Jeff Sachs Is Suitably Alarmed About Trump
So, you were there at the time that President Trump gave his first U.N.
address before the General Assembly. Start with North Korea and take it
Horrifying. Of course, there was a shudder in the room. No president of
the United States has declared from the podium of the United Nations
General Assembly that the U.S. is ready to totally destroy a country. It
was absolutely shocking. And the whole speech was grotesque, in my
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
Because it was militaristic. It was filled with grievance, with bias,
with ignorance. Trump is a very dangerous man. There’s no question about
it. He individually is a very dangerous man, and the United States right
now is a very dangerous country.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what was the response amongst other member states and other people present in the General Assembly when he spoke?
Well, you could hear shuffling, chuckles, amazement, gasps, a few
applause. There was Netanyahu enthusiastically applauding. It was a very
odd scene. I am still a bit shaken by it.
And Secretary of State Tillerson was there, as was Ambassador Nikki
Haley. Did you have the sense that there was some—that they were in
agreement with what he was saying?
Well, I suppose that they are, or they should get out of the
administration. This is policy. And it is grotesque. And it is
When Trump called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" and
said the U.S. is prepared to destroy this entire nation of 25 million
people, North Korea’s foreign minister issued the country’s first
response to Trump’s remarks on Thursday.
RI YONG-HO: [translated] If Trump was thinking about surprising us with the sound of a dog barking, then he is clearly dreaming.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the North Korean representative.
I’ve been reminded often in these days of a statement by President John
F. Kennedy, when he said in 1963 that in the nuclear age, to put an
adversary at the choice of a nuclear war or a humiliating retreat, it
would show the bankruptcy of our policy or a collective death wish for
the world. President Kennedy was a great man. We have right now an
administration which is endangering America and the world.
So, let’s talk, one by one, about the states that President Trump
called out. North Korea, what do you think has to be done? I mean, in
all these cases, it involves more than one country on that country. This
involves more than the U.S. and North Korea, as does Iran, of course.
What has to happen with North Korea?
First, we have to avoid a nuclear war. And a nuclear war is a real
threat. It’s not some idle imagination right now. You have two
leaders—both seem unstable—yelling at each other. Both have nuclear
arms. Seoul, South Korea, is a few minutes—moments away from the North
Korean arms. We’re—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, President Trump has been attacking the North Korean president, the South Korean president, as well.
I’ve heard people say, "Well, South Korea, that would be collateral
damage." It’s unbelievable the way people are talking right now and how
close we are to disaster and how complacent we are, because it’s
unimaginable. Now, I’m not saying it’s inevitable, but I am saying it is
absolutely being pushed right now recklessly. And, of course, what
first needs to happen is to tamp down this kind of absolutely dangerous,
The North Koreans made a statement a few days ago that was not well
covered, which said, "We are looking for a military equilibrium to avoid
a military option," meaning "We don’t want to be overthrown by the
United States." The U.S., of course, is a serial regime changer. In
fact, our foreign policy is based on covert and overt wars of overthrow
of other countries: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad—a
disaster that has created absolute chaos, indeed all three of them.
North Korea basically said a few days ago, "We don’t want to be
overthrown." Well, that is absolutely correct. We should have diplomacy
politics, not a nuclear exchange.
AMY GOODMAN: And China’s role in this, what they can do?
Well, China also doesn’t want chaos. China is calling every day for a
diplomatic response. And we know that a diplomatic response is possible.
Indeed, when the challenge was Iran, you had all five members—permanent
members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, making a historic
agreement with Iran, precisely the one that Trump is attacking right now
vis-à-vis Iran. So, we’re just pushing for war. It’s incredible.
Are you concerned that the whole investigation of Trump around Russian
issues is—as the prosecutor is breathing down his neck, that he will do
something rash internationally to distract attention?
I don’t know if it’s to distract attention or whether he is just
psychologically profoundly unstable—and he is—or just ignorant, which he
is, or vicious and biased and stereotyping and without historical
knowledge, which he is all of those things. So I don’t know what it will
be. But I do know that the United States has a war tendency, and it is
restrained only at the top, actually. And here you have a president who
is egging on, provoking, himself unstable, without attention span. It’s
And where is the Congress? Not one word by our Congress. It’s a
disgrace, because under our Constitution, Congress has the only
authority to declare war, and our Congress is useless, as we know, in
this, because they’ve just ceded the authority to an imperial
presidency. And now we have a president completely unfit and absolutely
provocative every day.