RICHARD BUTLER. Fake news?

Trump’s threats against DPRK and May’s against Gibraltar, as reported, are fake news. The US’ stance on nuclear non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is a fake.   

The definition of “fake news” is not clear, other than possibly to the author of the concept, Donald Trump. Even so, two pieces of what could be such news appeared in international media this morning, 3rd March.

First, Trump has warned, again, that he will intervene to eliminate the DPRK nuclear weapons capability. He had previously boasted that he would do so, when he was seeking the presidency. Now he has that office, he has used the usual phrase; “all options are on the table”, meaning that the use of nuclear weapons, to achieve that elimination, is among those options.

We should hope that this posturing is a fake part of the news and that what we are merely witnessing is Trump conducting his job in the way he extolled in “The Art of the Deal”, his manual for doing real estate business. Begin by making cataclysmic threats and see where the pieces land.

There has been widespread anxiety about nuclear weapons being at Trump’s disposal, but in addition, in the case of the situation on the Korean peninsula, any enhanced military action by the US will author a disaster.

Presumably China’s President Xi will tell Trump this, when they meet, later this week. Also, we surely can hope that Trump’s own senior military advisors will tell him that the use of nuclear weapons would cause problems vastly greater that the problem he would be attempting to solve.

But, that’s only a hope, and Trump is now Commander in Chief, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his propensity to believe his own words and seek to realize them, to turn the fake into fact. This is to say nothing of his neurotic belief in his own muscularity and the attachment of his political base to a militant America, which always wins.

Secondly, there was the statement of a “senior Tory” in London, that he believed Theresa May would go to war with Spain to keep Gibraltar as a British possession, as Thatcher did with Argentina over the Falklands. Gibraltar’s future arises in the context of Brexit. In the referendum, 99% of Gibraltans voted to stay in the EU and they want that fulfilled.

So, England versus Spain; the Armada, May as Francis Drake, all over again. The UK and Spain are partners in NATO, committed to their common defence.

Now, this is fake news from London, and its very doubtful that it deserved reporting, at least outside the satirical pages. Although, May’s problem can’t be minimized. She can hardly allow a special deal for Gibraltar and oppose Scotland’s wish to remain in the EU, via independence for Scotland, if that is what the Scots choose.

Returning briefly to the nuclear weapons issue, the ultimate piece of fakery, on the part of the Americans, is their position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Although their policy is one of strong support for non-proliferation, they have shown: that they believe in it when it comes to Iran and DPRK, they have given up on it with respect to India and Pakistan, they have excepted Israel from it.

The case of Israel goes back to Nixon, who in 1969, reached a secret agreement with Prime Minister Golda Meir that Israel would keep its nuclear devices, if it kept them out of sight and did not test them. ( see NYTimes, November 29th, 2007, report by David Stout). That agreement stands today.

By the way, another nuclear weapon state and permanent member of the Security Council, France, assisted Israel in the development of its nuclear weapons.

When the history of nuclear weapons and their entry into human conduct is written, hopefully not after their further use, a major element will be that the US repeatedly jeopardized globally supported efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to turn instead towards their elimination, inter alia, because of its wish to protect Israel’s nuclear weapons capability.

They are doing this today, with strong Australian support, by opposing the very conduct of a conference at the UN to consider the development of a ban, in international law, of nuclear weapons; as has been done with: chemical and biological weapons, land mines, and cluster munitions.

This is not fake news.

Richard Butler AC was Australian Ambassador to the UN and Ambassador for Disarmament.

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