Donald Trump issued a statement unequivocally standing with Saudi Arabia, declaring “America First!,” and stressing that Saudi Arabia “agreed” to spend a record $450 billion in the US, while throwing darts at Iran to defend Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen that have contributed to the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet, and all but dismissing any accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump declared.
“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States.This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!
I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!
To really get a sense of who Donald Trump is as president, listen to his responses to a wide-ranging press conference, held on the day he chaired a Security Council meeting at the United Nations and the day after he delivered his address to the General Assembly, rejecting multilateralism in favor of America First sovereignty.
In his press conference, he addressed everything from the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual assault charges, to North Korea, Iran, trade agreements. He accused China of meddling in the 2018 election (by imposing retaliatory tariffs targeting farmers and Red States). He continued to boast about historic gains in the economy while attacking Democrats, Obama, and sniping at Hillary Clinton. (“If others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on. They were going to put regulations on. They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse. And they were going to raise your taxes. That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.”)
He attacked Justin Trudeau of Canada while praising Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and anyone else who registered adoration.
He dismissed any suggestion that members in the General Assembly laughed at his boast of accomplishing more in his time in office than any US president in history.
“So the fake news said, ‘People laughed at President Trump.’ They didn’t laugh at me. People had a good time with me. We were doing it together. We had a good time. They respect what I’ve done. The United States is respected again. The United States was not respected. Everybody was taking advantage of us. From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.”
And he managed to get a hit at “fake news” and the “failing” New York Times.
Here, then, is a minimally edited transcript of the press conference. — Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
Lotte New York Palace New York, New York
September 26, 2018
4:57 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much everybody. We’ve had a great three days at the United Nations in New York. And this is quite a gathering. Wow. It’s a lot of people. A lot of media. (Laughter.)
We’ve covered a great deal of territory. Just left, as you know, Prime Minister Abe of Japan. We’re starting trade talks with Japan. They were not willing, for years, to talk trade, and now they’re willing to talk trade. And I’m sure we’ll make a very good deal.
Just concluded, as you know — two days ago, signed a deal with South Korea — a trade deal. A tremendous deal with South Korea. It means a lot of business for our farmers. We’re opening up for farmers. We’re opening up for a lot of different groups.
We’re going to be able to sell much more than double the number of automobiles that we were allowed under a deal that was totally defective that was there before. And so we’re very happy with that. That deal is actually concluded.
We’re very well along the way with Mexico. The relationship is very good. And with Canada, we’ll see what happens. They’re charging us 300-percent tariffs on dairy products. We can’t have that. We can’t have that.
With China, as you know, we put out an announcement today. They would like to see me lose an election because they’ve never been challenged like this. But I want to open up China to our farmers and to our industrialists and our companies. And China is not open, but we’re open to them. They charge us 25, 35, 55 percent for things, and we charge them nothing in terms of coming into the country.
Cars, they’re at 25 percent. And we’re at 2 percent and 2.5 percent, and don’t even collect it. But we collect it now.
So we’re doing very well in our situation with China on trade. I have a great relationship with the President of China, President Xi. But it’s got to be a two-way street. It — for 25 years and longer, it was not. And trillions and trillions of dollars was taken out of the United States for the benefit of China. We just can’t have that. We have to make it fair.
So we’re at $250 billion now, at 25 percent interest. And a lot of money is coming into our coffers. And it’s had no impact on our — absolutely, by the way, no impact on our economy, which I said it wouldn’t.
In fact, steel is like the hottest industry there is. If you look at what happened with steel, we’re charging a 25 percent tariff for the dumpers. They dump massive amounts of steel. They want to put the steel companies out of business. And after they’re out of business, they’ll come in and charge five times more than you ever thought possible. And we need steel and we need aluminum. And those industries are doing well.
But steel is incredible. U.S. Steel is opening up a minimum of eight plants. Nucor is opening up plants. And these are big plants — $750 million and a billion dollar plants, in some cases.
So what’s happening with the steel industry is very exciting to me. It’s being rebuilt overnight. If you look at the miners in coal, if you look at energy, LNG — Japan just gave us some numbers that are incredible. They’re doubling the amount that they are going to be buying for Japan. They’re taking the LNG and they’re doubling it up.
I said, “You have to do me a favor. We don’t want these big deficits. You’re going to have to buy more.” They’re buying massive amounts of equipment and military equipment, and other countries are doing the same thing. Because we have trade imbalances with almost everybody. It’s a rare exception that we don’t.
So we are doing great as a country. Unfortunately, they just raised interest rates a little bit because we are doing so well. I’m not happy about that, because I know it’s going to be a question. I am not happy about that. I’d rather pay down debt or do other things, create more jobs. So I’m worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates. We can do other things with the money. And — but they raised them. And they’re raising them because we’re doing so well. You know, we’re doing much better than I had projected in terms of — when I was campaigning, I said we were going to do this and we’re doing much better than anybody ever thought possible.
And, I will say, if others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on. They were going to put regulations on. They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse. And they were going to raise your taxes. That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.
Q In 1991, when Joe Biden passed along to the Bush 41 White House the allegations that Anita Hill had raised against Clarence Thomas, the Bush White House asked the FBI to look into it as part of Judge Thomas’s background investigation — not a criminal investigation, but the background investigation. When these allegations were raised, why didn’t this White House do the same thing? And with all of the allegations that are coming out now about Judge Kavanaugh, was there an opportunity missed here to have investigators look into this and get some sort of clarity one way or the other?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times, many times over the years. They know him very well. But here, there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint. They didn’t know the location. They didn’t know the time. They didn’t know the year. They didn’t know anything. And it’s like, where do you go?
Also, it’s not for the FBI. If you look at what Joe Biden said, he said, “They don’t do this.” And he said it very clearly.
So I think when you really look at it all, it’s not going to change any of the Democrats’ minds. They’re obstructionists. They’re actually con artists because they know how quality this man is and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation and they want to destroy it even more.
And I think people are going to see that in the midterms. What they’ve done to this family, what they’ve done to these children — these beautiful children of his — and what they’ve done to his wife. And they know it’s a big, fat con job.
And they go into a room and, I guarantee you, they laugh like hell at what they’ve pulled off on you and on the public. They laugh like hell. So, it wouldn’t have mattered if the FBI came back with the cleanest score. And you understand that very well, John. If they would have come back with the most perfect — “We found everything, and he’s perfectly innocent of everything.” It wouldn’t have made a difference. You wouldn’t have gotten one vote.
Now we will get votes from the Democrats if we win. You’ll have three, four, or five Democrats giving us votes, because they’re in states that I won by 30 and 40 points and they’re going to give us votes.
Q Mr. President, there are now three women accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Are you saying that all three of those women are liars? Is there anything that can be said at this point tomorrow that could cause you to withdraw the nomination? Anything at all that —
THE PRESIDENT: I won’t get into that game. I’ll only tell you this: This is one of the highest quality people that I’ve ever met, and everybody that knows him says the same thing. And these are all false — to me, these are false accusations in certain cases. And certain cases, even the media agrees with that.
I can only say that, what they’ve done to this man is incredible. You know, it’s very interesting — I pick a lot of judges. I have 145 judges I will be picking by the end of a fairly short period of time because President Obama wasn’t big on picking judges. When I got there, I said, “How is this possible?” I have 145 — including court of appeals — judges. And they just didn’t do it. You know why? They got tired. They got complacent. Something happened. I have 145 judges.
Everybody wants to be a federal judge. Not just a Supreme Court judge, I’m talking about court of appeals; I’m talking about district court. I don’t think they’re going to want to so much. I’ll be calling people, and we’ll have people calling people that do this. And people are going to be scared because we could say it about you, “Thirty-five years ago, you met some…” — and you might know — you might not know what’s going on.
What is going on? Why did they wait so long? Why did Senator Feinstein wait until the hearings were over and make this case? Why didn’t she bring it right at the beginning? When you ask about, as an example, the FBI — why didn’t they bring this right at the beginning, during the hearing? You would have had all the time in the world for the FBI. It would have been fine.
Now the FBI, as you know, did investigate this time, as they have five or six other times. And they did a very thorough investigation. But this is a big con job. And I would love to be in the room with the Democrats, close the door — you guys are all away, outside, waiting. And Schumer and his buddies are all in there laughing how they fooled you all. Let’s just stop them. A big fat con.
Q But, Mr. President, if I could follow up. You have daughters. Can you understand why a victim of sexual assault would not report it at the time? Don’t you understand —
THE PRESIDENT: People are going to have to make a decision. Thirty-six years, there’s no charge. All of a sudden, the hearings are over and the rumors start coming out.
And then you have this other con artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today. I only say that you have to look at the facts. The senators are very capable people. They’re very good people. I know many of them. They’re friends of mine. These are very talented, very good people. And they’re going to vote. They’re going to believe what they believe.I can — when I look at what’s happened to the reputation of a great gentleman — a great intellect; a brilliant man; somebody that has a chance to be one of our great Supreme Court Justices in history, intellectually — I think it’s a shame.
Q Mr. President, yesterday at the speech at the U.N., you spoke about how Venezuela’s problem was because of Cuba and the Castros — how they went in there and they brought socialism and communism to Venezuela, and now to Nicaragua as well. Mr. President, are you going to be more proactive now against Cuba as well?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve been very proactive against Cuba. I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba. As you know, President Obama gave them a pass and I didn’t like it. Neither do Cuban people based in Miami and based in our country that came from Cuba and suffered in Cuba.
I don’t like what he did. I’ve ended much of it — most of it. I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba, and I certainly don’t like what’s happening in Venezuela.
Q You said also that you had a call-to-action to ask the leaders around the world to also end socialism. Would you like to be recognized as —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn’t say that socialism has been working really well around the world, okay. You can take a look at Venezuela as your number one — your number one — I guess, the one that is most obvious. But you take a look around the world, socialism is not exactly riding high.
Standing By His Men
Q Why is it, Mr. President, that you always seem to side with the accused and not the accuser? You have three women here who are all making allegations, who are all asking that their stories be heard. And, you know, if you look at the case of Roy Moore, if you look at the case of one of your staffers, you seem to, time and again, side with the accused and not the accuser. Is that because of the many allegations that you’ve had made against you over the years?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I wasn’t happy with Roy Moore. Let’s get that straight. But Roy Moore was a Republican candidate —
Q But you stood by him.
THE PRESIDENT: — and I would have rather had a Republican candidate win. I was very happy with Luther Strange, who was a terrific man from Alabama, but Luther Strange had a lot of things going against him.
As far as women, whether it’s a man or a woman, these are — you know, it can happen the other way. Allegations can go the other way also. You understand that. And whether it was a man or a woman, 30 years ago, 36 years ago — in fact, they don’t even know how many years ago because nobody knows what the time is. That’s a long time.
And I could pick, as an example — hopefully I won’t have to do it as a replacement because hopefully this is going to go very well on Thursday. It’s going to go very well on Monday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or whenever they vote. But I could pick a woman and she could have charges made from many years ago also.
Q First of all, do you think these women — all three of them are liars? Yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow. I have to read. I just heard about one a little while ago. I can tell you her lawyer is a low life, okay? So I can’t tell you whether or not they’re liars until I hear them.
I don’t know what happened today because I’ve been very busy with Japan, with South Korea, with China, and about seven other countries, as you know — and I chaired the Security Council.
So I don’t know about today’s person that came forward. I do know about the lawyer. And you don’t get much worse — bad reputation, too. Take a look at his past.
So, as far as the other women are concerned, I’m going to see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to be watching — you know, believe it or not. I’m going to see what’s said. It’s possible that they will be convincing.
Now, with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been, for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington. He’s been on — I guess you’d call it the second highest court. And every single person knows him; a lot of people know him well. And those people don’t believe what’s going on. I can always be convinced. I have to hear it.
Q It sounds like what you’re saying is, there is a situation, there is a scenario under which you would withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Is that correct? And have you talked about that with him?
THE PRESIDENT: If I thought he was — if I thought he was guilty of something like this, yeah sure.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to watch. I want to see. I hope I can watch. I’m meeting with a lot of countries tomorrow, but I will certainly, in some form, be able to watch. And I’ll also rely on some very fair and talented Republican senators who — look, if we brought George Washington here and we said, “We have George Washington,” the Democrats would vote against him, just so you understand.
And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know. (Laughter.) He may have had some, I think, accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past? George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists. I mean 100 percent. One hundred percent.
So it really doesn’t matter from their standpoint. That’s why when John asked about the FBI — if the FBI did the most thorough investigation in the history of the FBI, and they found him to be 100-percent perfect, he would lose every single vote.
Now, if the Republicans win tomorrow, I think you’re going to get some votes from the Democrats. You know why? Because — we all know why — because it’s called politics. Then you’ll probably get some votes.
Q Has there ever been an instance when you’ve given the benefit of the doubt to a woman?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve known them. Hallie, I’ve know them for a long time and — a lot of these people. A lot of people. And some I’ve been disappointed with. I have been disappointed with some. Others, like — you know, there are charges that are pretty weak.
But I’ve known people for a long time. I never saw them do anything wrong. I never saw them do anything wrong. And there are some that probably — I agree. I can tell you there are some that I — I’ve been watching for a long time. And in a couple of cases, they weren’t Republicans. In a lot of cases, they were not; they were exactly the opposite.
But I’ve been watching them for a long time. And I knew for a long time these were not good people. And they were never brought up.
I Was Accused…Fake News
Q How have your personal experiences being accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct —
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve been accused. I’ve been accused. False accusations.
Q — right, how have those —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. I’ve been accused. And I was accused by — I believe, it was — four women. You can check with Sean Hannity. You can check with Fox, because they covered it very strongly — who got paid.
Q And how has (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. Excuse me. I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me. We caught them, and the mainstream media refused to put it on television. They refused to even write about it.
There were four women, and maybe more — I think the number is four or five. But one had a mortgage paid off her house, $52,000. Another one had other things happen. And the one that reported it, I believe, was offered $750,000 to say bad things about me — and she is the one that reported it. This woman is incredible. She reported it, instead of taking the money.
So I’ve had numerous accusations about me.
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, they made false statements about me, knowing they were false. I never met them. I never met these people. And, what did they do? What did they do?
They took money in order to say bad things. I’ve had stories written in the New York Times — front page — about four women. The whole top center front page of the New York Times. I think it was four big pictures.
I said, “Wow. That’s a big thing. What’s that?” These were women that were quoted saying bad things about me. Not the worst things about me, but bad things. And I said, “Gee, that’s too bad.” I knew them a long time ago — 15 years ago, 20 years ago. I said, “That’s too bad. I’m surprised at them.”
And then all of a sudden I see them on television — nothing to do with me. The next day or a day later, they were incensed. They said, “Donald Trump is a nice guy. We never said this. The New York Times did false reporting. They’re fake news.” And you know what? The New York Times would not report that their story was fake.
These women said great things. Not only did they not say the bad stuff, they said great things about me. Front page. And those women — they’re incredible women — they went on television — and they didn’t want to, and I didn’t ask them. And they said, “The New York Times made it up. They gave false quotes.” And they went on a lot of shows. They were really incensed and they couldn’t believe it.
That’s why people know that a lot of the news is fake. And a lot of the people sitting here are fake. But 20 percent of them are wonderful. Okay?
Q If I could just actually ask my question, Mr. Trump. I — you didn’t let me ask my question.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve been asking a question for 10 minutes, all right?
Q No, you interrupted my question.
THE PRESIDENT: Please sit down. Please.
Q I’m asking you —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q — how did those impact your opinions on the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it does impact my opinion. You know why? Because I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me. I’m a very famous person, unfortunately. I’ve been a famous person for a long time. But I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me — really false charges.
I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame. They want money. They want whatever. So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television, where they say, “Oh, Judge Kavanaugh…” this or that.
It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges; I had a woman sitting in an airplane and I attacked her while people were coming onto the plane. And I have a number-one bestseller out? I mean it was total phony story. There are many of them.
So when you say, does it affect me in terms of my thinking with respect to Judge Kavanaugh? Absolutely. Because I’ve had it many times.
And if the news would have reported these four people — I couldn’t believe it. When I heard that they caught these four people, I said, “Wow. That’s a big story.” And it was — for Fox. Okay.
Accuses China of Meddling in 2018 Elections
Q Earlier today and just now, you made a significant allegation against the Chinese government. You suggested that the Chinese had meddled in or are meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s what I hear.
Q What evidence do you have of that, sir? Is there a national intelligence estimate, for example, that you’re prepared to put forward?
THE PRESIDENT: We have evidence. We have evidence. It’ll come out. Yeah, I can’t tell you now, but it came — it didn’t come out of nowhere, that I can tell you.
Now, if you — they’ve actually admitted that they’re going after farmers. I mean, I think most of you can cover that.
I like that you’re shaking your head, “yes.” I’m going to ask you the next question because of that. Okay? It’s probably going to be the killer of all questions. (Laughter.) But let me just explain —
Q But why make the charges now —
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. Let me —
Q — if you’re not prepared to come forward with the evidence, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: China, now, put on $250 billion, and they’re paying 25 percent on that. They’re paying billions and billions. This has never happened to China. And I like China. And I like President Xi a lot. I think he’s a friend of mine. He may not be a friend of mine anymore, but he — I think he probably respects —
From what I hear — if you look at Mr. Pillsbury, the leading authority on China — he was on a good show — I won’t mention the name of the show — recently. And he was saying that China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain. He said, “Donald. Donald Trump. They don’t know what to do.” It never happened.
Well, one thing they are trying to do is they are trying to convince people to go against Donald Trump. Because a normal, regular, political person that has no concept of what the hell he’s doing would let China continue to take $500 billion a year out of our country and rebuild their country.
I mean, they were building 29 massive bridges like the George Washington Bridge. They’re building things that we don’t build anymore. But we’re starting to build them again.
And our economy now is hotter than it’s ever been. I don’t know you if you saw the confidence levels this morning that just came out. Fantastic.
And in all fairness to the Fed raising rates, they’re raising rates because we’ve never done like we’re doing now. And one of the things that is nice about the rates — the people that were hurt the worst by these zero interest rates and, you know —
When President Obama had an economy that was — it was the worst comeback since the Great Depression and all that — you’ve all heard that. But remember, he was playing with zero-interest money. He was playing with funny money. That’s easy. I’m playing with fairly expensive money.
So when he does that, the people that benefit are people that actually — in their whole life, they would save 10, 15, 20 percent of their salary and put it in the bank. Those people got killed because they put their money in the bank. They were going to live off the interest, and there was no interest.
Now, those people are starting to get interest. And those are the people, frankly, that deserve to — you know, they did a great job. The people that did it right, the people that did the best job got hurt the most.
So in one sense I like it, but basically I’m a low-interest-rate person. I hate to tell you.
Fire Rod Rosenstein?
Q Are you planning to fire Rod Rosenstein?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m talking to him. We’ve had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he doesn’t believe it. He said he has a lot of respect for me, and he was very nice and we’ll see. And he’s a member of the Trump administration, in that sense; it’s the Justice Department.
I would certainly prefer not doing that. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction — I mean, unless you call obstruction the fact that I fight back. I do fight back. I really fight back. I mean, if you call that obstruction, that’s fine.
But there’s no obstruction. There’s no collusion. I’m going to meet with him tomorrow. I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay to the meeting, because I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick. So I don’t want it competing and hurting the decision — one way or the other decision. Again, I want to hear what she has to say.
But I want to do — so I may delay that. I’m going to see. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to conflict with that. But my preference would be to keep him, and to let him finish up.
You know, I call it a “witch hunt.” And it is a witch hunt. If you look at the FBI statements with Strzok and his lover Lisa Page. If you look at all of the things that have gone on in the FBI. If you look at McCabe taking $700,000 from a Hillary Clinton-PAC essentially run by Terry McAuliffe, who’s her best friend in the world, and he gives them hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he’s in charge of her campaign, and his wife is getting all of this money to run — she lost — to run. I mean, what’s going on?
If you look at the horrible statements, like “Way to go, Page. Great story you put into a newspaper.” Essentially, now we’ll go and investigate that group. It’s terrible. We have caught people doing things that are terrible.
I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein. Much prefer. Many people say I have the right to absolutely fire him. He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. And nobody in this room believes it.
By the way, I deal with the people in this room. I was with Mike Pompeo before, and we were dealing, at a very high level, with Japan. And I was saying things that nobody in the room even understood. And I said them a long time ago, and I was right. He said, “That’s not the 25th Amendment that I’m looking at.” I think I can say that from Mike.
Q So you don’t think anyone in your administration has ever discussed using the 25th Amendment against you?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. Well, yeah — enemies, sure. You use anything you can.
Q Was it in your administration or your Cabinet?
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, you use anything they can. They’re not in love with me. They’re not going to beat me in the election; they know that. They’re not going to beat me. The people that I’m looking at are total lightweights. I dream of running against those people.
Q But within your administration?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe they’ll come up with somebody that’s not — they’re not going to beat me. I’m against what they want to do. I’m in favor of law enforcement. I’m in favor of safety and security, and low taxes. I want low taxes.
I want borders. We’re getting another $1.6 billion in borders. I want borders. We’ve spent $3.2 [billion] and we’re getting another $1.6 [billion]. And then eventually, we’re getting the whole thing and we’ll complete the wall.
They don’t want that. They don’t want that. They don’t want the things that I have.
Now, I must say, I know many of the Democrats. They’ll say things and then wink at me. And again, it’s the same old story. They’ll say things; they don’t mean it. Its politics. The reason they don’t want me is because they want to run the show. They want it. It’s power. It’s whatever you want to call it. But what they’ve done here is a disgrace. A total disgrace.
And what they do — I know, it’s sort of interesting — in one case, they say, “He’s a fascist. He’s taking over the government. He’s the most powerful President ever. He’s a horrible human being. He wants to take over the entire government, and he’s going to do it. We can’t stop him.” That didn’t work.
The next week, he said, “Uh, he’s incompetent.” I said, “Well, wait a minute.” In one case, I’m taking over the world. And in the other case, “He’s incompetent.” They tried that for a week. That didn’t work.
Look, these are very dishonest people. These are con artists. And the press knows it, but the press doesn’t write it.
No Timeline for North Korea
Q You’re getting letters from Chairman Kim. Why do you need a second summit with the North Korean leader so soon? And what do you —
THE PRESIDENT: Because he’d like it.
Q What would it be for?
THE PRESIDENT: So I’ve received two letters from Chairman Kim. At some point, I’ll, you know, give these letters — they’re incredible letters. They’re letters that are magnificent in the sense of his feeling for wanting to get this done. I really believe he wants to get it done. I may be wrong.
I heard somebody on a certain network last night — I won’t mention which one — say, “Why has President Trump given so much to North Korea?” I said, “Wait a minute.” I asked Sarah Huckabee, “Please call this person.” I gave nothing — other than I met. What did I give them?
I didn’t do what Obama did: Give them $1.8 billion in cash to get back four hostages. I got back our hostages; I never paid them anything. I haven’t paid them 10 cents.
But he wants to make a deal and I’d like to make a deal. We actually have a very good relationship together — a lot different than the last time I was at the United Nations. That was a little bit rough.
Don’t forget, that time, they said, “Oh, Trump is saying these horrible things. He’s going to get us into a war.” You were going to have a war. If I wasn’t elected, you’d be in war. And President Obama essentially said the same thing. He was ready to go to war.
You would have had a war, and you would have lost millions, not thousands. You would have lost millions of people. Seoul has 30 million people — 40 miles and 30 miles from this very dangerous border. If I wasn’t elected, you would have had a war.
President Obama thought you had to go to war. You know how close he was to pressing the trigger for war? Millions of people. With me, nobody is talking about that. Nobody is talking about that.
We have a very good relationship. He likes me. I like him. We get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters — just one — to Prime Minister Abe, he said, “This is actually a groundbreaking letter. This is an incredible — this is a historic letter.” And it is a historic letter. It’s a beautiful — it’s a beautiful piece of art. And I think we’re going to make a deal.
Will we make a deal, Steve? I don’t really know. But I think we’re going to.
In the meantime — and I’ve said it a thousand — I don’t want to bore you: no rockets, no missiles, no nuclear tests — you know, for over a year, where you haven’t seen.
Before I got here, everybody in this room thought you were going to war. And then what happened — it was funny — they said, “He was terrible. He was so rough with Chairman Kim — Kim Jong Un. He was so rough. It’s terrible. He’s going to cause…”
Well, I had a great meeting with President Putin. And on that one, they said, “He was too soft with President Putin.” I had a great meeting with the President. It lasted for two hours. We discussed everything: Ukraine, Syria, Israel and Israel’s protection. We had a great meeting. They wanted me to end up in a boxing match.
And you know what? If I was killer-tough with President Putin, they would have said, “He was too tough.” You can’t win with these people, but you just keep going. In the meantime, we’re doing well.
Q How long do you think it should take North Korea to denuclearize?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. I don’t want to get into —
Q We’ve seen estimates of one year, two year —
THE PRESIDENT: Steve, I don’t want to get into the time game. You know why? I told Mike Pompeo, I said, “Mike, don’t get into the time game.” We stopped them. They’re taking down plants. They’re taking down a lot of different testing areas. They’re going to take down some more. You’ll be hearing about that very soon. I don’t want to go ahead of myself, but you’ll be hearing about it soon. They have no interest right now in testing nuclear.
You know, we had a case just about when I was coming into office — you all remember it — where there was a massive — they thought it was an earthquake. A mountain moved over an inch and a half. We’re talking about mountains. You know, North Korea is very mountainous. Beautiful land. Beautiful. This mountain actually shifted. It shifted. And somebody thought it was an earthquake. And then they found out, no, this was nuclear testing. Shifted a mountain. Now I’m talking about serious stuff. Serious size.
When I came in, and certainly before I came in — and even at the beginning of mine because when I was having rhetorical contests — you know, contests, really, I guess you could call it — with Chairman Kim, which we both smile at now and we laugh at. But everybody thought that was a horrible thing.
We’ve had — many Presidents were unable to do anything, anything at all with North Korea. We now have a good relationship. We have a good relationship. And most importantly, all of the things that you’ve been hearing about –the horror stories — in my opinion, they’re gone.
Now, could they start up again? Yes. I’m a deal guy. Could they start? Yeah. Could be that we don’t work it out.
I think — I have it right here — I think that what we’ve done behind the scenes, which nobody really knows about — and I don’t blame you for not knowing about, you know, personal letters, private letters. But saying they want to get it done. We know much more than the media for a change. Much more. But if you saw what’s going on behind the scenes, I think you’d very impressed.
We were a country going to war. I really believe that President Obama would admit that he said it’s by far his biggest problem. When I sat with him, prior to going to office — going into office, he said to me that’s by far the biggest problem. And he said to me that he was very close to going into war.
And millions of people — not — you know, I — they say, “Oh, thousands of people…” No, no, no, not thousands. Millions of people would have been killed. And that could have left — you’re right next to China. You’re right — that could have been a world war very easily.
Right now, we’re in a great position. I don’t want to play the time game. I told Mike Pompeo, “Don’t let them do that to you.” I haven’t given anything.
And all of a sudden — we got back, it was a few weeks ago. I think we were back like two and a half months from the summit, which was a great success. And people are screaming, “What’s taking so long?” I said, “Oh, I get it.” You got to understand the media. I’ve been dealing with the media all my life. Too much. Too much.
They’re screaming and I saw that. And our guys were — and not Mike — but our guys were being, “Oh well, we’re working as fast…” I said, “I got all the time in the world. I don’t have to rush it.” There’s no — you know, secession of sanctions. We got the sanctions on. I didn’t take any sanctions off.
I did see a reporter last night — a guy I like, personally, a lot. And he asked a question to President Moon of South Korea. He said, “Why did the President give so much?” I didn’t give anything. I gave nothing. What have I given, other than some time? Yes, I flew to Singapore. We had a meeting.
Now, giving would be if I took the sanctions off. I didn’t want to do — if you asked General Mattis, for a year and a half, I said, “Why don’t we stop these ridiculous,” in my opinion, “the military games?” I call them the “military games.” If I told you how much those games cost — and, frankly, I told South Korea, “You should be paying for these games.” We pay for them.
They say, “Well, we fly the planes in from a short distance away.” I said, “Where is that?” “Guam.” “Oh, huh. How long a trip is that?” “Seven hours.” “Oh, great.” We’re flying these massive bombers and everything. I’ve wanted to stop this for a long time. I consider that an asset.
But we’ve done — we’re saving, by the way — just for the taxpayer, we’re saving a fortune. And if we need them, we can start them up immediately. If I think we need them, I’ll start them before the generals will start them.
The fact is, this reporter said that. I said, “What have we done? I haven’t given anything.” And we’re really onto the cusp. I think we’re really going to do something that’s going to be very important.
But we’re not playing the time game. If it takes two years, three years, or five months, it doesn’t matter. There’s no nuclear testing and there’s no testing of rockets.
Democrats’ Con Job
Q Are you at all concerned at the message that has been sending — being sent to the women who are watching this when you use language like “con job” in relation to allegations of sexual assault?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I’ve used much worse language in my life than “con job.” That’s like probably the nicest phrase I’ve ever used. I mean, con job — it is. It’s a con job. You know, confidence — it’s a confidence job. But they short — it’s a con job by the Democrats. They know it.
Q What about the message that’s being sent to women who are watching?
THE PRESIDENT: They did the same thing with the Russia investigation. They tried to convince people that I had something to do with Russia. There was no collusion.
Think of it. I’m in Wisconsin. I’m in Michigan. I say, “Gee, we’re not doing well.” I won both those states. “We’re not doing well. Uh, let me call the Russians to help.” Does anybody really believe that? It’s a con job.
And I watch these guys — Little Adam Schiff, and all of the guys. He takes a call from a Russian who turned out to be a faker. You know, he was a comedian or something. “This is so-and-so calling for…” — he took the call. Why is the taking a call from a Russian?
Senator Warner took a call from a Russian. He was a comedian or something, but he said, “We have pictures of President Trump.” “Oh, where can I get them?” If we ever did that, it would be like a big deal.
Yeah, it’s a con job. And it’s not a bad term. It’s not a bad term at all.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll tell you one thing I can say: I’ve had a lot of people talking about this to me, with respect to what’s happening, because it’s a horrible precedent.
I’m going to have to get other judges and other Supreme Court judges, possibly. I could have a lot of the Supreme Court judges, more than two. And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh — spoke to him and his family — and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored. It was as though — I mean, the biggest thing that’s ever happened. And I understand that — U.S. Supreme Court.
I don’t want to be in a position where people say, “No, thanks. No, thanks. I don’t want to.” You know, “I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.” We have a country to run. We want the best talent in the world.
But I’ll tell you this: The people that have complained to me about it the most — about what’s happening — are women. Women are very angry.
You know, I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said, “This couldn’t happen — 52 percent.” Women are so angry. And I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing, but I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster. But give them their day in court. Let her have her day in court. Let somebody else have a day in court.
But the ones that I find — I mean, I have men that don’t like it, but I have women that are incensed at what’s going on. I’ve always said women are smarter than men. I’ve said that a lot and I mean it. But women are incensed at what’s going on.
I Like Kurds A Lot
Q Rudaw Media Network from Kurdistan region, north of Iraq. I’m a Kurd. Sir —
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good. Great people. Are you a Kurd?
They’re great people. They’re great fighters. I like them a lot. Let’s go. I like this question so far.
Q Mr. President, you always say you support your allies. Kurds right now, after the defeat of ISIS, are under a lot of pressure in Syria and in Iraq by many adversaries.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s true.
Q What will you do to elevate their position to support them in order — after they help the United States to defeat ISIS? Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we are helping them a lot and we’ve been very friendly with them. And, as you know, we’ve fought side-by-side. And we have defeated ISIS, essentially, a very short while ago, in the Middle East. And we did it with a lot of help from the Kurds. And they are — they’re great fighters.
You know, some people are great fighters and some people aren’t. The Kurds are great fighters. And they’re great, great people. And we’re going to be working — we’re discussing that situation exactly right now.
Q What will you do to support them, sir, (inaudible) Syria?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m just telling you, we’re going to be discussing that situation. We have already started discussing that situation. But we have tremendous support from the Kurds in defeating ISIS. Okay?
Q And about Syria: Sir, in your speech you did not mention —
THE PRESIDENT: Uh, yes. Go. Uh oh.
Prospects for NAFTA
Q Did you reject a one-on-one meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I did.
THE PRESIDENT: Because his tariffs are too high, and he doesn’t seem to want to move, and I’ve told him, “Forget about it.” And frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada. That’s the motherlode. That’s the big one. We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada.
We don’t like their representative very much. They’ve taken advantage — I love Canada, by the way. I have so many friends. I have everybody, and so many friends. But that has nothing to do with this; I’m representing the United States.
Mexico was totally — I mean, they were great. By the way, the new President has been great. The deal is done. Now, it has to go through Congress and, you know, a lot things have to happen. But we’ve done — Bob Lighthizer, who’s here someplace. Where’s Bob? Bob. Bob Lighthizer has done a great job of negotiating, as they have. But the deal is done. It’s up to Congress.
THE PRESIDENT: But Canada has treated us very badly. They’ve treated our farmers in Wisconsin, and New York state, and a lot of other states very badly.
Dairy products — 300 percent. Three hundred percent. How do you sell a dairy product at 300 percent? The answer is: You don’t. What it is, is a barrier. It’s — basically, they’re saying, “We don’t have any barriers. By the way, it’s 300 percent.” So you don’t send it in, because you can’t compete.
So Canada has a long way to go. I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators. We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time. We had people that didn’t know what they were doing. And that’s why we had — over the last five or six years, if you average it out, we had $800 billion a year in trade losses. It’s ridiculous. It’s not going to happen.
Q What does that mean for NAFTA? Will you be pulling out of NAFTA?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t like NAFTA. I never liked it. It’s been very bad for the United States. It’s been great for Canada. It’s been great for Mexico. Very bad for us.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to use the name “NAFTA.” I refuse to use it. I’ve seen thousands of plants and factories close. I’ve seen millions of jobs lost to auto companies that moved. I mean, Mexico has 25 percent of our auto business now because of NAFTA.
Under our deal, it’s not going to happen anymore. I hate to tell you, it’s not. We’re going to keep companies. And I told the Mexicans, I said, “We have to keep companies.” But they’re getting a lot, also. They’re getting other things. They’re getting a lot of good things. Mexico made a very good deal.
But with Canada, it’s very tough. What we’re doing is if we made a deal with Canada — which is, you know, a good chance still. But I’m not making anything near what they want to do. We’re going to be fair.
Q But you’re — are you going to notify Congress of pulling out of NAFTA?
THE PRESIDENT: What we’re probably going to do is call it the “USMC.” Like the United States Marine Corps, which I love. General Kelly likes it even more. Where’s General Kelly? He likes that. “USMC” — which would be U.S., Mexico, Canada. But it’ll probably or possibly be just “USM.” It’ll be United States and Mexico.
Q Yes or no, are you going to —
THE PRESIDENT: Canada will come along. Now, if Canada doesn’t make a deal with us, we’re going to make a much better deal. We’re going to tax the cars that come in. We will put billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury. And frankly, we’ll be very happy because it’s actually more money than you can make, under any circumstance, with making a deal. Okay?
Kurds, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey
Q What will be the U.S.A. relations with the Kurds —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I thought I just answered that.
Q — post-ISIS. Post-ISIS.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. We’re trying to get along very well. We do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory.
THE PRESIDENT: We have to help them. I want to help them.
Go ahead, what’s next?
Q Then, what —
THE PRESIDENT: They fought with us. They fought with us. They died with us. They died. We lost — tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS. They died for us and with us. And for themselves. They died for themselves. But they’re great people. And we have not forget — we don’t forget — I don’t forget. What happens someday later — but I can tell you that I don’t forget. These are great people.
Q About Iran, Mr. President. About Iran, one question: What is your clear plan to stop Iranian influence in Iraq, in Syria, and especially in Iraqi Kurdistan?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there’s been no greater change — other than maybe China, because China — unfortunately, their markets have dropped — would you say, 30 percent in the last four months, right? I think I watched you recently when you said that. I said, “I think she’s wrong. I think it’s actually 32. But that’s okay.” But a lot.
There’s been no — other than maybe that, but even that. Because China is a very special place. And Iran is a very special place. But I think there’s been no country that’s changed so much as Iran.
In the last six months, since I took off the horrible, horrible Iran nuclear deal, as they called it — one of the dumbest deals ever made. As an example, why didn’t they take care of Yemen in the deal? Why didn’t they take care of Syria in the deal? You know what Kerry said — the reason? “It was too complicated.”
We’re giving $150 billion, we paid $1.8 billion in cash — cash. This whole room would be filled up with hundred-dollar bills. And you’d need probably five rooms like this. But you have $1.8 billion in cash. Why didn’t we take care of Yemen? Why didn’t we take care of Syria and other? And he said, “Because it was too complicated.” Well, you just gave all your cards. You gave them $150 billion. And now Yemen’s a mess, but it’s getting better.
And Syria’s a mess. And I was responsible — and I hope it stays that way — when I put out on social media, a few weeks ago, about Idlib Province. I said, “Don’t do it.” And I’ll tell you, it happened — where I was at a meeting with a lot of supporters, and a woman stood up and she said, “There’s a province in Syria with 3 million people. Right now, the Iranians, the Russians, and the Syrians are surrounding their province. And they’re going to kill my sister. And they’re going to kill millions of people in order to get rid of 25,000 or 35,000 terrorists or enemies of theirs.” But I think we can call them terrorists.
And I said, “That’s not going to happen.” I didn’t hear of Idlib Province. And I came back to New York, and I picked up the failing New York Times — I hate to admit it was the New York Times, but it was the failing New York Times. And I opened it up — not on the front page, but there was a very big story. I said, “Wow, that’s the same story that the woman told me that I found hard to believe.” Because why would — how would anyone do that with 3 million people? And it said that they were being surrounded, and they were going in and starting — literally, the next day, they were going to drop bombs all over the place and perhaps kill millions of people in order to get 35,000 terrorists.
And I put out on social media and elsewhere — I gave Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, everybody these orders: “Don’t let it happen.” I said, “Don’t let it happen.” That doesn’t mean they can’t be selective. They can’t be — you know, go in and they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do with terrorists. I assume they’re terrorists. But don’t kill millions of people.
And it stopped. You saw that. Nobody’s going to give me credit, but that’s okay. That’s okay. Because the people the people know.
I have had more Syrians thank me for that. This was about four weeks ago, I put that out. I said, “They’re surrounding a city of 3 million people. They’re going to start bombing the city. Don’t let it happen.” And I meant it, too. I meant it. And millions of people have been saved.
And I gave, today, great credit to Iran. I don’t know if you heard that. I gave great credit to Iran, to Russia, and to Syria for not doing it.
Now I hope it’s going to be surgical — meaning go in and do — it’s lengthy and everything else. And they possibly have to do it. But I think millions of people would have been killed. And that would have been a shame.
And hopefully — and I have to tell you, Turkey has been a big help. Turkey has been great. Turkey has helped us very much with that whole situation.
Q Touching back on Iran: Of course, this week, you put out a call to action to other countries to rally with America, to put pressure on Iran. Rouhani is still calling for the U.S. to come back into the old deal. But after meeting with world leaders this week, did you make any progress towards a potential new deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Doesn’t matter what world leaders think on Iran. Iran’s going to come back to me and they’re going to make a good deal, I think. Maybe not. Deals — you never know.
But they’re suffering greatly. They’re having riots in every city, far greater than they were during the green period with President Obama. Far greater. When President Obama stuck up for government, not the people. You probably would have had a much different Iran had he not done that. But I’m sticking up for the people. I am with the people of Iran.
But here’s the thing: They have rampant inflation. Their money is worthless. Everything is going wrong. They have riots in the street. You can’t buy bread. You can’t do anything. It’s a disaster. At some point, I think they’re going to want to come back, and they’re going to say, “Hey, can we do something?”
And I’m very simple; I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. That’s all. Is that too much to ask? I don’t want them to have nuclear weapons.
I want them to have a great economy. I want them to sell so much oil so that the oil prices — I’m not happy with OPEC. I told them, “I’m not happy with OPEC.” We take care of all these people, we defend them. They wouldn’t be there for two weeks if it wasn’t for me, and the United States, and a much stronger armed forces than it was. Because our armed forces was depleted. We had old equipment.
Now, we have — hey, you know better than anybody — $700 billion and $716 billion. We have the most incredible new jets and everything. We need it. Not that I want to spend it, although it is jobs. It’s all made in the United States.
But Iran has to come back, and they have to talk. And I’m not doing this from strength or weakness. I’m just saying, at some point, I think they’re going to have to come back.
If you look at what’s going on, companies are leaving left and right. Mercedes Benz just left. They’re all leaving. They don’t want to be in Iran. Because they have a choice: Do they want to be with Iran, or do they want to be with us?
And we have, by — we picked up $10 trillion since my election. We were being caught by China. Now it’s going the other way. People can’t believe it. People have never seen this situation with China. Everything’s always been — for 20 years, “Oh, China is so great. China is so great.” You don’t hear that so much anymore. I love China; I think they’re great. But you don’t hear that so much anymore. You know who’s great now? We’re great now.
Okay, how about just a couple more. Now, I could be doing — I could be doing this all day long. I could be doing this all day long. Should we continue for a little while? It doesn’t matter to me. A couple of more. I don’t care.
New York Times, come on. New York Times. The failing New York Times. Stand up. Go ahead.
Q You’re talking about me, but (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m talking about the Times is failing. You are far from failing. Go ahead.
Q Okay, but you’re not — you were pointing to me, so you meant me. But I —
THE PRESIDENT: The Times are very interesting, though. The Times, I think they’re going to endorse me. (Laughter.) I think that ABC — I think — well, Fox — I like Fox. I really do.
Q Just to be sure —
THE PRESIDENT: But I think ABC, CBS, NBC, the Times, the — they’re all going to endorse me, because if they don’t, they’re going out of business. Can you imagine if you didn’t have me?
Laughter in General Assembly? Fake News
Q Yesterday, you were talking about your administration’s accomplishments at the United Nations, and a lot of the leaders laughed. Why do you think they were laughing?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s fake news.
Q And what was that experience like for you?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. It was fake news. And it was covered that way. Okay. So, I said that, since my election, our economy has become the hottest in the world. Tax reductions, regulations, confidence levels are the highest in 18 years — really, soon to be historic. Unemployment is the lowest in the history of our country. You look at Black unemployment. You look at Asian unemployment. You look at women — 65 years. The unemployment numbers are among the best we’ve ever had ever. The numbers of new companies pouring into our country, which nobody thought was possible.
And I said this. And I was in front of a large group of highly professional people, most of whom are from either other countries or the United Nations — people that aren’t big into clapping, applauding, smiling. And I heard a little rustle, as I said our country is now stronger than ever before. It’s true. I mean, it is true. And I heard a little rustle. And I said, “It’s true.” And I heard smiles. And I said, “Oh, I didn’t know there there’d be that kind…” They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing with me. We had fun. That was not laughing at me.
So the fake news said, “People laughed at President Trump.” They didn’t laugh at me. People had a good time with me. We were doing it together. We had a good time. They respect what I’ve done.
The United States is respected again. The United States was not respected. Everybody was taking advantage of us. From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.
I told a number of countries over the last few days, I said, “Listen, you’re a very rich country. We protect you. Without our protection, you would have real problems. You would have real problems.”
THE PRESIDENT: I said, “You should reimburse us for this protection. Why are we protecting you?” And do you want to know what they said after about two minutes of talking? They agreed with me. And you can ask this group of very talented people — they agreed with me.
But they said — one of them said, “But Mr. President, nobody ever asked us for that. They never asked us for that.” Nobody has ever said, “You should pay.” These are really wealthy countries.
I mean, I’ll be honest, I just asked Japan. I said, “We’re defending you. You’re a very wealthy country. You’re sending us millions of cars. You’re making a fortune. We have a tremendous trade deficit with you. And we’re defending you, and we’re subsidizing your military with a massive amount of money.”
I said it to South Korea. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. They’re a very wealthy — these are great countries. These are very wealthy countries. I said, “Why aren’t you reimbursing us for our costs?”
And you know what? They look at me, and they can’t even answer it, because there’s no answer. If they’re a poor country and they needed protection, and people were going to die, I’m all for protecting them; I don’t want 10 cents. But when wealthy countries that have massive trade surpluses with us — massive — and then on top of that, we’re paying for their military? Or we’re paying for a lot of their military? That doesn’t work.
Kinship with Kavanaugh?
Q Mr. President, you said you feel a kinship — you said you feel a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh and you — Mr. President, really quickly, you said you felt a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh. You said that you also — your false allegations that you feel like were made against you make you feel like you don’t want to believe these women. What message do you think that –
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn’t say that. Why do you say that?
Q So, please explain —
THE PRESIDENT: Fake news.
Q Please explain —
THE PRESIDENT: Why — did I say that?
Q Well, can you please explain then what you’re talking about in your own false allegations?
THE PRESIDENT: I said, exactly, “I look forward to watching her.” I do want to hear what she says. And maybe she’ll say — I could be convinced of anything. Maybe, if she’ll say something — but in the meantime, I have to tell you, he’s one of the highest quality human beings.
He’s a tremendous man. He’s a tremendous genius. He’s a great intellect. He was, I believe, number one at Yale. Is that a correct statement? Number one in his class at Yale.
Q So you don’t feel a kinship with him?
THE PRESIDENT: He was a great student in law. He was — you know, I’ve heard his name. I didn’t know him. Didn’t know him. Until this whole thing, I didn’t know him. But I heard his name for 10 years.
And you know how I heard his name? Everybody was saying he should be on the Supreme Court. I said, “Who is he?” “His name is Brett Kavanaugh. And he should be — he’s the most brilliant person. He’s the most brilliant lawyer.” They were talking about him on the Supreme Court 10 years ago. With all of that, I want to hear what she has to say. Okay?
Q But you said that you don’t feel — but you said that you feel like there have been numerous false allegations against you, and that because of that–
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I’ve had many false —
Q — you feel that you understand what he might be going through.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve had many false statements against me. And if the press would have reported it, I would have been very happy. I think John Roberts would tell you that — you covered the story where the women were paid to say bad things about me. Sean Hannity covered it.
I will tell you, when I saw that on Sean Hannity, I actually called him. Believe it or not, I don’t speak to him very much, but I respect him. I called him. I said, “This is the biggest story. This is a big, big story.” He agreed with me. The next day, I picked up the papers. There wasn’t one word about it. The next day, I watched ABC news. John, I watched NBC. I watched CBS. I didn’t watch CNN, but, next time, I’m going to. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I watched everything. There wasn’t one story other than Fox. And it’s a big story. It’s a shame. Okay. Enough. Thank you, though.
Israel & Two-State Solution: US Embassy in Jerusalem a Bargain
Q Today, you met with Bibi Netanyahu, from Israel. And you brought up, actually, that you support a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli crisis there.
THE PRESIDENT: I do.
Q Can you give us any more preview of what this great deal, the peace deal (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’d love to be able to make a deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. You know, my whole life, I was told that’s the toughest deal. And I disagree. I think healthcare is probably tougher, okay? You want to know the truth. But it is tough. But we’re going to take care of that, too. And that’s going to get taken care of. We’ve already taken care of a lot of it.
But the whole — my life, I’ve always heard the deal between, as you know, Israel and the Palestinians, that’s like the toughest deal. Every possible thing is tough about that. I think we’re going to make a deal. I think we’re going to make a deal.
So, at one of our many meetings today, I was with Bibi Netanyahu, a man who I have a lot of respect for. A man who has been extremely nice to me — very happy that I did the whole thing with Jerusalem and the embassy, which, by the way, we’re going to open in four months for less than $500,000. And the budget was over $1 billion, right?
Q Yes. That’s correct.
THE PRESIDENT: So we saved, let’s say, a billion dollars. That’s not so bad. And it’s open. And it’s beautiful, by the way. Jerusalem stone, one of my favorite stones.
I will tell you, the question — somebody said today, “Well, this is the first news conference in a long time.” I said, “What do you mean? I did like, five today.” Every time I sit, I take a lot of questions from people that are screaming like maniacs in the back of the room — meaning, reporters.
And one of the reporters — I won’t say that it was John Roberts that said that, I refuse. But one of the — it was, but that’s okay. Don’t feel guilty, John. But of the reporters that was screaming asked about the one-state, two-state. And I said, “I think the two-state will happen. I think it’s, in one way, more difficult because it’s a real estate deal — because you need metes and bounds, and you need lots of carve-outs and lots of everything. It’s actually a little tougher deal. But in another way, it works better because you have people governing themselves.
So, they asked be about that. I said, “Well, I think the two-state will happen. I think we’re going to go down the two-state road.” And I’m glad I got it out. And Jared, who is so involved — he loves Israel. He loves Israel. But he’s also going to be very fair with the Palestinians. He understands it takes two people to be happy — two groups of people to be happy. Everybody has got to be happy. And that’s why it’s so tough, because there’s been so much hatred and anger for so many years. That’s what, probably, the number-one ingredient of toughness is. But they asked me — I said I think it’s going to be a two-state.
And you know what I did today? By saying that, I put it out there. And if you ask most of the people in Israel, they agree with that. But nobody wanted to say it. It’s a big thing to put it out. It’s a very big thing to put it out.
Now, the bottom line: If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me. If they want two states, that’s okay with me. I’m happy if they’re happy. I’m a facilitator. I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.
When we had — in Saudi Arabia, we had one of the great conferences in history. Many of you were there; probably all of you were there. It was one of the most beautiful two days. That, and China — two of the most incredible events I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it.
And we had, I believe, 58 Muslim countries — the leaders. The kings, the emirs, the absolute leaders from every — there was nobody in second place. They were the leaders of the whole thing.
And unbeknownst to anybody else, people would come up to me, individually — it wasn’t a setup. They’d come up to me and say, “Sir, you can’t have peace in the Middle East without peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” I said, “Why? What difference? Why does that matter so much?” They said, “It just is impossible to make peace in the Middle East unless you have between the Israelis…”
So, I heard that from one — the King of Saudi Arabia, who is a great guy — King Salman. And then, somebody else came up. And he wasn’t told, “Oh, go up and say it.” I know where they’re coming from. And I must have had 12 leaders say it. And they just said it.
And I started to realize that peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for the Middle East, is a very important thing. And we’re trying very hard to get it. I think, probably, two-state is more likely. But you know what? If they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it if they’re both happy. If they’re both happy, I’m okay with either. I think the two-state is more likely.
Okay, how about one — go ahead.
Q New York Times? New York Times?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay.
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I would have gotten bad story in the New York Times. But I will anyways, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
Q We’re — we’re kind of, uh —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, we’ll do you after that.
Q We’re kind of, uh —
THE PRESIDENT: And then we’ll call it quits.
Q We’re kind of thriving, not failing these days.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re doing very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Say, “Thank you, Mr. Trump.” (Laughter.)
Q (Laughs). I think I’ll stop short of that. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I wonder how you do — you know, all my life, I’ve had very few stories — but I’ve had some on the front page of the New York Times. Now, I think I think I average about three or four a day, right?
THE PRESIDENT: And, of the three or four, they’re all negative. No matter what I do, they’re negative. But you know what? That’s okay. I still love the paper.
Go ahead. (Laughter.)
China Trade War
Q I wanted to come back to China, because I think what you announced today was really important.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
Q You talk about this friendship you have with Xi Jinping, and yet, essentially, what you did today is accused his government —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
Q — of interfering in our internal affairs —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
Q — subverting our Democratic process, and doing it to hurt you, the Republican Party —
THE PRESIDENT: Doing it to help them.
Q — and your backers.
THE PRESIDENT: You know what? Yeah. Doing it to help them.
Q So how can a guy who does that be your friend?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that we are able to — and maybe he’s not anymore. I’ll be honest with you, I think we had a very good friendship. I think we had a very good relationship; we understand each other. They are doing studies on Donald Trump. They’re trying to figure it all out because this has never happened to them before. It’s never happened.
Think of it, you’ve never seen — you’ve covered very well — you’ve never seen this happen. They’re having big problems. I don’t want them to have problems, but they got to make a fair deal. Just like Canada has got to make a fair deal.
I believe that he and I have a very good chemistry together. And I can tell you that about many leaders. I can also tell you a few where I don’t feel I’ll ever have a chemistry with them. I don’t want to have a chemistry with them. And for those people, I’ll have Pompeo, Nikki, Bolton, Jared. I can go — our general; I’ll have our general. Or if they can’t do it, I’ll have Sarah Huckabee do it. Right?
But for the most part, I have very good — very good with Prime Minister Abe. Very good with President Moon.
By the way, what President Moon said last night — I know you won’t report it — but Bret Baier interviewed him last night and he asked him about me. I can’t say — because you would say I’m too braggadocios — but what he said about me last night was an unbelievable thing. “Couldn’t have happened without President Trump, and it never would happen without President Trump. And nobody else could do it.” You know, I mean, you’ll take a look.
But I will tell you, China is very special. Very special. They’re incredible people. It’s an incredible country. What they’ve done is unbelievable.
Q How would —
THE PRESIDENT: And it all started with the WTO. It was a defective deal. And it all started — without the WTO, China is not China as we know it today.
And then it started also by — our people that are standing right in this position, that are in the Oval Office — another way of saying it — allowed them to get away with murder. Allowed a lot of countries to get away with murder.
I think we still probably have a very good relationship. But you know what? In honor of you, I will, tomorrow, make a call to him. Say, “Hey, how you doing?” Okay?
Q Can I — can I just ask —
THE PRESIDENT: “You don’t mind paying billions of dollars a month in tariffs.”
Q I just had two small follow-ups. One is, how would you compare the level of interference you see today from the Chinese to what Russia did in 2016?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s different. If you look at the Des Moines Register, I mean, they have ads that are made to look like editorials. Saying about, “Oh, you got to stop Trump. You got to stop him. You got to vote against him.” My farmers are so incredible. These are patriots.
You know, on a network that doesn’t like me very much — which is most of them — but a network that didn’t — doesn’t really treat me very good, they interviewed farmers. And they got hurt because, you know, all of a sudden China stops buying.
By the way, they’ve started buying again. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. And soybeans are going up, and things are going up. And we’ve had very little hurt from what I’ve done. In fact, the markets have gone up. And the farmers are going to do great.
But, ultimately — but they had farmers, and these guys are amazing; I love them. And they voted for me and they love me. And they said, “We don’t care if we get hurt. He’s doing the right thing.” And, you know, a lot of people — it’s a complex game. A lot of people don’t know exactly what it is. They don’t know how to define “tariff.” They don’t know it is really different than a tax, although it’s getting close.
But they know that for the first time in many, many years, they have a President that’s fighting for them; that’s not letting their jobs be taken to other countries; that’s not allowing the kind of abuse that we — I mean, when you look at what happened, as an example, with NAFTA. And for years — because it was never changed — NAFTA was defective deal the day it was signed.
You know why? Because they had a VAT tax of 17 percent and nobody from this country knew that. And by the time they found out, which was about a week later, nobody went and changed it. So you went many years and they never changed it. There was a VAT tax that Mexico got. So we were 17 or 16 points behind, before we even started. NAFTA was a horrible thing.
So the farmers and — by the way, the steel workers — you know, I stopped the dumping. The dumping was horrible. And now if they want to dump, that’s okay, but they’ve got to pay the United States of America 25 percent on everything they dump. That’s okay. But as I told you before, steel is doing phenomenally well.
But the farmers say, “This man is fighting for us. No President has ever fought for us before.” And you really have to study what’s happened over the 15 years with the farm. The farmers have been decimated over a 15-year period. They’ve been decimated. The farmers are going to come out great. These are great people. They’re great, great patriots.
What Message Kavanaugh Hearings Sending Young Men?
Q You were asked earlier in the news conference by my friend from Sky News about the message that you are sending to the women of the country. What about the message that you may be sending to young men? You’re a father. What does this moment that we’re in — the cultural moment —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a very big cultural moment.
Q Right. So what messages do you for young men of America?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a very big — it’s also — you’re right. I think it’s a great question.
This is a very big moment for our country because you have a man who is very outstanding, but he’s got very strong charges against him — probably charges that nobody is going to be able be — to prove.
So I could have you chosen for a position. I could have you, or you, or you — anybody. And somebody could say things. And it’s happened to me many times, where false statements are made. And honestly, nobody knows who to believe.
I could pick another Supreme Court judge — Justice. I could pick another one. Another one. Another one. This could go on forever. Somebody could come and say, “Thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago, ten years ago, five years ago, he did a horrible thing to me. He did this. He did that. He did that.”
And honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country. And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people. Some of them are Democrats, I must say. Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It’s a con game. It’s at the highest level. We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.
This can go on forever. I can pick five other people. At a certain point, the people are going to say, “No, thank you.” This is the most coveted job, probably, in the world.
And you know what? I would honestly say — because I interviewed great people for this job. He’s great, but I interviewed other great people for this job. I could conceivably imagine going to one of them and saying, “It’s too bad what happened to this wonderful man, but I’m going to choose you, number two. I want you to go.” And I could conceivably be turned down by somebody that desperately wanted this job two months ago.
THE PRESIDENT: So this is — this is — and this is beyond Supreme Court.
THE PRESIDENT: There’s nothing beyond Supreme Court; this is beyond Supreme Court. This has everything to do with our country.
When you are guilty until proven innocent, it’s just not supposed to be that way. Always I heard, “You’re innocent until proven guilty.” I’ve heard this for so long, and it’s such a beautiful phrase. In this case, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.
With that being said, I look forward to what she has to say. I also look very forward to what Judge Kavanaugh has to say. I think it’s going to be a very, very important day in the history of our country.
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.”
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
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 anything…People 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 Oneworld 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.]
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.
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).
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”.)
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.”
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.
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?
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
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.
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.)
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.”
TO THE 72ND SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
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 regulatoryand other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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-Assad, including 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)
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)
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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 efforts. The 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 humanitariansituation. 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.