. Security Council vote.  I think disagreeing with you, but Secretary Tillerson agreed with him that it seemed to have been a small step.  So at what point does this administration take a bigger step and, for example, put tougher sanctions on China in order to put pressure on North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well I think, first of all, let’s talk about what a big sanctions resolution this was.  The first one was a billion dollars.  The second one was $1.3 billion, not counting the 30 percent decrease in oil.  We did a 55 — and just imagine if this happened to the United States — a 55 percent reduction in diesel and oil.  Overall ban of natural gas, overall ban of any substitutes; overall ban of textiles; stopping the labor program, which we call as modern-day slavery; stopping all joint ventures so foreign investment goes in there.

We have cut off now 90 percent of trade going into North Korea, and they are saying that this was strangling.  So whether some believe it’s big or small, I think what the President is saying is this is just the beginning of what we can do.

So it’s going to be — by the time we get going on this, if we have to go further, this is going to look small compared to what we do.

But no, it was a massive sanctions bill, and I think the fact that we had a 15-0 record and you have China onboard and Russia onboard, I think that’s very important.  We’ve cut 30 percent of the oil.  Is there more you can do?  There’s always more you can do, but then you get into the humanitarian aspect of it, which is at what point are you going and actually hurting down to the people of North Korea.  But we will always explore all options that we have. 

Yes, in the red.

Q   Thank you, Ambassador.  You said that Syria is going to be on the agenda.  As you know, today Turkey, Russia, and Iran agreed to deploy 1,500 monitors in the Idlib province.  Does that leave the U.S. behind?  And what exactly the focus will be when you talk about Syria at the U.N. next week?

And, General, if I can, you said that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk about Iran.  How much of the peace process with the Palestinians will take place in that meeting?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think the efforts in Syria have been remarkable — both Syria and Iraq.  To see how we have really bulldozed through ISIS in the way that we have shows how strong the U.S. had been in partnership with them, but I think we’re also looking at post-ISIS — what does that look like?  And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.  

But Syria is always going to be a topic.  I think we continue to be strong in making sure there’s no chemical weapons and making sure that we’re looking at the humanitarian situation.  But the U.S. is a very strong partner in the resolution for Syria and will continue to be until we know that everything is stable.

Q    (Inaudible) that does not include the U.S.?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think we’re not going to be satisfied until we see a solid and stable Syria, and that is not with Assad in place.  But what we are going to do is continue to be very effective and be a part of that process so that we get to a resolution.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I’ll just say that, of course the President will talk about the prospects for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with really all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week.

Q    Ambassador, two quick questions.  The first one is, the fact that president Putin and President Xi Jinping won’t be there, will it have an impact on the what the outcome of whatever you’ll discuss on Syria and North Korea?

And, General, you’ve been insisting a lot on the respect of sovereignty.  Wouldn’t an investment in a peacekeeping mission be part of getting involved and having a stronger impact on this?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I do think that it’s still going to be strong and have an impact because you’ve got two very strong foreign ministers from Russia and China that are going to be there.  And the idea that we’re going to be talking about Syria and North Korea, and Iran, and all of those other things, I think it will be serious discussions.

And I think the fact that President Xi and President Putin couldn’t be there is not going to change the effect of the talks that we have next week.

Q    Are you disappointed that they’re not going to show up?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  That’s their choice to not show up.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I would just add on to say the U.N. General Assembly is not a substitute for bilateral relationships with any nations.  And as you know, the President has been working very closely, especially with President Xi, on this common problem and this world problem of North Korea.

So those discussions will continue, and it will continue in the context of multilateral engagements but also in context of our bilateral relationship with China.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Back in the back.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador, General.  A question regarding etiquette.  In the past, Presidents have copiously avoided certain world leaders.  A decade ago, President Bush avoiding President Ahmadinejad when he was at the opening of the U.N.  Will the President speak to President Maduro at all when he is there?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll speak with President Maduro.  As you know, the United States designated President Maduro after he victimized his own people, denied them their rights under his own constitution.  And I think as the President has made clear, he’s willing to talk at some point in the future, but it would have to be after rights are restored to the Venezuelan people.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  Two questions.  One, what is the future of India and the United Nations membership and Security Council?  Because when Prime Minister Modi visited the White House he brought up this issue with President Trump.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think that Security Council reform is still being talked about, and I know that it’s something that India wants.  Many other countries want it as well.  So we’ll have to wait and see.

Q    Do you have any indications right now that sanctions will work towards North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  You have to look at how much has been cut off.  They’ve already started to feel it, but they’re getting ready to feel 90 percent of their exports going away; 30 percent of their oil.  Imagine what that would do to the United States if it was there.

And if you look at what — I was looking at what North Korea was saying.  They said it was a full-scale economic blockade, suffocating its state and its people.  This is dramatic.  This is something — and not only is it dramatic, but you’re looking at — Peru has dropped ties.  Thailand has dropped ties.  We’re seeing so many just kind of get rid of either the ambassadors or the trade that they’re doing.  There is no way that North Korea doesn’t feel this.

Now, how they choose to respond, this is totally in their hands on how they respond.

One more question.  I’ll let you pick who gets the last question.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Appreciate it.  So I was wondering — we talked a little bit about the President, the speech that he’ll deliver on Tuesday.  But I’m wondering if you could talk in any more detail now — and I’m sure we’ll get more detail later — will he be sending direct messages about Iran and North Korea in that speech?  Are there any more specific themes?

And also, Ambassador Haley, I wanted to ask you: On the question of U.N. funding, I know reform is probably an important part of this question, but as a candidate, President Trump was — then-candidate Trump was somewhat skeptical about the reach and the import of the U.N., the point of it long term.  As President I’m sure he’s learned more.  Is the U.S. committed both to fulfilling its financial obligations?  And where does it stand on terms of its voluntary funding for the U.N. going forward?  Would you talk a little bit about that?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Right.  To start off with the speech that the President gives, I think you can see it for yourself.  I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.

Q    So it’s written, and you’ve seen it?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I have seen it, yes.  And then the second part of it is, the U.N. — when I originally spoke with the President, what I said is, we’ll see what we can make of it.  And that’s the thing is, we’re creating an opportunity.  We’re making the most of it.  We’re moving foreign policy.  We’re changing the way peacekeeping is done.  We’re really bringing up human rights.  And more importantly, what I appreciate is they stopped focusing on the commas and the periods, and we’re actually acting.  We’re actually seeing strong things happens. 

And so I think the President has always believed there’s great potential in the United Nations, but I think now the world is seeing it — that it is actually changing, and it’s actually becoming more effective.

Q    Will he firmly articulate his intention to continue traditional U.S. funding at full levels?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think you’ll have to wait and see.  Thank you very much.

Q    Sarah, a follow-up on something that Ambassador Haley said.  She mentioned that she would feel comfortable kicking this issue to Secretary Mattis.  Should Americans be concerned about the possibility of war?  And how much time are you willing to give China to implement the resolutions in the U.N. Security Council agreement?

PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS:  As we’ve said many times before, we’re not going to broadcast, and I’m not going to lay out a timetable on what that would look like.  We’re continuing to keep all options on the table.  We’re going to push forward with a plan right now.

And again, as both General McMaster and Ambassador Haley stated, we are working on putting that pressure on North Korea to reach that ultimate goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.  That’s what we’re focused on.  We’re going to go keep pushing forward on that front.  But at the same time, we’re going to keep all our options on the table as we do that.

Q    What will the President say to the leaders that he meets next week who are eager for talks with North Korea?  I know that the President has opposed that.  How will he address that with the Europeans and others who are in favor of it?

SANDERS:  I’m certainly not going to get ahead of any conversations that the President is going to have.  As always, we’ll provide readouts and background of those conversations.  But I think the President will be very clear that putting extreme pressure on North Korea is very important.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

United Nations 72nd General Assembly to Tackle Immigration, Nuclear Weapons Ban, Climate Change, Terrorism, Inequality

Miroslav Lajčák (center), President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, opens the session saying this will be a year of many firsts. He is flanked by Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly opened the 72nd Session declaring that priorities for the body was to come up with a global framework to address immigration, a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and further implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Miroslav Lajčák, a career diplomat from Slovakia, in his first address as President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, said his tenure would be a “year of firsts” – the negotiation of the first intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the first agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons – and called upon Member States to come together to help people striving for peace and a decent life.

Apart from being a year of “firsts”, he said, it would also a year of follow-up on maintaining the momentum in implementing and financing the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring continued work on the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, banging the gavel at the official opening, says priorities include devising a global framework to address migration, a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and further implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Commitments from yesterday must become actions now,” he told the assembly. He added that the United Nations must be allowed to work “in a way as never before. The UN today is very different from [when it was established] in 1945 – reforming, evolving.

The work of the United Nations could often be complex, he said, but emphasized that the organization was created, first and foremost, for the people.

“The UN was created for people,” Lajčák told the assembled diplomats. “The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”

Priorities for UN action, he said, are different “region by region, person to person. If you live where there are rising sea levels, climate change is your priority; if you are in fear of terrorism, counterterrorism is your priority, if you are suffering because of your beliefs, then human rights are your priority. I want to work to represent all of these viewpoints,” he said, saying he would seek “balance.”

Opening of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In his opening remarks in which he welcomed the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the serious threats facing the world, “from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime.  Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change,” as well as the challenges posed by “irregular migration.”

“No country can meet these tests alone.  But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course.  And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he stated.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, outlining challenges including the nuclear peril, cybercrime, terrorism, climate change, inequality, declared “No country can meet these tests alone. But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course. And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“People around the world are rightly demanding change and looking for governments and institutions to deliver,” he said. “We all agree that the United Nations must do even more to adapt and deliver. That is the aim of the reform proposals that this Assembly will consider.”

He added that one key change within and beyond the UN must be the empowerment of women and girls around the world, and highlighted his own roadmap for achieving gender parity.

He called for more female candidates to fill vacancies within the Organization, because gender parity would improve outcomes at the United Nations.

At a press availability immediately following the official opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, Lajčák answered a skeptical reporter’s question about immigration assertively: “It is not true there is no global framework,” he said. “We are in reactive mode. We need to respond globally – global governance….because in reality, immigration is here to stay.”

And in an earlier interview with UN News, Lajčák said, “The most important thing for me is to understand that what we do here is meant to improve the lives of people on this plane. We are not here because of ourselves and we are not here because of fighting over the text of resolutions. But these resolutions serve concrete purposes. So, let us not forget for a minute that we have to focus on people, on their lives and on their concerns. Second, to be representative, as we are or wish to be, we have to be open, we have to communicate with our partners, with the young generations, with media, with civic activists, and NGOs, and with the business community, so that we are really reflecting the hopes, needs and expectations of the world’s public.”

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at a press availability about migration: “We need to respond globally – global governance….because in reality, immigration is here to stay.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Despite a campaign to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons such as were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki going back to the very beginning of the United Nations the General Assembly, the UN this year for the first time is taking up an agreement to prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

On July 7, 2017, 122 nations agreed (one voted against) – notably, the nine nations including the United States that already have nuclear weapons boycotted the proceedings. On September 20, a formal treaty will be presented for signature by the nations. . Fifty countries must sign and ratify the treaty for it to enter into force.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the total repudiation of nuclear deterrence by most of the states that don’t possess or rely on nuclear weapons,” United for Peace and Justice, UFPJ, stated. “But the US and the eight other nuclear-armed states boycotted the negotiations, along with Japan, Australia, South Korea and all but one of the 28 NATO member states (The Netherlands) – all countries under the US nuclear umbrella. In a joint statement following the vote, the US, France and the United Kingdom declared: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to [the Treaty].” Meanwhile, nuclear tensions have risen to levels not seen for decades.

“While the Ban Treaty negotiations were taking place in the United Nations, two floors up in the same building, in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United States was threatening military action against North Korea, in response to its July 4 missile test.

“We must keep both realities – the promise of the Ban Treaty and growing dangers of nuclear war – fully in mind as we develop strategies to accomplish the urgent goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

From its founding, in 1945, the United Nations has called for a ban on nuclear weapons; but this year for the first time, the UN is taking up an agreement to prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has once against declared September 26 an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

“Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations.  It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. After general and complete disarmament first came onto the General Assembly’s agenda in 1959, nuclear disarmament has remained the most important and urgent objective of the United Nations in this field.  Since 1975, it has been a prominent theme of the review conferences of States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1978, the General Assembly’s first Special Session on disarmament reaffirmed that effective measures for nuclear disarmament have the highest priority. And it has been supported by every United Nations Secretary-General,” the UN stated.

“Yet today, some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. As of 2016, while there have been major reductions in deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway.  Meanwhile, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and their nuclear allies. This is so—despite growing concerns worldwide over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of even a single nuclear weapon, let alone a regional or global nuclear war.

“These facts provide the foundation for the General Assembly’s designation of 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an occasion for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament as a high priority. It also provides an opportunity to educate the public—and their leaders—about the real benefits of eliminating such weapons, and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them. Commemorating this Day at the United Nations is especially important, given its universal membership and its long experience in grappling with nuclear disarmament issues. It is the right place to address one of humanity’s greatest challenges, achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Radical Idea for Defusing North Korea Crisis: Ban Nuclear Weapons

The Women’s Acapella Group “Willow” sings for peace at the Commemoration of the 72th Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here’s a radical idea for dealing with North Korea: ban all nuclear weapons.

This notion has taken on new urgency in just a matter of days, Indeed, seemingly oblivious to the calendar and history marking the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which obliterated 200,000 civilians, Trump, presiding over an opioid conference during his vacation at his Bedminster NJ golf club, raised the stakes on saber-rattling:

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.  He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.  And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Never seen before?

What Trump was reacting to was Kim Jong-un’s threat to launch “thousands-fold” revenge against the United States, after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.

“We are ready to retaliate with far bigger actions to make the U.S. pay a price for its crime against our country and people,” the official Korean Central News Agency stated, promising that North Korea would take a “stern action of justice.”

Trump’s “fire and fury” (evoking George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” threat to Saddam Hussein before launching the preemptive invasion of Iraq) response prompted Kim Jong-un to threaten to obliterate Guam.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seeming on his own track, told Americans not to worry. I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

That is despite Senator Lindsay Graham telling Americans not to worry because a war would be fought “over there” and others in Trump’s Administration going beyond Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine to a “preventive war” doctrine.

The situation heated just a couple of days after the annual Hiroshima commemoration, organized by SANE Peace Action based in Great Neck, a 60-year old organization, and Long Island Peace Alternatives, formed 32 years ago, which for many years now has taken place at the Universalist Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, Long Island, never fails to inspire a range of emotions – horror, regret, guilt, anger, activism, and hope. Hope that after 72 years, the world will come to its senses as to this existential threat.

This year’s gathering, on August 2, started off surprisingly upbeat: 122 United Nations members  had just adopted a treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the hopefulness of that was shattered by the next sentence: Not one of the nine countries that actually possess nuclear weapons — United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supports it, in fact boycotted the deliberations. It’s as if the wimps and wusses of the world signed a petition to stop bullies from bullying

And while during the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the US was making strong headway to reducing nuclear threats (that is the heart of the Ukraine issue, where the collapse of the “Soviet Union resulted in an enormous cache of “loose nukes” which is why the United States and west promised to protect Ukraine against incursion), he was already being thwarted by Senate Republicans who actually balked at signing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, indeed some are rattling sabers to undo the treaty which requires Russia and the United States to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500 from 2,200 each by next year (New York Times, A Threat to Nuclear Arms Control, July 29, 2017).

Instead, the Republican Congress is considering whether the US should develop a new ground-launched cruise missile and withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning missiles with a range of up to about 3,000 miles.

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, here with Japan Prime Minister Abe in 2016, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran was nonetheless stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. (White House Pool photo)

What success Obama had to reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust – most dramatically, the historic Iran Nuclear Agreement – and on so many other things, Obama was under-appreciated and his efforts kind of matter-of-factly taken for granted, even dismissed, and Trump has vowed to pull out, just as he has said the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Trump’s entire focus – his federal budget, his foreign policy, domestic policy – is actually to dismantle the mechanisms of diplomacy and global cooperation (The State Department announced it is removing “promoting Democracy” from its mission statement, has already dismissed human rights as a priority in favor of deals making, is shutting down the Global Engagement Center aimed at countering propaganda which would destabilize democracy, and is generally cutting the State Department’s budget by one-third, and Trump is really, really unhappy with the campaign in Afghanistan because China is capitalizing on its mineral wealth and US companies are not), in favor of militancy, including seeking $1 TRILLION to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons which will only reignite a nuclear arms race, on top of over $600 billion in new military spending (how interesting that Republicans believe there is no benefit to “throw money” at education or health care, but perfectly okay to throw money that isn’t even requested at the already bloated defense budget). The Trump Doctrine boils down to “To the victor belongs the spoils.”

Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”: “It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While diplomacy is hard, complicated, nuanced and requires mental acuity, sending soldiers into war is easy.

Trump loves shiny new things and pumping up the military, focusing on militancy which is under his total control as the nominal Commander-in-Chief, is what his narcissism needs. And increasingly, as we see him throwing out red-meat “policy” to shore up his base, it is very likely that he will ultimately fall back to the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic to secure his power and his presidency: war, preceded by a Pearl-Harbor rallying incident, 9/11. North Korea mounting a nuclear strike against Seattle, that would do the trick.

Which brings us to North Korea. No one with any brain or conscience believes that there is any military solution that would not be catastrophic. Trying to strong-arm Kim Jong-un into giving up his nuclear weapons is fantastical, especially when Kim believes (with good reason) that the only reason his country hasn’t been invaded and his regime toppled is because of his nuclear power.

Even with the Trump Administration’s “success” at getting the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously (that means China and Russia which are bolstering North Korea) to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is like a robot mouthing a policy that demands North Korea stop its weapons testing before the US will agree to any talks.

What does that mean, exactly? Stop for a week, a month, a year? What would qualify?

Talks are key – after all, what would the alternative be? Sanctions tend not to work with despots with total control over life and death of their subjects.

But what would the talks be about? More threats? What would be the incentive?

And what is patently clear is that any demand that begins and ends with “give up nuclear weapons program” will be a nonstarter. Kim Jong-un has seen what has happened to other tyrants who do not command such weapons or who give up their weapons, like Libya’s Omar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And he sees how despite Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program in order to have economic sanctions lifted, the Trump Administration is working to re-impose economic sanctions, despite the administration’s report acknowledging that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement. What lesson should Kim Jong-on draw?

Instead of laying the groundwork for a diplomatic solution (the State Department has barely any personnel: no Ambassador to South Korea, no under-Secretary for Asian Affairs), Trump seems to want to provoke ever more aggressive actions which would then justify a military response which he thinks will rally mindless adherence and give an excuse to permanently silence any opposition.

Trump fawns over Vladimir Putin and other dictators at the “Commander in Chief” military policy forum during the 2016 presidential campaign and shows complete ignorance of nuclear weapons. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump is a guy who flippantly said during the 2016 presidential campaign he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them, who suggested that other countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons because they should fund their own defense without the United States incurring the expense, who had no clue what the “nuclear triad” was and apparently, no idea whatsoever of the terrifying consequence of using nuclear bombs. (See” 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons).

(The question I would have is whether the American military establishment would refuse to obey Trump’s order.)

So here’s a radical idea: moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether is the solution. If the nine nations that have nuclear weapons agree to dispose of them, that could be the solution.

Otherwise, we are likely headed toward a nuclear confrontation in which there will be no winners, only losers.

At the end of the evening, there was a call to action: Call or visit your Congressmembers to urge them to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world,” said Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”:. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.”

The concept behind the nuclear arsenals is the fear of mutually assured destruction will cause any rational leader to pull back from using them. But as Ira Helfand of Leeds MA wrote the New York Times, “Yet we know of more than a dozen instances when nuclear-armed countries began the process of launching their nuclear weapons, usually in the mistaken belief that their adversaries had already done so — more than a dozen times when deterrence failed. And we are told that North Korea must not obtain a nuclear capability because it cannot reliably be deterred. It is time to abandon this failed policy and to pursue the real security of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In fact, one instance of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust was documented in an amazing, frightening and inspiring film, “The Man Who Saved the World,” about Stanislov Petrov, a Soviet soldier commanding a nuclear bunker who single-handedly averted a nuclear world war in September 1983 by refusing to launch missiles when all his radar and computer systems showed an attack underway by the United States. Petrov defied his orders and protocol and refused to launch knowing that even if the US strike was real and would kill 100 million Russians in an instant, the strike he would order would kill 100 million Americans in the next instant and a billion more people around the planet subsequently.

Indeed, the threats to the continued habitability of the planet and its 7 billion resident souls are not just from a lunatic renegade like Kim Jong-un.

Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, at the Commemoration of the 72nd Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, the statement by the US, UK and France: ‘The time isn’t right.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the end of the evening, Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. issued a call to action: urge your Congressmembers to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, was the statement by the US, UK and France: ’While we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, the time isn’t right. This treaty not the best tactic – we will never sign this treaty, never eliminate nuclear weapons.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now,” she said.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Vows to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem – Just Not Immediately

The White House just issued this statement on the American Embassy in Israel:

“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.  President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests.  But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”