Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Yesterday was International Day For The Total Elimination Of Nuclear Weapons.  No, I am not making this up and yes, I am serious.

Following the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament held at the United Nations on 26 September 2013, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/68/32 calling for “the urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction.”

Resolution 68/32 also declares 26 September “as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons devoted to furthering this objective, including through enhancing public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world”.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I am against any and all sorts of weapons.  I would happily see guns removed from the hands of all civilians.  I consider the invention of nuclear weapons to be the single worst invention of humankind.  So, my ears perked when I saw the title of this day, but then my brain kicked in and I wanted to say, “Quit talking about it, stop patting yourselves on the back for creating an “International Day”, and just DO SOMETHING about it!!!”  But, of course, that is easier said than done, for it requires leaders of nations to set aside their fears and join together for the sake of all life on Planet Earth.

From the United Nations website

Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations. It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, which established the Atomic Energy Commission (dissolved in 1952), with a mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The United Nations has been at the forefront of many major diplomatic efforts to advance nuclear disarmament since. In 1959, the General Assembly endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament. In 1978, the first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament further recognized that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective in the field of disarmament. Every United Nations Secretary-General has actively promoted this goal.

Okay, so they’ve been at it for 76 years and today there are still approximately 12,705 nuclear weapons and …

While the number of deployed nuclear weapons has appreciably declined since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are currently underway.

Let me tell you a little story that some of you may remember …

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, then Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Force made a decision that prevented a nuclear war between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States.

The USSR’s satellite missile detection system issued the alarm that the United States had launched five nuclear missiles into the territory of the USSR. The alert required an immediate response. The USSR had only a few minutes to decide whether to launch nuclear missiles at the United States in retaliation or to wait and risk devastating damage. This decision was in the hands of Petrov who noticed that the conventional radar system did not detect any nuclear missile and chose to break the military protocol. Despite opposition from its command team, Petrov ignored the alert of the new missile detection system of the USSR. He disobeyed the chain of command and preferred not to respond to the alleged attack.

The supposed launching of the North American missiles turned out to be a false alarm, it was an error of the USSR missile detection system. Had the USSR responded to the alleged attack, the United States, in turn, might have launched a nuclear strike in retaliation, provoking an untold number of deaths and major disasters. Petrov’s decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike saved hundreds of millions of lives around the world.

That time, a cooler head prevailed and a catastrophe of great magnitude was averted, but what about next time?

While I applaud the intent for this international day, I would cheer if progress were being made, but it seems to me that it is more talk than anything.  With escalating tensions around the globe today, I believe it is only a matter of time before somebody gets trigger-happy, or an accident happens that will change the landscape of all nations forever.  The road to peace, if such a road exists, will be paved with tolerance, understanding, and compassion … not with nuclear weapons!

Chilled Yet???

Back in February, Russia’s dictator aka ‘President’ Vladimir Putin apparently thought he could launch an attack on neighboring Ukraine and that the Ukrainians were so weak or so stupid that they would simply lie down and turn over their country to him.  Well, he had another think coming!  Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stood firm and the Ukrainian people basically gave Putin the middle finger.  Despite their losses, they continue to stand firm today and with only help in military hardware resources, not human resources, from other nations, Ukraine has made Putin’s life significantly harder, has turned the tides just a bit.  Where Putin expected an easy victory 7 months ago, he is now facing the very real possibility of defeat.

However, if you thought Putin would back off, leave well enough alone and go home to lick his wounds, you’ll need to rethink that.  For starters, he has mobilized some 300,000 ‘military reservists’.  If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 65 years of age, you are now forbidden to leave the country.  Most other people are trying their best to get the hell out, and all flights out of Russia are filled to capacity through at least Friday.

Given that most Russians are not in favour of the war against Ukraine … most have family members living in Ukraine … there have been anti-war protests in a number of cities across Russia.  Just in the last few days, over 1,200 such protestors were arrested for no crime more serious than simply disagreeing with Putin’s goal of destroying another nation.

Last night, Putin gave a rare address to his nation … although it seemed to be intended for others, such as leaders of western nations.  In his speech, he warned that …

“NATO is conducting reconnaissance across the south of Russia. Washington, London and Brussels are directly pushing Kyiv to move military action to our country. They are openly saying that Russia should be defeated on the battlefield by any means.

Nuclear blackmail has also been used. We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – encouraged by the West – which threatens to cause a nuclear catastrophe but also about statements from senior representatives of NATO countries about the possibility and permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia: nuclear weapons.

I would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also possesses various means of destruction, and in some cases, they are more modern than those of NATO countries. When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.

This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”

Foolish talk?  Sure.  But a cornered rat is a dangerous creature.  Vladimir Putin is a calculating madman who would see the world destroyed rather than admit he lost (does that remind you of anyone closer to home?)  U.S. President Biden responded while giving a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last night …

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and [Ukrainians’] right to exist as a people. Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold.

The United States wants this war to end on just terms, on terms we’re all signed up for – that you cannot seize a nation’s territory by force. The only country standing in the way of that is Russia. But no one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict.”

Most of you are old enough to remember the Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. that began in 1947 and did not end until 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.  I well remember air raid drills in school when we were made to crouch under our desks and put our hands over our heads … as if that was actually going to protect us in the event of a nuclear bomb!  Frankly, I never want to return to those days, but … it damn sure sounds to me as if that is where we are heading.  In the words of Roger Cohen, a New York Times bureau chief who has observed international affairs for more than 30 years …

“Perhaps not since the Cuban missile crisis six decades ago have American and Russian leaders confronted each other so explicitly and sharply on the danger of nuclear war.”

What is the solution?  IS there a solution?  Wiser heads than mine will have to answer that question.  Let us hope there are some who can.

A Day Late

On October 26th, 1966, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 2142 (XXI), proclaiming March 21st as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966 which signifies the struggle to end the policy of apartheid in South Africa, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

unesco-1I am late with this post, for yesterday was March 21st, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a day late, for every day should be a day for eliminating racial discrimination.  Recent events here in the U.S. – the brutal murder of George Floyd and countless others by police, and more recently the hate crimes against Asian-Americans – have shown us that we have much to do to end racism.

While it is crucial to end racial prejudice in public agencies such as police, social services, and even at the highest levels of government, the problem starts on a more basic level – with us.  We haven’t been listening for the past 50, 100 years.  Oh sure … we protested in Civil Rights marches in the 1960s, and that led to laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and more, but then we clapped our hands, dusted off our knees, went home and said, “Well done!” and moved on without a backward glance.  And now look … 43 states are busily writing laws that would invalidate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot speak for other countries, but I do know that racism is alive and well today around the globe, more than it was, say, two decades ago.  In part, this is as a result of a surge in migration due to the Arab Spring, nations were unprepared, and it has led to a new level of racial discrimination around the globe.  But more specifically here in the U.S., I have not seen this much blatant racism in the past 50 years.  But it’s been there all along.  Our Black friends knew it, for they lived it.  They tried to tell us, but we weren’t listening.  And now, the racism has spread to Asian-Americans, largely as a result of public figures blaming China for the coronavirus, calling it “China flu” and worse.  Since 11 September 2001, there has been an expansion of racism here against people from Middle Eastern countries … even though the attacks on that day were carried out by only 19 people and directed by one man, not the entire Muslim world.

I don’t have answers to the question of how we end this, but I do know that each one of us has got to look inside ourselves and understand that we are not superior in any way to anybody else … not Blacks, not Muslims, not Asians, not LGBT people … NOBODY!

Here is the text of President Joe Biden’s statement released yesterday (I may be a day late, but Joe was on time!):

One of the core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans is standing against hate and racism, even as we acknowledge that systemic racism and white supremacy are ugly poisons that have long plagued the United States. We must change the laws that enable discrimination in our country, and we must change our hearts.

Racism, xenophobia, nativism, and other forms of intolerance are not problems unique to the United States. They are global problems. They are human problems that we all need to recognize, name, and dismantle. Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, all nations and people should recommit to the fundamental truth that every human being has inherent dignity and deserves to be treated with fairness. We must recognize the ways that racism, gender discrimination, and other forms of marginalization intersect with and compound one another. And, we must all strive to eliminate inequities in our policies, remove barriers to full participation in our societies, and push for open and inclusive processes that respect all people everywhere.

Under my Administration, the United States will lead the conversation on these painful issues—at home, in international institutions, and around the world. That is why, on my first day in office, I signed an Order establishing a whole of government approach to equity and racial justice. We will not shy away from engaging in the hard work to take on the damaging legacy of slavery and our treatment of Native Americans, or from doing the daily work of addressing systemic racism and violence against Black, Native, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color. Neither will we fail to speak out against the horrific mistreatment of the Rohingya in Burma, the Uyghurs in China, or any racial discrimination we see in the world.

Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It should have no safe harbor anywhere in the world. We must join together to make it stop.

And The World Laughed …

From the time I was born in 1951 until present, I see today as perhaps the darkest hour in the United States.   We should … every one of us … hang our heads in shame that we not only elected Donald Trump, but that he is allowed to remain in office and has the support of some 35% – 40% of the people.  Today, he took this nation down what is certain to be a very perilous path, a path apart from our allies, a path lined with brambles and briars.

This morning, Donald Trump stood before the United Nations General Assembly and started with …

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America is so thrilled.”

The entire General Assembly broke into laughter.

We, my friends, for the first time in the history of this country, are the laughingstock of the entire globe.  Do you want to hear the ultimate irony, though?  In 2014, read what Trump tweeted:Trump-tweet-laughingstockSay WHAT???  

But in addition to being pompous, Trump made it clear that he does not intend the U.S. to participate in the initiatives of the U.N. and that the U.S. would not support the U.N. Global Compact on migration.  A few pertinent snippets from his speech:

  • “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism and accept the ideology of patriotism.”
  • “… America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, and I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live, work, or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”
  • “… we will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred. America will never apologize for protecting its citizens. The United States has just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese made goods. The total so far of $250 billion.”
  • “… the United States will provide no support and recognition for the International Criminal Court. As far as we are concerned the ICC has no legitimacy or authority. The ICC claims near universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process.” (Note: he is so very wrong, and I will be doing a separate post about this issue at some point in the future)

Well, you get the general idea.  Trump alone will decide what’s good for America and let everyone else be damned.  And what Trump has decided is good for us is to be isolated completely from the rest of the world, to have no allies, only a bombastic, hot-headed, ignorant and dishonest leader.

In 1941, the combination of the Great Depression and the memory of tragic losses in World War I contributed to pushing American public opinion and policy toward isolationism. U.S. citizens did not wish our nation to become embroiled in the war that was taking place on the other side of the world.  People in this country wore blinders, thinking that if we just didn’t take sides, stayed home and minded our own business, all would be well here in the U.S.  After all, it wasn’t our problem, right?  And then came 07 December 1941, and it very quickly became our problem when Japanese planes attacked our military base on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

You can wear your blinders, put in your earplugs and ignore the neighbor’s fight … until a bullet comes through your wall and strikes one of your children.  But we live in communities, and whether we like it or not, we are a part of the community we live in.  What happens in that community affects us.  That is the small scale, but the same concept holds true on a much larger scale.

Donald Trump and others, particularly within the Republican Party, have convinced a large portion of the people in this nation that ‘globalization’ is a bad thing, and that it is something we have a choice to participate in … or not.  All of which is a lie.  We live, like it or not, in a world that is increasingly shrinking due to technology.  The Internet has made instantaneous communication possible.  Air travel has made it possible to go from New York to Paris in approximately seven hours instead of the days it used to take by ship.  International trade promotes global economic growth; creates jobs, makes companies more competitive, and lowers prices for consumers.  And nuclear weapons have made the world a very dangerous place.

Certainly, there are downsides to globalization, BUT … it isn’t an option!  Trump appears to see his “America First” policy, which would more aptly be called “America Only”, as a viable option that he has a choice about, but he takes us down a perilous path.  When Trump took office on 20 January 2017, the United States had allies, and we engaged in global cooperation.  It is a process of give-and-take … sometimes you give more than you receive, other times the opposite is true.  In the long run, it balances out, and most importantly, you have allies that you can count on to come to your defense, as you will do theirs, in times of trouble.

In under two years, Trump has destroyed those alliances.  He has denigrated the leaders of our closest allies, Canada & Mexico, has insulted UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and also the leaders of most every nation in the EU, most especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  If Iran declared war on us tomorrow, I’m not sure that any of those nations would be eager to come to our aid.  They would, because they have committed to do so, but not gladly, as they once would have.  We are on a very perilous path, and we are on it alone, for the rest of the developed world is laughing from afar.  I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I see a very dark future if this ‘man’ is not reigned in very soon.  Please, folks, vote the boot-lickers out in November and let’s put some people with brains and consciences back into Congress next year.  Let us stop earning the title, Laughingstock of the Planet Earth.Laughing-earth

No Laughing Matter …

The politics and inter-relationships of the Middle East are perhaps more complex than any other on the globe.  I have studied this area extensively for the past ten years, yet I do not claim to fully understand. What I can tell you, however, is that the Middle East has long been a powder keg, and is no less so today.  In fact, thanks to one Donald Trump, the turmoil in the Middle East is at an all time high.  Donald Trump does not, cannot possibly, understand Middle East politics and he does not appear to understand what he has caused.

jerusalen-2Trump, the ‘man’ who said on the campaign trail regarding numerous issues, “only I can fix this”, made a fateful decision on 6 December to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. With that one announcement, he made the United States look like fools in the eyes of the world, set off a wave of violence in the Middle East, and forfeited any hopes of a U.S.-brokered peace between Israel and Palestine. And still he has no idea what he has done, is seeing himself as the victim of the backlash that was inevitable in the face of his announcement.

He made this decision with the assistance of Vice-President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Not a single one of these four people have so much as a semester’s education in the history or politics of the Middle East.  Donald Trump is a former real estate developer and television sit-com actor. Mike Pence is the former governour of Indiana. Jared Kushner is a former newspaper man. Nikki Haley is the former governour of South Carolina.  The people who do have at least some experience in the situation in the Middle East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and their career staff recommended against the move. Trump chose, instead, to listen to newbies with no idea the havoc they were wreaking.

The results were swift and ongoing.  Our European allies sharply criticized the move.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any U.S. role in peace talks going forward. Christian minorities in Egypt rejected a meeting request by Vice President Mike Pence. Palestinian Christians are also organizing boycotts of Pence. In the words of Hady Amr and Arsalan Suleman, writing for Brookings Institute, “all indications are that the president focused narrowly on his political agenda instead of safeguarding U.S. national security interests.”

Trump criticized Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for promising and then failing to deliver on the promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but both of those former presidents were smart enough to study the situation and listen to their advisors before determining that the consequences would be harmful to both U.S. national security interests and harmful to Israel itself. Trump, unfortunately, has no such intelligence.

But wait … now it gets even worse.  Fast forward, if you will, to yesterday when, in an emergency session, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 128 members voted on Thursday in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal. Only nine nations voted against the resolution: the U.S., Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala, Honduras and Israel.  Thirty-five countries abstained and twenty-one were absent.

Donald Trump, who of course must always be right, and who is a professional bully, threatened to withhold U.S. aid from any country that supported the resolution.  Nikki Haley said that the U.S. would make note and remember any nations that “disrespected” America by voting for the resolution.  Think about this one, friends.  Trump goes against all intelligent advice to interfere where he had no business, then threatens … yes threatens … our allies for voting in favour of a common sense measure to attempt to fix what Trump broke.  Donald Trump has, not for the first time, offended our allies and further isolated the United States, not to mention making us the object of worldwide scorn and derision.

This move by Trump has cast a long shadow over our relations with our allies. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu declared that …

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future. I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”

Guess again, Ben. Mexico, Canada, the UK and the EU Commission have all announced that they will not be moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

The United States passed through the ‘laughingstock of the world’ stage some time ago and is now racing toward the ‘most hated nation in the world’ stage.  All, for the most part, because of one ‘man’, one narcissistic fool who thinks his uneducated opinion is the only one that matters.  We must soon find our way to removing this ‘man’ from the White House, for he is jeopardizing not only our own security and future, but also that of the rest of the globe.  Nobody has that right, and the arrogance of the United States is in the spotlight now more than ever. The U.S. stopped being the “leader of the free world” on the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated. We are coming close to being ‘non grata’ around the globe.  For my part, I am once again ashamed of my country.