UN speech a new low for Trump, US | Sunday Observer

UN speech a new low for Trump, US

Never has “the leader of the free world” spoken so badly at the United Nations and never has his closest allies been so embarrassed on his behalf! True, the complicated post-Cold War world makes such a title quaintly old-fashioned, but the American news media still fondly likes to describe their President as ‘the leader’ of something only they – and their British cousins - still call ‘the free world’.

United States President Donald Trump, in his maiden speech at the annual UN General Assembly last Tuesday, did have some ‘firsts’ according to most commentators across the globe and across the ideological spectrum, but none of them were good ones. Even the most conservative US news media seemed to agree that no previous American President had used such schoolboyish language at the UN, nor expounded on high-tension global issues so incoherently or with such violent language.

The Chicago Tribune newspaper noted that, given America’s proud legacy as a key founder of the United Nations as a vehicle for world peace, no US leader had previously resorted to such warlike language at the General Assembly. Many newspapers, both east and west, devoted commentaries and editorials critical and even dismissive of the American President’s speech at the UNGA. The Guardian (London) newspaper’s report of the speech called it “menacing” and “dark” and bemoaned its war like tone.

President Trump made no policy proposals or strategies to resolve any of the world’s current crises nor offered any vision for the future of the world as one might expect the ‘leader of the free world’ to do. Rather, he made history as perhaps, the only national leader at the General Assembly in its seventy year life, to threaten the annihilation of a whole UN member nation. Commentators the world over could not recall any previous threat of that nature made from the General Assembly podium.

Lambasting North Korea’s leadership, in his usual raunchy manner, as if speaking at an election rally and not to the General Assembly, the US President declared that America would “totally destroy” North Korea if that nation threatened the US or its allies. Various commentators noted that Trump’s war like tone ran counter to the very purpose of the UN as the forum for negotiations and peace.

Worse, the threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, amounts to a threat to physically wipe out that whole nation of 26 million people – an act of mass murder and nothing less than a war crime. Reuters news agency’s report of the speech noted that “loud murmurs filled” the General Assembly hall as Trump made this crudely horrific threat from the podium.

Other reports noted that Trump, just as in his political rally speeches in America, would periodically pause for applause, but received hardly any from the ‘stony faced audience of foreign leaders’ in the General Assembly. Indeed, much of his audience of world leaders would have presumed that all this bombast was not actually for them but for his narrow, closest, political constituency back in the US.

Even in the US it was only small, very right-wing and white supremacist newspapers and websites, who hailed his speech. Inside the General Assembly, instead of the customary polite appreciation for the US leader by other General Assembly speakers (after all, the US is the biggest UN donor), most subsequent speakers either studiously ignored Trump’s violent tone and threats or, obliquely critiqued some of his obscurantist arguments as not being part of the legitimate United Nations discourse.

Neither can any ardent human rights activist take Trump to the World Court for threatening a war crime, because the US is not a signatory to the World Court and does not recognize that judicial world body.

And, then, the US President officially hinted at the UN forum that his country may renege on the Iran nuclear control treaty. Trump has threatened to ‘scrap’ the Iran nuclear treaty ever since he began his presidential election campaign. He only softened his language from ‘scrapping’ to that of a US ‘withdrawal’ from the treaty when, on entering the White House, he learnt that the Iran Treaty was a pact between Iran and five world powers, including the US plus Germany.

With a chorus of voices from those major signatory states affirming confidence in the Iran treaty, the US is the ‘odd man out’. Already, commentators are pointing out that if the US, which led the way under President Barack Obama in negotiating the treaty, now backs out of the treaty, countries like North Korea would immediately feel justified in not trusting the US in any nuclear arms negotiations.

As it is, Pyongyang has watched how other independent small powers like Iraq under Saddam Hussain and Libya under Muammar Qadafi ultimately had no military capacity that could deter western efforts to topple those regimes. It is becoming clear that those states with country systems not so compatible with the world capitalist system can only hope to withstand pressures by the western powers to conform by arming themselves with suitable military deterrent.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong un has long argued that North Korea, having originally survived the US-South Korean military alliance during the Korean War, must have some kind of weapons parity in order to resist American diktat. In dealing with a nuclear power, the only ‘parity’ is to possess countervailing nuclear armament. Hence, Pyongyang’s frantic pursuit of a nuclear strike capability that, if not matching US power, could at least retaliate to considerably hurt America.

The only UN member state to effusively praise the US President for his speech was Israel – another ‘rogue state’, like North Korea, in terms of its persisting and blatant violations of several UN resolutions and basic human rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu’s speech was so complimentary to the US President and corresponded so well with the US policy position on Iran that The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont, reporting from the UN, commented sarcastically that the US President’s speech “… could have been written by the Israeli embassy”!

Subsequent western European leaders speaking at the General Assembly firmly insisted that the Iran Nuclear Treaty was still in satisfactory operation and should continue.

Many commentators noted the American leader’s archaic espousal of the principle of national sovereignty as the supreme principle of diplomacy. Not only did President Trump insist that the US government upheld national sovereignty as paramount in all its dealings with the rest of the world but he was shown on camera as naively arguing that all countries ‘should’ also follow this principle of ‘national sovereignty’.

Any tenth grader who has learned about the UN system in the Civics class would have told the 72-year-old ‘billionaire’ President that the very existence of the UN, as the body that brings together all the world’s nations in a membership bound by global treaties and covenants, serves to subordinate ‘national sovereignty’ to a global consensus. Hence, the citizens of all UN member states are subject to, and protected by, laws and regulations that are at global level and transcend national laws. Or, national laws are made consonant with the UN charter.

The prestigious China Daily (of the Chinese Communist Party) said in its editorial that “Trump ought to know a deal must be honoured” referring to his threat to withdraw from the Iran treaty. The Beijing-based international affairs newspaper Global Times was similarly critical.

As if to further slap American knuckles for its leader’s intemperate language, North Korea’s foreign minister told news media in New York (where he was representing Pyongyang at the UNGA) that his country may actually test explode another hydrogen bomb – this time over the Pacific Ocean!

Many American analysts are now slowly beginning to agree with the conclusion arrived at, some time ago, by analysts in other parts of the world: that the world now must learn to live with North Korea as the newest nuclear power. After all, if the world must put up with the only country to actually use nuclear weapons in war, the United States, and even allow it to freely continue to develop its nuclear arsenal and, also, put up with all the other nuclear powers including another rogue one like Israel, why can’t North Korea be added to the list?

If any country needs rigorous supervision of its arsenal, it is the United States, given its record of use of the atom bomb twice and its current public threats to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. And the next subject of scrutiny should be Israel for being the sole country to completely hide its nuclear program on the one hand, and, on the other, being a prolific violator of numerous UN resolutions and strictures in its on-going illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. 

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