21 September 2017
If any further proof were needed that the United States has descended into the realm of magical thinking, there could be no clearer example than Donald Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2017.
In 40 minutes of what can only be described as a barely coherent and dangerous rant, Trump revealed how the United States has totally lost its grip on reality. Some brief extracts from the speech illustrate its essential horrors. Trump argued that:
“America does more than speak for the values expressed in the UN Charter…..America’s devotion is measured in the battlefields……..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.”
Trump and the neocon clique that dictate American foreign policy probably believe that nonsense. It is delusional in the extreme. The US for example, was a latecomer to World War 2. What fighting it did in the “deserts of the Middle East” or the “jungles of Asia” is unclear. The total western contribution to the war was no greater than 20% of the total, and much less in terms of casualties. The great battles and the vast bulk of the casualties were incurred on the Eastern front between Germany and Russia, and in Asia between Japan and China.
Even the use of the atomic means that ended the war against Japan were militarily unnecessary, as Japan had been seeking peace since at least late 1944, their only condition being the retention of the emperor, which happened anyway. The use of nuclear weapons was instead a warning to the Soviet Union. We now also know that the US and its western allies had three separate plans to continue the war against the Soviet Union, using atomic weapons to annihilate both its populations and industrial capacity.
As far as not seeking to impose its way of life on others, the US has been a regime change exponent and practitioner without parallel. It has bombed, invaded and overthrown the governments of at least 50 nations since 1945, killing at least 30 million people in the process. The one route to avoiding this attention has been to subscribe to US dictates without deviation. The claim by Trump is so at odds with reality that it is beyond even being a sick joke.
As for doing more than speak for the values of the UN charter, Trump also said:
“The US 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.”
The US has been there before. In the Korean War of 1950-53, the US totally destroyed every town and city of any size; destroyed its infrastructure; waged chemical warfare to destroy its agricultural capacity; and killed at least three million of its citizens. It has, ever since the armistice, refused to sit down with North Korea to discuss a peace treaty; waged war by other means such as sanctions; regularly issued threats of annihilation; and carried out massive military exercises near its borders. It has also denied North Korea access to its exclusive economic zone that it is entitled to under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by the idiosyncratic and illegal drawing of maritime boundaries.
The UN Charter that Trump says the US “does more than speak for” actually has a number of provisions that are applicable to North Korea and other parts of the world subject to US attentions. Article 2(4) of the Charter for example, enjoins all nations to refrain from the use or threat of force in its international relations. The Bush Junior, Clinton, Obama and Trump administrations breach that provision on a regular basis.
The fig leaf of qualification that Trump used in his rhetoric, “if forced to defend itself or its allies” is also constrained by Article 51 of the UN Charter, which requires every military response to an armed attack by another State to be proportional to the actual threat posed.
The threat to “totally destroy” North Korea is in fact advocating the crime of genocide which unsurprisingly is also contrary to international law.
Australia’s Prime Minister apparently sees no problem with these threats and their consequences. When asked about Trump’s remarks, he told Channel 7’s Sunrise program that Australia was ready to assist the US. He again (wrongly) invoked the ANZUS Treaty, but sought to diminish the consequences of Trump’s threat, saying, “many, many thousands will die.” No, Mr Turnbull, millions will die, including civilians in South Korea and Japan. As well as North Korea.
Trump also claimed at the UN that:
“Last month I announced a new strategy in the fight against this evil in Afghanistan. From now on our security interests will dictate the length and scope of this military operation, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.”
To call what is happening in Afghanistan a “new strategy” is delusional. There is no discernible “strategy” that would lead to either the US winning the war, or indeed even concluding a peace settlement. It is doubtful if there ever was such a strategy.
The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had nothing to do with the fight against terrorism. It was and remains an illegal war under international law. It had more to do with securing the rights to a gas pipeline from the Caspian Basin; establishing military bases as part of its “containment” strategy of China and Russia; and ensuring control of the opium crop that the Taliban had succeeded in virtually eliminating. A further motive for staying developed later when the US Geological Survey identified about $3 trillion of valuable mineral assets in Afghanistan, including rare earths essential in modern technology. Trump openly claimed that these should be the preserve of US corporations.
According to the UN Drug Agency, Afghanistan now accounts for 93% of the world’s heroin supply. US soldiers protect the growing of the opium poppies; NATO planes fly in the chemicals needed to process the opium into heroin; and the CIA takes care of its worldwide distribution, as it has done for most of its existence.
Trump also claimed US success in Iraq and Syria, saying:
“ 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. The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against its own citizens, even innocent children, shock the conscience of every decent person. No society could 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.”
Again, the reality is completely different. Trump is either unaware, or more likely (in common with the Australian government and mainstream media) simply ignores the overwhelming weight of evidence that the Assad government was not responsible for the Sarin gas attacks. Even if they had been, that would still not have allowed the US to use cruise missiles against a Syrian base. That also is against international law.
To claim credit for making “big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS” also requires a rewriting of history. The various terrorist groups that have battled the Syrian government have been created, trained, financed and armed by the US and its allies, notably Israel (which also treats ISIS wounded in its hospitals) and Saudi Arabia. Neither of those countries warranted a mention in Trump’s speech.
The various terrorist groups were in danger of defeating the Syrian government forces until the intervention of the Russians in September 2015. The Russian support for Syria, together with their Hezbollah, Iranian and Iraqi allies, all legitimately in Syria, are the ones who have successfully defeated ISIS and various other terrorist groups.
Trump unsurprisingly made no mention of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies, including Australia, on the fake pretext of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. He similarly ignored the fact that the US (and Australia) have absolutely no legal right to be in Syria at all. I have elsewhere described the lies and obfuscations that led Australia into joining the Syrian war (I the same month as the Russians). Australia, like the US, has done nothing to support the legitimate sovereign government of Syria ever since. Until the recent apparent change of policy by the US, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was also vociferous in her demands that “Assad must go”. In the light of Trump’s UN speech, and the continued US interference in the Kurdish areas of Syria, it is extremely doubtful if the regime change policy has truly been abandoned.
In the fact of Trump’s embarrassing and frankly unhinged diatribe, all Australia has done is to offer pathetic noises in support. One can expect no better from the present government. It is to Australia’s great disadvantage that the Labor Opposition shows a similar lack of integrity and commitment to Australia’s real national security interests.
*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org