Current Concerns: Professor de Zayas, you are an American citizen, formerly a Wall Street lawyer. You live in Switzerland since 1981 and are equipped with ample experience and knowledge in international politics, especially in international law. Certainly you have paid attention to the recent elections in the US. Contrary to all forecasts Donald Trump was elected US president. Were you surprised by this outcome?
Prof Alfred de Zayas: Like everybody else, I am influenced by the media and I was indeed surprised by the result. My candidates would have been Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren on the Democratic side, Ron Paul or Patrick Buchanan on the Republican side. I did not like the gladiator match Trump versus Clinton and I am glad that the elections are over. In fact I have been a registered Republican since my time at Harvard and I used to be very active there in the Harvard Republican Club. What I am looking for in candidates is ethics, straight-forwardness, sincerity, common decency, a modicum of modesty, respect of people with different opinions and a commitment to peace and dialogue.
What does that actually mean in politics?
In principle, I would like to see the US president change the old imperial paradigm and start respecting the sovereignty of other states instead of pretending to make other people happy by exporting our US ideas to the rest of the world and bullying people to adopt them. By now we should know that “democracy” cannot be exported. Most importantly, we should stop demanding regime changes in other countries, let alone financing coups d’état.
What do you reckon about Donald Trump?
No matter whether I like him or not, one has to face reality and make the best of the new situation. Let’s be optimistic. Everyday politics will be different from his election campaign speeches. Most of all, Trump needs good advisers instead of rigid ideologues or die-hard radical anti-communists. Unfortunately, he made some rather nasty utterances after the death of Fidel Castro, which were really inappropriate. Whether he liked Fidel Castro or not, Castro was a larger-than-life historical figure, of the stature of a Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, he did bad things, but he also gave the example of international solidarity to the world, sent Cuban doctors to many countries in need, and ensured free education and health care for the Cuban people. The remarks of pope Francis on Castro’s death were just right.
How do you judge his foreign policy?
In fact we simply don’t know enough to predict what the world will have to face. A positive aspect is that Trump often argued against the current practice of “interventionism”. He wants to stop using NATO as a weapon of intervention or getting engaged in even more adventures and regime change attempts. Hopefully he will end the role of the US as policeman of the world. I think this is necessary, considering the consequences of our foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – catastrophe after catastrophe.
How would you judge his opinion about the Russian president Wladimir Putin?
They respect each other. It is important to note that Trump is not interested in challenging Putin or provoking him. A solution for the unstable situation in the Ukraine will be found more easily with Trump than with Clinton.
And where do you see problems in the future foreign policies?
Apparently Trump wants to dismantle the nuclear deal with Iran. I think this is ill-advised. Whether we like it or not, Persia has a long history, it has legitimate aspirations, and one has to acknowledge that.
What is your opinion about the plans of Donald Trump regarding the economy?
Trump is an entrepreneur himself. Business people often have innovative ideas. In any case he is right with his criticism of the megalomaniac trade agreements such as Nafta, TPP, TTIP, TiSA and so on. These agreements are beneficial for multinational corporations, which don’t even pay their taxes because they transfer their profits to tax-havens. It is necessary to scrutinize all these agreements very carefully and work them over so that all may benefit from globalization and not just some elites. Despite being a billionaire himself, Trump has shown an interest in the fate of the American middle class and wants to do something against unemployment. I also hope he can serve the human rights of all Americans, or to put it bluntly, make sure that the “silent majority” is no longer systematically lied to by the corporate media. Moreover I hope he can maintain the old American Christian traditions, so that Christmas for-instance remains Christian instead of degenerating into a mere market of consumerism. I oppose the idea to build a wall between the US and Mexico. There are other means to organize legal immigration. After all America is a country of immigrants per definition, something which constitutes a difference between the United States and Germany or Switzerland, for example. Trump is the descendant of German and Scottish immigrants.
Is there anything peculiar about the US election result?
Well, it is most peculiar that millions of Americans have turned their backs to the established media. Basically the whole media industry was biased against Trump – they actively tried to defame him, they lied and misquoted him – but still he has won. The top 50 newspapers in the country endorsed Clinton and the nastiness with which television commentators put words in Trump’s mouth, distorted his message, quoted him out of context – was breathtaking. This is a revolution, mainly of the younger voters, against the establishment, against anything smelling of “political correctness”. Millions of people said “We’ve had it” – enough of the manipulation by the “New York Times”, “Wall Street journal”, “Financial Times”, “Washington Post”, CNN and so on. Obviously many voters got their information from the internet, facebook and twitter.
Will the media change somehow?
Let’s see. The “New York Times” still hasn’t come to terms with the result. Many commentators in the “established” media just go on as if they could prevent the inauguration of Trump, pretending that a new vote count in Michigan or Pennsylvania would bring Hillary Clinton to Washington after all. Strange! They even use the old weaponry, the fatigued “reductio ad Hitlerum”, comparing Trump to Hitler. I believe no sensible person falls for such tricks anymore or is willing to embrace the hackneyed neoliberal mantras. With abusive speech and inappropriate historical comparisons these media will get even more irrelevant than they already are.
Why has Hillary Clinton lost the elections?
She was the candidate of the discredited establishment. Everybody expected “business as usual” from her presidency. The deep disappointment of the US-Americans about these elites has been underestimated. The fact that all lobbies supported Clinton is also interesting – not only the so-called military-industrial complex but also Wall Street and the LGBT lobby. Still Trump has won. That is a lot of food for thought.
After the elections several demonstrations and protests against Donald Trump took place. What do think about these protests?
Evidently a lot of people only give lip service to democracy and the democratic process. Whoever doesn’t agree with the policy of the new president should offer alternative proposals for discussion. Rowdy anti-Trump agitation will turn out to be counter-productive.
What do you expect now regarding the European politicians?
Whether they like it or not, they will have to adapt. Some of them will eat their words. How arrogant of CDU politician Norbert Röttgen, for example, to have voiced “warnings” against Trump. How trivial and embarrassing the term “catastrophe” used by SPD politician Ralf Stegner or the undiplomatic accusation of Frank-Walter Steinmeier who called Trump a “hate preacher”. However, politicians often are surprisingly opportunistic, they will find other accommodations. Nobody expects vassal behavior but also no intransigence regarding TTIP and TISA. Ulrich Grillo, the pompous chief of the Federation of German Industries made a rather funny remark when he condemned the USA in strong words and demanded that “racism, chauvinism, populism and sexism” had to stop, and that there would be a “trade war” should Trump try to hamper free trade. Really?
If you had a chance to speak with Donald Trump what would you advise him?
I would suggest to him to reinvigorate the values of the US constitution, to aim for social justice, invest in the infrastructure and the education of the youth. I would propose that he should tell the Europeans: Let people in other countries find their own way to democracy, stop interfering with internal affairs of countries such as Austria, Hungary or the Ukraine. Leave the political non-culture of mobbing and blackmailing behind. I would argue he should make Goldman Sachs and others in Wall Street pay their taxes and reimburse the government for the 2008 bail-out. I would also suggest he should check all existing trade agreements so that more justice for all might be achieved.
Most of all I would try to make a case for peace – no more sanctions against Cuba, Russia or Iran. No more adventures, no wars against Russia, against China or against Iran. That way human rights would thrive on their own. I wish him good success, for the American people, for Europe and the world. Of course, Donald Trump will not be able to escape the constraints of the political routine, but step by step he might be able to reduce the nonsense of the corrupt American (and maybe even of the European) elites. After all, he has dared to openly say that the emperor has no clothes. The fraud against the peoples of the United States and Europe has to be exposed at last.
What do you think of all this noise about “fake news” and “post-truth”?
There has been “fake news” at every US election that I can remember. And, to be fair, I think there was as much “fake news” against Clinton as there was against Trump. The losers in the US election are belly-aching and imagining that the big bad Putin pulled strings and hacked systems so as to promote Trump’s election. That is rubbish – give me some solid evidence, and then we will talk. But sometimes losers grasp at any straw they can find. As far as “post-truth” is concerned – Gosh! I have seen so much post-truth in connection with 9/11, Afghanistan , the Iraq war, Libya and Syria that I can only be mildly amused by all the commotion.
Professor de Zayas, thank you for the interview •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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