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“The inability of the United Nations to unequivocally reject the Iraq war has been a major factor in its
demise”, says outgoing president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto. In the third and final
segment of his talk with Real News Senior Editor Paul Jay, d’Escoto digs into what he believes is at the
root of the US image problem around the world, its actions. He identifies the continued incarceration of
the Cuban 5 in US prison as an example of the hypocrisy of the “global war on terror”. But while
d’Escoto points out President Obama’s unwillingness to use his authority to single-handedly pardon the
five Cuban intelligence agents, he expresses a great deal of support for Obama. “I really trust President
Obama,” d’Escoto says, “but he is going up against the same reactionary forces that we faced in the
third world when we tried to change things.”

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. We’re in New York City at the United Nations with President of the General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto. Thanks for joining us again.


JAY: About a year after the Iraq War, Kofi Annan said that the Iraq War was illegal. He made the statement. It took quite some time to say it, but he said it. There’s been a lot of critique of the Security Council and the fact that the Security Council plays power politics, although around the Iraq War it was one of the few times, actually, the Security Council didn’t give the US what they wanted. On the other hand, they did it anyway, and there seemed to be no repercussions. But I didn’t see much coming from the General Assembly, either. If you have a war that was illegal, isn’t there also some mechanism and some responsibility on the General Assembly to have taken a position?

D’ESCOTO: That is one of the reasons why failure to do that, that clear, unequivocal repudiation of things like the Iraq War, that is the reason why the United Nations has lost so much prestige and credibility. I do think it is up to the members. Countries are clear about that. They know this should be done, but they’re afraid.

JAY: And this decade more or less began with September 11 and the attacks on the Twin Towers. Your thoughts on this last eight, nine years and what it’s meant, particularly for the United Nations and international law.

D’ESCOTO: Not only the decade but the millennium, the century, began with this terrible terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Now, that certainly was a bad thing that got the universal condemnation of mankind. It happened on the very anniversary of the bombing of La Moneda, the Chilean presidential palace, and the murder of President Allende, with the complicity—as has happened in many other occasions—of the United States. There are many consequences. Okay. So now they say don’t look back. Well, the present is a result of what’s back.

JAY: You’re referring to President Obama when he was in Trinidad.

D’ESCOTO: Yeah. Yeah.


BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: I didn’t come here to debate the past. I came here to deal with the future.


D’ESCOTO: Obama did not invent that claim, President Obama did not. I’ve been hearing that for a long time: don’t refer to anything a minute ago, because that’s already passed. So talk about that which you don’t know.

JAY: So there’s never accountability.

D’ESCOTO: There’s no accountability. Another area is this area of the five Cuban heroes who are keeping, unbelievably, prison terms in the United States because they infiltrated not government agencies but terrorists who work out of Miami. Miami has been one of the biggest terrorist havens in the world.

JAY: So just for people that don’t know the background of the case, there are five Cuban intelligence officers. They infiltrated gangs in Miami.

D’ESCOTO: In Miami.

JAY: Were arrested, and now are in American jails.

D’ESCOTO: And then that information that they gather was transmitted through due channels to the American authorities, because they always claim they don’t know anything about those things. Okay, so here it is, the information. And so the response was to incarcerate them.

JAY: And this information was terrorist attacks being planned on Cuba.

D’ESCOTO: Against Cuba, from Miami.


D’ESCOTO (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): This pretext of a global war against terrorism isn’t credible when the most distinguished of anti-terrorism heroes are punished.


D’ESCOTO (ENGLISH): This is very much uppermost in the mind of Latin America. It’s an aberration of justice. Things like that, that doesn’t take anything. It’s a presidential decision.


D’ESCOTO (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I believe President Obama is being honest when he promises to bring change you can believe in. But he has the power, without needing to go to any court, to immediately correct this.


JAY: Candidate Obama, before he was president, said what was needed in the United States was a new mindset about foreign policy. Do you see a new mindset in US foreign policy, and particularly at the United Nations?

D’ESCOTO (ENGLISH): That new mindset is easier said than done. And President Obama, I trust him. I really like President Obama. And I think that when he speaks, he really speaks about what he believes. And so I’m almost always in agreement. And not only that, I am inspired to hear him speak that way.

JAY: Where have you seen him question some of the basic assumptions of US foreign policy? And he says himself he’s in the history of American pragmatic foreign policy, which really does begin with the assumption of US power in the world. Does he question that?

D’ESCOTO: He has. In Cairo he did, or at least some of the things that he did say imply at least a different perception of how things should be, which is not the same as to say they believe that he can judge it immediately. The American mentality has been carefully developed over many, many years. If anyone dares to go too much against that, his political days [inaudible] political leaders will be shortlived. You see the terrific opposition that he’s getting on his health bill, and you see how they misconstrued purposely what he’s trying to do. Those forces, reactionary forces who were thrown at our countries in the Third World that were looking for change, and then you have all of these forces, reactionary, they have been unleashed. I think [inaudible] Obama and praying. I pray that God would give him the strength and would give the American people the ability, even though they have been indoctrinated differently for so long, the ability to hear, you see, because many of the things sound like criticism, and we think that those who dare to criticize us in any way are our adversaries. Wise, wise are those people who humbly listen to their sincere critics. It’s absolutely—without that, we won’t get anywhere. We must be open to self-criticism and to criticize from an ethical perspective what goes on around us. Having said that, without criticism there’s no progress. But criticism is the prerogative, or should be the prerogative, only of those who love. Those who love whoever or whatever they are criticizing. If we don’t, we will exaggerate, and God will not use our criticism as a help to change mindsets, for example.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.

D’ESCOTO: Thank you for having me.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann recently finished his term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. His term was notable for numerous attempts to assert the authority of the General Assembly and numerous pronouncements on current events, such as the financial crisis and the Israeli siege and war on Gaza. This was a considerable departure from the highly conservative role that the General Assembly, and in particular the president, had played over recent years.

D'Escoto is an ordained Roman Catholic priest for the Maryknoll congregation, serving in 1970 as an official with the World Council of Churches. As an adherent of liberation theology, he secretly joined Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinista independence movement. In 1979, he was appointed foreign minister of the new revolutionary government following the Sandinistas' overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. He served as foreign minister under President Daniel Ortega from 1979 until their electoral defeat in 1990. He was one of a group of Latin American priests who were denounced and eventually suspended during the 1980s by the Vatican of Pope John Paul II, after their dedication to liberation theology compelled them to become involved in revolutionary politics.

In 2008, he was selected by the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to as their choice to fill the presidency of the General Assembly.