‘You cannot put the toothpaste or Nikki Haley back in the tube’

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YEN MAKABENTA

First word
Because of the uproar and fierce controversy that I caused with my column last Saturday (“Superstar speaks: Give Duterte space to run the Philippines,” The Manila Times, Sept. 23, 2017), I find myself strangely in the company of H.R. Haldeman (Richard Nixon’s chief of staff) at the height of the Watergate scandal. With attacks coming from all over and swirling around his head, he said pithily and calmly on April 8, 1973:

“Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is awfully hard to get it back in.”

I look at the controversy over Nikki Haley in the same spirit. Now that the idea is out of the bag (that Duterte should be given space), it’s going to be hard to erase it from the minds of his supporters.

Some will continue to badger me for allegedly falling victim to fake news. Still, they must face the hard reality that all I have done is express my opinion as a columnist, based on my research and analysis. The idea will live on long after the hysterics are over.


No one can put Nikki Haley back in the tube: not me, not the US embassy, not the opposition. Not in this country now.

That said, I can contribute my thoughts on the questions and issues that have been raised.

I will discuss them today by referring to many of the source materials and reports that I used for my analysis and which helped me form my opinion.

Revised mission statement of the US State Department
US State Secretary Rex Tillerson issues directive to the US State Department to revise its mission statement and delete the word “democratic.”

My main source for this is a column by former US presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, written after Donald Trump’s address at the UN. In his piece, Buchanan wrote:

“Trump is saying with John Quincy Adams that our mission is not to go “abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” but to “put America first.” He is repudiating the New World Order of Bush I, the democracy crusades of the neocons of the Bush II era, and the globaloney of Obama.

Trump’s rhetoric implies intent; and action is evident from Rex Tillerson’s directive to his department to rewrite its mission statement — and drop the bit about making the world democratic.

The current statement reads: “The Department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world.”

Tillerson should stand his ground. For America has no divinely mandated mission to democratize mankind. And the hubristic idea that we do has been a cause of all the wars and disasters that have lately befallen the republic.”

Since the US embassy has taken a keen interest in my column, even imploring me to disclose my source or sources, I have written one embassy staffer to officially inquire about the Tillerson directive.

Trump’s address to the UN
President Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017.

It was the first time that Trump addressed the UN. The consensus of many is that Trump issued a new foreign policy doctrine with the address. Some called it the finest policy speech of his presidency. Others denounced it, notably the Los Angeles Times, which blasted it in a front-page editorial.

For full understanding of the address, I refer readers to a concise report and analysis by the Associated Press. It read in part:

“President Trump used variations of the word “sovereign” 21 times during Tuesday’s 42-minute speech to the United Nations General Assembly, driving home his belief that countries, not international institutions like the UN, will and should determine the fate of the world by pursuing their own best interests.

The speech offered the most fleshed-out definition yet of the Trump doctrine, a style of big-power nationalism that the president and his advisors have also labeled “principled realism” and “America first.”

“The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” Trump declared. “Our success,” he said, “depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world.”

Trump downplayed the idea that the US should intervene to spread democratic systems worldwide.

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government,” Trump said. “But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.”

Give Duterte space
3. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s alleged statement: “Give Duterte space to run the Philippines.”

I used Haley’s alleged statement in three paragraphs of my column. The controversial passage reads as follows:

“The Philippines is suffocating. We must give President Duterte the space to run his nation. We must respect their independence … It is not in our purview to decide administrative issues for the Philippines…

“That is the job of the president.”

I could not authenticate the statement as having been actually made by Haley. I found it as similar in tone and theme as (1) a statement she made at her Senate confirmation hearing, and (2) a long statement by her denouncing the work of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Reading the alleged space remark and coming as it did after Trump’s UN address, I was convinced that the unverified statement was consistent with what her boss had said and consistent also with Secretary Tillerson’s directive on the state department’s mission statement.

What is different about our elected government being sovereign in our own land, and being given the space to lead and govern our country?

Some fear, of course, that giving Duterte space to govern is tantamount to endorsing a policy of killing in the war on drugs. But nowhere were the war and EJKs mentioned. I have expressed often enough my total opposition to the indiscriminate killings in the drug war (they can be read in the Times archives), not to accept any instruction from anyone, let alone a foreign embassy on what to think about this issue.

Haley on UN Human Rights Council
5. Nikki Haley says the UN should restore the legitimacy of the UN Human Rights Council

I first noticed Ambassador Haley in a statement she made on the UN Human Rights Council that was published as an op-ed article in a US newspaper on June 2, 2017.

I quote the following paragraphs from the statement:

“Last month, a US Senate subcommittee met to consider whether the United States should remain a part of the council….

When the council focuses on human rights instead of politics, it advances important causes.

All too often, however, the victims of the world’s most egregious human rights violations are ignored by the very organization that is supposed to protect them.

The council has been given a great responsibility. It has been charged with using the moral power of universal human rights to be the world’s advocate for the most vulnerable among us. The United Nations must reclaim the legitimacy of this organization.

For all of us, this is an urgent task. Human rights are central to the mission of the United Nations. Not only are they the right thing to promote, they are also the smart thing to promote. Next week, I will travel to Geneva to address the Human Rights Council about the United States’ concerns.

I will outline changes that must be made…

I believe the vision of the Human Rights Council is still achievable, but not without change. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to reclaim this vision and to restore the legitimacy of universal human rights.

Trump’s visit to SEAsia in Nov
In November, Trump will visit Southeast Asia to attend the US-Asean Summit in the Philippines, and then the APEC summit in Vietnam.

We will see the new Trump doctrine at work.

It will be interesting to see if Nikki Haley will accompany Trump on this trip.

If she does, we will see the superstar in person, and, perhaps, hear her say a few words. Either way, we will surely hear again from the 45-year-old ambassador and daughter of Indian immigrants.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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1 Comment

  1. What do you expect, of course you can’t undo it…

    “damage is already done”

    A couple of meaningful things you can do fully within your power, is plead “mea maxima culpa” to all the readers everywhere. Last Sunday I first heard your fake news re-quoted on the AM radio show “Save the Nation of Butch Valdez,” the American radio guest was reputed to be somewhat of a Washington political expert who was taken aback upon hearing it. He knew Nikki Haley, but not what she was alleged to have said, which he doubted from his awkward tone and admission of ignorance about it.

    Another penance you can do is challenge the MT web administrator/management to reverse it’s recent policy on hiding, web commentaries of the readers. Eliminate discourse among readers and censoring criticism is undemocratic and journalistic wise it’s unethical too.

    It is a pity that some concerned netizen, myself included could have proof read and pointed out this gaff sooner for the appropriate damage control. Unfortunately that was not possible because your paper castrated your own “readers commentary section.” So blame yourselves MT and eat humble pie.