President Trump is receiving predictably bad reviews from LGBT foreign policy experts for remarks he made Tuesday before the United Nations in which he denounced “rogue nations” for bad behavior, taunted “loser terrorists” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.
In his first address before the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Trump said respecting national sovereignty was paramount to U.S. foreign policy.
“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world,” Trump said. “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: To respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success.”
LGBT groups found that emphasis on sovereignty troubling because they appear to fly in the face of a U.S. policy seeking to secure LGBT rights overseas — even if that means demanding sovereign governments make changes to those laws.
Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, took to Twitter to say Trump’s words about respecting sovereignty and other cultures were just an excuse to ignore anti-LGBT human rights abuses.
— Ty Wesley Cobb (@tywesleycobb) September 19, 2017
Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, said in a statement Trump’s repeated use of the word “sovereignty” in his speech “underscored that his political agenda promotes political isolationism and undermines the global cooperation that protects vulnerable people from natural disasters, corrupt governments, and civil war.”
“As an organization that serves as a watchdog on the U.N., we know that sovereignty is a term loaded with negative meaning,” Stern said. “Sovereignty is often an excuse for states to ignore their obligation to protect the human rights of individuals, especially those that are most marginalized and vulnerable.”
Also raising eyebrows was Trump’s use of the word “reform” in his United Nations speech as he reminded the international body the United States is responsible for 22 percent of its funding. (According to Politifact, that’s actually an understatement from Trump because many U.S. agencies support the U.N. outside the regular budget, including about $2.2 billion a year toward peacekeeping activities.)
“We also thank the Secretary General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity.” Trump said. “Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.
Stern said Trump’s use of the word “reform” in his speech is in fact “code for stripping the human rights system of much-needed resources.”
“We believe the only reform that is truly needed puts LGBTIQ people and all vulnerable groups at the center of U.N. governance, human rights, and programs,” Stern said. “The reform and resources we need would elevate the rights of the world’s most marginalized, open space for meaningful civil society participation, and invest in climate justice.”
Trump, who has issued a travel ban placing America’s refugee program on hold, also outlined a plan during his speech in which the United States would seek to repatriate refugees coming to its shores, saying that policy is better for both countries where people are fleeing and countries accepting the migrants.
“We have learned that, over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries,” Trump said. “For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform, and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms. For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.”
Eleanor Acer, director of refuge protections for the pro-LGBT Human Rights First, said in a statement the refugee policy Trump proposes is “a false and shortsighted choice.”
“The United States cannot simply write a check; it must provide actual leadership,” Acer said. “We must make clear to the countries that continue to host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees that the United States truly stands with them. We must demonstrate this commitment by helping to host at least a small portion of the millions of refugees in the world who desperately need resettlement. By abdicating this leadership, the United States contributes to global instability, leaves allies in the lurch, and ultimately thwarts U.S. interests.”
Although Trump said for the cost of resettling one refugee, the United States can assist more than 10 in their home countries, Acer said that figure is false and based on a now disputed study.
On the day before the speech, The New York Times reported Trump aide Stephen Miller sought to suppress a study from the Department of Health & Human Services that refugees, in fact, contributed $63 billion more in government revenue over the past decade than their cost.
To be fair, among the “rogue nations” Trump denounced during his speech was Iran — a nation that has a record of anti-LGBT human rights abuses and penalizing homosexuality with death. Although Trump didn’t explicitly mention the country’s hostility toward gay people, he did say the country was unfairly treating its own people.
“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy,” Trump said. “It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.”
Mark Bromley, chair of the pro-LGBT international Council for Global Equality, said despite those words Trump came up short in ensuring U.S. commitment to human rights in his address.
“Once again, the president failed to stand firmly for human rights,” Bromley said. “He spoke about our interests, but not in support of the traditional human rights norms that have long centered our country’s foreign policy.”
Other countries Trump denounced during the speech were North Korea for its continued advancement of nuclear weapon technology, Syria for its use of chemical weapons on its own people and Venezuela for abandoning democratic norms.
Ned Price, who worked under the Obama administration at the CIA and the National Security Council, said Trump’s speech “was a uniquely Trumpian address that was as dark and dystopian in places as it was childish and asinine in others,” but that was par for the course for this president.
“So much for the ‘adults’ around Trump acting as a moderating force,” Price said. “Where were they to caution against including schoolyard taunts in a major policy address? What we heard was a foreign policy that surrenders America’s position as the world’s leader, diminishes our credibility and alienates the same countries and institutions that we need to deal with threats like North Korea, terrorism and climate change.”