Heather Mallick: Trump’s fiery letter to North Korea reveals the child inside
|Toronto Star 25 May 2018 at 13:24|
What fresh hellfire is this, we ask ourselves, as if it might be just another little hellfire, as is now the norm. But is it the biggest one of all? Witness U.S. President Donald Trump’s letter to Kim Jong Un cancelling a meeting in Singapore about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities for reasons best known to himself.
“We are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” said bewildered South Korean officials, the people with the most to lose in a nuclear hit unless that’s Californians within reach of Kim’s erratic missiles.
President Donald Trump speaks about North Korea before signing the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act," in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on May 24, 2018. Trump’s decision to walk away from a plan to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month in Singapore caught a lot of people off guard, including, it appears, Kim Jong Un. (Evan Vucci / AP)
I note sadly that it is not known what the North Korean people think because they are not allowed to speak, reporters can’t get near them, and Kim doesn’t care for them anyway. He may well regard them as wall insulation, the expanding kind, or as protein for bears in the nuclear winter.
There is a chain of things that could have created renewed bad blood with the North Koreans, among them national security advisor John Bolton using the phrase “Libyan model” in reference to Moammar Gadhafi giving up his nuclear weapons in 2003.
But then some guy from Indiana named Mike Pence said “North Korea could end like the Libyan model ended,” which is a different animal entirely. It ended with Gadhafii being up-knifed in his personal hindquarters as he was dragged about being beaten to death. Every dictator from Bashar-al-Assad to Vladimir Putin fears this now.
I won’t do Trump the honour of thinking that he might fear it too. Trump hasn’t absorbed any international news since the 1980s unless it was to site a Trump hotel. He feels physically impregnable — he spends most of his life indoors and heavily guarded — although emotionally he is a peeled nerve. This was the break-up letter you don’t send, and he sent it.
The Libyan reference angered North Korean officials who called it “stupid” and made threats of their own, which Trump seems to say made him cancel the summit.
But Trump was turning down his shot at the Nobel Peace Prize, which he is dumb enough to think he could actually get, another bite of Obama.
Back to Trump’s letter. It is so badly written that it seems authentic, using adjectives 12 times though they’re best avoided in diplomacy and in life.
It is wordy (“negotiations and discussions,” “prosperity and wealth”), overwrought (“tremendous anger and open hostility”), childlike (“ours are so massive and powerful”), tacky (“a beautiful gesture”), and inappropriate (“do not hesitate to call me”).
“Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit ... will not take place,” is boilerplate stuff your local lawyer writes to the pool cleaner who sprung a leak.
So yes, Trump dictated it.
The phrase about nuclear weapons, “I pray to God they will never have to be used,” is the scariest. He writes as if events might make the decision for him, as if it’s out of his hands. Nuclear weapons never have to be used. It is a military decision, a sociopathic one.
“Am I to be irradiated?” is what people around the world are asking at this moment. Must I write notes to family on the good stationery? Yes. Should I plant the oak sapling? Yes. Do I dare to eat a peach? Not after the nuclear wind, no.
“We’ll just have to wait a few months probably,” Republican Congressman Steve King said of Trump winning the Nobel, not of our being irradiated, although who knows.
Here’s the thing: even if Kim and Trump did talk and agree, Trump is as likely to keep his side of the deal as he was with the Iran nuclear treaty. Neither man can be trusted. It remains to be seen if the U.S. can ever again sign a treaty with any other nation.
European nations say they cannot trust the U.S. on defence. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wonders aloud about the link between U.S. national security and car and truck imports. “I am — even more than I was with steel and aluminum — trying to figure out where a possible national security connection is,” Trudeau said.” Taking that a step further into autos seems to me to be on even flimsier logical grounds.”
This is the kind of thing you say when you try to get inside the mind of a kidnapper and placate him. Be his friend. Laugh at his brutalities. Your rich parents will pay up.
Now I’m wondering if the PM should have accepted Trump’s handshake and cartoonishly fallen to the ground at the strength of his mighty grasp.
But it wouldn’t have helped. Trump is so insecure that he is said to dislike his own staff for working for him, that Fox and Friends must each morning ladle on the love and be his Oprah, that foreign leaders must come to him, not he to them.
Perhaps Trump couldn’t stomach the idea of failing in Singapore, of tripping on his own tie, of Kim Jong Un out-mocking him. Something happened to a young boy once and the wound will not heal.