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  • North Korea in 100 Facts by Ruth Ann Monti

    What’s next for Kim Jong-un?

    As I write this on New Year’s Night 2019, firecrackers are exploding uncomfortably close to my home near Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix isn’t all that far from Los Angeles, which I understand is now within reach of North Korea’s intercontinental missiles.

    It’s a little comforting that it’s less certain if such a missile weighed down by an actual warhead can actually reach LA, much less Phoenix.

    Earlier yesterday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared in his New Year’s speech that international sanctions must be lifted before he gives up his arsenal. For now, North Korea can still scare the crap out of Angelinos by attaching a bunch of Roman candles to a missile.

    What happened to the Trump-Kim love fest?

     Last year, Kim and US President Donald Trump met in an historic, if vague, summit to pledge mutual cooperation in averting nuclear war. I say vague because while both sides stated what they want, neither indicated what he would actually do to achieve “denuclearization.”

    Kim flattered the old man with courtesies like being the first to arrive at the summit and stressing his love and concern for his countrymen—even as he imprisons about one percent of them, including descendants of political prisoners, as I discuss in Fact # 66 in my book North Korea in 100 Facts. Trump openly admired the adulation Kim enjoys from his people, failing to recognize—or simply ignoring—the consequences North Koreans face if they refuse to venerate the Supreme Leader.

    Kim did take encouraging steps after the summit. He returned the remains of several US soldiers killed in the Korean War. He dismantled at least part of the country’s nuclear testing facility, as I point out in Fact #100. But since I wrote that last fact, there have been reports that the decommissioned site was merely too old to be of much use to test newer warfare technologies.

    More concerning are satellite images that show an awful lot of construction in another remote region in North Korea that could well be a new testing site. We just don’t know, and the summit certainly did not list specific steps for North Korea to follow. But it has been well over a year since North Korea tested any nuclear device or delivery warhead.

    Kim’s 2019 New Years address left out the silly propaganda about hitting the US with a “nuclear sword of justice” or turning Seoul into “a sea of fire” as The New York Times reported on 1 January 2019. And since meeting Kim, Trump has ceased calling him names like “Little Rocket Man” and threatening to deliver “fire and fury” to North Korea.

    As I completed the book five months ago, I realized the reasonably short timeframe between submitting my manuscript and its publication would be eons in the world in which President Trump presides. The major foreign policy advisors at his side during the summit are gone, replaced by a former Fox news presenter and Iraq war hawks.

    Between his short attention span and the distracting investigations into his 2016 campaign, Trump simply stopped minding the situation. His new advisors have different ideas, and new points of view that he may or may not understand or follow, regardless of what he tweets out. Some things just can’t be broken down into a baseball cap slogan.

    In the meantime, he hasn’t noticed that Kim is showing signs that he wants to break up with him.

    Will Kim and Trump get back together?

    There’s no question that there will be another Trump-Kim summit in 2019. Trump needs another one to take public attention off of the myriad investigations, which I summarized during their relative infancy in my 2018 book Donald Trump in 100 Facts.

    What Trump will say/demand is difficult to predict. John Bolton, the current National Security Advisor and Iraq war draftsman has historically attacked Presidents, including those under whom he served, for compromising on demands for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear stockpile. Political negotiation and compromise aren’t in his vocabulary. If he has Trump’s ear the day of the next summit, the stalemate will simply continue.

    Bolton calls for the so-called “Libya model,” in which the leader turned over his nuclear arsenal. Not surprisingly, the rest of the world remembers of the US attack on Qaddafi’s residences and the dictator’s subsequent assassination by political enemies. No doubt Kim recalls this, too.

    Bolton claims Kim hasn’t lived up to the Singapore deal. But how does one live up to a deliberately opaque deal? Kim can, rightly, point to closing his existing test site and returning soldiers’ remains. In the meantime, sanctions remain on North Korea, which infuriates him. It doesn’t take much cleverness for Kim to position himself as the party that did something, anything, since the summit.

    When Kim and Trump do meet again, Kim will probably be better prepared. He doesn’t seem to have problems paying attention to details, he’s consistent, and he’s steadfastly kept the same four basic demands:

    1. End the US-South Korean military exercises (something Trump has said he wants to do anyway)
    2. Get the US dismantle its long-range missile capabilities
    3. End sanctions against North Korea
    4. Finalize the treaty to end the Korean War

    North Korea will not begin denuclearization until these demands are met.

    The US won’t agree to the third point until North Korea dismantles its entire nuclear stockpile.

    Kim says he’s ready to meet Trump anywhere, anytime. Trump tweeted out the same, adding he “looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!” He should be careful. Kim has the advantage of being backed by a subservient, near-powerless populace (many are starving as I discuss in Fact # 41), while Trump’s democracy is reasserting itself. Kim is determined; Trump is distracted. At this moment, it seems Kim has the upper hand.

    Ruth Ann Monti's new book North Korea in 100 Facts is available for purchase now.

  • Donald Trump in 100 Facts by Ruth Ann Monti

    100 Non-Alternative Facts About Donald Trump

    Here’s a bittersweet irony: my book Donald Trump in 100 Facts was released in the UK on January 15, the day the US honors the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King is the only black American to be so honored—the other two are Presidents Washington and Lincoln, and they have to share a day for their birthday observations!

    Just days ago, Trump was reported to have used one or another similar insults to describe Haiti and African nations in general. Rest assured, this made many Americans shudder, including more than a few who voted for him.

    My book on Trump, written somewhat tongue-in-cheek in line with the rest of the 100 Facts series, was an attempt on my part to identify actual facts about the man. I didn’t research rumors or suppositions that had yet to be proven. Rather, I looked for items that I hoped would provide more solid insights into the man outside of his tweets and reported outbursts from within the walls of the Oval Office. After all, we were advised throughout 2017 that we shouldn’t take what Trump tweets or says too seriously.

    That left out words from Trump’s own mouth although I did look at a few of his books to note where he seemed to go out of his way to mislead. The most egregious, I think, comes from his first book (and I might add, a “yoog” best-seller) The Art of the Deal, in which he repeated the family fabrication created by Fred Trump Sr. during the Second World War that the Trumps, who hail from Germany, were Swedes. (Fred worried how his Jewish tenants would react if they were to learn of his father’s German roots, as I discuss in Fact #19.)

    Later, Donald participated in a documentary of his father’s hometown, Kings of Kallstadt (discussed in Fact #16), which introduces viewers to a cousin who serves as the family historian. By then, of course, Trump was no longer hiding his ancestry and his daughter had converted to Judaism upon her marriage to billionaire boy Jared Kushner.

    Is Trump a racist? I honestly believe that he is. That said, I also believe that most people harbor some racism inside, whether it’s racial, ethnic, even geographic. I certainly know I struggle with this and I was not raised in a particularly racist environment. I’ve worked my entire adult life to catch myself when I realize I saw, heard, or read something that set off internal alarms. I believe most of us, including most Americans, conscientiously work to correct these near-instincts. I say “near,” because racism is learned: at school, at home, on the job, while looking for a job.

    Certainly there are circles of “deplorables” who encourage racism and insist it is an instinct, even a protective one. I reject that notion. If we are indeed the creation of a God, higher power, or cosmic conception, we are meant to be better than this. We are meant to evolve intellectually as well as physically.

    Donald Trump has not done so. He explicitly rejects any attempt at self-improvement, believing he is already as close to perfect as one can get. (He may even believe he is perfect!) There is no off switch on The Donald, or an internal editorial board. He “tells it like it is,” people said early in the Presidential campaign. Which we learned, means he ignored whatever self-restraint he once had and let loose the demons most Americans were working to contain.

    The more I researched and uncovered, the more alarmed I became and I was already pretty high-strung over the concept of President Trump. I even made a conscientious attempt to identify a certain number of “positive” facts and fell short of my goal. There just aren’t many such instances to report on the man. For example, I recalled hearing back in the 1980s that Trump had paid for medical treatment for a young AIDS patient, Ryan White. Upon researching this, I found several interviews with White’s mother denying this and a concurring rumour that Trump also offered his private jet to speed White to whatever treatment center he needed to access (Fact #54). I ended up writing about how Trump was sympathetic to AIDS patients at a time when much of the nation was thrown into hysterics—certainly a positive fact—but I wonder how open-hearted he would be today if HIV/AIDS had emerged in, say, 2015. In 2014, he tweeted this gem:

    How unlike Dr King he is, who traveled far and wide to lead marches, speak out, and risk arrest (and he was arrested many times). It’s OK to do the right thing but be prepared to suffer the consequences. I, for one, am thankful for King’s sacrifice, along with countless others like Medgar Evers, Rev. George Lee, Herbert Lee, Rev. Bruce Klunder, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and far too many more.

    I am truly worried for my country. I can only hope as President Lincoln for the day that “fellow-countrymen…when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Ruth Ann Monti's new book Donald Trump in 100 Facts is available for purchase now.

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