Morales speaks truth to power

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a ceremony where government enacts a health law at the presidential palace La Casa Grande del Pueblo in La Paz

You have to love those leaders with the power of their convictions, not afraid to call out President Donald Trump to his face on the floor of the UN Security Council. Bolivia’s first ever indigenous President Evo Morales, a leader who took power from the predatory elites in his country and gave it to the masses, took Trump on this week sitting just two seats away from him. One of the great revolutionary leaders that Latin America has produced, an indigenous leader who turned politics in Bolivia on its head, spoke truth to power in the most authoritative yet polite manner, and Trump had no option but to sit and listen.

It was everything that we always wanted to hear said in the apex decision making body of the UN, but seldom do we ever see leaders with the courage to tell it like it is. It took a former coca farmer who had herded Llamas as a boy to tell one of the most pompous world leaders, full of hubris and self-importance, that actually the US is the opposite of what it pretends to be. It is not democracy, justice and human rights that the US cares about, but annexing the resources of other countries. It couldn’t have been put more plain and simply. Morales laid bare the US contempt for international law, multilateralism and the UN, and exposed the intricate propaganda campaigns that always accompany egregious acts of US aggression, most recently in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Morales handed his case to the Security Council on a silver platter – the US has refused to sign the International Convention on the Protection of Human Rights, walked away from the UN Human Rights Council, withdrawn from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Global Compact on Migration, withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, refused to sign up to and ratify the Treaty Prohibiting the Use of Nuclear Weapons, and unilaterally took a definitive position on one of the key final status issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in opposition to every UN resolution adopted on the matter, by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But Morales forgot to mention one of the most important transgressions of the US which served as a watershed moment in relations between the US and the international community. That was when the US decided in 1986 to withdraw from the jurisdiction of what Morales rightly calls the primary judicial body of the UN system – the International Court of Justice.

After the ICJ had ruled that the US had to pay Nicaragua billions of dollars for laying mines in its waters as part of the US’s illegal war of aggression, the US decided to withdraw from the ICJ. From that moment on the US made no secret about its revolt against the intricate system of multilateralism painstakingly built up since the second World War, and displayed its arrogant determination to intervene in the affairs of other countries as it saw fit. Not that it really tried to hide its litany of regime change efforts – between 1898 and 1994 the US had overthrown 41 governments in Latin America.

The most infamous unilateralist who undermined the authority of the UN at every turn was President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who is now President Trump’s National Security Advisor. Bolton had referred to the ICJ ruling against the US in 1986 as a reason for the US not to abide by the rules of other multilateral organisations.

With his fervent belief that the US has the right to violate the sovereignty of other nations, Bolton said in 2017 that he hoped the Iranian revolution would not reach its 40th anniversary. Bolton is one of the strongest proponents of building an international front against Iran, which was the rationale behind calling for a meeting of world leaders in Warsaw last week in the hope of beating the drums of war.

Overthrowing the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is probably just the precursor to a much more bloody war and military intervention in Iran that will plunge the whole Middle East region into an unimaginable armageddon. Iran has already warned that any attack on its sovereignty will compel it to retaliate and flatten Israeli cities. It is not a scenario anyone wants to envision. We need to learn the lessons of recent history. The concept of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2K) has been used by US administrations as an excuse to invade other countries in the name of “humanitarian interventionism.”

As Morales so eloquently told the members of the UN Security Council, it is time to work together to consolidate a multipolar world, and it is a moral imperative to resolve disputes peacefully, through dialogue and not war. We need to leave on the pages of history the use of weapons to resolve disputes.

Shannon Ebrahim is the foreign editor for the Independent Media Group.