Alan Woods examines Donald Trump's debut speech at the United Nations, in which the US President outlined his scattered thoughts on North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, amongst other countries, revealing the ugly face of American imperialism for all to see.
Las week, on September 19th, President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the UN General Assembly to outline his view of the world, the universe and life in general.
Mr. Trump, we learn from the truthful and impartial version put out by The Trump Organization is “the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports, and entertainment. He is the archetypal businessman – a deal maker without peer.”
With such an Olympian curriculum vitae, how could the General Assembly, consisting as it does of mere mortals, fail to be impressed by his Message to the World? Impressed they undoubtedly were, although not necessarily in the manner anticipated by the distinguished orator.
In order to make his ideas sufficiently simple that even his audience at the United Nations could understand them, Mr Trump wisely decided to cast it in the form of a fairytale. In this Trumpistic view of the world, everything is neatly divided into the Good and the Very Good, (the latter being the US of A under the inspired and bountiful Leadership of Donald J. Trump), the Bad and the Very, Very Bad.
As in every good fairytale, the Forces of Good are always engaged in a Manichean struggle with the Forces of Evil. These Forces, which cast a malignant shadow over the world of Peace, Plenty and Democracy in the form of a radioactive mushroom cloud, are headed by the wicked (and clinically insane) Dictator of the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea, sometimes referred to by his pseudonym, Kim Jong Un, but whose real name, we can now reveal, is Rocket Man.
Coming up a close second in the list of Evil Powers (also known as “Rogue States”) is the Evil Persian Empire, sometimes erroneously described as Iran. This Evil Empire has in fact represented a grave threat to Western Christian Civilization before the latter even existed. Under the wicked kings Darius and Xerxes (how do you pronounce that?) they did their level best to destroy Greek Civilization and crush it into the dust. They did not succeed in this aim, which was successfully achieved many years later by Angela Merkel.
By the way, for those of you who are wondering, the word Manichean is ultimately derived from the ancient Persian religion that broke everything down into Darkness and Light, Good or Evil. It also means seeing things in black and white. So Donald J. Trump shares that much with the old Persians – though unfortunately not much else, since they were in fact quite civilized people.
Of Rogue States and how to deal with them
It was perhaps slightly ungracious of the President to come to utter hard words about the UN after the General Council had so generously served his interests by approving new sanctions against North Korea. Mr Trump might have shown at least a little gratitude, since all his threats to bring down fire and brimstone on the heads of North Korea have amounted to less than nothing in practice. And he will doubtless soon require the assistance of the UN to get him out of the hole into which he has dug himself so masterfully.
But Donald J. Trump knows no fear – and no gratitude either. The man from the White House did not mince his words. He announced to his astonished (and possibly terrified) audience that the Rocket Man of Pyongyang (yes, it does sound like the title of a B movie horror film) was bent on a “suicide mission.” And he added darkly that, should America be forced to defend itself (or its allies): “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Here we have a truly classic piece of vintage Trump speak. It is the new Washingtonian diplomacy, which aims at establishing world peace by brandishing its nuclear arsenal every five minutes. Mr. Trump described the North Korean leaders as a “band of criminals” that imperils the world with its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The well-known fact that the United States possesses a nuclear arsenal that dwarfs the combined nuclear weaponry of the rest of the world is, of course, not seen as a threat to anybody but, on the contrary, a manifestation of the pacifistic tendencies of American imperialism.
Now like Mr Trump we are no great admirers of Kim Jong Un or his Stalinist regime. But it is necessary to point out that North Korea is a small poor Asian nation, while the United States is the most powerful military state the world has ever seen. The spectacle of the giant confronting the pigmy as if on equal terms is so extraordinary as to border on the surreal.
The conflict with North Korea has glaringly exposed the limits of the power of American imperialism. Trump breathes fire and brimstone, but all his threats had no effect in Pyongyang, other than to increase the bellicose noises and add to the growing number of nuclear tests and rockets flying over Japan.
It is commonly stated that Kim Jong Un is mad and that it is impossible to understand his motivation. In fact, it is not impossible at all. Recently the government of Pyongyang declared its interest, which is rather easy to understand: it aims to reach a state of nuclear parity with the USA. That, of course, must not be taken literally. It is quite impossible for North Korea to equal the vast nuclear arsenal of the United States or come anywhere close to it. What it can do (and it seems that nothing can stop it) is to gain possession of sufficiently advanced technology to be able to threaten the USA with nuclear strikes on its own territory.
The reasoning behind this is really quite simple. Let us recall that Saddam Hussein was accused by the Americans of possessing weapons of mass destruction. But Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Therefore Saddam Hussein was overthrown and killed by the Americans. Conclusion: North Korea, which feels threatened by the USA (which describes it as a rogue state led by insane bandits) must acquire weapons of mass destruction as quickly as possible.
The conclusion may be unpalatable. But the logic behind it is irrefutable. And no amount of bluff and bluster from Washington or fairy tales told by an American President at the UN will make the slightest difference.
Iran: deal or no deal?
Having vented his spleen on North Korea, the President then turned his attention to that other well-known Rogue State and Power of Evil – Iran. He poured the equivalent of a bucket of slops over the deal that his predecessor, Barack Obama, together with other world powers, had, after twelve years of long and arduous negotiations, arrived at with Iran.
The declared aim of the said deal was to freeze Iran’s nuclear weapons programme in exchange for easing international sanctions. No mention was made of Iran’s internal regime or foreign policy. And that omission was not accidental, since it would have made agreement on the central issue – Iran’s nuclear programme – impossible. It took many years of hard bargaining to secure the deal, but in the end it was done. There was jubilation on the streets of Teheran, alarm in Saudi Arabia, fury in Israel and the gnashing of teeth in the US Republican Party.
The violent attacks against Iran in right-wing US political circles have been stepped up in the recent period. That is merely a panicky knee-jerk response to the fact that Iran has greatly increased its power and influence in the Middle East. In reality the Americans only have themselves to blame for this rapid Iranian expansion. It is not the fault of Obama and his deal that explains the Iranian successes but the stupidity of his Republican predecessor, George W Bush.
The ignorant and incompetent American imperialists stormed into Iraq and wrecked the whole country, destroying its army and thereby destabilising the whole of the Middle East. All the subsequent crimes and barbarism are ultimately due to the monstrous crime of imperialism. By destroying the Iraqi army, the Americans removed the only effective counterweight to Iran, which is now one of the dominant powers in the region.
In a thunderous condemnation of what he calls Iranian support for “terror groups” abroad and political repression, Donald demanded that the world confront the “murderous” regime in Teheran. The nuclear deal was an “embarrassment to the United States”, and the world had not “heard the last of it”, he announced dramatically, while the Iranian representative, with a serene smile, continued to play computer games on his smartphone.
In contrast to his Iranian colleague, Bibi Netanyahu jumped up and down in his seat to express his enthusiasm for Donald Trump. What tends to be forgotten (because it is never mentioned in polite company) is that Israel itself already has nuclear weapons. Israel has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the 1950s. And western governments, especially the US, turn a blind eye. Israel possesses an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan. It even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, which caused no international outcry or even much publicity, led to no votes of censure in the General Council, no sanctions and no calls for regime change.
People in the Middle East may be forgiven for asking why Israel is allowed to possess nuclear weapons, yet when Iran follows its example it is seen as a threat to world peace. Come to think of it, how come the embryonic nuclear programme of North Korea is presented as a threat to the world, while the gigantic US nuclear arsenal is not? The answer to these unreasonable questions is, of course, perfectly clear to all reasonable human beings. It is all explained in Trump’s fairytale, or put in plain English: They are the Bad Guys and we are the Good Guys.
Unfortunately, in the real world, which differs in some rather important ways from the fairytale one, it is sometimes terribly difficult to distinguish between the Good Guys and the Bad ones. Syria as an excellent example of this. In Syria the Americans and their Saudi and Israeli friends have been backing the most vicious and reactionary Islamist terrorist outfits for years. The WikiLeaks revelations of secret US intelligence reports proved conclusively that the Saudis were arming and financing ISIS, while the Americans and Israelis were supporting other gangsters linked to al Qaeda.
Their aim was to overthrow the Assad regime (and replace it with something infinitely worse) but they have been mercilessly crushed. A very large part in their defeat was the participation of Iranian forces and their Shi'ite militia allies, notably Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict. Consequently, the Iranians now have control over large parts of Iraq and Syria, as well as Lebanon through Hezbollah, which has now become a formidable military force.
Trump says that the deal with Iran was an exceptionally bad one for America, but in reality, Iran has been abiding by the conditions of the deal, while America has not. Neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a nuclear bomb, and Iran's atomic projects are under constant international monitoring. But already under Obama the USA had passed a number of laws imposing new sanctions against Iran that break both the letter and the spirit of the deal.
Now it seems possible that the “deal maker without peer” will cancel the deal with Iran altogether, although calmer heads in his own administration will try to persuade him not to do so. If he does, what will the result be? Teheran will follow the example of North Korea, speeding up its nuclear programme, and as with North Korea, there is not much the Americans could do to stop it.
The Israelis may be tempted to do something about it. But their scope for military action is limited and would be restricted to aerial bombing. That would be ineffective, since the Iranians are well prepared and their nuclear installations will be protected in underground bunkers with reinforced concrete that can withstand all but a direct hit with high explosives. At best, bombing would merely serve to postpone Iran’s nuclear programme but not prevent it from succeeding. It would drive the population behind the government, without preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Trump’s likes and dislikes
Like the weaver Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mr Trump can roar “as sweetly as a nightingale”. So as not to frighten the ladies he will roar “as gently as any sucking dove”. But all the press reported the next day in banner headlines was a string of bellicose threats to all the powers of evil who dare to menace America or disturb the tranquil sleep of its citizens. His brand of tub-thumping nationalism was only slightly wrapped in a thin veil of diplomatic jargon about “responsible and proudly sovereign countries” all working harmoniously together to isolate the “rogue regimes” (North Korea and Iran) in the venerable and sacred cause of self-defence and world peace. His essential message came across loud and clear: America first.
Mr Trump sang a most moving (but overly) long hymn of praise to nationalism (or patriotism as he preferred to call it) and the free market economy (that is, capitalism). He urged other countries to follow his shining example, pull up the drawbridge and build their own strong national economies. He declared his unshakable commitment to those things that have made America great: personal initiative, free enterprise, religion and the Family, which, as we all know, are the true foundation of any healthy society. (For some reason he forgot to mention Motherhood and Apple Pie).
That is the sum total of Donald Trump’s philosophical world view. This is what he stands for. But what does he stand against? He wasted no time in enumerating them: first and foremost, socialism, the very thought of which is enough to send the President into paroxysms of rage that cause serious concern for his blood pressure. His second bête noir, he informs us, is global bureaucracies.
Now a man of such outstanding intellectual qualities as DT could hardly be unawares that the United Nations is itself the global bureaucracy par excellence. This omission is hardly the result of forgetfulness. Like the Bourbon monarchs who he resembles in so many respects Donald Trump learns nothing and forgets nothing. His rabid brand of nationalism, which is only the expression of the desire of US imperialism to place the whole terrestrial globe under the heel of its boot, is only the obverse side of the coin. The other side is a profound distrust of allies who do not lick that boot with sufficient relish – and a profound hatred and loathing of organizations like the UN.
The UN was founded after the Second World War, allegedly to prevent future wars and conflicts. The same was true of the League of Nations that was founded after the First World War with similar aims. Lenin described the League of Nations as a “thieves’ kitchen”. That description is a perfectly adequate characterisation of its successor. The record of the UN in preventing wars and conflicts is not one whit better than that of the old League. The UN has never prevented any war, although it has been involved in more than one.
The founders of the UN actually believed that it could form the basis of a world government. But the idea of a world government under capitalism is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism is based on the nation state, and the organisation’s charter stresses the sovereignty of each member state. The same charter calls on members to heed and promote “universal human rights and values”. Just how governments like Saudi Arabia can put their name to such a statement without bursting out laughing it is impossible to tell.
“We are calling for a great reawakening of nations,” Mr Trump said, without making even the tiniest reference to the United Nations. America, he says, does not expect “diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government”. But he praised those “responsible” countries that fight terrorism and other assorted menaces. And which of these “responsible” countries did he choose to mention? None other than Saudi Arabia.
Trump’s accusation that Iran sponsors terrorist organisations and threatens peace-loving nations like Saudi Arabia was music to the ears of the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, whose physiognomy and physical presence bears a passing resemblance to the renowned actor Vincent Price in the role of Dracula. Mr al-Jubeir almost blushed with pleasure at this outpouring of praise. Except that, like Dracula, he was never able to master the art of blushing.
Trump’s fairytale version unfortunately stands the truth on its head. If we trace the threads that bind all the different Jihadi terrorist gangs to their ultimate source, we will find that most, if not all of them, lead back, not to Teheran but to Riyadh. The largest number of those who carried out the 9/11 terror attack on the Twin Towers were Saudis. There were also Jordanians, but not a single Iraqi. Yet it was Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Jordan, that was invaded. The day after 9/11 President Bush ordered all aircraft flying over the USA to be grounded, with only one exception: planes that carried Saudi citizens out of the USA – including relatives of Osama bin Laden.
It is hardly a secret that Saudi Arabia, together with Israel, is now the centre of counter-revolution in the Middle East. The reactionary gang in Riyadh, from where it exports, apart from oil, the poisonous Wahhabi fanaticism, has excellent relations with the western imperialists and Israel (they have just established a direct air link). Having at their disposal vast amounts of cash, they buy the services of agents who spread their warped ideology through a thousand front organisations: from madrassas in Pakistan and “charities” in North Africa to armed Jihadi movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
The successes of Iran in Syria and Iraq are what has set the alarm bells ringing in Washington, Jerusalem and above all in Riyadh. In a desperate bid to halt the spread of Iranian/Shiite influence, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the real ruler of Saudi Arabia, decided to launch yet another adventure in Yemen, where Teheran supports the Houthi rebels.
The Saudi-led military coalition is engaged in a murderous war, bombing civilian targets, schools, hospitals, food stores, water supplies, roads and ports, in an attempt to starve the population into submission. Naturally the West has remained silent about these atrocities, just as it remains silent about the barbarities that the monstrous Saudi regime has been perpetrating against its own population for decades.
The “democratic” West, which raised such a hullabaloo about real or alleged war crimes in Syria, is not only silently complicit about Saudi crimes against humanity, but actively supports them. The British government suppressed a report about who finances reactionary Jihadi movements in Britain. We know the answer is Saudi Arabia, but they deliberately conceal it.
The Saudi monarchy is the most vicious, corrupt cruel degenerate regime you can imagine. Among the delightful customs of this Wahhabi paradise we find flogging, the cutting off of limbs, stoning to death, beheadings and crucifixion. But the kind and considerate Mr Trump, does not expect his Saudi friends “to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government”, by which he means: you do not need democracy in Saudi Arabia: please carry on chopping off heads, cutting off hands and feet and crucifying as many people as you like – as long as you do not step on my toes.
But these military adventures have cost the Saudis dear. They burnt their fingers in Syria, where together with their allies they received a bloody nose. Now they are facing defeat in Yemen.
Searching the hall with his beady eyes, like a vulture seeking an easy dinner, Trump fixed his steely gaze on Venezuela, which he sees as an example of all that is bad in “socialism”, which he attacked as a “failed ideology.” This was clearly intended to be the high point in his most dramatic intervention at the UN. He declared:
“America stands with every person living under a brutal regime,” he declared. “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.” How does that square with his earlier statement that he does not expect all countries “to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government”.
Many years ago, Henry Ford told his customers that they could have a car in any colour they liked, as long as it was black. Now Mr Trump informs the whole world that it can have any system it likes, as long as it is capitalism. To drive this point home, he issued a sweeping anathema against socialism and all its works:
"From the Soviet Union to Cuba, Venezuela — wherever thorough socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish, 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."
"The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented," Trump thundered. That was his punch line that was supposed to bring them to their feet: a veritable tour de force of his scriptwriter’s genius. Pausing for a moment, the President, his jaw jutting out several centimetres, his eyes fixed on the middle distance, waited for the stormy applause that would surely greet this inspired oration.
He waited and he waited. One second passed, seeming an eternity, then another, then another. But applause came there none. A painfully awkward silence descended upon the Assembly hall of the United Nations in New York — only interrupted by some scattered laughter, as some of those present began to realise the President’s dilemma. Eventually — after Trump had waited desperately for several long moments — some kindly souls in the hall quietly applauded. But the faintness of the applause was sufficient testimony to his failure.
Such applause as there was must have come from the desks of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Philippines, with Theresa May and Boris Johnson clapping as hard as possible in the hope that their Boss from over the Sea will have heard them and rejoiced that the Special Relationship with the United Kingdom – that is, the relationship between a pet poodle and its master – is alive and well.
Although it appears to have escaped the attention of Donald Trump, the system that has signally failed the human race is not socialism but capitalism. It is the so-called free market economy that he is so enamoured of that has delivered nothing but anguish, devastation and failure to the entire world, particularly since market economics collapsed so spectacularly ten years ago. And the problems of Venezuela were not caused by too much socialism, but on the contrary, by too little socialism.
The Bolivarian Revolution achieved a lot in terms of reforms of education, housing and health (which in the USA is in a barbarous condition unworthy of an advanced and wealthy country, and under Donald Trump is set to get much, much worse). But unfortunately it was not carried out to the logical conclusion: the total elimination of private ownership of the land, banks and major industries.
The result is the present chaotic situation in which capitalist anarchy combined with the deliberate sabotage of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, aided by US imperialism, threatens to destroy the Revolution and throw Venezuelan society back to the dark ages. In order to demonstrate his fervent support for this worthy cause, Mr Trump demanded the imposition of sanctions against Venezuela, so as to underline the message that “socialism” will invariably bring in its train “continued suffering of the people”, together with “anguish, devastation, and failure.” And if it is not failing quick enough, Washington will give it a hefty kick to make it fail faster.
The Economist thought that this was “a dismaying, disconcerting speech to hear from an American president.” But why? It was a speech that revealed the inner essence of American imperialism. It showed its real ugly face, greedy, selfish and rapacious. It laid bare its soul in all its blackness. Its morality is that of the brigand who is willing to commit any crime, no matter how vile, as long as it serves the chief aim in life, which is to grow rich at the expense of others. That is precisely the meaning of “America first”.
Trump’s declared ideal is that of the tough, self-reliant American pioneers who built log cabins with their own hands and never received a cent in welfare payments from the state. He forgets to mention the little detail that they cleared the wilderness, not only of cactus and buffalos but also of the unfortunate people who had occupied it for hundreds of years before the name of Columbus was ever heard of.
In reality these fine-sounding phrases about self-reliance owe nothing to a longing for a life that now lies in a half-forgotten past that belongs to the history books and is remembered through the rose-tinted haze of sentimentalism. It is a reflexion of the very modern spirit of egotism, greed and selfishness that motivates men like Donald J. Trump. National narrow-mindedness masquerades as Patriotism, which, as we recall, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
A cold indifference to human suffering conceals its repulsive face behind the demand that the poor, the sick and the ages should pull themselves together and rely on their own means, although they possess no means upon which to rely. This is the philosophy of the free market that allows sick people to die in the gutter instead of offering them medical assistance. The Hippocratic Oath, which declares all human life to be sacred, is replaced by the wallet and the bank balance.
Obama’s health scheme did very little to alter this atrocious state of affairs. But even that is too much for Donald J. Trump, who kicks the crutch from under an invalid and tells him to stand on his own two feet. The Liberal bourgeois find all this “dismaying, disconcerting”. That is because they do not like the real face of the system they defend to be exposed to public view. They would like it to be permanently hidden behind a false façade of moderation, sweetness and light. That was the meaning of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, who essentially serve the same medicine as Trump but they try to disguise its flavour by adding a good dose of saccharine.
By being so frank about the real nature, aims and methods of capitalism, Mr Trump has done the world a real service, although he has done this quite unwittingly. As for the fairytale, one would like to say that in the end they all lived happily ever after. But on this question we must entertain a reasonable doubt…