Famous film producer and Hollywood executive Richard A. Rowland coined the phrase about “lunatics taking over the asylum” when a group of rebel actors led by the legendary Charlie Chaplin formed United Artists to protect their own work. The saying has since been hijacked on many occasions.
Surely, though, it has never been more appropriate than when the US President, the “leader of the free world”, used the occasion of his first ever speech at the United Nations to threaten to “totally destroy” North Korea. Donald Trump followed this up by declaring that the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, is “rocket man on a suicide mission.”
Perhaps Trump’s advisers forgot to tell him that the UN, set up in 1945, was established to promote peace, international co-operation and stability. Threatening the annihilation of the Stalinist regime is against everything that the organisation stands for; his speech appalled the watching world.
Let us for one moment imagine the reaction if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had stood at the same UN podium and threatened the total destruction of Tel Aviv, and called Trump’s bosom buddy Benjamin Netanyahu a few choice names in the process? Bombs, not words, would be likely to follow, and yet Trump seems to have got away with it, for now.
Only those who have no interest in maintaining global peace and diplomacy would have been delighted by his war-mongering message although it would, by the way, have been received with both disbelief and delight by the regime in Pyongyang as it seeks to convince its 25 million citizens that the USA is North Korea’s deadly enemy. If the North Korean people weren’t convinced before, then Comrade Trump himself will have done the job for the Dear Leader and put the nation on a war footing.
Tomorrow, 21 September, is coincidentally international Peace One Day, which was designated as the first annual day for a global ceasefire and non-violence as a result of British film and TV actor Jeremy Gilley’s efforts; it was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 2001. How sad it is that 16 years later the so-called leader of the free world could stand up in the same forum and threaten the destruction of an entire nation.
Of course, Jeremy Gilley is a nice chap, and while he was no doubt horrified by Trump’s message he was far too polite to say so. In an exclusive interview for MEMO he told me how he started his initiative after noting, back in 1998, that there was not a single “international day” in the calendar dedicated to the concept of global peace. By September 2001 the UN agreed with him and chose 21 September for this remarkable commemoration.
“It has been a rather mind-blowing journey and we think that 940m people are now aware that the 21st is a day of peace,” Gilley explained. “People are changing their behaviour that day and we even achieved a ceasefire in Afghanistan for 24 hours last year. On Thursday more people will be thinking about peace and it will represent the greatest reduction in violence.” He added that we can all play a role in moving from a culture of war to a culture of peace.
Gilley’s message has certainly resonated in the celebrity world where the likes of Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Elton John, Annie Lennox and Lenny Kravitz have given their support. Next year, he and his celebrity friends are planning a major, global peace event in London involving some of the world’s biggest superstars with a guaranteed global audience of millions.
His hope is that this year’s Peace One Day will prompt people to apologise to each other and try to make amends for their mistakes, whether it is a family feud or something on a much larger scale. “We can change relationships,” he insisted, “and my question is, who will you make peace with on the 21st September?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if Donald Trump heeded Gilley’s words and led the world by example? A simple phone call to Pyongyang and an apology to the Korean people is surely not beyond the most powerful man in the world, is it? The rest of us might even forgive Trump for his angry rhetoric and aggression if he did this one simple thing. Peace One Day… with Trump or without? Sadly, it will probably have to be the latter.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.