Prologue: Three major events marked Donald Trump’s June, 2018. First: his insults and scorning of allies at the G-7 meeting in Quebec. Second: his praising and embracing dictator Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit. Third: his separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.
G-7 Meeting. On June 9, Trump left the meeting early, tweeting on his plane that his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “dishonest” and “weak”. Trump had failed to sign the group’s collective statement affirming “ our shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights”….During the session, Trump had demanded that Putin/Russia be readmitted unconditionally four years after their expulsion for annexing Crimea. A central part of the meeting brought strong objections to Trump about his tariffs on steel and aluminum by leaders from Britain, Germany, Japan and the European Union. They called the tariffs the start of a “trade war”. U.S. reporters described Trump’s behavior and statements as a strong rejection of the geopolitical alliances built after World War II , The United Nations, NATO and the international monetary system. David Leonhardt, New York Times, June 11, wrote “Trump Tries to Destroy the West. He wants to break up the Atlantic alliance that shaped the past century.”
Singapore Summit: Donald Trump flew directly from the G-7 to Singapore for his long anticipated meeting with Kim Jong Un. It would be the first time a United States president and a Noth Korean leader would come together. This in itself was seen as a victory of recognition and prestige for Kim. They both arrived in Singapore and finally met on a stage with huge flags from their countries as a backdrop. The two men shook hands smiling and appeared to be in good spirits. After past bitter exchanges alluding to nuclear weapons, the pictures were startling to view.
Trump, at 71 towered over Kim, 34. Each put one hand on the other’s back as they walked. They retired to rooms for a private five hour meeting with only their interpreters included. At the end of the session, they were shown signing a joint statement in which Trump agreed to suspend the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. He called them “provocative” , a word that Kim used. Kim agreed to a vague projection of “ denuclearization”, a similar promise that his father and grandfather had used in past signed documents that were never fulfilled. Trump flew home praising Kim for becoming a ruler at 27 as “a very smart man”, and tweeted that Americans could now feel “safe”. He talked about whether he would receive the Nobel prize for bringing “world peace”.
Separating Migrant Children From Their Parents: In March, 2017, General John Kelly, then homeland security secretary said, children would be separated from their parents if migrant families were apprehended entering the country illegally, “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.” In May, 2018, when there was a sharp increase in southern border crossings, Donald Trump ordered a new border policy. Called, “zero tolerance”, it became Attorney General Jeff Sessions job to put into effect.
Along with launching the new policy, the president and the top administration officials falsely laid blame on the Democrats saying laws they passed caused separation of children. Trump told reporters, “ I hate separating children. We have to get the Democrats to work with us.” Fact: There is no law that requires children to be taken from children. In addition, the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said, “ The Obama administration. The Bush administration all separated families. They absolutely did. ” The facts are that both Obama and Bush never had a policy of separating families, which they rejected as inhumane and politically perilous.
As the news of the zero tolerance policy became known, TV cable news showed pictures of crying children being housed in huge metal cages. The nation’s newspapers ran front page stories of bereft parents not told where their children had been taken to. Time Magazine had a red cover with a tiny crying little girl (whose picture had gone viral) looking up at Trump who peers down….” Welcome to America. “ Commentators on cable talked to panels of child psychologists about life long damage to the children. Historians were interviewed. Senators were blocked from entering detention centers for children.
On Monday June 19, Trump reacted against the growing outcry in defense of his policy. “They could be murderers and thieves and so much else. We want a safe country and it starts with the borders. And that’s the way it is. “ Attorney General Jeff Sessions also defended the practice, “we do not want to separate parents from the children.” The avalanche of criticism continued. Former first ladies spoke out forcefully by June 20. Rosalyn Carter: “The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.” Laura Bush, “ I live in a border state. I understand the need to … protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” Hillary Clinton: “Every parent who has ever held a child in their arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged.” Michelle Obama re- tweeted Laura Bush’s ‘It is immoral. It breaks my heart”. Adding, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”
On Thursday, June 21, The New York Times headline , IN RETREAT, TRUMP HALTS SEPARATING MIGRANT FAMILIES. The president finally gave in to the political pressure and signed an executive order to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together indefinitely. “We’re going to have strong, very strong borders but we’re going to keep the families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
In the days that followed, four military bases prepared to house 20,000 migrant children while government lawyers searched the map to locate the 2,300 who had already be sent to New York, Texas and other states. “Chaos on the ground” was one description. Many observers believed that some children would never be reunited with their parents, especially those who had already been deported back to Central American countries.
Critics of the president accused him of using children as “hostages” to obtain the money needed to build his long touted Wall! On June 23, he flew to Las Vegas for a rally of his followers. Trump was cheered when he insisted, “We need strong borders. If we show any weakness, they will come by the millions.” ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Joyce S. Anderson