The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. On August 8, immediately after the back-to-back massacres in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy, US Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to keep communities safe from the rising tide of domestic terrorism and hate crimes. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:
“The events of the last week have served as a disturbing reminder that hate crimes and domestic terrorism are on the rise in our country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “As President, I will end the hateful rhetoric that has become all too routine during the Trump Administration and make combating domestic terrorism and hate-motivated violence a priority. We will strengthen enforcement against those who commit acts of hate – including white nationalist hate crimes – and work with law enforcement and communities around the country to increase protections and not only combat these threats, but to address the root causes of domestic terrorism.”
Senator Klobuchar has been taking on hate crimes and combating hate since she was the Hennepin County Attorney. She has seen firsthand the terrible trauma that hate crimes can inflict – not just on individual victims, but on whole communities. And because of her work on this issue as County Attorney, she was invited to the White House when President Bill Clinton proposed the Matthew Shepard federal hate crimes bill.
As County Attorney, she vigorously prosecuted hate crimes. Her office prosecuted defendants responsible for crimes against a 14-year-old boy who was shot while riding his bike on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a Minneapolis suburb because of the color of his skin, a Minneapolis middle school that was terrorized with burning crosses placed on its grounds, a Korean church in Minneapolis that was desecrated with spray-painted hate messages targeted against blacks, women and gays, and a Hispanic man who was assaulted and severely injured simply because he was speaking Spanish.
In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to combating hate. She supported the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and she has pushed to provide additional grant funding to safeguard all faith-based community centers and to protect religious institutions in the face of rising threats of violence. She has been a champion when it comes to securing federal resources to help heal distressed communities after hate crimes. She has also urged the Trump Administration to strengthen measures to combat the threat of white supremacist violence.
As President, Senator Klobuchar will take the following actions to combat hate and domestic terrorism:
Prioritize combating domestic terrorism
and empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of
hate-motivated violence, including against minorities, people of color,
immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
Direct the Department of Homeland
Security to resume its work tracking right wing extremism, including white
Require federal law enforcement agencies
to regularly assess the threat of domestic terrorism and increase training and
resources for state and local law enforcement to address it.
In addition to the gun safety proposals
the Senator has previously outlined, prevent people convicted of violent
misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing or possessing firearms.
Strengthen enforcement of hate crimes,
including white nationalist hate crimes.
Make lynching a federal hate
Work with Communities
Require the Justice Department and the
Department of Commerce to assess how current forms of communication are being
used to spread hate and recommend ways to combat threats.
Better coordinate efforts to focus on
combating domestic terrorism not only through law enforcement but also by
addressing the root causes of domestic terrorism.
Increase protections for places of
worship and schools.
Restore the Voting Rights Act protections
for voters immediately in states with a recent history of discrimination.
Fully staff and fund the Justice
Department’s Community Relations Service, which provides communities facing
racial and other conflict with services.
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
The Village Halloween Parade is not nearly as political and outrageous as it used to be – the goal is to be an expression of creativity and if anything, good will and spirituality. But still, there were a few standouts. Notably, a whole group of Gays Against Guns, and a group calling itself “Rise & Resist” wearing costumes and carrying signs with the message, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” Indeed, the entire parade wound up being a form of resistance against the terror attack that occurred just hours before and less than a mile away – as one parade regular put it, “a giant F-U to the terrorists.”
Just a few hours and less than a mile away from where a 29-year old used a rented pickup truck to mow down cyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway bikepath, killing eight and injuring 12, thousands were gathering in costumes for the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade. With high confidence that the terror attack was by a lone wolf and not coordinated, the decision was made for the parade to go on, albeit with enhanced security. Even with the counter-terrorism officers draped in military-style assault weapons, vests and helmets, and with the heightened sense of security, the police were accommodating and the mood of marchers and viewers alike more playful than seditious.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio and NY Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill marched with the parade – which brings out one million people who line the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue and tens of thousands of marchers, giving a shout out for New Yorkers to defy terrorism by going on with their lives.
While the terrorist committed mayhem, Governor Cuomo said, “He did not stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers.”
Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, Cuomo said, “This was an attack that was designed to create terror, and it — it killed and frightened people. It was despicable. But, New Yorkers are resilient, New Yorkers go on. We learned the hard way on 9/11 that we are a target, we are the international symbol of democracy and freedom and we understand that. And since 9/11 we’ve lived with this and we’ve put together the best security force on the globe in my opinion, and we worked together and the response was great. But this afternoon was terrible.
“Tonight we’re at a Halloween parade to say you didn’t win and you didn’t affect us and we’re out and celebrating and we’re doing what New Yorkers do and we’re living our lives because we’re not going to allow the terrorists to win, period. And that’s why I’m here marching in the parade, not because I have a great costume.”
“They are trying to divide. The point is to unite, to show normalcy. To politicize this event [as Trump did immediately] is wholly unproductive,” Governor Cuomo said later in a press conference.
Trump, predictably and unlike the reaction to the Las Vegas massacre which killed 58 and injured hundreds, ridiculously blamed Senator Schumer, and called for a travel ban and even more extreme vetting, in contrast to the call “this is not the time to politicize a tragedy” in response to the most lethal massacre in modern history. (Interestingly, he did not bother to call Governor Cuomo or Mayor DiBlasio as every president would have done after such a heinous event, spending his time tweeting out attacks on Democrat Sen Schumer for a diversity visa program adopted 20 years ago and signed by George HW Bush when Schumer was in the House; Schumer and the “Gang of 8” in their grand attempt to devise comprehensive immigration reform, proposed changes but Republicans blocked consideration of the immigration bill.)
Down Sixth Avenue, you could see the Freedom Tower that rose from the shattered Twin Towers, lighted red, white and blue.
“One World Trade Center was 9/11,” Cuomo told Anderson Cooper. “It was the darkest day that we went through in New York, but what we did is we got right back up and didn’t let them win. and we built back bigger, better and stronger than ever before, that’s who we are. If you think you’re going to beat us, you’re wrong. If you think these terrorist attacks are going to put a dent in the New York spirit, you’re wrong. And New York, America is about freedom and it is about democracy and will always be. And whatever attack you think you can bring is going to fail because our spirit is stronger than theirs.”
Indeed, none of Trump’s bigoted, racist anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies would have prevented this tragedy: not The Wall (this guy came into the US in 2010 through JFK), the travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries (Uzbekistan, though accounting for a large proportion of ISIS fighters, is not one of the countries excluded); or ending sanctuary cities (he was not undocumented or “illegal” but had a green card). While the pro-gun lobby is fast to blame any massacre on mental health rather than political or terror motive (like Dylann Roof or the guy who shot up a Planned Parenthood office), a “suicide by cop” or other derangement is never taken into account if the perpetrator is a Muslim or non-native.
But what is Trump’s solution to terror? He is threatening to cut off funds to New York City for anti-terrorism and policing, the #1 terror target in the US, because of New York City’s stance on making undocumented immigrants feel secure if the New York City does not abandon its sanctuary city policy. Indeed, this guy, who had nothing more than a traffic ticket during his time in the US, was radicalized in this country, and very likely Trump’s policies had something to do with why he was receptive to ISIS propaganda. Obama had a much more effective program to stem and stop this sort of homegrown, self-radicalized, lone-wolf terrorism – working in immigrant communities, forging relationships, making people feel secure and a part of American society with a stake in it, so they report suspicious behavior and do not fall under the spell of radicalism.
But in the end, it is impossible to completely stop such acts of terror. It is mind-blowing the speed with which authorities are looking to harden communities against such attacks — making bikelanes more secure – and yet, completely ignore the pervasive terror of gun violence that takes 33,000 lives and maims thousands more each year.
Those positions were on view during the Village Halloween Parade, which is an opportunity for people to express themselves in creative, even humorous, ways.
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.”
In a speech delivered before an audience of troops at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, August 22, Donald Trump outlined his ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan. Most of it may have been new to Trump, but was not actually new, except in one respect: he said that “economic development” of Afghanistan would be conducted in such a way as “to help defray the cost of this war to us.”
This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.
Secondly, Trump on the one hand calls upon NATO allies to step up, even though he has dissed them and dismissed them, insulted and attacked nuclear-armed Pakistan (you are either on the side of ‘civilization’ or ….) and called upon nuclear-armed India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, to step up, as well, under threat of economic retribution, using Trump’s singular, transactional approach to everything issue.
He said that he would use all the tools in the tool bag, except that he has castrated the State Department, making any diplomatic solution an improbability. Because his aim is to widen military action, to refocus attention on Afghanistan (the good war), so that he can get credit as a war president.
Claiming he was dealt a bad hand, he asserted, “I’m a problem solver.” But in this speech, outlining his “new strategy,” he takes ownership of the war in Afghanistan.
Here are his remarks, highlighted and annotated:
9:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated.
Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the Cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan. Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad.
We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.
[Had there been this many fatal accidents-four Navy ships in collisions so far in 2017, fatal crashes of Black Hawk helicopters, soldiers killed in ill-conceived military actions – the right-wing would have been demanding Obama resign as Commander-in-Chief.]
I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the servicemembers here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home.
Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.
American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives — and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality.
By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under God.
The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose.
They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all servicemembers are brothers and sisters. They’re all part of the same family; it’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law. They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.
The soldier understands what we, as a nation, too often forget that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.
[Clearly reading telepromter speech written for him, as he did in the Charlottesville speech that he contradicted in the next day’s press conference.]
Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.
[This from Trump who has said that transgender soldiers will no longer be allowed to serve; who has said that non-citizen soldiers will no longer be granted citizenship for their service.]
The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.
As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always win — let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name that, when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.
Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11th — and nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores.
But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.
I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.
[This is the America First theme.]
That is why, shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.
My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts.But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office;in other words, when you’re President of the United States.
[Like health care, who knew Afghanistan could be complicated and that what you criticized others for their ‘ineptitude’ was in fact the best course at the time?]
So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.
First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.
Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.
And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.
[Once again: US pull out from Iraq was negotiated by George W. Bush because Iraq refused to give immunity to US soldiers.]
Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.
[Oh, you mean not Iraq? And yet, Afghanistan and Pakistan are not on Trump’s travel ban.]
For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.
No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.
[“Blame Obama” meme.]
When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into: big and intricate problems. But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.
[Actually, Obama dealt an even worse hand.]
We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now — the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.
We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. You saw it for yourself. Horrible.
As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.
Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.
But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:
A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.
Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.
[Not new, except for Trump who as candidate had said would end US occupation and years before, had attacked Obama for not drawing down soldiers “years ago”: it is the George W. Bush “strategy”. And timetables were not arbitrary, and were adjusted based on conditions on the ground, as Obama stated when he added personnel to Afghanistan.]
Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome.
[Also not ‘new’ but also not true: Trump has dismantled the State Department’s apparatus to address these global threats diplomatically, actually shut down the Iraq and Afghanistan desk, has no experts left in State Department, and is cutting State Department budget by more than 30%.]
Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.
[Guess that’s where leadership comes in.]
America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.
Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.
In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.
But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.
[‘Civilization’ in this context means, “The West,” as in Islamists are barbarians and the West are civilized. This is throwing down the gauntlet to Pakistan, and Trump is doing it by simultaneously threatening India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy which is also a nuclear power, to confront Pakistan.]
Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
[Once again, Trump’s entire hand depends on economic extortion.]
Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly.
I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.
That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful.
As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.
[Taking credit for a campaign that was planned and began under Obama.]
Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard.
[Hardly record breaking. Need fact-check here.]
We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.
[Again, the attacks on financial networks were a big part of Obama’s strategy and were successful in cutting off funding.]
Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.
We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.
[Are these the same NATO allies and global partners that Trump has attacked, insulted, threatened, betrayed and demanded they pay up?]
We are confident they will. Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.
[Again, Trump is taking credit for something that was already in the works before he came to power.]
In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.
[This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.]
Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed.
But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward.
Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country. But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.
America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.
[Am I the only one who sees the contradiction of supporting Afghanistan, but only if…. Still, this wasn’t enough for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart which has condemned Trump’s Afghanistan strategy as a “blank check” and “Obama Light.”]
In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests. In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. Terrorists take heed: America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.
[Wow, that has terrorists everywhere quaking in their boots.]
Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military. And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.
In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed. We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for.
Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery. There is more courage, sacrifice, and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the Earth.
Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001. They volunteered for a simple reason: They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.
Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad. We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.
Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation. With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.
[What about the fallen to come? This was the appeal that George W. Bush used to prolong fighting in Iraq – that more deaths were needed to justify the deaths of 4,500 American troops in Iraq, and another 2500 in Afghanistan. When the numbers of body bags start mounting again, with nothing to show for it, what will Americans say then? And where is Congress who is Constitutionally mandated to declare war, to pay for war?]
We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.
Thank you. May God bless our military. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.
But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?
Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.
Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.
(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)
Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)
It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.
Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.
Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.
And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.
Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.
For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.
Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).
Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?
He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.
His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.
Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.
Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.
In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.
Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.
The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.
But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.
He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.
Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”
“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.
Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”
And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”
Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.
Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.
“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).
Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.
In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.
And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)
Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).
The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.
The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.
There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.
Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.
Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.
Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.
I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).
Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.
“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”
Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.
The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs, will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.
Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.
In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”
“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.
“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.
The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.
President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.
Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.
Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.
“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”
As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.
As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.
Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.
Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”
Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.
Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.
That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.
The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.
This speech by President Barack Obama at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida spelling out his administration’s approach to counterterrorism may well be one for the history books: a kind of place marker to where we were when Donald Trump came to power and overturned everything. People will be pining for the days when the Commander-in-Chief could give a cogent statement describing mission, success, and reaffirming American values and respect for life. – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Here is a highlighted transcript:
Good afternoon, everybody. I was just told that was going to be the last “Hail to the Chief” on the road, and it got me kind of sentimental. I want to first and foremost say thanks to all of you. Just before I came here, I was able to visit with some of the men and women from MacDill Air Force Base, Central Command, our Special Operations Command to thank them for their extraordinary service. And so to you and your families, and to the extended family of American servicemembers, let me say that our nation owes you an unbelievable debt of gratitude. We are grateful for you, and will be praying for you over the holidays. (Applause.)
As you know all too well, your mission — and the course of history — was changed after the 9/11 attacks. By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years. For eight years that I’ve been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans. And on January 20th, I will become the first President of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war. (Applause.) Now, we did not choose this fight, but once it came to us, the world saw the measure of our resolve.
The most solemn responsibility for any President is keeping the American people safe. In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I’ve visited troops around the globe. I have met our wounded warriors, and I’ve grieved with Gold Star families. I know better than most that it is because of your service and your sacrifice that we have been able, during these eight years, to protect our homeland, to strike crippling blows against terrorist networks, and fortify our friends and our allies. So today, I’d like to reflect on that work, and talk about the foundation that we will leave for the next administration.
I came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as Commander-in-Chief. I believe that the United States military can achieve any mission; that we are, and must remain, the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. (Applause.) I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary, against any imminent threats to our people. But I have also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world, or resolve their internal conflicts, particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgencies. Instead, it has been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like al Qaeda and ISIL, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight, and we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security.
And these convictions guided the policies we pursued both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I took office, the United States was focused overwhelmingly on Iraq, where nearly 150,000 American troops had spent years fighting an insurgency and helping to build a democratic government. Meanwhile, al Qaeda had regrouped in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was actively planning attacks against our homeland. So we brought nearly 150,000 troops home from Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the previous administration, and we surged our efforts along with our allies in Afghanistan, which allowed us to focus on dismantling al Qaeda and give the Afghan government the opportunity to succeed.
And this focus on al Qaeda — the most dangerous threat to the United States at the time — paid dividends. Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda — the organization that hit us on 9/11 — is a shadow of its former self. (Applause.) Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted. Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama bin Laden is dead. (Applause.) And, importantly, we have built a counterterrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network in South Asia that might threaten the United States of America. That was because of the work of our outstanding servicemembers.
Moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in Afghanistan allowed us to build the capacity of Afghans to secure and defend their own country. So today, there are less than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Instead of being in the lead against the Taliban, Americans are now supporting 320,000 Afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counterterrorism efforts.
Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. The situation in Afghanistan is still tough. War has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years, and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in that country. But what we can do is deny al Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future, which is why we have worked not only with their military, but we’ve backed a unity government in Kabul. We’ve helped Afghan girls go to school. We’ve supported investments in health care and electricity and education. You have made a difference in Afghanistan, and America is safer for it. (Applause.)
Of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to South Asia, or to Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Even as al Qaeda has been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threat from terrorists metastasized in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. And most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency.
There’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing. And as a practical matter, this was not an option. By 2011, Iraqis wanted our military presence to end, and they were unwilling to sign a new Status of Forces Agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in Iraq.
In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise — a government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits, and a hollowing out of Iraq’s security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014. In fact, American troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remaining on bases or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict against the will of Iraq’s elected government or Iraq’s local populations.
But circumstances changed. When ISIL made substantial gains first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help. And in shaping our response, we refused to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organization that became ISIL in the first place.
We conditioned our help on the emergence of a new Iraqi government and prime minister that was committed to national unity, and committed to working with us. We built an international coalition of nearly 70 nations, including some of Iraq’s neighbors. We surged our intelligence resources so that we could better understand the enemy. And then we took the fight to ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, not with American battalions but with local forces backed by our equipment and our advisors and, importantly, our Special Forces. In that campaign, we have now hit ISIL with over 16,000 airstrikes. We have equipped and trained tens of thousands of partners on the ground.
And today, the results are clear: ISIL has lost more than half its territory. ISIL has lost control of major population centers. Its morale is plummeting. Its recruitment is drying up. Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it. (Applause.)
As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqitroops and coalition support.That’s the largest remaining city that it controls. Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed. We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves. The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL. We’re taking away its safe havens. (Applause.) And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War. (Applause.)
So the campaign against ISIL has been relentless. It has been sustainable. It has been multilateral. And it demonstrates a shift in how we’ve taken the fight to terrorists everywhere from South Asia to the Sahel. Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we’ve built a network of partners.
In Libya, where U.S. airpower has helped local militias dislodge a dangerous ISIL cell. In Mali, where U.S. logistics and intelligence support helped our French allies roll back al Qaeda branches there. In Somalia, where U.S. operations support an African Union-led force and international peacekeepers. And in Yemen, where years of targeted strikes have degraded al Qaeda in the Peninsula.
And these offensive efforts have buttressed a global effort to make it harder for terrorist networks to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies. Working with European allies who have suffered terrible attacks, we’ve strengthened intelligence-sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL. We’ve worked with our tech sector to supports efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill. A recent study shows that ISIL’s propaganda has been cut in half. We’ve launched a Global Engagement Center to empower voices that are countering ISIL’s perversion of Islam, and we’re working closely with Muslim-majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia.
This is your work. We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years. That’s the bottom line.
No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. (Applause.) And it’s not because they didn’t try. Plots have been disrupted. Terrorists have been taken off the battlefield. And we’ve done this even as we drew down nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today there are just 15,000.
New partnerships have been built. We’ve respected the rule of law. We’ve enlisted our values in this fight. And all of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans like you — in intelligence and in law enforcement, in homeland security, in diplomacy, in the armed services of the United States of America. It’s thanks to you — (applause) — thanks to you.
Now, to say that we’ve made progress is not to say that the job is done. We know that a deadly threat persists. We know that in some form this violent extremism will be with us for years to come. In too many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there has been a breakdown of order that’s been building for decades, and it’s unleashed forces that are going to take a generation to resolve.Long-term corruption has rotted too many nation-states from within. Governance is collapsing. Sectarian conflicts rage. A changing climate is increasing competition for food and water. (Applause.) And false prophets are peddling a vision of Islam that is irreconcilable with tolerance and modernity and basic science. And in fact, every one of these trends is at play inside of Syria today.
And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment, directed from abroad. They’ve been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online.
These deranged killers can’t inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day. And in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives.
So while we’ve made it much more difficult — you have made it much more difficult — to carry out an attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure. We will not achieve the kind of clearly defined victory comparable to those that we won in previous wars against nations. We won’t have a scene of the Emperor of Japan and Douglas MacArthur in a surrender. And the reason we won’t have that is because technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies. And somebody who is trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous,particularly when we live in a country where it’s very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon.
So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and more troops, or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.
In the time remaining, let me suggest what I think should guide this approach. First of all, a sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective. The terrorist threat is real and it is dangerous. But these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order. They are not. They are thugs and they are murderers, and they should be treated that way. (Applause.) Fascism threatened to overrun the entire world — and we had to wage total war in response. Communism threatened not only to overturn a world order, but threatened nuclear holocaust — so we had to build armaments and alliances to contain it. Today’s terrorists can kill innocent people, but they don’t pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make the mistake of elevating them as if they do. That does their job for them. It makes them more important and helps them with recruitment.
A second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through over-reach. By protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm’s way overseas, we helped save resources, but more importantly, we saved lives. I can tell you, during the course of my eight years, that I have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary. It’s always the hardest decision I make, but it’s one that I’ve made where the security of the American people is at stake. And I’ve seen the costs. I’ve held the hands of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I’ve met the caskets of the fallen at Dover. And that’s why I make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm’s way when there is a clear mission that is achievable and when it is absolutely necessary.
Number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness; in the long term, it is our greatest strength. (Applause.) The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy. And the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear. These terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life, but we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon. (Applause.)
And I always remind myself that as Commander-in-Chief, I must protect our people, but I also swore an oath to defend our Constitution. And over these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values.
We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times — and that includes tactics like waterboarding. And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence. (Applause.) When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law. Our Article III courts have delivered justice faster than military trials. And our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists.
Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Dzohkar Tsarneyev, the Boston Marathon bomber. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber.” American juries and judges have determined that none of these people will know freedom again. But we did it lawfully. And the wheels of justice right now are turning for others — terrorists like Ahmed Warsame, an al-Shabaab commander, and Abu Khatalla, accused leader of the Benghazi attacks. We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are.
And, in fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo. (Applause.) This is not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many military leaders. During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments, with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield. And we’ve cut the population in Gitmo from 242 to 59. The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States — even though, as we speak, we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons, and we have even more dangerous criminals in all of our prisons across the country; even though our allies oftentimes will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in Gitmo; even though groups like ISIL use Gitmo in their propaganda. So we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in Cuba. That’s not strength. Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor. (Applause.)
Number four, we have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists. For example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it’s often impossible to capture them, or to count on local governments to do so. And that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike. So we have taken action under my command, including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which protects our troops and has prevented real threats to the American people. (Applause.)
Now, under rules that I put in place and that I made public, before any strike is taken outside of a warzone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured. And while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic instances where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set. Nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong. And I say to them, you have to weigh the alternatives. Drone strikes allow us to deny terrorists a safe haven without airstrikes, which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent civilians as well as American servicemembers.
So the actions that we’ve taken have saved lives at home and abroad. But the point is, is that we do have to be careful to make sure that when we take actions, we’re not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.
Number five, transparency and accountability serve our national security not just in times of peace, but, more importantly, in times of conflict. And that’s why we’ve made public information about which terrorist organizations we’re fighting and why we’re fighting them. We’ve released assessments of non-combatants killed in our operations, taken responsibility when mistakes are made. We’ve declassified information about interrogation methodsthat were wrong so we learn from past mistakes. And yesterday, I directed our government for the first time to release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military operations around the world.
This public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power. The power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens. (Applause.) But here’s the thing: That information doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t work if the people’s representatives in Congress don’t do their jobs, if they’re not paying attention. (Applause.)
Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago — 15 years ago. I had no gray hair 15 years ago. (Laughter.) Two years ago, I asked Congress, let’s update the authorization, provide us a new authorization for the war against ISIL, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons that we’ve learned from the last decade. So far, Congress has refused to take a vote.
Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war. (Applause.) That’s not good for our military, it’s not good for our democracy. And, by the way, part of the reason that’s dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all-volunteer force, only one percent of the population is actually fighting. (Applause.) Which means that you are carrying the burden. Which means that it is important for us to know what it is that we’re doing and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send one percent of the population out to do things even if they’re not well thought through.
If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand -– not on the sidelines — (applause) — not on cable TV shows, but by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threats that we face today.That’s how democracies are supposed to work.
Number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy.Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions, and ends conflicts, and stops the spread of deadly weapons. It would make life easier for them; it would be a tragic mistake for us.
Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot. We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal. We’ve secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists. We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program. All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe. Those are the result of diplomacy. And sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine. And if we don’t have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean up after the failure of diplomacy.
Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies. Our generals, our commanders understand this. This is not charity. It’s fundamental to our national security. A dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting a war. (Applause.)
This is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place. This is how we can ensure that peace is lasting — after we’ve fought. It’s how we stop people from falling prey to extremism — because children are going to school and they can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and aren’t desperate, and communities are not ravaged by diseases, and countries are not devastated by climate changes.
As Americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil societies so that there are outlets for people’s frustrations, and we have to support entrepreneurs who want to build businesses instead of destroying. We have to invest in young people because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge youth bulge, which makes them more dangerous. And there are times where we need to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war in search of a better life. (Applause.) Our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security. It’s central to our plans in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets, as well.
And finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us. Terrorists want us to turn on one another. And while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all of our government, we have make sure changes in how we address terrorists are not abused. This is why, for example, we’ve made extensive reforms in how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing new restrictions on the government’s ability to retain and search and use certain communications so that people trust us, and that way they cooperate and work with us.
We don’t use our power to indiscriminately read emails or listen to phone calls just targeted at folks who might be trying to do us harm. We use it to save lives. And by doing so, by maintaining these civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the American people and we get the cooperation of our allies more readily. Protecting liberty — that’s something we do for all Americans, and not just some. (Applause.)
We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military. (Applause.)
If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative. It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill. If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.
So let my final words to you as your Commander-in-Chief bea reminder of what it is that you’re fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for. The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom. We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose. The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special ID card, or prove that they’re not an enemy from within. We’re a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.
We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it. The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that’s open and free, that can criticize a President without retribution — (applause) — a country where you’re judged by the content of your character rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or what your last name is, or where your family came from — that’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.
We are a nation that stands for the rule of law, and strengthen the laws of war. When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. Some couldn’t understand that; it had never happened before. But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior.” And by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world. We held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.
We are a nation that won World Wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated. We helped them rebuild. We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead. Our Greatest Generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, and extend prosperity, and promote cooperation among nations. And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.
In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope, and not fear. A country that went through the crucible of a Civil War to offer a new birth of freedom; that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima; that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights. That’s who we are. That’s what makes us stronger than any act of terror.
Remember that history. Remember what that flag stands for. For we depend upon you — the heirs to that legacy — our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us — that commitment to a common creed. The confidence that right makes might, not the other way around. (Applause.)
That’s how we can sustain this long struggle. That’s how we’ll protect this country. That’s how we’ll protect our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.
I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. I thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will do in the future. May God bless you. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)