Trump too distracted by hurricanes and politics | Sunday Observer

Trump too distracted by hurricanes and politics

Motorways in Florida were gridlocked as millions attempted to flee from Hurricane Irma (Courtesy: The Sun)
Motorways in Florida were gridlocked as millions attempted to flee from Hurricane Irma (Courtesy: The Sun)

Readers can see for themselves – via You Tube or Instagram and other internet services – the terrifying force of winds and ocean waves of the Atlantic Ocean’s worst ever recorded storm as Hurricane Irma smashes its way yesterday across the northern Caribbean Sea and approached the US’s southern Florida shoreline. With whole Caribbean islands flattened or awash and entire cities displaced, the once Category 5 cyclonic storm is slightly slower now at Category 4, but most of Florida’s southern coastal population has fled inland in the face of deadly 140 km/h winds and ocean surges.

Sadly, yet another storm – an equally destructive storm of atomic fire – that occurred with North Korea’s biggest ever nuclear test last Sunday cannot be observed in the same way given the secrecy with which nuclear tests are usually carried out. Weapons tests by the dictatorial regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are even more secretive than most.

But Washington is also engaged in a political storm after President Donald Trump suddenly switched sides and accepted the opposition Democratic Party proposal to resolve the national budget activation instead of first bargaining on behalf of his own Republican Party government. After Trump accepted the Democrats’ proposal and formally announced it, his own party exploded in frustrated wrath although party leaders officially glossed over Trump’s move as a ‘deal’ to temporarily resolve the government budget issue without delay in the face of the mounting storm disaster needs.

How much the so-called Trump ‘deal’ was actually a ‘deal’ is doubtful given that all reports indicate that the beleaguered President simply, and quickly, accepted the Democrat proposal in toto! His Repubican Congressional colleagues, readying for tough negotiations over their own plan to raise the Government debt ceiling to enable uninterrupted public expenditure, were left speechless. While Republican backbenchers howled ‘betrayal’, party leaders covered up with the storm disaster excuse – a genuine excuse, no doubt.

The Democrat proposal, now accepted, only allows the temporary raising of the debt ceiling for the next three months. After that the Republicans still face that delayed battle to regularise the debt increase and also pass various major government spending bills like the on-going hurricane disaster recovery.

Storm disasters or not, Trump may also be angling towards the Democrats in the hope that what worries him most – the Russia probe – may be politically managed to reduce any direct impact on him. After all, if his own Republican legislators don’t want to lose him at least until the mid-term Congressional elections next year, Trump may want to dangle political carrots to the Opposition in the hope (desperate, some say) that the Democrats, too, will help to sustain his presidency.

The rest of the world, their own myriad problems notwithstanding, remain captivated by the and, the United Kingdom’s tortuous negotiations over Brexit (many want to see what opportunities come there way), among other stirring events.

So, little attention is being paid to the tragedy of the Rohingyas in western Burma, increasingly the victims of seemingly state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. By last week nearly a third of the estimated 1.3 million Rohingya population of Myanmar had fled violence in their traditional homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine provice and crossed over to refugee camps in nearby Bangladesh.

Things are likely to get much worse for the Rohingyas before they get better, sadly. Bangladesh, with whom the largely Muslim and partly Hindu Rohingyas have religio-ethnic affinity, has refused to provide any legal status for the incoming refugees. There is great likelihood that the oppression of this community will lead to the expansion of the currently emerging, small, guerrilla movement, which will then lead to more violence and tragedy. This is familiar history to us, Lankans.

North Korean ‘Supreme Leader’ (so much for ‘communism’!) Kim Jon-un must be unhappy that his country’s own ‘great leap forward’ into the thermonuclear age has not yet got centre-stage.

Last Sunday geological monitors worldwide (I wonder whether our own seismographs are working) detected what appeared to be mid-size earthquake in North Korea in precisely the remote northern mountain range where Pyongyang tests its nucear arsenal. The powerful tremor, measured by various stations across the world at between Magnitude 5 and 6, was quickly identified as a tremor generated very close to the surface – whereas real earthquakes occur deeper under ground. Satellite monitoring soon picked up visual traces such as dust and landslides triggered by the underground blast.

In the course of last week, intelligence agencies and anti-nuclear campaign centres alike have broadly concluded that the blast was North Korea’s first hydrogen bomb.

Whatever the United States may say, North Korea – starving though much of its population may be – has truly joined the world’s nuclear armed club.

The United States may have over 6500 nuclear warheads, much of them far bigger than most such weapons in other states, Russia may have over 7000, China over 300 and even Israel possibly 80 nuclear weapons, but now impoverished little North Korea is estimated to have about ten bombs and is likely making more.

But then, India and Pakistan have over 150 nuclear weapons each and are also busy making more. In fact, so are all other nine members of this exclusive global club.

Thankfully, no country other than the United States is firmly convinced that North Korea will initiate a nuclear attack – or attack of any sort, for that matter. Otherwise of the danger of a sudden outbreak of nuclear war is much greater.

Given that the US is the only country so far to have actually used atomic bombs – not once but twice during World War 2 – and possesses the largest and most sophisticated nuclear arsenal, the risk of war still remains.

We can only pray that the boastful and image sensitive Trump remains pre-occupied with his own troubles and not be distracted too much by that cowboy in Pyongyang.