FURY OF DELUSION
Trump’s North Korea speech. The US president at the UN General Assembly shows the thin veneer of our civilization
By Lutz Herden
[This article published on September 20, 2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de.]
His appearance was unsurpassable. Donald Trump announced mass murder in his inflammatory speech before this year’s UN General Assembly. There was never an appearance like this before this forum. The speaker seemed desperate on deliberately breaching a taboo to mock the norms of civilization as though human wars and the experience of suffering for centuries were due to these norms.
In 1945, the world organization and its charter arose under a world war that led to human casualties and a destruction of material wealth unparalleled in history. Whoever pours out ignorant hatred should have been interrupted and expelled from the hall. Then the plenary assembly – the United Nations as an authority of peace and justice – would have done justice to its Magna Charta: “to preserve future generations from the scourge of war… to exercise tolerance and live in peace as good neighbors, and unite our powers to safeguard world peace and international security.”
The strongest military power in the world fulfills these principles when its ringleader is devoted to an overkill mentality. This should be vehemently condemned. Only resigned horror or dismay ultimately remains. The US president did not only unload his tirades in the name of his country. He also stood at the lectern for a leading western power that simply wants to blot out a whole state North Korea and 24 million people.
One can only be deeply alarmed before that insolence, presumption and self-righteous crushing of any trace of humanity in the message of a head of state who cried for violence, revenge, and retaliation as though that were the raison d’etre of political conduct in our time. That may soon happen.
Longing for public recognition
Trump’s abuse and invectives are only relativized by the suspicion that he is driven by domestic political considerations. With his North Korea policy, Trump put himself under pressure to succeed and cannot escape any more. Every additional missile of the North Koreans becomes his defeat.
Trump piles up threats upon threats instead of making an appropriate offer of negotiations forcing Kim Jong-un to interrupt the series of tests as the only chance for an agreement. If that does not work, he will save himself in a destructive mania that hides or covers up his powerlessness. Can the president “get rid” of a whole society? How unreal and unworldly is the assumption that the leadership in Pyongyang will capitulate as a result? The opposite could happen. The next North Korean tests are imminent. Trump longed for public recognition before the UN General Assembly. Who would seriously deny Kim Jong-un insisting on defending his country with everything he has after the apocalyptic threats?
Germany must act
While the Korea question triggers surprise or great shock, a sharper disagreement could occur if Trump continues his frontal attack on the nuclear treaty with Iran. His verbal attacks on Iran before the United Nations were irrational. In the past, the government in Teheran was not reproached for any breach of the treaty. This was also true for its former treaty partners who are tardy in dismantling and renouncing the sanctions.
Guaranteeing powers of the agreement like Germany, France and Great Britain should energetically protest against Trump destroying what was laboriously negotiated and obviously functions. If no second attempt of this kind is made, Iran could certainly take the North Korean way.
ADDRESS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. “TRUMP VIOLATED THE UN CHARTER”
Interview with Gunter Pleuger
[This interview published on September 20, 2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.deutschlandfunk.de. The former German ambassador to the UN criticizes US president Trump’s speech to the United Nations. He violated the UN Charter with his threat to possibly attack North Korea. Preventive self-defense is not allowed.]
According to Pleuger, there are only two exceptions to the “prohibition of violence and threats of violence” in the UN Charter. Firstly, there is the self-defense exception according to Art. 51 of the Charter; a country may defend itself after an attack has already occurred. Secondly, the Security Council has the authority to take measures against threats to world peace. The Security Council must be told immediately when a country resorts to self-defense.
Pleuger criticizes military actions to solve political problems. While a conflict could possibly be solved with military means, the underlying political problem can only be solved with diplomacy.
The Long Interview
Tobias Armbruster: That speech yesterday afternoon causes a sensation today. Before the United Nations, Donald Trump took big swings and issued threats to North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. He criticized the budget of the United Nations and urged other countries to think more of themselves just as he always does true to his motto “America first.” Many points should be discussed. On the telephone if Gunter Pleuger, one of Germany’s most experienced diplomats. From 2002 to 2006, he was Germany’s ambassador at the United Nations in New York. He knows this mechanism inside out.
Good morning, Mr. Pleuger! Mr. Pleuger, must we be worried after this appearance?
This appearance must make us worried since the UN was misused to a dangerous extent. The Charter of the United Nations sought to prevent horrific events like the Second World War in the future. The Charter assumes all states are sovereign and equal. Secondly, any foreign intervention in another independent nation state is explicitly prohibited. All this is described in Article 2 of the Charter. There are only two exceptions to this prohibition of violence and threats of violence. Firstly, there is the so-called self-defense exception according to Article 51 of the Charter. A country may defend itself after an attack occurred. This means there is no preventive self-defense. A country may not say we feel threatened and therefore we attack another member state. The second exception is the decision of the Security Council to take measures against a threat to world peace. When a country practices self-defense, the Security Council must be immediately informed of this self-defense so the necessary measures can be taken.
Armbruster: Donald Trump yesterday was certainly not the first politician to use a General Assembly to openly threaten other countries.
“No political problem can be solved militarily”
Pleuger: It makes a difference when the president of the greatest power of the world and the greatest military power of the world threatens to completely wipe out another state although no attack on the US occurred in the past, only tensions. I believe that is against the Charter. Secondly, the United Nations with all its mistakes is the only multilateral organization we have for peaceably solving international problems. The experience of the last decades has shown no political problem can be solved militarily. While the Charter also recognizes a conflict can be stopped with military means and hostilities can possibly be settled, the political problem that led to the conflict can only be solved through negotiations and diplomatic means.
Armbruster: But a military threat in the background is often helpful in diplomacy.
Pleuger: No, that is not true. Threats are prohibited according to the Charter of the United Nations. That is also rational because only the stronger hurl military threats against the weaker. That has often been the occasion for wars in the past and therefore the Charter of the United Nations prohibits this.
Armbruster: I don’t want to discuss military threats any further with you. Perhaps one example or another could be named. But are you saying, Mr. Pleuger, Donald Trump in his speech yesterday violated the Charter and the UN?
“There are different opinions on what President Trump said”
Pleuger: Yes, there are different opinions.
Armbruster: Didn’t he understand the working method or the functioning of the UN?
Pleuger: That is how it seems. But something could be hidden behind this, particularly domestic policy and the interests of a super-power. We witness this daily in the Security Council where the five permanent members who can prevent any decision with a veto usually enforce their own interests and if necessary prevent a decision.
Armbruster: How should the UN react to such a breach?
Pleuger: The UN will react. In the course of this week, opinions on what President Trump said will be expressed. Only 128 of the 193 states agreed with Trump’s Ten Point Plan for Reforming the United Nations presented on Monday. A third of the membership did not comment including important states and one permanent member of the Security Council, Russia. They will comment sometime this week.
Armbruster: What should Germany say? What should Sigmar Gabriel say when he appears on Thursday?
“Diplomatic solutions of the hardest problems are possible”
Pleuger: When he was in China, Sigmar Gabriel said rightly this conflict with North Korea can only be solved with diplomatic means and therefore negotiations are necessary. By the way, he referred to the successful example of Iran. We negotiated for four years on the initiative of Germany and the other five permanent members of the Security Council. Germany was an essential participant in working out this agreement. This shows that contractual solutions and diplomatic solutions to the hardest problems are possible.
Armbruster: Nevertheless, human rights are still suppressed in Iran.
Pleuger: That is true. However the treaty with Iran prohibits Iran from building a nuclear bomb and becoming a nuclear power. The treaty does not involve human rights. That must also be demanded and discussed.
Armbruster: The US president in his speech yesterday also criticized the UN bureaucracy, budget and the encrusted structures. Didn’t he at least strike a nerve and express something that was overdue?
“Only the Security Council can make a binding decision”
Pleuger: Yes, we have been talking about that for 30 or 40 years. Two conclusions should be underlined. Firstly, this criticism is obviously directed against an organization that is different from its caricature. The UN is not a world government. The UN is a permanent conference of the member states. When the UN has problems and fails, that means the member states that alone can decide what the UN does either did not make the decision or did not join in the implementation. When the member states in the General Assembly resolve something, only those who voted yes are politically obligated. Still the decision is not legally binding according to the Charter. Only the Security Council can make a decision that according to Art. 25 of the Charter are binding for all member states and create new international law. However the five permanent members who constantly only act on their own interest sit in the Security Council and often prevent a rational decision by their veto.
The second point is that the Secretariat consists of members from 193 states and cannot function like a national ministry.
The third point is that the Secretariat and the bureaucracy are blamed when something goes wrong. But in reality the member states that make the decision s either refused from the start or did not join in implementing these decisions.
TRUMP REVIVES THE AXIS OF EVIL
By Dirk Eckert
[This article published on September 20, 2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.heise.de
North Korea, Iran and Iraq were originally called the “axis of evil.” They export terror and threaten peace in the world, US President George W. Bush declared in 2002. His party friend and second successor in office took up that theme again on Tuesday at the United Nations in New York. A little group of “rogue states” was the “scourge of our planet,” he roared before the General Assembly. North Korea is again on the list of the rogue states along with Iran that the president presented as a problem case. “Socialist regimes” like Venezuela and Cuba were new additions. Iraq was not included for obvious reasons: Operation successful, the patient died.
“Rocket man on the way to suicide”
A “depraved regime” rules in North Korea, Trump cursed and swore in his first speech before the UN. North Korea, striving for nuclear weapons, threatens the whole world. The US is strong and patient. If this “band of criminals” gains nuclear weapons, the US will destroy that country, he threatened. Dictator Kim Jong-un is a “rocket man on the way to suicide for himself and his regime.” The only possibility for North Korea is to become a nuclear weapon-free country.
The North Korean nuclear tests, the missile tests over Japan, are now regularly condemned by the UN Security Council. Trump explicitly thanked the veto-powers China and Russia for their support. That support is certainly not a mandate for his threats of war against North Korea. Russian politicians had already rejected  the American threats when the American UN ambassador Nikki Haley hurled them. That Russia will not allow a military strike against North Korea was called irresponsible. Together with China, Russia wants to prevent a war and solve the nuclear conflict peaceably.
North Korea was only the starting point for Trump of a list of rogue states that can hardly be surpassed for one-sidedness and speciousness. Today there are many countries in which there are no political freedoms, no democracy and no constitutional state. That is the rule in the Middle East and Africa, as the current map  of Freedom House shows.
Recent reports from the NATO member Turkey could be illuminating here. Journalists and opponents are locked up in Turkey; diplomats stationed abroad seek and receive asylum in Germany. However trump in his speech casually passed over such things. Regarding Saudi Arabia, only his beautiful visit there that ended in the celebrated sword dance occurred to him. The monarchy there has exported its fundamentalist ideology all over the world but Trump did not consider that worth mentioning.
Instead Donald Trump included Iran. Baschar al-Assad in Syria is obviously the only dictator in the Middle East among pure model democracies. His speech can hardly be read any differently. The treaty on the Iranian nuclear settlement was the worst agreement the US has ever made, he argued again. There was no acknowledgment that the agreement functions, that Iran complies, that it is verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency and that Iran has renounced on nuclear weapons which could be a model for North Korea.
Instead Trump said again: the threat to cancel the agreement is still on the table. The Iranian regime has brought the country to the brink of ruin as a rogue state and supports terrorists like Hezbollah, he scolded. The “murderous regime” in Teheran undermines the peace all over the Middle East. The Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu nodded approvingly. He has agitated for years against the nuclear agreement and regards Iran as Israel’s greatest threat which is also controversial in Israel .
Last Battle against Socialism
That the Mullahs rule as dictators in Iran, that North Korea is a dictatorship and that developments in Venezuela are problematic are uncontested. However they take their place in the large number of authoritarian states. But the US only imposes sanctions against countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Trump explained the reasoning to the UN. The problem with Venezuela is not that socialism was badly realized, he told the world community, but that it was realized there. The country is a “socialist dictatorship.” Consequently, Trump boasted, the battle against socialism can be taken up again and brought before the UN 28 years after the fall of the wall.
In Venezuela, the national prosperity was destroyed by an ideology, Trump said. “We cannot simply sit back and watch,” he said. “The regime must be called to account.” “We demand the complete restoration of political freedoms in Venezuela,” he cried to the General Assembly where some were glad their country was not named. Trump only spoke of Cuba because his predecessor Obama ended the sanctions there. Trump wanted to distance himself and demanded reforms.
Reform of the UN
What Donald Trump said about the world organization was exciting since he won the election with the motto “America first.” This worked in the election campaign but the US president was only one head of state among many in the UN General Assembly. Trump highlighted the contradiction between national self-interest and the world organization. The UN must be a community of “strong sovereign nations.” These nations have different forms of government, religions and cultures. Every country can represent its own interests as long as the rights of others are respected. “The United States will always be a great friend of the world and especially our allies,” he promised.
The US president admonished the world organization for being too expensive and the US share in the budget as too high (“unfair”). He also said this a day before. Everything would not be so bad if the UN fulfilled what it promises, Trump said. Therefore it must be reformed. This was comparatively moderate for a president of the political right-wing.
Excursus: The President as UN Profiteer
Perhaps business interests have a moderating effect here. The Trump World Tower , the third tallest skyscraper in the United States, is near the UN headquarters. The real estate tycoon Trump built the structure in two years between 1999 and 2001.
The tower has been very profitable. Trump knows who to thank for the success: the nearness of the United Nations. On the eve of his speech , Trump admitted: “I saw a great potential, to be honest, to be on the opposite street. The tower is only a very successful project because the United Nations is here.”
Criticism of UNHCR
Before the UN, Trump encouraged helping refugees. The United Nations helps through the UN refugee relief organization and the World Food Program. “Refugees must be housed as near as possible to their homelands,” he urged. This was directed against “uncontrolled immigration” that is unfair to the sending- and receiving countries. The countries of origin would lose urgently needed persons. Much will be demanded of the receiver countries.
The UNHCR is now worried about its future. Refugee relief could be hard hit. In 2016, the US contributed $1.5 billion to the budget of $4 billion. In comparison, the EU and Germany was the second largest financial backer with around $360 million. The austerity plans of the US government endanger the work of the UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi warns.
The UNHCR was in emergency mode in the 2015 refugee crisis. In 2015, Syrian war refugees set out to the Balkans through Central Europe when the supply in the refugee camps was meager . The reason was the UNHCR depends on donations of the community of states and does not have its own budget. The UNHCR was left out despite the warning calls. As a result, refugees had no money on their money cards and could not buy local food.
That people escape war is only part of the truth. They also escape because the refugee relief service does not function any more. This demonstrates the importance of the United Nations and its sub-organizations. Does Donald Trump understand the connection?
THE US SUPERPOWER IS DANGEROUS
By Albrecht Mueller
[This article published on September 20, 2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.nachdenkseiten.de.]
…Deactivating this danger must be one of the central challenges of the next German government. Donald Trump gave his first speech before the UN. This speech included the threat of destroying the Korean people. In the case of Iran, it reopened a conflict that was thought to be deactivated through a compromise with the approval of the US.
His remarks on Venezuela show the US again presumes to meddle in the internal developments of other countries. The speech also demonstrated domestic considerations largely determine the foreign policy of the US. To give US citizens the impression that they are the good in the world, the president called other states “rogue states.” The president of one country whose inner structure and the relations of its citizens are marked by increasing violence – one could also say by rogues – defines what a rogue state is. His speech before the UN showed the US is such a rogue state.
This speech made clear we must try to free ourselves from this empire. This is very hard. Germany is planted in the sphere of influence and control of the US Empire. This was clear in a little recent detail. In the first week of September, there were demonstrations against the use of US bases in Ramstein and Kaiserslautern and particularly against the drone war.
The rearmament in Ramstein continues, unimpressed by the demos. In the next years, $100 million will be invested for stationing the tanker aircraft of the US Air Force. From 2024, military aircraft and the enlisted personnel with their families will be stationed in Ramstein and its environment.
We are firmly implanted in the long-term in the military machine of the empire. Liberation from the fangs of the US is hard for Germany but necessary in the long run.
The alternative would be submitting and trying to influence the politics of the US. That is also a very uncertain way since this president makes clear: the US does not need to consider its partners. The US is not afraid of threatening military force in Europe and at the border with Russia. This was also true for presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and for Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Hillary Clinton as president would not have acted differently. From this point of view, we are not living in a new world since the election of the new president. The others also waged wars to bring about a regime change of other peoples. “Death comes from America.” That is true for the empire irrespective of the occupant of the top office.