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Trump on Sovereignty: “Make Their Countries Great Again”

Trump outlines his definition of sovereignty to the UNGA: nations who support American interests.

US President Donald Trump arrives at the UNGA (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas).

In proclaiming nationalism and sovereignty to be virtues of a democratic republic, Trump reveals what it means for a country to be ‘great’ and who in his eyes gets to be sovereign. He applauds Poland, Israel, and Saudi Arabia while speaking ill of Germany, Venezuela, and Iran.

At the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Donald Trump opened his speech with shameless bragging about the ‘accomplishments’ of his administration. However, his claim that the Trump “administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country” was met with a burst of laughter, to which he replied, while also laughing, “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.”

In a speech drenched in patriotic rhetoric about the sovereignty of countries and of loyalty to one’s ‘homeland,’ the President of the United States chuckled with everyone who thought the ‘accomplishments’ of his administration were laughable. And they are; as Trump cherishes national sovereignty and independence, one can’t help seeing the vast shroud of hypocrisy and contradiction that surround his interventionist and nationalist policies.

But America always supports autodétermination and justice, right?

Diverging from his jaw-dropping threats against “rocket man” Kim Jong-un during his speech at the GA last year, Trump boasted of America’s ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea in 2018. Despite the hopeful, yet justifiably suspect de-escalation strides on the Korean peninsula, Trump promised the Member States that the U.S. will only lift its crushing sanctions on North Korea’s economy when the nation has fully dismantled its nuclear capabilities.

In other words, North Korea will endure economic warfare waged by the U.S., a devastating attack on its sovereignty that directly contributes to the nation’s crippling poverty, because Kim Jong-un will not give up the nuclear weapons that he vows to use only as a defensive military strategy. Where are the sanctions on the U.S., the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, for their thousands of fully capable nuclear warheads?

Moving on to the Middle East, Trump praised Saudi Arabia’s alleged advances in counterterrorism strategy. He also thanked the Saudis, Qataris, and Emirates for providing aid to those suffering in Syria and Yemen, and working to end the Yemeni civil war. His praise came with full knowledge that the U.S.’s Sunni allies have breached the sovereignty of the Assad regime by heavily arming and funding the terrorist opposition forces that have prolonged the war in Syria; the U.S. also funded extremist groups in Syria since 2011 and more recently vowed to protect al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups controlling Idlib from government invasion. In Yemen, the U.S. backs the Saudis and Emirates as they engage in a near-genocidal airstrike campaign and naval blockade. So much for upholding the sovereignty of nations regardless of how their people worship.

As expected, Trump took aim at Iran. He declared that “Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and disruption. They do not respect their neighbors, borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, they plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.” The president went on, “The dictatorship used the funds [from the lifted sanctions of the Iran Deal] to build nuclear capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.”

Lie #1 comes, once again, in the field of nuclear weapons. Contrary to Trump and the corporate media’s claims, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and does not intend to craft one. The IAEA, which has unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities in comparison to other members, and even the U.S. government have affirmed this fact. The Iran Deal, Trump’s scrapping of which caused an international outcry, was largely putting a cherry on top of an already highly surveilled Iranian nuclear program. What it did achieve was the much-needed restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran. Yet without providing evidence, Trump continued his lies in an anti-Iranian, Cold War containment-esque tirade about Iranian imperialism and a non-existent nuclear weapons program. He vowed to impose more sanctions on the country.

Lie #2 concerns Yemen. There is no sufficient evidence to suggest that the Houthis are Iranian proxies, a narrative adopted by the media that legitimates the Saudi-Emirate-led, U.S.-UK-backed coalition’s goal of containing Iranian influence on the Arabian peninsula. The very idea that the U.S. must participate in proxy wars against Iran demonstrates a violation of the sovereignty of the nations caught in the crossfire. America’s direct involvement in the 1953 coup that installed the rule of the autocratic Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi informs the Western framing of Iran as the official Bogeyman of the world. Evidently, for Trump and his predecessors the sovereignty of Iran is somewhat less sovereign than that of America.

Trump made sure to mention the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a contentious decision to further legitimize Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. The U.S. is Israel’s closest ally and largest funder, directly implicating it in the government’s slaughter of Gazans (men, women, and children) this Summer during the Great March of Return, when protestors sought to peacefully breach the “border” between Israel and the suffocated Gaza Strip.

The English-backed Zionist project established Israel through an imperialist campaign based on an ideology of founding a white ethnostate. Millions of Palestinians were killed or displaced in the process and only those who support the illegal occupation of Palestine can legitimize the “border” between Israel and Gaza as anything more than a fence around largest concentration camp in the world. The Palestine-Israel conflict is a fight over the right to land, livelihood, and the human dignity of the Palestinian people. America has chosen the side of Israel and ripped up human rights law and the sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the process.

Trump also turned his attention to Latin America, underlining his cooperation with countries “to confront threats to sovereignty from uncontrolled migration.” Trump echoed his racist attacks on Latino immigrants, spouting that “[i]llegal immigration funds criminal networks, ruthless gangs and the flow of deadly drugs.” His characterization of Latino migrants as threats to national security is both a lie and whitewashes America’s role in destabilizing Central America in the 20th and early 21st centuries, leading thousands of people to make the dangerous trip through cartel-controlled regions to seek asylum in the United States– only to be ripped from loved ones and thrust into the dangerous immigrant detention system across the country. Trump hoots and hollers for a sovereign U.S., free of Spanish-speaking pests, while erasing the American hand in tainting sovereignty throughout Latin America.

Trump announced additional sanctions on Venezuela, despite UN officials noting the destructive effects of sanctions on the nation’s deteriorating economy, questioning the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist administration. Trump proclaimed, “Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption, and decay.” The debunked illegitimacy of the Venezuelan elections doesn’t stop Trump and the corporate media from reproducing the whitewashed narrative of Venezuela as a naturally failing socialist state. Whether or not elections are legitimate doesn’t seem to have bearing on the imperialist mindset of Donald Trump, who only sees sovereignty on a scale of how friendly nations are to the United States.

Trump wants to solve the migration crises by “[helping] people build more hopeful futures in their home countries,” by “[making] their countries great again.” If making countries great again means deporting Central American gang members who take advantage of the destabilized infrastructure the U.S. helped to destroy in their home countries, or putting more sanctions on states with people who already suffer unimaginable hardships, perhaps we should throw the orange president’s conception of sovereignty in the trash.

Although Trump contradicted himself by upholding sovereignty and interventionism at the same time, the fact that his claims are contradictory isn’t the problem. For nationalism in itself leads to violence and oppression, and the exemplar of these virtues and what Trump means when he says “great” is Poland, a country he praised multiple times in the speech.

He stated in a list of countries he commended, which included Israel and Saudi Arabia, that “in Poland, a great people are standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.” This is seemingly one of the few cases in which he praises a country’s sovereignty without contradictory action, and in turn, discloses what the virtues he celebrates look like in practice.

The current ruling party in Poland is Law and Justice, which is nationalist and conservative. Since coming to power, there has been a rise of neo-fascist activity. The party even commended a neo-fascist march in which, according to the Washington Post, marchers held up racist signs saying “White Europe,” and “Europe Will Be White,” and “Clean Blood.” This is reminiscent of Trump’s defense of white nationalists during the Charlottesville protests, in which he claimed that there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

The Polish government not only endorsed this nationalist march, but actively supported it through police violence. The police “arrested 50 members of a pro-democracy group that staged a counter-protest, though they did nothing to stop ‘patriots’ from beating up another group of counter-protesters” Along with banning abortion and any public mention of “Polish death camps,” Poland reveals warning signs, if not just signs, of fascism.

But perhaps Trump’s nationalist call for sovereignty doesn’t contradict his interventionist policies. Perhaps they are one and the same.

As Trump attempts to expand the White American Empire his predecessors built for him, he naturally believes the world is America’s sovereignty. The boundaries of nation-states for the U.S. are nothing but obstacles, or maybe agents; they interfere and enforce American hegemony around the world.

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