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Allan Nairn: By Recognizing Jerusalem as Capital of Israel, Trump Drops “Pretense of Neutrality”

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At the United Nations last week, over 120 countries defied President Trump by voting in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted against the United States. Now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is claiming the U.S. helped push the United Nations to cut its budget for the upcoming year by $285 million. We get response from Allan Nairn, award-winning investigative journalist, and also examine how Trump has ratcheted up military responses to threats from North Korea.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re spending the hour with award-winning journalist Allan Nairn, just back from Honduras. At the United Nations last week, 128 countries defied President Trump by voting in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The final vote, 128 to 9, 35 nations abstained, 21 did not cast a vote. The eight countries voting with the U.S. were Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted against the United States. On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, reiterated Trump’s threat after the vote.

NIKKI HALEY: America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do. And it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N. And this vote will be remembered.

AMY GOODMAN: In response to the U.N. vote, Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi praised the international community for standing up to the United States.

HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, I’m extremely encouraged that the vast majority of the states, of the members of the United Nations General Assembly did not succumb to American threats and blackmail, and did not accept the Israeli insults being hurled at them, and they stood up for justice and for the rule of law and for what is right.

AMY GOODMAN: Former CIA Director John Brennan responded to the vote, posting a message on his new Twitter account, tweeting, “Trump Admin threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in UN to oppose US position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows @realDonaldTrump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats,” the former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted.

Well, as we begin our look back at 2017, we continue our discussion with Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist.

Allan, your response to what happened at the United Nations General Assembly, this overwhelming defiant vote against the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, you watching this from Honduras?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, first, just in terms of what Brennan said, it’s kind of rich for Brennan, the former CIA chief, to be talking about Trump violating sovereignty, because when Brennan was running the CIA and, prior to that, when he was a senior CIA officer in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, he was backing the violation of sovereignty with drone assassinations. Trump has just added the extra element of being open about the fact that the U.S. feels entitled to attack any country. But that’s a long-standing bipartisan policy, and Brennan helped to implement it for years. In a sense, he and the other old CIA and Pentagon men are now upset that Trump is blowing the cover and revealing the face of the U.S. to be as crude and ruthless as it actually—as it actually is.

In terms of the Jerusalem vote, the resolution was not as strong as the previous resolutions. And Trump apparently did succeed in frightening a few countries. The numbers who abstained increased, to a certain extent. But Trump is just openly throwing in his lot with Israel. He’s revealing what was always there, and he’s talking about it—the U.S. claim to be an honest broker between Israel and Palestine for decades, farcically supporting a peace process that was institutionalizing the Israeli occupation and an intensification of military brutality against the Palestinians. And now Trump is just being more open about it. There’s a new book coming out from Norman Finkelstein where he documents meticulously the attacks that Israel has been waging specifically against Gaza and how these constitute prosecutable war crimes. And those attacks took place under Democrats, under Republicans. And Trump is just dropping the pretense of neutrality now.

AMY GOODMAN: And at the same time, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, claiming the U.S. helped push the United Nations to cut its budget for the upcoming year by $285 million, Haley’s statement Sunday coming only days after Trump himself threatened to cut off funding to countries if they vote against the United States on the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And, of course, despite the threats, U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly against the U.S.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, yeah, this is part of a broader shift in the U.S. policy, that—this is an innovation by Trump. Much of the rightist revolution that’s being implemented in Washington now, with the unprecedented transfer of wealth to the richest, the attack on the environment, on labor unions, on the poorest people, that would have happened under any Republican president, because during the Obama years the Republican Party became a radical revolutionary organization. But Trump does add certain unique elements. One of them is being open in his racism, being open in his embrace of the fascist idea of mob violence as a tool of politics, a unique ability to incite hatred and violence among regular people at the grassroots—so you see all these stories of schoolchildren being attacked, as, you know, the other kids are yelling “Trump! Trump!” as they’re beating kids who are not white or maybe who they see as Muslim or foreign—and also in encouraging and inciting that kind of behavior among uniformed and armed people—in the armed forces, in the local police across the country, in ICE.

But, on the world foreign policy level, what Trump, carrying out the agenda of a narrow faction of the Republican Party, is doing is basically trying to eliminate any institutions other than U.S. arms, make the Pentagon the sole tool of rule. So you strip away the State Department. You strip away the United Nations. And all that’s left is the Pentagon and the CIA, with their covert violence, and then, in a supporting role, U.S. allies like the European governments, who, with his NATO policy, Trump is pushing to increase their military budgets. It’s an approach that has upset a lot of the old-establishment foreign policy types, because they recognized that diplomacy, that talk, that pretense, that hypocrisy can be very effective tools of power. But the Trump innovation is to say, “No, screw all that stuff. We’re going with straight violence, and we’re going with covert violence. And any other approach, especially those taken by groups like the U.N., which not only represent, A, diplomacy, but, B, to a certain extent, the will of countries other than the United States and the will of the vast majority of the world’s population, those have to be pushed aside.” So, they actually would like to, if they could, dismantle the U.N.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talking about the U.S. policy, putting so much into the Pentagon and also gutting the State Department, do you think there’s a real rift between President Trump and Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of the largest oil corporation in the world, ExxonMobil, who reportedly will be leaving soon? And the word is, the rumors are, though many don’t feel this will happen, that the CIA director, Pompeo, will replace him as secretary of state. But one of the things he’s been doing, that he would be in complete accord with Trump, is absolutely gutting the State Department.

ALLAN NAIRN: There seems to be some kind of rift. Who knows? But it—in Pompeo, you have someone who is more in accord with Trump’s approach. Pompeo is kind of another General Flynn. Flynn, who was briefly national security adviser, made his name working under General McChrystal, out of Iraq and also with similar operations in Afghanistan, where they did what they referred to as “manhunter” missions, assassination missions, where they would go into homes in the middle of the night killing people with complete unity, with absolutely no fear of arrest or prosecution under local law or international law. Pompeo is an extension of that approach. This summer, he joked, while speaking at the Aspen Institute, about the past U.S. operations in Central and South America, which consisted of the support of death squads and military coups. And he seemed to be suggesting that he was in the midst of trying to put together some kind of operation in coordination with Mexico and Colombia to target the government of Venezuela. So, Pompeo, stylistically, would be more in accord with Trump. But Tillerson completely agrees with Trump’s project of gutting the State Department and massively increasing the role and the firepower of the Pentagon and the CIA.

AMY GOODMAN: And Pompeo, whether or not he is named secretary of state, he is the CIA director and, reportedly, almost every day is with the president at the White House briefing him, has become very close to him.

ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. And one aspect of the—another aspect of the Trump policy is a lifting of the previous restraints on things like U.S. torture, U.S. killing of civilians in bombing runs, U.S. raids on civilian homes on the thinnest of pretense. Under Obama, the U.S. was killing thousands of civilians, through drone attacks, etc., but there were some limits on who you could target and when. Those limits were the result of decades of lobbying by human rights and peace advocates. Trump has essentially stripped them away. During the last election, a number of people on the left were essentially sold a bill of goods on the idea that Trump would somehow be less warlike than the old establishment represented by Clinton, less aggressive, more, some claimed, isolationist. I mean, that was ridiculous on its face at the time, and as has been proven out on every front. Trump has increased the deployment of U.S. troops, of CIA covert operatives. He has taken away the minimal restraints that existed on bombing and kidnapping.

And in the case of North Korea, he’s even now, reportedly, flirting with what for years was considered an insane, catastrophic approach, which is a military attack on North Korea. It was reported in the British press a few days ago that at the White House they’re contemplating what they call the “bloody nose option,” which would be bombing attacks on some North Korean—things like North Korean missile launch sites, on the theory that they could get away with it, since Kim of North Korea would be afraid to retaliate by wiping out Seoul in South Korea, because they would then fear a U.S. nuclear holocaust for all of North Korea. Now, for years, this was—this kind of thinking was completely rejected by all elements within the U.S. security establishment and by Democrats and Republicans in Congress. But now, under Trump and under General McMaster, who is sometimes touted as a moderate, it’s back on the table again.

So, you know, the idea that Trump would be less militant was insane from the start. And he’s proving that blood is the tool. That’s how he wants to reach out to the world.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then talk about the tax bill that was just passed, and also talk about the movements that are resisting in this country. We’re talking to the award-winning journalist Allan Nairn, just back from Honduras. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” by Zeshan B, performing here in our Democracy Now! studios in this end-of-the-year review. Every day this week, we’ll be broadcasting musicians who have performed in our studio.

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2017 in Review: Allan Nairn on Trump’s “Rightist Revolution” & the Social Movements Pushing Back

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