Reckless Trump-Kim Insult War Could Trigger Catastrophic Conflict
Interview with Joseph Gerson, disarmament coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, conducted by Scott Harris
Since Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in a speech before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, the war of insults between the American president and Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un has intensified. After North Korea threatened to detonate a nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean, Trump responded with a tweet that the North Korean Leader was, “obviously a madman… that would be tested like never before.” Later, Trump tweeted that if North Korea’s foreign minister echoed the thoughts of president Kim in his UN speech, “they won’t be around much longer!”
The exchange of insults continued with the North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho stating that the U.S. had declared war on his country, and his nation has every right to take defensive countermeasures. He also said Trump’s insults make it “inevitable” that the country’s rockets will strike the U.S. mainland. These comments followed soon after the U.S. flew B-1B bombers and F-15 fighter jets in international airspace east of North Korea’s coast – the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that U.S. fighters or bombers had ever flown this century.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Joseph Gerson, disarmament coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, who discusses the danger of unintended consequences that could result from the threats and insults hurled by Trump at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and the conditions that could pave the way for negotiations to reduce tensions that could trigger a catastrophic conflict on the Korean peninsula and across the region. [Rush transcript]
JOSEPH GERSON: This is not the most mature action that we can expect of our leaders and it’s really quite disturbing and frightening. My concern is that we find a situation in which the words that these leaders have expressed create political realities from which they can’t back off. Some of your listeners will remember that back during the Cuban missile crisis, at one point, President Kennedy turned to his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, and said “You know, if I hadn’t ratcheted up this crisis, I would be impeached.”
I think it’s important for all people who are concerned, really, ultimately about human survival, to weigh in on our congressional representatives saying, “Look, the obvious way forward on this is to negotiate.” If you go back to the Cuban missile crisis, what you find is that even then-Secretary of Defense (Robert) McNamara said early in the crisis, look it’s not worth it, because in time, Russia will have ICBMs that could reach us. And we’re in a situation where, in some ways, the actions of North Korea and development of nuclear weapons have their own logic. I mean, obviously, no country should possess nuclear weapons, given what they could do. But the reality is that North Korea has been threatened with nuclear attack by the United States, somewhere between nine and a dozen times. In this circumstance, it’s moved to create a nuclear arsenal, largely to deter as a threat to the United States.
And the way forward, obviously, is to sit down and negotiate some form of non-aggression. People talk in terms of freeze-for-freeze, some form of diplomatic way forward which is precisely what happened during the Cuban missile crisis when cooler heads prevailed.
BETWEEN THE LINES: It’s been said by our politicians as well as commentators that the leadership of North Korea is irrational, not to be trusted and basically, saying that they’re on a suicide mission of some kind. What’s the basic framework for possible negotiations that could be kicked off? And I know that North Korea has made statements basically saying that they want an end to the Korean war. They also want normalized diplomatic relations. Is there any way that the United States, along with China, which you know has provided vital resources to North Korea, could push this agenda at this point? Or are things too frayed and angry?
JOSEPH GERSON: Well, I think in any negotiations things move maybe slower than one would want. But if you go back as early as 20 years ago, Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation was writing about the rationality within North Korea’s actions and former Secretary of Defense (William) Kerry has talked about this more recently. And people should remember that Perry and Secretary of State (Madeleine) Albright essentially negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea in 1999 and 2000, which was basically thrown out, not fulfilled by the Bush administration early on.
I think that we need to recognize that the primary concerns of the North Korean leadership is preservation of the Kim dynasty and preservation of North Korean sovereignty. Those are its bottom lines. And certainly, we can negotiate within those frameworks. I mean, we certainly have relationships with more than a few dictatorships around the world. We might begin with Saudi Arabia, but there’s a bunch of others as well. So, I think we can move to negotiations. Getting to the point of replacing the armistice with a peace agreement will take some time in negotiations. But you build from step to step as you build trust through the negotiations.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Well Joseph, there’s a lot of concern about Donald Trump and his fitness for office. And people around the country have placed a lot of hope in the generals that surround Donald Trump: (Chief of Staff) Gen. John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. There’s a lot of faith put in them, that they’re going to prevent Donald Trump from making an reckless moves that could cost a lot of lives in the Korea peninsula or here in the United States.
JOSEPH GERSON: The recent ABC and CNN polls indicate that most Americans trust the generals more than they do Trump. And in a sense, we face a constitutional crisis because our Constitution provides for civilian control over the military. You could back, for example, to the Cuban missile crisis and you could see some of the dangers of having the military in control.
So, one would hope through some kind of dynamic between the generals and Trump and our other political leaders that Trump can be walked back from this perch on which he’s placed us all.
For more information, visit the American Friends Service Committee at afsc.org.
Protests Help Defeat Latest GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill
Interview with Chad Bolt, policy manager with the national Indivisible movement, conducted by Scott Harris
After Senate Republicans’ latest unsuccessful attempt to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, opponents breathed a sigh of relief. The third failed bill to repeal Obamacare, sponsored by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, would have ended ACA provisions mandating health coverage, insurance premium subsidies, expansion of Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Graham-Cassidy went down to defeat after three Republicans announced their opposition, preventing the Senate from using a time-limited rule to pass a healthcare bill with only a slim majority vote.
Apart from minority Senate Democrats who were united in their opposition, a broad coalition of health providers, insurance companies, and patient and retiree advocacy groups worked to defeat the bill. Although the Congressional Budget Office did not have time to research the full impact of Graham-Cassidy, they did project that $1 trillion would be slashed from Medicaid over the next decade. The non-partisan Brookings Institution calculated that by 2027, 32 million Americans would be without health insurance under the Republican plan.
As opponents of the bill across the country participated in protests and flooded senators’ offices with calls urging a No vote, activists with the disability rights group ADAPT, engaged in a civil disobedience action at the only Senate hearing on the bill on Capitol Hill that resulted in 181 arrests. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Chad Bolt, policy manager with the national Indivisible movement that mobilized thousands of their members to defeat Graham-Cassidy. Here, he reflects on the battle just won and continuing fight over the future of the U.S. healthcare system.
CHAD BOLT: Right now under current law, people who are lower income can get subsidies to afford health insurance. Those subsidies would go away. The Graham-Cassidy bill destroyed Medicaid as we know it in a few main ways: First it ends the Medicaid expansion, which you probably remember, after the Affordable Care Act was passed and there was a first Supreme Court case, it became optional for states to expand their Medicaid programs. And what does that mean? It means that more people up to a higher-income threshold could be covered by Medicaid. A lot of states, something like 30 states decided to do that. The Graham-Cassidy bill would end the federal support of the Medicaid expansion and it would transform traditional Medicaid permanently into a capped system.
So right, now under Medicaid, if you’re eligible, you can get the care you need. And that’s a guarantee. But under the Graham-Cassidy cap system, states would get a certain amount of money per beneficiary and that would be it. So, if the money ran out, but you needed more care, you’d have to find some other way to get the care you need because the money would be out.
So it destroys Medicaid as we know it. It takes away the subsidies to help people afford insurance and it also throws protections with people with pre-existing conditions totally out the window. There were previous iterations of the Trumpcare bill that at least had the pretense of allowing states to seek a waiver to let insurance companies discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. This bill totally gets rid of the pretense, they’re not even pretending any more. Discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions is back on the table.
So those are some of the features like other Trumpcare bills, it defunds Planned Parenthood. This bill would be terrible for women’s health, one again because Planned Parenthood is defunded but also because those pre-existing conditions are gone. So if you have had a C-section; if you’re a victim of sexual assault; if you’ve had post-partum depression’ your insurance company can once charge you more. That’s not allowed under the ACA. Again, those protections would be gone. Those are just some of the terrible highlights. And yet, it has a lot of support on the Republican party.
Almost enough support to push it through because of the seven-year political promise that Republican have made to their campaign donors and to their most extreme elements of their party that they would repeal the ACA.
BETWEEN THE LINES: This health care debate has been roiling for many years now. Obamacare is certainly not the end-all solution. It’s got a lot of flaws. It doesn’t cover universally people in this country and Bernie Sanders and others – John Conyers – have put forward single-payer and Medicare-for-All as a more comprehensive solution to the United States’ health care problems. But, as you look at the need to be proactive and putting forward your own agenda; your own positive agenda for health care in this country, where do you see Indivisible moving?
CHAD BOLT: Sure, it’s a good question. And you know what, I’ll say right out of the gate. We support Medicare for All. We want people to have quality coverage. We think health care is a basic human right. But, you know we also know there are some hard truths. We are not in agenda-setting power right now. We’ve got massive constituent power, and we’ve seen that as we’ve defeated previous iterations of the Trump care bill. We think we really have the most power in responding right now to what’s on the congressional agenda.
The Trump administration is a position to sabotage the ACA even if the legislative attempts to get rid of it fail. They’re in a position to sabotage it from the inside. And we’ve already seen so many different deliberate examples of this. So, our efforts to defend the ACA definitely continue.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I just wanted to end on one last note. How much of a central issue will health care be in the 2018 midterms elections as far as the Indivisible agenda as you guys engage in campaigning in 2018?
CHAD BOLT: Here’s how we look at it. In 2018, members of the Senate that voted to end the ACA – we’re going to try to end their careers. If they voted to take away the ACA, we’re definitely not going to forget it.
For more information, visit Indivisible Guide website at indivisibleguide.com.
Supporters of Couple Ordered Deported Stage Direct Action Protest, Win Brief Court Stay
Speeches by Erick and Jason Ramos, sons of Giaconda and Franklin Ramos, who faced deportation order, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus
Before this year, most undocumented immigrants who have been caught up in the U.S. legal system for years or decades, were allowed to stay in the U.S. as long as they regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, because they weren’t deemed a priority for enforcement. But under the Trump administration, many have now become targets for deportation. People who have no criminal record, are gainfully employed, paying taxes and integral members of their communities now face separation from their families by being forced to return to a country they haven’t lived in or visited for years.
The Ramos family of Meriden, Connecticut, is one such family. After 24 years in the U.S. with two U.S.-born sons, Giaconda and Franklin Ramos were ordered to leave the country on Sept. 29. Four days before their deportation, about 150 of their supporters held a rally at the federal building in Hartford. Three dozen of those supporters committed civil disobedience by blocking the entrance to the building and were arrested. Soon after that action, an immigration judge in New York granted them a stay of at least three weeks so their lawyer can continue to press their case.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus attended the rally, as well as a vigil outside the family’s home three days earlier, where one of their sons, Erick, a 17-year-old college freshman, described his family’s ordeal. He’s followed by his older brother, 24-year-old Jason, who spoke at the rally before being arrested. [Rush transcript.]
ERICK RAMOS: I just want to thank everyone for coming here tonight. It really humbles me to see such a huge crowd and such a big manifestation and unification in front of my own eyes. You know, as a son, my parents always taught me to care for one another, and unity really is the way you want to approach life because succeeding personally – it is something that is nice and something that is a goal – but to share your resources with people who may not have had it as good as you, that makes that success that much better and that much sweeter.
Now it’s really setting in that I can count the days on my two hands that my parents are going to leave me. And at this point I still need to stand strong, because this isn’t just for my family as you can see – it’s many other families in this town, many other families in this state. We see in front of our own eyes human rights not being treated the way they should be. There’s no such thing as an illegal human being. You can’t be a second-class citizen because we are all humans. (Applause).
I really appreciate you guys’ support. Every day, it goes by quick for me and my brother, at least for me it feels like it goes by too quick. (Cries) You know, trying to help your parents cope, now it’s to the point that I can count the days on my hand, focusing on just trying to help my parents I’m noticing that we didn’t really get to share these times as we should have. And it shouldn’t have reached this point. Me and my brother are happy to take the suffering if we know other families won’t have to go through the same thing. We will stand strong. I know me and my brother will succeed, for the name of our parents, for the name of immigrants and Hispanics, and just people in general, at being Americans the true way, unifying each other and working towards a new goal every day and building a team and building a network and going towards that goal in a positive way. I know my brother and I will succeed, even if my parents cannot witness everything they sacrificed for, I know I will make a strong enough noise to let everyone know – I am the son of them, and this is what they represent. Thank you all for coming. This means a lot to me. (Cheers)
BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Erick Ramos, 17 years old, speaking at a vigil for his parents at their home in Meriden, Connecticut, on Sept. 22. Next, his brother Jason, who’s 24, spoke while blocking the federal building on Sept. 25 in Hartford, site of the immigration court, shortly before being arrested with 33 others.
JASON RAMOS: Wrong is wrong. We have to stand up together to this injustice. This injustice is built upon a system that oppresses, discriminates, and throws away human rights, human dignity, human decency. It is a system lacking in scruples. What we have here today is a stand. We are holding a line for the people who could not be here, the people that were torn apart from their families; the people here that are living in fear; the muffled voices, the shackled tensions. We are not creating new tension; this is tension that has already been bubbling; tension that has been in this nation, within all of us. We are here today in solidarity with my family that is going to be torn apart, from me, in less than five days. My freedom, my justice, my liberty has already been compromised. My life has been compromised; my family is my life. I am here today to bring to light and to arouse the consciousness of the community at large. For right now, this attack on our community – not just immigrants – is something we should not stand for. Wrong is wrong. We are 11 million strong. This nation is a nation built by immigrants. We are here to participate; we are here to collaborate; we are here to build. We are not here to terrorize anyone. We are here to build families, to build the American dream, the dream that I still believe in, the dream that I hold near and dear to my heart, the dream that I was raised with, the dream that my parents continue to raise within me, and perhaps my grandchildren someday to come, and I hope they’re here with me to live that life with me.
I’ve been living a nightmare, a living funeral for my parents, who are in danger of being torn apart from me. This (blocking the building) is not something easy, this is not something I take lightly. I still hold the law to its highest regard, even though it may seem that I don’t. My family and I have been abiding by the law, complying with every sort of circumstance and requirement of us. But I think we hold the law to its highest regard when we stand up against injustice, when we stand up against the things that the law doesn’t truly stand for. Right now we are facing an arbitrary system, an oppressive system, a racist system, a system that is being very, very, very wrong at its core.
This administration and the administration beforehand and it goes beyond, have built this broken system. We have to stand up and build something enduring, something everlasting – not just for the people affected by DACA, not just for the ideal citizens, not just for the 11 million immigrants that are here in this country today. We need something lasting, something representative of all of us. I thank you all here today for lending me your strength. I thank you all for lending your voices so we can amplify the injustice that is happening to all of us. I thank you all for being here with me today in solidarity and in spirit and I hope to continue to have your support, not just for me, but for the families that are still living in fear. We need to prepare and educate ourselves because that is our power, our heart, our morals, that is our power. That is what we are; we are the American nation. All of us here together today – we are the face of America. Thank you.
(Cheers)(Chant) Keep Ramos home!
This week’s summary of under-reported news
Compiled by Bob Nixon
According to Foreign Policy magazine, Afghanistan’s Nimruz province is a case study of what went wrong during the 16-year US-led war in Afghanistan. After billions of dollars spent in aid, the province is still controlled by drug lords, smugglers, kidnappers and a corrupt military. (“On the Edge of Afghanistan,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 12, 2017)
Two months after the summer’s deadly fire at London’s Grenfell Tower, former tenant Tomassina Hassel and her son were living in a hotel along with other displaced Tower residents. Many tenants were not sure where they would find a new home in a community that had become gentrified, and was unaffordable to the working poor. (“Grenfell Fire Casts Harsh Light on London’s Dwindling Low-Income Housing,” Aug. 18, 2017, Christian Science Monitor)
20 years ago, Newton, Iowa was a blue-collar union town, home to a large Maytag factory, lots of good paying jobs, and a contract with the United Auto Workers. Employees there could look forward to a full pension upon retirement. Fifteen years ago, before the big recession hit and corporate mergers took its toll, 4,000 workers were employed by Maytag. But in 2006 when Whirlpool merged with Maytag the Newton plant was shut down, leaving the rust belt town in economic free-fall. (“When Green Jobs Come at the Expense of Unions,” In These Times, Sept. 27, 2017)