From Friday, January 20th 2017. the United States have a new President – for many, not only in America, still at least controversial and in the extreme version: totally unacceptable Donald John Trump. In a precise ceremony in front of the Congress Trump gave his oath and delivered his first speech as head of state. And for everybody who is not biased or has not become prisoner of prejudices, he announced a complete turn in regard to the US policy, as it was until now.
This turn can be detected in a couple of key messages which are, admittingly, populist, but not without a deeper political contents.
First of all, Trump confirmed that he is a convinced enemy of political elites, accusing them of prospering while ordinary Americans suffered. To the “forgotten men and women” of America he promised: “You are not forgotten any more and you will never be forgotten again”, adding that the day of his inauguration marks not the transfer of power from one political party to another, but from Washington DC to the people. Then, using – historically speaking – the slogan of American isolationists, he stressed that from this day in deliberating on any decision only one principle will be applied and that is: America first! (accepting that every state in the world has the right to put its interests above everything else). After that, more clearly than ever before, he repeated what he said for the first time accepting the nomination of the Republican party as presidential candidate. Last summer, namely, he announced that the US will stop imposing regimes. In his first presidential address he was even more precise: America will not impose her way of life to anybody. It is worth noting that the “American way of life” was until now sort of a sacred cow in the vocabulary of American politicians. Trump added that the US will be a shining example and the other will follow (if they want, of course). And finally he said something that European neofascists, who (wrongly!) think of him as “one of them” would never understand: “If you open your heart to patriotism, there is no place for prejudices.”
Had he said nothing more, this speech should be remembered. Therefore it is absolutely wrong when the reporter of the German public TV (ARD) says this was not a presidential speech at all, but only a continuation of the election campaign. By the way it would be interesting to hear what would this so called liberals say had he after the inauguration changed his rhetoric and contents. They would lament about hypocrisy and not-consistency. But, as Trump remained consistent, they wrote him off as somebody who did not grasp at all that he is the President and is just continuing his campaign. But, objectively speaking, the messages we mentioned have – for everybody willing to hear them – mark not only the beginning of what Trump described as the necessity to turn form empty words to deeds. The core of his economic policy can be detected from the short slogan “buy American and hire American”. And only after being 30 minutes in office he put into question the multilateral trade agreements for American continent and Pacific region, confirming what he announced during the campaign, namely that he prefers a net of bilateral trade agreements instead of those multilateral.
He did not mention any of the concrete problems he will confront as President, such as relations with Russia or health insurance system in the US. But, it was a programmatic speech, based on crucial messages and principles. He did, however, mention radical Islamism (not Islam, but radical Islamism), promising that he would eradicate it from the face of the Earth, for which he will without any doubt need cooperation from Russia.
He repeated that he will create new jobs in America, he spoke again about the decline of former US industrial centres (“inspiring” the German television to say that this is simply not true, but forgetting how many times we had seen the empty fabric hales in Detroit and empty streets in the now declining and many years ago prosperous American cities). And he promised, once again, that he will change this situation, that he will build new highways, new bridges, new railroads. Some objected immediately that he did not say: how. It would have been almost a miracle had he done so in a situation when many of his planned members of the US government still lack the Congressional approval and when even some of them voice opinions quite different in regard to his own.
Be it, as it is, Trump has his vision of the future and he outlined the corner-stones on which he intends to build his vision, despite his critics who were not hesitating to say that he does not understand today’s world. Some analysts heard in his words the echo of the inaugural speeches of the most famous American president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and some said they had the impression that Bernie Sanders, the “apostle” of the democratic socialism in America is speaking through Trump’s mouth. We would dare to go even one step further. If we put aside Trump’s person and the fact that he is extremely rich, and if we forget his repeated mentioning of God at the end of his speech, we can come to one conclusion only: what was said by Donald Trump should be embraced by every liberal leftist in the world. Caring for ordinary, forgotten people, wealth for everyone, equality between all people (“we can be black, brown or yellow, but we all have the same red blood”), transformation of a system which benefited the politicians, while the middle class suffered, starting of new production, the transfer of power, it is worth repeating, not from one political party to another, but from the Washington elite to the people, all this can be seen, let us not deny this, as a populist, if not even a nationalist approach. But, at the same time it is closer to the left side of the political scene, than to the right one. These are the first impressions based on Trump’s inaugural speech.
But, let us make one thing crystal clear. This is not a noncritical pledoayer for Donald Trump, who has many minuses – from the total lack of political experience, the unnecessary and potentially dangerous antagonizing of the People’s Republic of China to the very dubious hints about his energy policy or his standpoints about the global warning phenomena. But, at the same time it is a pledoayer for much needed and long overdue change of American policy which made the world unstable and insecure and which made the global terrorism a real threat for everybody and everywhere by accepting the protagonists of this terrorism as allies in its projects of toppling the regimes in the Middle East. Yes, such a change, even if it would be Trump’s turn, would be mostly welcome. Of course, if he delivers, what he had promised: it stops here and it stops now. In only a few months we will know if he would be able to transform into reality his vision of America and its new role in the world. Not more: just a few months. After that we will know if Trump’s turn can become a success, or not. And his voters will know if he was right, when he promised them on the Inauguration day. “I will never let you down”.
Typhoons and this Week’s Typhoon of Sex Abuse
Hurricane Florence downgraded to Category 1 but still huge in moisture content will continue to pour rain on Georgia and the Carolinas over the weekend. At the same time, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Pacific will be ravaging the Philippines, Hong Kong and China. It is larger and much more powerful, a category 5, and the Philippines, which lacks the infrastructure and resources of the others, is expected to suffer the worst.
Meanwhile another typhoon of sorts is hitting the U.S. Powerful men topple as women shame them through the #MeToo movement. The latest is Leslie Moonves the head of CBS one of the major U.S. TV networks. Apparently, Mr. Moonves had the habit of forcing himself, his attentions and his anatomy on vulnerable young females working for him.
This particular typhoon has now enveloped Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the new Supreme Court nominee who would have shifted the court decisively to the right. A letter has appeared and forwarded to the FBI for further investigation. It recalls a high school incident over which the other party wishes to remain anonymous. Is this the beginning of the end for Mr. Kavanaugh? One never knows. Justice Thomas survived some very troubling appalling allegations by Anita Hill. She has been chosen now to lead the recently formed Hollywood Commission on Harassment.
Ants in the pants or in this case the cassock are in the news once again. In Germany, some 1670 Catholic priests committed some form of sex abuse on 3677 minors between 1940 and 2014; so finds a study commissioned by the church. One in six cases involved rape. The authors noted the figures and the extent of the abuse may be higher as some records had been “destroyed or manipulated”. The work was extensive enough that three German universities participated in the study, which examined 38,000 documents obtained from 27 German dioceses.
The state of Kerala, home to one of the largest Christian populations in India, has seen protests by nuns and their supporters over the rape of a nun by a bishop. The nun lodged a formal complaint with the police on June 27 claiming abuse by Bishop Franco Mullackal over two years. So far no action by the police, who pushed from both sides probably wish the whole issue would disappear. As she made the complaint after the bishop went to the police claiming she and five other nuns were harassing and blackmailing him, some politicians have questioned her account.
Yet former nuns have previously raised the question of a climate of sexual abuse in the Kerala Catholic Church. Babies born from such liaisons are often murdered says former Sister Mary who now runs an orphanage. She saved one such child from the mother, a nun, who was trying to kill the newborn by drowning it in a toilet tank. “That boy is a student who lives the life of an orphan,” she adds. She thinks priests should be allowed to marry. Then there is another former nun, Sister Jesme, who wrote openly about sexual abuse in her book, “Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun” after she left her Catholic order. She has severed all ties.
Add the abuse of boys by a charismatic priest in Chile, and we have news stories covering four continents just this week alone. That the Catholic church needs an overhaul, at least in this respect, must be clear to the pope and his advisers. Of course medical science now allows chemical castration, a reversible process. And then there is marriage as the good sister suggests.
The sexual exploitation of the weak and vulnerable by the powerful transgresses religious and secular boundaries. Not for nothing is ‘the director’s couch’ a metaphor. The fault in the end lies with society, and a pervasive ‘wink and nod’ corporate culture that often still prevails.
Fear in the White House and Trump’s Foreign Policy
The sensation this week is Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House titled, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” It shows a President Trump universally disparaging his own White House staff, even cabinet members. His first Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is likened to a rat, “He just scurries around.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions is, “mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama”. To commence Secretary Wilbur Ross: “You’re past your prime.” He could well be, otherwise he would have resigned following such a clear and direct indication of no confidence.
As can be expected such ‘favors’ are reciprocated. Thus Chief of Staff John Kelly, “We’re in Crazytown.” He is alleged also to have called President Trump an “idiot’ repeatedly. Defense Secretary James Mattis told an aide that Trump understands foreign policy at the level of a “fifth or sixth grader”. Of course, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was once quoted in news reports as calling Trump “a f****ing moron”.
All of which serves as an introduction for a quick look at Trump’s foreign policy. To say it is unorthodox is to minimize the upending of the status quo ante. He has simultaneously angered European allies, Canada and Mexico, threatened trade war with China and broken the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement with Iran. He has embraced Israel’s Netanyahu in the tightest hug seen, moving the U .S. embassy to Jerusalem — the sole major power to do so — and dumping the Palestinians in a garbage bin of misery by cutting US funding for their UN Relief and Works Agency lifeline.
His reflexive attack on Syria following a chemical attack in the country established a trigger-happy Trump reputation, which might paradoxically have helped negotiations with North Korea. Tensions have subsided following the summit and the North Koreans have dismantled nuclear testing facilities, although it would be naive to imagine they will give up nuclear weapons. The ambiguity of informal promises continues to cause mild acrimony.
Mr. Trump is not getting a new wall from Mexico but a new NAFTA has been agreed upon pending Canada’s decision. The White House says it will continue talks with its northern neighbor. The issues with Canada are of course different from Mexico.
For several decades, Donald Trump has been accusing America’s allies notably the major European powers and Japan of getting a free ride on defense while they focus their resources on improving their own quality of life. He wants Europeans to abide by the NATO stated goal of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. A majority now have plans to do so by 2024.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has neatly side-stepped a trade war. As early as April 2018, he showed a willingness to compromise, pledging to reduce barriers to foreign investment in his country. Meanwhile, more tariffs escalating tensions continue to be imposed by both sides as trade negotiations continue and China enjoys a huge trade surplus.
The wily Vladimir Putin manages to maintain good relations with countries that are sworn enemies to each other, for example Israel and Iran. He is selling arms to NATO member Turkey and he has had a friendly summit with Mr. Trump … plus he is getting his own way in Syria.
So the report card on Trump’s foreign policy? He is being taken seriously by his allies as he continues to be outflanked by China and Russia.
Tussle between America and Turkey: The Whole Story
An economic tussle between the US and Turkey has heightened over the past few months. Both countries are continuously imposing sanctions to paralyze each other economically. But why they are doing so? First of all, we have to keep in view the main reasons behind this tussle.
This tussle started after failed coup attempt by the Turkish Army on July 15, 2016 on which, a week after, Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for failed bloody coup attempt to topple Erdogan’s government and behind this failed coup attempt for Marshall Law, Gulen network was of intention to remove Erdogan from the way and to promote his philosophy of moderate Islam. According to Gulen, Turkey was heading backward because of Erdogan’s conventional and orthodox policies. Erdogan then accused Gulen of conspiring to overthrow him from the government by building a network and officially declared the Gulen movement a terrorist organization in 2016. Erdogan and Gulen were once allies until Gullen opened a corruption probe into Erdogan’s inner circle in 2013. Turkey’s repetitive requests for Fethullah Gulen’s extradition from the US to face trial were rejected by the US saying they need a proper evidence of Gulen’s involvement first.
Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish Preacher, imam, and writer, currently living in self-imposed exile in the United States. He is the founder of Gulen movement known as Hizmet which is 3 to 6 million strong volunteer-based movement mostly focused on education, hard work, altruism, and modesty. This movement serves in Europe, the United States, Asia, and Africa.
This rift intensified more when Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, currently living in Turkey, arrested by the Turkish government in October 2016, has taken to the court to face trials over an allegation of alleged espionage on behalf of Kurdish insurgents and Gullen network and involvement in the failed coup attempt in 2016. He was under detention of Turkish government for 600 days, almost 2 years, is now released from jail due to health issues and placed under house arrest on July 25, 2018. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, welcomed Andrew Brunson’s release from prison but said it is not far enough and demanded his complete release as they have not seen any credible evidence against Mr. Brunson but Turkish authorities neglected continuous demand for Brunson’s release by American policymakers.
Donald Trump rebuked Turkish authorities over their decision for not releasing their man in his tweet and said, “this is a total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected American pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband and father. He has done nothing wrong and his family needs him.” Turkish prosecutors are seeking a maximum prison sentence of 35 years for the pastor and the court has also imposed a travel ban on him.
The US’s Vice President, Mike Pence in response to this, threatened Turkey in his interview and said, “on behalf of the United States of America, release pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.” Trump also said I thought Ankara and Washington had a deal that if Washington will help in the release of Turkish citizen in Israel on behalf of Ankara, they will fully release the pastor. Trump claimed, he urged the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu for the release of a Turkish citizen. However, Israel had even released Turkish citizen named Ebru Ozkan, on whom allegations are imposed that he was involved in abetting Hamas but Turkey instead, did not keep its words and moved the pastor to house arrest. Not fair. Not right.
In retaliation to Turkey’s betrayal, Trump administration levied sanctions on two Turkish ministers (Minister of Justice, Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior, Suleyman Soylu) over propaganda on Andrew Brunson, and also banned their entry into the US and made their assets even frozen to suppress Turkish government on August 1, 2018. In addition to this, Trump further reacted in ire and said, we are cutting back on Turkey and announced a doubling of tariffs on Turkey on August 10, 2018. He said in his tweet, “I have just authorized a doubling of tariffs on steel and aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong dollar. Aluminum will now be 20% and steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time.” He did not care much about that Turkey is their NATO ally. Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin said, Turkey has “not proven to be a good friend” and we are ready to slap Turkey with more sanctions if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses the quick release of an American pastor on August 16, 2018.
In reciprocation to the US’s operations, Turkey took immediate steps by imposing heavy tariffs on products imported from the United States including cars, alcohol, and tobacco also on rice, nuts, cosmetics, paper, machines etc. Turkey placed 140% on alcohol, 120% on cars and 60% on tobacco and slaps sanctions on 2 US officials i.e., minister of Interior and Minister of Justice. Banned their entry into Turkey and had also frozen their assets. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference, “our nation will boycott U.S. electronic goods. We will stop bringing iPhone. He said, if they have their iPhone, we have South Korea’s Samsung as an alternative. In our own country, we have a Vestel.”
Supporters were strongly fascinated by Erdogan’s statement that “don’t forget, if they have their dollars, we have our people, our God. We are working hard. Look at what we were 16 years ago and look at us now.” As their deliberated trade tensions are at its peak, Turkish Lira shattered badly against the US’s mounting dollar and tumbled up to 5%. Investors started to pull out their money from banks. Such withdrawals have also hurt other currencies. Argentine peso and Indian rupee touched their weakest level against the US dollar. Turkey’s economy is suffering severely due to escalating sanctions by the US and is facing a currency crisis. Loss of $12 billion or more is expected to both countries amid their crumbling relations. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is also expected that these actions by the US can cause a loss of more than $500 billion to the whole world. It seemed like the only way for Turkey to get out of this crisis is by securing the help of IMF’s rescue bailout but Turkey’s Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said in a conference, there is no need to be panic, we will easily overcome this economic crisis and will emerge even stronger than before. He is taking its investors in confidence and also talks to France and Germany. Turkey is insistent that no matter what happens, they will not seek the help of IMF. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuelle Macron have agreed to improve bilateral relations as Turkey is passing through the dire strait. Turkey’s Finance Minister Berat Albayrak engaged with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and have agreed to meet in Berlin to take steps for further enhancement of economic cooperation.
Turkish Lira was up 4% against US dollar following the conference call and reassuring words from French President Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. Qatar pledged to invest $15 billion in Turkey’s financial sector which will also help to stabilize and bolster their economy. Pakistan, Iran, and Russia have also announced to help Turkey in their impassable time and deplored the US’s sanction on Turkey. Russian foreign minister calls US sanctions illegitimate. He further added that they are devising to end the US dollar’s dominance and envisaging to trade with Turkey and other countries as an alternative currency. Turkey’s president Erdogan also denied to stop trading with Iran after the cancellation of a nuclear deal between Iran and America and is likely thinking forward to purchase Russian Air Defense System if needed which America does not like.
On August 20, 2018, some assailants opened fire on the US Embassy in the capital Ankara. It has been suspected that this attack was carried out as a result of increased tensions between two NATO allies. Turkish Lira plunged further against the dollar after their spat with the United States on August 29, 2018. It has lost almost more than a quarter of its value. On the same day, Turkish media reported that Mohammad Ahmad, known as the spiritual son of Andrew Brunson, has been accused of being the link between the pastor and the Gulenist terror group. As on August 17, 2018, Turkish court in the province of Izmir, rejected an appeal to release Brunson, the lawyer of Brunson on August 30, 2018, has now decided that they would go to European Court of Human Rights.
The only way for both countries to reinstate their extremely disturbed relations is by reconciliation and consensus. Otherwise, the entire world would have to suffer from their delicate and shabby relationship.
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