Former CIA Director slams Trump's UN Israel vote vengeance

Trump's declarations contain "qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats," John Brennan says

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 22, 2017 7:52AM (EST)

Nikki Haley (AP/Cliff Owen)
Nikki Haley (AP/Cliff Owen)

Many experts are responding with dismay to the decision by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and, by extension, President Donald Trump to vow retribution against the countries that spurned the United States' decision to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Foremost among them is a former director of the CIA, John Brennan.

Brennan wasn't the only pundit to compare Trump's actions to those of an autocrat. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out that it was reminiscent of an alleged incident from 1960 in which Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on a desk to demonstrate his displeasure with a speech by a delegate from the Philippines.

Another New York Times writer, this time contributor Wajahat Ali, pointed out that the promises of retribution made by Haley — which had been made before the UN vote as well as after it — clearly had not been effective, considering that 128 member states voted in favor the resolution despite her threats.

In fact, it might not even be possible for America to pull financial aid from some of the nations that opposed it on the Jerusalem vote.

"Unilateral cuts to a specific country are not that easy. He can’t just say, ‘Right, Ethiopia doesn’t get any more’. If you look at the proposed foreign aid cuts, what happened in reality was that Congress and the administration ended up negotiating packages in specific countries — and the cuts were not as deep as Trump had threatened," Alex Thier, executive director of the Overseas Development Institute, told The Guardian.

After pointing out that there are many different types of aid streams, from military assistance to help for the needy and humanitarian aid, he observed that while it wouldn't be unprecedented to cut military aid "because of human right violations," it would be quite another thing to cut aid meant to help the poor and disadvantaged.

"The idea that you are going to punish the people in Rwanda or Nepal for a vote that the government takes in the UN, when that money is about fighting poverty, helping girls go to school, or fighting climate change, would be a travesty," Thier told The Guardian.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Israel Jerusalem Nikki Haley United Nations United Nations Vote