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WHEN Donald Trump took the rostrum at the United Nations general assembly yesterday and delegates laughed at his boastful rhetoric directed at United States voters, he was initially surprised.
“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he confessed.
Since then the Washington Ministry of Truth has leapt into action, with his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, insisting that the world’s diplomats were laughing because “they loved how honest he is.”
Ms Haley continued: “All day yesterday, they were falling over themselves to get a picture with him, to talk about how great his speech was.”
Not to be outdone, the president forgot his reference to not having expected his audience’s response. He claimed to have planned the whole thing, saying: “Well, that was meant to get some laughter, but it was great.”
Comic interludes aside, Mr Trump’s address to the general assembly and his subsequent chairing of the security council exposed his administration’s supposed America First approach.
“The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship,” he intoned before proceeding to do precisely that.
Mr Trump launched into Germany, criticising Berlin’s decision to press ahead with a planned underwater natural gas pipeline from Russia and insisting: “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.”
He attacked Iran, justifying his government’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Tehran and demanding that its signatories, including France, Britain and Germany, emulate his rejection of international law and back his sanctions policy against Iran.
His national security adviser, John Bolton, then announced that the US would be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing sanctions, stating: “We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”
Mr Trump reiterated his now annual assault against Venezuela, asserting that President Nicolas Maduro’s government is “a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that. It’s a truly bad place in the world today.”
The US president seems to be living in a time warp when his country’s ambassadors in Latin America dictated policy to allegedly independent governments, authorised US-trained local military officers to take power or, failing that, called in US marines to do so.
In his eyes, “socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty,” and he urged “nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”
As if magically, malleable US allies Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina and Canada called for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of alleged human rights abuses in Venezuela.
Yes, the same ICC that Washington refuses to recognise, won’t accept its citizens being put on trial by this body and which Bolton threatens with sanctions if it attempts to do so. But what does that matter when Mr Trump has Venezuela in the crosshairs?
It was left to Bolivian President Evo Morales to tell Mr Trump what’s what, declaring: “The United States could not care less about human rights or justice.”
He itemised a list of Trump administration contraventions of human decency, right down to separation of migrant children from their families and putting them in cages.
US imperial power is enhanced by the willingness of other countries to bow the knee, but even Washington’s closest allies now know that their views are irrelevant.
They should learn from the example of Bolivia to show a little more backbone and less subservience to the emperor.
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