Sohn: The irony of Trump's U.N. speech

Sohn: The irony of Trump's U.N. speech

September 20th, 2017 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Photo by DOUG MILLS

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A "message of peace" was the way Donald Trump, on the eve of his first address to the United Nations, described his upcoming speech.

It was anything but that, and if saying "we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," is Trump's idea of a message of peace, perhaps we all have no choice but to begin building bomb shelters.

Trump's speech was embarrassing. Perhaps it was not as embarrassing as his suggestions that his campaign supporters punch hecklers and protesters, perhaps not as shameful as his mocking of a handicapped person, perhaps not as distressing as the mounting indications that his campaign sought and perhaps colluded with Russia to meddle in our election — but nonetheless mortifying.

Remember the bombastic Republican candidate who said he was anti-interventionist and decried America's involvement in global conflicts? Well that same man in this speech bullied and threatened several foreign nations, including North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Who, other than Trump, could possibly think it's a good idea to mock the young leader of North Korea who has often demonstrated that he is easy to bait, if not downright unstable?

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But what did Trump say on a national stage with all the world watching?

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself," the president of the United States said.

Here we are, on the middle school playground of a global stage.

What's next? How will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un save face now that our unpredictable president has proclaimed to the world that America is after them. Trump played right into Kim's hands, as Kim has long been telling North Koreans that very same thing.

Make no mistake: Under Kim, North Korea is a danger. Kim continues to live royally and play at testing missiles and building nuclear weapons while starvation grips his nation — a country only slightly larger than Tennessee, but with four times as many people. The average North Korean citizen's income is estimated at $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Kim's military police brutalized and imprisoned an American college student who died after he was returned to the U.S. in a coma, and Kim is believed to have had his own brother, a potential rival, assassinated.

If you're Russia or China, and your bothersome pet Kim gets into a snapping fight with that bothersome neighbor yapper Donald, what do you do? You stand aside, of course, and smirk as they tear each other up. Then you go looking for the goodies each has left behind, hidden in their respective territories.

Not all pundits agree.

Jake Novak, a senior columnist with CNBC.com, for instance, called Trump's taunt "brilliant" and "the same kind of strategy he used to successfully denigrate Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and others during the election. President Trump may be the Commander-in-Chief, but he's really the Marketer-in-Chief. And he may now be on the verge of marketing Kim Jong Un right out of power."

That assumes there's not much difference between votes and missiles.

Yet while Trump and Kim thump their chests, our country's diplomatic hands are tied behind its back as vacancies go unfilled at our State Department. Other than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, only one of the 32 top State Department leadership positions had been filled with a Senate-confirmed appointee by the end of July. And only 5 individuals had been nominated or selected to fill those positions. In the career civil servant ranks, about 40 other positions are vacant. Add to that, only 30 ambassadors have been officially nominated for a total of 188 positions, according to the American Foreign Service Association.

Trump also lectured the U.N. about money, saying no country should bear a disproportionate burden of keeping the world safe and sound — "militarily and financially," he said.

We do pay about 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core budget to keep the United Nations in business. But that was calculated after a series of negotiations and based on the size of the American economy, the largest in the world. We shoulder virtually nothing militarily. Of the roughly 97,000 soldiers and police officers serving on United Nations peacekeeping missions, 74 are American, according to figures released in June.

Just when we thought Trump's U.N. talk couldn't get more cringeworthy, he hinted again at pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, calling Iran a "rogue nation" and the agreement "an embarrassment to the United States." Never mind that the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly ruled that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 agreement.

Thinkprogress.com noted: "Nowhere in the speech did Trump appear to see the irony in threatening other countries at an institution meant to uphold peacekeeping. Nor did Trump explain why other countries would want to negotiate with an administration that's so eager to undermine America's international agreements, such as the Iran nuclear deal."

On the contrary, at the end of the speech, Trump pulled out his "America first" nationalistic, so-called "patriotic" campaign shtick. He even called on other countries to help refugees (they already are), even as he pushes a plan to further cut the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. to the lowest level in decades.

One of Trump's arguments for such a reduction has been that refugees cost American taxpayers too much money. But a new report, one commissioned by the administration, found that refugees put a lot more money into government coffers than they take out: $63 billion from 2004 to 2014, according to the study, which was carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services and has been seen by The New York Times. Refugees work and pay taxes, you see.

Trump doesn't understand the meaning of peacekeeping.

In fact, he doesn't even seem to understand the difference between war and peace.

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