DONALD TRUMP ONCE MORE PROVES HE IS A TOTAL DISASTER FOR OUR NATION.

DONALD TRUMP ONCE MORE PROVES HE IS A TOTAL DISASTER FOR OUR NATION.(NOW HE IS TRYING TO DESTROY OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR ALLIES AND FRIENDS AND SPEW RACIST HATE AGAIN!)

By Harry C. Blaney III

I have studied and been involved for decades on the relationship of America and Europe, and not least the US-UK ties. Both sides have been at pains to keep the “special relationship” firm and very close and with many special elements of cooperation on very sensitive issues. It has been to the benefit of both sides over decades. Trump via his recent tweets has now acted to massively undermined that mutual respect and cooperation.

That relationship has been a linchpin of American policy, values, and security that Europe remain peaceful, united, and democratic. That meant supporting the EU as a key element to bring to Europe an end of internal warfare. Those goals have been strengthened via NATO a unified and strong defense. Now sadly needed given Russia under Putin and also in defense of democracy.

Trump has time and time again made a deliberate effort to harm those ties and been active in malicious interference on very sensitive debates in Europe before and after he took office. He embraced the far tight racist and nationalistic xenophobic beliefs which are now being played out against our American values and interests.

Trump recently retweeted a vulgar, insulting and hate filled tweets emanating from a far right racist British group to which Prime Minister Theresa May made a critical response to these Trump anti-Muslim videos. Prime Minster May said the videos source was a “hate group” and the one thing that is needed is to establish in all our democracies a unified stance again such groups as they are a threat to democracy and decency and tolerance.”

The negative fallout in Britain now swells from these anti-Muslim videos. In response Trump said in an insulting tone: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”

One result is new efforts by British citizens to cancel the planned state visit by Trump.

There is a report on the web in the Washington Post that has the headline “Britain Furious, Trump defiant….”

Some examples of the reaction in the UK to Trump’s racist tweets were:

— Tory Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said the president had “endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organization.”

–Right Wing and anti-EU said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted that Britain First had “no place” in British society.

— Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn characterize the retweets as “abhorrent” and “dangerous.”

— Speaking in the Commons, Labor MP David Lammy accused Mr Trump of “promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group.”

That about covers how many other decent citizens of Britain now feel about Trump and also their wonder at the hateful role America is playing on the world as well as domestic stage.

Equally negative for informed world opinion was the image of GOP and Trump in tandem working on the Tax bills going through Congress that will make the rich richer and the middle class and poor more even more desperate on many levels, not least on existing tax and social benefits for the middle class and poor including taking away woman’s choices, cutting food and care to the most vulnerable among our children, and helping to destroy the Affordable Heath Care Act and the impacting some millions of the 32 million people who benefit from it, cutting vital aid for the world most desperate people, and much much more.

Now Trump, without any real word of criticism from the GOP leaders, is seen as indifferent to American ordinary citizens and continues playing to his base these ugly tweets encouraging the most racists groups like the KKK and other bigots. All this is giving us and the world a true picture of the darkness that Trump and now the GOP has brought to our nation and to the world at large.

This reveals a man without a moral center and filled with a major destructive bent. That motivation, anger, and mental imbalance is a danger to American democracy and economic and civil rights, and a sense of commitment to world peace and stability.

We welcomed your comments! (See box below the full text)

 

DAN RATHER ON THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR DIPLOMACY AND OUR VALUES

By Harry C. Blaney III

Another strong voice against the gutting of the Department of State, diplomacy, and our Foreign Service Dan Rather.  Dangerous is not strong enough to describe what is taking place. It is a crime and we all need to say so to our representatives and ask their help to stop it. I have never is over 50 years of active foreign affairs engagement have I seen America so weakened and counterproductive abroad and indeed destructive of all that is good than under Trump. This must stop. Dan Rather says it all and to the point!

Dan Rather (Post on his Facebook page):

I try to stay steady. I try to remain calm. But of all the things stuck in my craw these surreal days, the willful and deliberate decimation of the United States Department of State by President Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a turn of events that is both bewildering and so obviously dangerous that it begs for reason in an age already plagued by a striking lack of reason.

This is an attack on the very health and security of the United States. It undermines our political, cultural, economic, and moral power around the globe. Yes our military forces are important and yes the aircraft carriers and fleets of tanks and airplanes are impressive. And yes the courage and dedication of our fighting men and women are impressive. But so too is the courage and dedication of our diplomatic corp who wield words and the power of persuasion to further our national interests, along with the aspirations of peace and justice. Their budget is but a fraction of our defense budget, but dollar for dollar they do more than almost anyone I can think of to make America what it has been, what it is, and what I believe we hope it to be.

There should be a bipartisan outcry against this undermining of American values. We have had strong diplomats from across the political spectrum. And as the world becomes ever-more complicated and difficult to navigate, we need leadership not empty rhetoric.

Make no mistake, our allies are watching with great unease. And our adversaries are salivating at our shortsightedness, and frankly, stupidity.

 

NORTH KOREA AND TRUMP’S NARROW VISION!

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Trump’s trip to Asia already has all the signs of a semi-fiasco with foreign policy public statements that appeared like they were written by a six year old for a class project. His unabashed self praise for his discussions with the Japan Prime Minister along with his continue bragging about what will happen to North Korea are all classic efforts to cover the fact that he has no deep and informed understanding of the complete and high risk issues at hand and thinks that just bragging, bulling and self-praise will save him from failure.

Further, he still does not realize that diplomatic agreements require both sides gain — called a win-win outcomes. These are the agreements that last.

The most chilling news on the North Korea front is that while Trump is pushing a more military solution, the US military leaders have stated in a letter to Congress that says that the only way to take out North Korea’s nuclear program with — quote — ‘complete certainty’ would be a ground invasion to secure and locate all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites ‘with complete certainty. They added in the event of conflict, Pyongyang could use biological and chemical weapons, the Pentagon told lawmakers in their current, candid assessment of what war on the Korean Peninsula might look like. We already know that various assessments of such a war would like mean the loss of millions of lives on all sides.

In this context, to show the absurdity of Trump focus’s, he is even encouraging the Japanese to buy billions of US manufactured weapons, which in my poor eyes amounts to asking them to send troops to fight a battle that Trump himself my have by his bellicose statements and actions only made sadly more likely. The Japanese know they are within striking distance of North Korea’s missiles.

There is urgent need for not only our more responsible leaders but also the heads of our Asian allies also to urge a diplomatic approach but the time is drawing short and risks rise as time goes by. In time talks with China, Russia, and South Korea leaders will indicate if we will go towards diplomacy to high risk options.  Trump still has no concept of or it seem desire to try to see that a peaceful resolution is in everyone’s best interest. Hope that is wrong! Congress also has to step in and there are moves in that direction.

We welcome your comments!! ( box for these to be posted.)

SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER INDICTS TRUMP’S ASSOCIATES! (WHAT WILL ALL THIS MEAN & REACH?)

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Today the first shoe dropped in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments are now public and those involved all have ties to Trump and his campaign. Among the charges are lying, defrauding the government, avoiding taxes, and conspiring against America.

The focus was first on Paul Manafort who was briefly the Chairman of the Trump campaign. The 18 charges focused largely on evasion of taxes and money laundering, but also included the question of Manafort’s years as a political consultant to Viktor F. Yankukovych the pro-Russian former president of the Ukraine.

What may prove equally or more significant the indictment was of George Papadopoulos who it is said to be cooperating with Mueller. He was a volunteer foreign policy advisor to Trump during the campaign. The day after joining the campaign he met the “professor” who had ties to the Kremlin. He to appears to charged with lying to the FBI and has pleaded guilty.

The third person indicted was Rick Gates who is accused lying about transferring $3 million from offshore accounts some in Cyprus. He worked with Manafort.

The media characterized the indictments as “a significant escalation in the special counsel investigation.” But is was more than that as it seemed to be part of a strategy to bring all the threads of possible collusion with Russians together and seems to threaten Trump himself as he attempted today to throw off or deflect the news of the indictments of his associates by saying the government Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton, a very tired line from his campaign which given that such action are seen as inappropriate for a president to interfere in any Justice investigation and only showed more his fear of the consequences of the investigation. Trump insisted against all evidence, that no one in his orbit during the campaign colluded with the Russian government. We need to remember that there were indeed undisclosed meetings with Russians by Trump family and staff.

What should we make of these events and news? First, that Mueller appears to be closing in upon the Trump circle and decided to act against the most easily indicted persons with hope in the end of getting at the bottom of Russian efforts to undermine our election and to what degree Trump’s people were involved in illegal activity at high levels.

But in a larger perspective, it shows first that at the moment our laws and democracy works against some great illegal actions to deflect and undercut Mueller and the legal process. What is interesting is that the White House said Trump had no plans to fire Mueller….but my thought is that he may have plans to use another high official to someday carry out that action.

The other question is the future of Trump and of his administration. It gets darker with each day especially as he gets more crazed. What is taking place is a major challenge to the integrity of our justice system, and it is also a test of our political system under stress and especially that of our Congress. This is true for our courts that will have to adjudicate these charges.

All of this will have major international repercussions. First, is it will further undermine foreign confidence in the capability of Trump to act in a rational way with our friends and opponents. Second, it may at last bring light into the public mind the serious nature of what has taken place. And it may move Congress on the full meaning of what Russia has done to undermine our democracy and not least how much the Trump team may have colluded to cooperate in the interference in our political process and elections. Third, it may at last force Congress to rethink their own role in support of Trump’s idiocies and also to act with more authority over our national foreign affairs and national security policies. This is especially true of issues of Western unity, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Finally, Trump has shown every indication of willingness to act in irresponsible ways when he is put into a cornier or feels threaten. The problem is whether he would think that going to war might be a way out for him. His belligerent words and actions with North Korea and Iran as well as escalation of US forces in the Middle East indicates he has no hesitation, or careful thought or assessment before hand, to enter and initiate conflict that can bring disaster to all sides. This is a challenge for those that serve in the White House, in DOD, the State Department, the courts, and not least in Congress to act, within the law, as a check on catastrophic actions by an unhinged myopic president. We are all in this mess together even if we still do not fully recognize this.

We welcome your comments!! (see box below)

BERNIE SANDER’S BIG FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH: AT WESTMINSTER COLLEGE

INTRODUCTION: I do not often post an entire speech but I think that Senator Sanders’s talk deserves our attention in a time in which American leadership is imperiled . We have heard too much nonsense and in Trump’s UN speech cruel and distorted words from our “leader of the free world.” But worse actions destructive of all that America helped build in the post WW II period not least addressing the global climate change in Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear deal that denies that country nuclear weapons. Sanders also addresses the many assistance programs to deal with our global challenges. We are, as Sander’s notes, indeed threatened by mostly by our own stupidity and greed and selfishness. Now we have some worlds of hope which we need to heed.

 

Below is the speech as prepared:

“Let me begin by thanking Westminster College, which year after year invites political leaders to discuss the important issue of foreign policy and America’s role in the world. I am honored to be here today and I thank you very much for the invitation.

One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.

So let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the President and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And he also reminded us that; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway….”

What Eisenhower said over 50 years ago is even more true today.

Foreign policy is about whether we continue to champion the values of freedom, democracy and justice, values which have been a beacon of hope for people throughout the world, or whether we support undemocratic, repressive regimes, which torture, jail and deny basic rights to their citizens.

What foreign policy also means is that if we are going to expound the virtues of democracy and justice abroad, and be taken seriously, we need to practice those values here at home. That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia here in the United States and making it clear that when people in America march on our streets as neo-nazis or white supremacists, we have no ambiguity in condemning everything they stand for. There are no two sides on that issue.

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little – and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community – with China, Russia, India and countries around the world – to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

My point is that we need to look at foreign policy as more than just the crisis of the day. That is important, but we need a more expansive view.

Almost 70 years ago, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on this stage and gave an historic address, known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, in which he framed a conception of world affairs that endured through the 20th century, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that speech, he defined his strategic concept as quote “nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands.”

“To give security to these countless homes,” he said, “they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny.”

How do we meet that challenge today? How do we fight for the “freedom and progress” that Churchill talked about in the year 2017? At a time of exploding technology and wealth, how do we move away from a world of war, terrorism and massive levels of poverty into a world of peace and economic security for all. How do we move toward a global community in which people have the decent jobs, food, clean water, education, health care and housing they need? These are, admittedly, not easy issues to deal with, but they are questions we cannot afford to ignore.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that the world of today is very, very different from the world of Winston Churchill of 1946. Back then we faced a superpower adversary with a huge standing army, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, with allies around the world, and with expansionist aims. Today the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Today we face threats of a different sort. We will never forget 9/11. We are cognizant of the terrible attacks that have taken place in capitals all over the world. We are more than aware of the brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups.

We also face the threat of these groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and preventing that must be a priority.

In recent years, we are increasingly confronted by the isolated dictatorship of North Korea, which is making rapid progress in nuclear weaponry and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yes, we face real and very serious threats to our security, which I will discuss, but they are very different than what we have seen in the past and our response must be equally different.

But before I talk about some of these other threats, let me say a few words about a very insidious challenge that undermines our ability to meet these other crises, and indeed could undermine our very way of life.

A great concern that I have today is that many in our country are losing faith in our common future and in our democratic values.

For far too many of our people, here in the United States and people all over the world, the promises of self-government — of government by the people, for the people, and of the people — have not been kept. And people are losing faith.

In the United States and other countries, a majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they used to. They see big money buying elections, and they see a political and economic elite growing wealthier, even as their own children’s future grows dimmer.

So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few – whether that few is Wall Street, the military industrial complex, or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.

Maybe it’s because I come from the small state of Vermont, a state that prides itself on town meetings and grassroots democracy, that I strongly agree with Winston Churchill when he stated his belief that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.”

In both Europe and the United States, the international order which the United States helped establish over the past 70 years, one which put great emphasis on democracy and human rights, and promoted greater trade and economic development, is under great strain. Many Europeans are questioning the value of the European Union. Many Americans are questioning the value of the United Nations, of the transatlantic alliance, and other multilateral organizations.

We also see a rise in authoritarianism and right wing extremism – both domestic and foreign — which further weakens this order by exploiting and amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and fanning ethnic and racial hatreds among those in our societies who are struggling.

We saw this anti-democratic effort take place in the 2016 election right here in the United States, where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths: The integrity of our elections, and our faith in our own democracy.

I found it incredible, by the way, that when the President of the United States spoke before the United Nations on Monday, he did not even mention that outrage.

Well, I will. Today I say to Mr. Putin: we will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.

When we talk about foreign policy it is clear that there are some who believe that the United States would be best served by withdrawing from the global community. I disagree. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.

We must offer people a vision that one day, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day in the future human beings on this planet will live in a world where international conflicts will be resolved peacefully, not by mass murder.

How tragic it is that today, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal poverty, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons of destruction.

I am not naïve or unmindful of history. Many of the conflicts that plague our world are longstanding and complex. But we must never lose our vision of a world in which, to quote the Prophet Isaiah, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create the UN, called it “our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security.”

It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now. But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don’t have to be ended because they never start.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas, and war.

Dialogue however cannot only be take place between foreign ministers or diplomats at the United Nations. It should be taking place between people throughout the world at the grassroots level.

I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980’s, when the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program which still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.

We should welcome young people from all over the world and all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.

Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television, or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans – and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.

These are just a few examples of American foreign policy and interventionism which proved to be counter-productive.

Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative which proved to be enormously successful in which not one bullet was fired — something that we must learn from.

Shortly after Churchill was right here in Westminster College, the United States developed an extremely radical foreign policy initiative called the Marshall Plan.

Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented.

After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies.

That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler’s dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.

Unfortunately, today we still have examples of the United States supporting policies that I believe will come back to haunt us. One is the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen.

While we rightly condemn Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter in Syria, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia’s destructive intervention in Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the region’s poorest countries. Such policies dramatically undermine America’s ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, and empowers authoritarian leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.

Let me say a word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.

First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: Climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention and resources.

The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already causing devastating harm throughout the world. Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly to address the climate crisis, this planet will see more drought, more floods — the recent devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are good examples — more extreme weather disturbances, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea levels, and, as a result of mass migrations, there will be more threats to global stability and security.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was not only incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.

The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable. American leadership — the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer — is hugely important for facilitating this cooperation.

Another challenge that we and the entire world face is growing wealth and income inequality, and the movement toward international oligarchy — a system in which a small number of billionaires and corporate interests have control over our economic life, our political life, and our media.

This movement toward oligarchy is not just an American issue. It is an international issue. Globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99% of the world’s population.

In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, thousands of children die every week in poor countries around the world from easily prevented diseases, and hundreds of millions live in incredible squalor.

Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

But economic inequality is not the only form of inequality that we must face. As we seek to renew America’s commitment to promote human rights and human dignity around the world we must be a living example here at home. We must reject the divisive attacks based on a person’s religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, country of origin, or class. And when we see demonstrations of neo naziism and white supremacism as we recently did in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must be unequivocal in our condemnation, as our president shamefully was not.

And as we saw here so clearly in St. Louis in the past week we need serious reforms in policing and the criminal justice system so that the life of every person is equally valued and protected. We cannot speak with the moral authority the world needs if we do not struggle to achieve the ideal we are holding out for others.

One of the places we have fallen short in upholding these ideas is in the war on terrorism. Here I want to be clear: terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well.

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges “seriousness” according to the willingness to use force. One of the key misapprehensions of this mindset is the idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not.

Yes, military force is sometimes necessary, but always — always — as the last resort. And blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing US deterrence, credibility and security in the process.

To illustrate this, I would contrast two recent US foreign policy initiatives: The Iraq war and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.

In addition to the many thousands killed, it created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.

The Iraq war, as I said before, had unintended consequences. It was intended as a demonstration of the extent of American power. It ended up demonstrating only its limits.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal advanced the security of the US and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure.

For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

That is real leadership. That is real power.

Just yesterday, the top general of US Strategic Command, General John Hyden, said “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for.” We now have a four-year record of Iran’s compliance, going back to the 2013 interim deal.

I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.

Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.

Another problem it would make harder is that of North Korea.

Let’s understand: North Korea is ruled by one of the worst regimes in the world. For many years, its leadership has sacrificed the well-being of its own people in order to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs in order to protect the Kim family’s regime. Their continued development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a growing threat to the US and our allies. Despite past efforts they have repeatedly shown their determination to move forward with these programs in defiance of virtually unanimous international opposition and condemnation.

As we saw with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, real US leadership is shown by our ability to develop consensus around shared problems, and mobilize that consensus toward a solution. That is the model we should be pursuing with North Korea.

As we did with Iran, if North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together.

An approach that really uses all the tools of our power — political, economic, civil society — to encourage other states to adopt more inclusive governance will ultimately make us safer.

Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It’s worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid.

Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.

US foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.

Here is the bottom line: In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with “all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands,” as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago.

In my view, every person on this planet shares a common humanity. We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace. That’s what being human is about.

Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”

My friends, let us go forward and build that tomorrow.

We welcome your comments (see box below or comment indicator.)

TRUMP’S DISASTER AT THE UNITED NATIONS: NEVER A MORE THREATENING SPEECH

By

Harry C. Blaney III

If necessary “we will have no choice but totally destroy North Korea.” Donald Trump at the UNGA

I am ashamed as an American citizen of the speech that Donald trump made to the UN on Tuesday. It was threatening, it was contradictory, rude, and it insulted the whole purpose of the United Nations and the common goal of seeking peace and human rights.

It showed America as a selfish, ignorant, and offensive nation rather than the “the leader of the free world.” Trump diminished our nation and did NOT make our nation greater.

The threat by Donald Trump that he would “totally destroy North Korea” was one of the most stupid and dangerous statements ever to emulate from an American Preside not just at the UN General Assembly but ever. It was filled with public unnecessary threats, indifference to others, even advocating for others the narrow nationalistic and isolationist policies he thinks works for him to others as if that kind of stance would make our world more safe and prosperous. It makes our world clearly less safe and more dangerous as the US urges other to be selfish and nationalistic as their only main concern. It does not get them to act in the larger interest.

The UN Trump speech was the largest verbal disaster I have ever known in my many decades as a professional in foreign affairs. His words makes America appear selfish, nationalistic, and to be feared. It was through and through disingenuous on many levels.

Further it was hypocritical as well, with its many contradictions. Like supporting human rights when we (Trump) supports the likes of brutal dictators in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Poland, Philippines, etc. All along never saying what is happening in Russia or what they did in Ukraine and Syria. Russian actions undermining democracy and unity in America and Europe yet were only vaguely alluded to. His moves to leave the Iran deal and the Paris climate change accord show even more his indifference to our global threats. Selfishness has not been a core American value and contrary to our values is inciting others to be equally selfish and self-centered. This ends only in war, conflict and “beggar my neighbor “ policies worldwide. It encourages genocide, it promotes authoritarian nationalism which is dangerous to our nation and other democracies.

It was for me the a sad moment seeing a person, our so-called president, undemanding all of our values, traditions, insulting the sacrifices of Americans who died to protect our nation and freedom worldwide. It was an insult to our constitution’s proclamation on universal equality liberty, and human rights.

One of the strange revelations is the very weak even often apologetic reviews the Trump UN speech has received from much of the mainline press, including op-eds, and editorials. There are exceptions, but one of the strangest is that of David Ignatius of the Washington Post entitled “A Welcome Flirtation with the U.N.” that almost was overflowing with his praise of the speech for its so called more moderate tone and the fluffy and empty and contradictory platitudes that it contained. He did helpfully cite some contradictions in the talk. He however downplayed the Trump threats and the stupid North Korea nuclear “war play” with language that did not help American goals. Did it help to call Kim “Rocket Man” when one day we may need to sit down together to save off catastrophe?

Trump was like a bully on the playing field trying to intimidate his opponent, in this case Kim Jong Un, to react with a crazy attack to perhaps justify war with the NK? There is little doubt in my mind that he was sassing on Kim without concern for the outcome and to further undermine ideas of a diplomatic solution. (I hope I am wrong and thought his words would help make a “deal.”) The result was predictable with Kim and his people sassing him back saying Trump was a dog barking.

The larger problem was neither Trump nor Kim seem able to pay the cooperative diplomatic game of mutual “win-win,” but with the daily cry in NK that America will attack is reinforced now by Trump’s “totally destroy North Korea.” We now can only hope both will see the self-destruction cliff before them embodied in their words and threats. I have never in over four decades of foreign policy work and following presidential speeches and helping to shape some, such crude and foolish words uttered by a president. Already there is some effort by the concerned nations to try to walk back this confrontational stances by both sides.

The contrast finally was the tone of such leaders as French president Macron who did not talk of nationalism but of global cooperation and integration to address the worlds ills. We have a very serious problem of many high risks and we need not add to them but solve them and this speech only set that goal back.

We welcome your comments!!

THE REAL TRAGEDY OF HARVEY AND OUR NATION.

By
Harry C. Blaney III
 
The people of Texas deserve to have the full support of the federal and State and local governments in a time of unmitigated disaster. If only their president had not proposed cutting disaster assistance, striped federal experts assessments on the impact of climate change and taken down EPA and NOAA data on climate change from their web sites and put in charge of EPA and Energy agencies those that at war with science and truth. Sad also that the Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been a disaster as a governor denying essentially climate change and not prepared his state for its likely impact and supported a candidate for president who cares not a wit for those most in need and denies climate change.
 
Trump should be ashamed (he is likely beyond that emotion) of his actions in gutting all the programs that he now needs to help Texas and Louisiana recover from this ununprecedented catastrophe. How will he pay for recovery which will take perhaps a trillion federal dollars? Will it be from cutting programs for the middle class and poor, or increasing as he should taxes on the extraordinarily rich and the many loopholes for the very rich? Or will it be cutting the trillion dollars proposed for new nuclear weapons our nation does not need? This will be decided when the Congress comes back in September. Watch them closely!
 
Texas is and will be a “disaster” for itself due to its blind politics of science denial and indifference, but the “least among us” do not deserve to be in danger or lost without help. Not all local governments were in fact for the polices of the State run by a GOP right-wing Governor. Houston is run by a Democratic Mayor who clearly is overwhelmed but fully engaged and caring. Trump on the other hand could is directly responsible for what we see, not least by proposing to cut funds in 2018 for FEMA the key agency for the federal response to catastrophes.
 
As with much of our other major challenges, this “un-natural act” and its impact on our citizens needs compassion and wise heads that truly understand how dire are the risks to our nation and the world of ignorance, and indifference to human needs. Our people have rallied to Harvey’s destruction and affected people, but only the federal government has the resources to make whole the tragedy of this situation. The test will be in two-three years from now if the feds will still be in “full court press” to help recovery?
 
At this dark time I think of the great Italian poet Dante’s images in his epic “Divine Comedy,” for him the bottom of Hell was a very cold place, not hot, for the coldness of the heart’s of those doing truly evil and traitors to their Lords…as it seems Trump is to our Constitution, laws and values and to those most in need.
We welcome your comments!!!