Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War?

There’s a big conference going on at the moment in Brussels, where the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy – a group of journos, pols, and intelligence vets from around the West – is holding a conference to discuss how to rebuild the world order in a “time of distrust.”

Speakers like Madeline Albright, Senator Chris Murphy, New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and a host of other CNN panelist types are getting together to discuss how to solve that whole “The people are revolting!” problem Beltway pols have been stumbling over for years now.

The Alliance is part of the German Marshall Fund, which in turn is the group that built Hamilton 68, whose “digital dashboard” blacklist site exists to remind us daily that Russians are lurking behind basically all unorthodox opinions here in the U.S. Such opinions apparently include any desire to not get into a nuclear war.

For instance, according to Hamilton 68, five of the Russian bots’ current six “top trending topics” are “South Korea,” “Kim Jong Un,” “Kim,” “Jong” and “Un.”

This comes in the wake of Thursday evening’s news that Trump met in the White House with South Korean envoys, who in turn announced that Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong Un “by May, to achieve permanent de-nuclearization.”

I stupidly thought it was good news that Trump had been convinced to sit down with Kim Jong Un to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff, as opposed to letting him continue to egg Kim on to launchvia Freudian name-calling sessions and late-night tweets.

Obviously, whenever Donald Trump is involved in any meeting of import, and particularly a peace negotiation, it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup they used to allow Hannibal Lecter to speak with Senator Ruth Martin in Silence of the Lambs. Certainly you don’t want him making any sudden movements toward the nuclear football in a meeting with Kim. But talking is for sure better than trading warheads. Right?

Nope. According to David Ignatius, the well-known Washington Postreporter who apparently is also on the board of this Alliance For Securing Democracy, Trump’s negotiation plan is a sign of weakness.

Ignatius wrote as much in a column this morning called “Trump is Wile E. Coyote,” in which the Post writer relayed that his CIA buddies think Trump is getting pantsed by Little Rocket Man. Here’s the lede:

“Beep beep” was the subject line of an email message I received a few weeks ago from former CIA analyst Robert Carlin, as Kim Jong Un was accelerating his diplomatic charm offensive. “So typical,” wrote Carlin in his brief text. “The North Koreans as Road Runner, the U.S. as Wile E. Coyote.”

So to recap: Russian bots are pushing Korean peninsula-related hashtags, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, whose board member David Ignatius is simultaneously telling America that negotiating an end to an unprecedented nuclear danger there makes us look like loser cartoon characters.

As Ignatius wrote: “We’ll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than ‘duck and cover.’ But as Carlin says, ‘Beep beep.'”

I wrote to Ignatius to ask him what would be good, if negotiating an end to a nuclear standoff is bad. He hasn’t answered.

While the Trump White House has been fumbling to coordinate a response to the whole “The President of the United States apparently cheated on his wife with a porn star and then paid her off” problem, and fighting off the anaconda-like Mueller criminal probe, Trump’s political opposition has been spending more and more time pushing our president into aggressive military stances.

Continuing a theme that really began last year with Trump’s much-praised decision to lob missiles into Syria while eating cake with horrified Chinese leaders, Beltway voices continue to demand, for instance, that Trump escalate America’s on-the-ground opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Both Ignatius and Kenneth Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute are examples of think-tankers arguing the widespread D.C. consensus, that Syria is the perfect place for American forces to dig in and take on Iran, Assad, and by extension Russia as well.

Americans seem to be in denial about the tinderbox nature of this lunatic Syrian situation.

Things took a serious turn in early February, when a mysterious news story suggested Russian contract fighters were killed by American weapons in a town called Deir al-Zour. The incident reportedly happened on the night of February 7th, as part of a counterattacking raid conducted across the Euphrates River by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

News outlets in both the east and the west seriously buried the lede when this incident first took place. The BBC and the AP were classic examples. This was the second-to-last line in the BBC’s February 8th article: The Russian defense ministry said the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government volunteers

What? Were any of those “wounded” by our strike Russians? Were they planning to retaliate? What was going on?

The Russians similarly downplayed the incident at first. There were reports from the Russian government that first suggested “five Russian citizens” had died. That later became dozens “injured.”

Then on February 14th, Novaya Gazeta, historically the most trustworthy and independent of Russian news outlets, ran a piece called “Mistake or Treason?” that asserted 13 Russians had died that night. The paper claimed Russian officials let private Russian “Wagner” contract fighters join pro-Assad forces in a troop advance Russian military leaders had assured their American counterparts would not take place.

Novaya Gazeta said the Russians died under fire from Apache helicopters, F-15s, drones, and ground batteries. There were later rumors that the casualties were in the hundreds, but subsequent investigations by outlets like Der Spiegel failed to bear that out.

Still, the mere fact that Russian citizens were killed by American forces in an ongoing proxy war that both sides seem determined to escalate should be absolutely terrifying to ordinary citizens here and there – especially given that aggressive rhetoric is at an all-time high, again on both sides.

Vladimir Putin recently gave a frightening speech in advance of the March 18 presidential “election” in which he spent most of his time boasting about the size, modernity, and potency of Russia’s military.

Pooty-poot boasted of new “unlimited range” nuclear missiles. He paused mid-speech to show a pulled-straight-from-Dr.-Strangeloveanimated clip of a missile weaving through snow-covered mountains on its way to the American continent (the presentation ended up including simulated explosions over Florida).

“Nobody in the world has anything like this,” Putin bragged.

Meanwhile here in the States we’ve had a constant drumbeat of “new Pearl Harbor” stories describing the troll farm indictment as an “act of war,” with politicians and pundits alike calling for escalations of hostilities with Russia.

Putin’s boasts are completely in line with what he’s always been about, using nationalist rhetoric and military imagery to cover up his almost total incompetence as an economic leader. He’s just the latest in a long line of Russian heads of state, dating back to the Soviet days, who reflexively tries to cover up for empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure with marches and missile parades.

Meanwhile, in the States, the only thing about Donald Trump that any sane person ever had to be grateful for was that he entered the White House claiming to be isolationist and war-averse. That soon proved to be a lie like almost everything else about his campaign, but Jesus, do we have to help this clown down the road toward General Trump fantasies?

We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump’s remaining time in office, the single most important goal must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.

Which is why it makes no sense to be taunting Trump and basically calling him a wuss for negotiating with Kim Jong Un or being insufficiently aggressive in Syria. In the middle of a shooting conflict, our troops are currently stationed right across the river from large numbers of both private and official Russian forces. Who doesn’t think this is crazy?

The rhetoric we’re hearing now about Trump’s weakness from the likes of Ignatius and Max Boot is essentially identical to the stuff we heard directed at Barack Obama when he had the temerity to express willingness to talk to leaders of nations like Iran.

There is a segment of D.C. thinkluencers who seem to think the U.S. is setting a bad precedent if it doesn’t bomb and threaten its way through every foreign policy conundrum, from Libya to Yemen to Iran to Syria to, apparently, even Russia.

It seems like the smart thing to do would be to wait until we had someone with an IQ over 9 in office before we start demanding that the White House play war with nuclear opponents. Of course, I might be biased because I have kids and live in a major population center. Can we chill on the gunboat diplomacy for a couple of years at least? And if not, why not?


Putin Unveils Russia’s New ‘Invincible’ Nuclear Weapons, Blames U.S. For Withdrawing From Treaty

In a nationally televised speech on Mar. 1, Mr. Putin showed off a wide array of underwater drones, cruise missiles, and ICBMs he claims were developed in response to the U.S. withdrawing from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002. “You didn’t listen to our country then,” Putin warned, via The Guardian. “Listen to us now.”

Putin’s state of the nation speech was highlighted by a test of Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat missile. Russian state media claims the ICBM can fly 6,800 miles and deliver a payload of 15 nuclear warheads to its target.

Russia’s president also claimed that the nation’s new cruise missiles were capable of sneaking past the missile defense systems of their western adversaries. The “low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile… with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of all existing and future systems of both missile defense and air defense,” Putin described, via the BBC.

After the presentation, Mr. Putin encouraged the Russian people to suggest names for the weapons of mass destruction. The address comes less than three weeks before Putin will face seven challengers in Russia’s presidential election on March 18.

The CDC’s Prescription for Nuclear War


Nuke 0202wrp opt(Photo: Dr Case / Flickr)Donald Trump’s wrecking-ball approach to governing has left Washington in a shambles. Instead of presiding as a caretaker, Trump has proven to be more comfortable in the role of an undertaker.

One would hope the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be spared. If only. Under Trump, the nation’s premiere health protection agency has been given an unsettling new task: to promote acceptance of the greatest looming threat to human life — nuclear war.

Under Trump, the CDC was recruited to host a January 16 press briefing on the “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation.” The intent appeared to be normalize the prospect of nuclear war by offering US families a checklist they could use to eke out a living in the smoking rubble of a post-nuclear landscape.

As it turned out, this attempt to put a positive spin on the specter of nuclear annihilation didn’t happen. Instead, a real-life outbreak of influenza put the plan on hold, and the CDC opted to substitute an event boosting the “Public Health Response to an Influenza Pandemic.”

“Fire and Fury” and False Alarms

With Trump and Kim Jong-Un exchanging infantile insults and threatening to exchange nuclear noogies for weeks, the CDC’s nuke-war seminar would have been perfectly timed — especially since it would have fallen in the middle of two attention-grabbing false alarms. On January 13, Hawaii was stampeded into an apocalyptic panic by a fake announcement that a North Korean missile was heading toward Hilo. This was followed, on January 17, by a false alarm from NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, warning that Pyongyang had just fired a missile at Tokyo.

The CDC had invited eight experts to the January 16 event to address such topics as “Preparing for the Unthinkable,” “Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts” and “Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness.” However, the flu epidemic called the CDC back to its proper, core mission.

Ordinarily, when faced with major health threats (an influenza epidemic, for example), the CDC’s response includes preventative measures. Scientists work to prepare vaccines to fight the spread of the disease. The public is reminded to avoid crowds, wash hands frequently and sneeze into their handkerchiefs.

Expecting the CDC to help “normalize” the threat of nuclear war is antithetical to the organization’s mission. If prevention tactics were no longer part of the equation, the CDC’s response to the influenza outbreak would be limited to informing the public that the flu was unavoidable and everyone should just get plenty of bed rest, drink lots of fluids and stockpile a month’s-worth of tissues.

Normalizing the Unthinkable

The goal of the cancelled January 16 briefing seemed clear: If people can be persuaded that nuclear war is survivable, they will be less interested in pursuing solutions to remove the threat.

While the CDC may have been the oddest government agency ever recruited to promote the meme of “well-prepared nuclear survivalists,” it was not the first. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was already on record with some handy advice for dealing with unwanted nukes in your neighborhood.

“If your community has no designated fallout shelters,” DHS suggested, “make a list of potential shelters near your home, workplace and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels, or the windowless center area of middle floors in a high-rise building.” And be sure to gather enough “disaster supplies” to last for “up to two weeks.” (Recommended supplies include: a flashlight and extra batteries, battery-operated radio, first-aid kit and manual, emergency food and water, nonelectric can opener, medicines, cash or credit cards, and “sturdy shoes.”)

While radiation levels are “extremely high immediately after an explosion,” the DHS advised, the good news is that “they go down quickly (they reduce by 80 percent in one day)” — so just “stay inside” for at least 24 hours. However, “If there is a large blast, people in areas closest to it may have to shelter for up to a month.”

But there is something odd about these depictions of this post-Fire-and-Fury America. The only inconvenience addressed is fallout. There is no mention of the dead — no accounting for hundreds of thousands of charred bodies, instantly vaporized corpses, stumbling crowds of mangled bodies, or the screams and moans of the injured and dying.

It’s Nuclear War: Have a Blast

On August 25, 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Radiation Medical Emergency Management division offered a more comprehensive guide to the physical aftermath of a nuclear attack on an urban target. The HHS described three levels of nuclear blast damage.

Light Damage Zone:

“Damage is caused by shocks, similar to those produced by a thunderclap or a sonic boom, but with much more force.”

Moderate Damage (MD) Zone:

“[S]ignificant structural damage, blown out building interiors, blown down utility lines, overturned automobiles, caved roofs, some collapsed buildings, and fires.” “Many casualties in the MD zone will survive, and … will benefit most from urgent medical care.”

Severe Damage (SD) Zone:

“Few, if any, buildings are expected to be structurally sound or even standing in the SD zone, and very few people would survive; however, some people protected within … subterranean parking garages or subway tunnels … may survive the initial blast.”

The CDC’s Comforting Message

Oddly, the HHS guidelines — like the CDC’s — are based on the unlikely premise: that a nuclear attack would involve only one bomb and that it would be the smallest possible bomb — a 10-kiloton (kt) device, tinier than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Under this least-apocalyptic scenario, the SD zone of utter destruction would still extend to cover a radius of a 0.5-mile.

In reality, a nuclear attack could involve several weapons, each capable of much-higher yields. If North Korea masters the ability to place a warhead atop a Hwasong-14 ICBM, it would likely have a yield of 15-250 kt. By comparison, the Pentagon’s W88 (delivered by sub-launched Trident II missiles) has a destructive yield of 475 kt. The B83 nuclear warhead has a yield of 1.2 megatons — 75 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

A modern bomb with a yield of 1 megaton would destroy 80 square miles. In a millisecond, the mile-wide fireball from a W88 warhead would release a 200-million-degree-Fahrenheit flash — four to five times hotter than the center of the sun.

Tens of square miles would be incinerated and torn apart by winds topping 700 miles per hour. Three miles from Ground Zero, clothing would burst into flames and uncovered skin would be instantly charred by third-degree burns. (Here’s a survival tip: if you are far enough from Ground Zero, wearing a white outfit will give you more protection than wearing dark clothing, which would likely burst into flames.)

While a 15-kt Hiroshima-scale bomb detonated in mid-town Manhattan would immediately kill 145,350 and spread deadly fallout over the Hudson Valley, a 50-megaton bomb (styled after Russia’s massive “Tsar Bomba”) could incinerate about 89 percent of Manhattan’s 8.5 million residents. (Note: The US only has enough severe-burn facilities to treat 1,000 or 2,000 cases: A single nuclear blast could produce more than 10,000 victims.)

By choosing to focus on the impacts of a single 10-kt “mini-nuke,” the CDC’s overall tone remained reassuring: “Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness. Most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation.”

The CDC noted that the effects of a nuclear attack “depend on the size of the bomb and the distance the person is from the explosion.” Among the risks:

• “Eye damage ranging from temporary blindness to severe burns on the retina.” (There is no mention of permanent blindness; no mention of eyeballs blown from their sockets by blast pressures, as happened in Hiroshima.)

• “People may experience moderate to severe skin burns.” (Once again, there is no mention of those who would be instantly incinerated.)

• “Individuals near the blast site would be exposed to high levels of radiation and could develop symptoms of radiation sickness.” Symptoms would range from “mild, such as skin reddening, to severe effects such as cancer and death.”

The CDC’s Nuclear Survival Tips

The CDC’s Interim Document begins by noting that “many people have expressed concern about the … possible health effects” [emphasis added] of nuclear war before suggesting “what you can do to protect yourself.”

Here are some of the survival tips from the CDC’s Fact Sheet:

Before a Nuclear Blast

• If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.

• Find the nearest building — preferably brick or concrete — and go inside to avoid radioactive material.

• Take shelter in the center of a tall building. [Note: Large buildings can be destroyed by bomb blasts, winds and fire.]

During a Nuclear Blast

• When a nuclear bomb explodes, turn away and close and cover your eyes.

• Drop to the ground face down and place your hands under your body.

• Remain flat until the heat and two shock waves have passed.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or handkerchief until the fallout cloud has passed. (This could take 24 hours.)

After a Nuclear Blast

• Move to a shelter, basement, or other underground area– preferably upwind.

• Listen to the local radio or TV for information.

• Clean and cover any open wounds on your body.

• Remove clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading.

• If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag so the radiation does not affect others.

• Shower with lots of soap and water to remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.

• Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner because it will bind radioactive material to your hair.

• Wipe your eyelids, eyelashes, and ears with a clean wet cloth.

• Gently blow your nose.

Follow these simple guidelines and everything will be fine. Feel better now?

The Best Medicine: Prevention

If the CDC was really interested in prevention, it might prescribe the following remedies:

• Require Washington to sign and ratify the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Adopted by 122 nations in July 2017, the world’s first legally bindingtreaty outlawing nuclear weapons will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 countries.

• Oppose Washington’s plans to spend $1.2 trillion to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal.

• Support legislation that would prohibit a president from unilaterally launching anuclear first-strike.

• Implement Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s “Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act.”

• Establish a Peace Tax Fund and remove penalties for people whose religious beliefs compel them to refuse to pay taxes that finance killing and war.

Malaysian Minister Wants Atheists ‘Hunted Down’

A Malaysian official is calling for a national crackdown on atheists in the country, suggesting that atheists are unconstitutional and should therefore be “hunted down” by authorities.

In a Tuesday press conference at Malaysia’s Parliament, Minister in the federal Cabinet Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has called upon fellow Malaysians to help the authorities in locating atheist groups. He said that groups, such as the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic, have no place under the country’s Federal Constitution, reports the Malay Mail Online.

“The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights,”Kassim was quoted as saying.

“They actually don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education. They are misled with a new school of thought.”

Kassim further stressed how religious groups should help in educating former Muslims who have already abandoned their religion.

“We need to return them to the faith and correct their aqidah if they are Muslims. To all Mufti’s and state exco’s, take note,” he said.

A recent gathering of the Kuala Lumpur atheist group recently caused outrage online in the local Muslim community after pro-Islamist blogs shared an image of them on social media. The image went viral and generated negative reactions and even death threats from agitated netizens.

Atheist Republic, which has an international membership, currently has more than a million followers on social media. Meanwhile, Deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki has vowed to investigate the local group.

Donald Trump Has History of Contradictory Statements on Nuclear Weapons

Campaign Flashback: Trump’s 2016 Nuclear Weapons Stance1:45

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

Related: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

His desire to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities nearly tenfold, voiced during a meeting with top national security leaders in July, came as North Korea continued to escalate nuclear tensions with more weapons tests.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has been fairly consistent in calling for the modernization of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s how Trump has talked about nuclear weapons since launching his presidential run and entering the White House.

Trump Claims to Have Ordered the Modernization of the Country’s Nuclear Weapons

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

As a Candidate, He Criticized the Country’s Nuclear Arsenal as Outdated

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump Has Given A Variety of Answers on Using Nuclear Weapons

  • “I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” — Presidential DebateSept. 26, 2016
  • “I don’t want to rule out anything. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons. The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has.” — TODAY, April 28, 2016
  • “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame.” — Interview with The New York Times, July 21, 2016
  • “Nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time when it would be used? Possibly. Possibly. … I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons. Because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame. … I’m not going to use nukes, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.” — Town Hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, March 30, 2016
  • “Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.” — Interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Jan. 3, 2016
  • “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.” —Interview with GQ, Nov. 23, 2015

He Has Called Nuclear Proliferation the “Greatest Threat” Facing the U.S.

  • “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” — Interview with The New York Times, March 26, 2016
  • “Our single biggest problem we have is nuclear weapons, you know, countries with them.” — Town Hall on Fox News, March 3, 2016
  • “The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” — Republican Presidential Debate, Dec. 15, 2015

But He Has Also Suggested Japan, South Korea and Even Saudi Arabia Should Have Them

  • As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.” — Presidential Debate, Oct. 19, 2016

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.

So all I’m saying is this: They have to pay.

And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?

It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.

— Interview on CNN, May, 4, 2016

CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER: So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have …

COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

— CNN Town Hall, March 29, 2016

Trump Even Said He Would Not Take Using a Nuclear Bomb in Europe Off the Table

  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing, not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.” — Interview on Fox News, March 31, 2016

In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing With Nuclear Fire

Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during an Anti-US protest after Donald Trump's UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during a protest after Donald Trump’s UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump’s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal. “If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy, “The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falk wrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!, “The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama’s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Trump’s Ominous “Calm Before the Storm” Comment Sparks Fear of Impending War

 Donald Trump (center), national security advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House chief of staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump (center), National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A White House official referred to Trump’s comment as “trolling.”

During a photo-op ahead of a dinner with high-ranking military officials and their spouses Thursday night, President Donald Trump made a “foreboding” remark that immediately provoked fears that the United States could launch yet another war.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters gathered in the State Dining Room. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.”

When asked by reporters to explain, Trump refused, saying: “You’ll find out.”



TRUMP: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

REPORTER: “What storm Mr. President?”
TRUMP: “You’ll find out.” (via Satellite News)

The comment came following a meeting between Trump and military leaders, during which both Iran and North Korea were reportedly discussed.

Regarding North Korea, Trump said military officials are prepared to provide him “a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace.”

And as the Washington Post first reported on Thursday, Trump is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear accord some time next week — a move critics are denouncing as a step in the direction of military conflict.

Commentators and lawmakers immediately expressed alarm at the president’s cryptic comments.

This is NOT something a normal, stable Commander in Chief says, especially in the middle of a nuclear crisis with North Korea. 

This is beyond irresponsible. Trump’s triggering widespread panic — and he seems perfectly okay with it. This alone = impeach. 

Following Trump’s remarks, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) urged his colleagues to support his bill that would bar the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.

Freaked out? Support HR 669 by Sen @EdMarkey & me. Bill prohibits @POTUS from launching nuclear 1st strike without Congressional approval. 

This is what would happen if North Korea launched a real attack

President Trump would have “maybe 10 minutes” to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike against North Korea — should it ever fire a missile that’s capable of reaching the US mainland, experts say.

Speaking to the Associated Press about what would happen in the event of a nuclear strike from the North, scientist David Wright, of the UCS Global Security Program, and rocket analyst Markus Schiller, of ST Analytics in Germany, described how the drama would unfold.

“The timelines are short,” Wright explained. “Even for long-range missiles, there are a lot of steps that go into detecting the launch and figuring out what it is, leaving the president with maybe 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike.”

While experts insist that North Korea is still not capable of launching a missile that could reach the United States, the communist nation on Monday claimed it could.

Its state-run KCNA news service alleged that it now has the ability to send a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead” across the Pacific following its test of a Hwasong-12 missile over the weekend.

But Kim Dong-yub, professor at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, told local media that they’d be lucky to reach Alaska or Hawaii, at best.

If they did have the capability of hitting US targets, though, Wright and Schiller predict that things could get out of hand — and fast.

While Wright believes an intercontinental ballistic missile fired from the Hermit Kingdom would take a little over a half-hour to reach San Francisco, Schiller said he believes one could strike Seattle or Los Angeles less than 30 minutes after launch.

New York and Washington, at less than 6,800 miles away, would likely have between 30 and 40 minutes before being hit, Schiller and Wright said.

American allies around the Korean Peninsula will have an even shorter window, should leader Kim Jong Un decide to attack his neighbors in the South Pacific.

People living in Seoul would essentially have zero to 6 minutes — from the moment a missile is launched to the time it hits the target — to take cover in the event of a strike, Schiller and Wright said.

Those in Japan will have a little more time to prepare, but not much. Schiller and Wright estimate that it would take 10 to 11 minutes before a missile from the North reached Tokyo.

Then there’s the added risk of Kim using chemical or biological warheads, while also unleashing a “swarm” attack on South Korea and Japan — using medium-range Scud ER missiles, which were tested back in March.

While defense systems are in place to defend against such assaults, Schiller and Wright warned that they could wind up failing or prove worthless against artillery strikes and multiple projectiles.

The pair told the AP that if the North ultimately thought it was under immediate attack or threatened, one possible scenario would be that it would first target the South Korean city of Busan, which is often used as a port by the US Navy.

From that point on, it is unclear what would likely be the next step — but if Trump did decide to fire back, Schiller and Wright said he could have land-based ICBMs in the air within five minutes, and submarine-based missiles in 15.

Here’s what could happen if North Korea detonates a hydrogen bomb

Razed cities. Loss of life. Contaminated fishing stocks. Crippled satellite networks.

Should the nuclear crisis between the United States and North Korea escalate beyond hurling test missiles and insults like “madman” and “dotard,” the list of possible effects is a long and frightening one.

Whether North Korea were to simply test a nuclear warhead or aim one at a target like the U.S. territory of Guam — as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened — there would be consequences for both people and the environment.

It’s impossible to predict precisely the effects of a North Korean nuclear blast because so much depends on the type, size and method and elevation of the detonation, says Danny Lam, a Calgary-based defence analyst with a PhD in environmental engineering.

But using as a guide the size of the nuclear test North Korea conducted Sept. 3 — estimated at 250 kilotonnes — some idea of the scope of the damage can be estimated.

“These are not toys,” says Lam, who recently testified before the House of Commons defence committee convened to discuss North Korean aggression. “These are big massive weapons that generate massive effects. These are big city busters.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has said the country will perform an atmospheric test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, after claiming a successful underground test of a hydrogen bomb in early September. Hydrogen bombs have a far larger yield than traditional weapons.

But it’s not known if the nation has the technology to make a bomb small enough to fit on a missile. Its missile testing in the Pacific has sent unarmed missiles into the Earth’s atmosphere, but some seemed to have a range that could reach the West Coast of the U.S.

Nuclear fallout zone

Should Kim make good on his threat to target Guam with a nuclear bomb the size of the Sept. 3 test, it would generate a fireball covering an area of 1.6 square kilometres and result in close to 100 per cent loss of life within six square kilometres, Lam says. Most residential buildings within 26 square kilometres would collapse, and prevailing winds would carry residual radioactive material about 270 kilometres northeast of the island.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to continue his weapons program, sending a message to the UN that he will explode an a hydrogen bomb somewhere in the Pacific. (KCNA/Reuters)

In the 1950s, a series of nuclear tests in Bikini Atoll, part of the Pacific’s Marshall Islands, were much bigger than North Korea’s most recent test. But they rendered the whole area unlivable due to contaminated soil and water that made farming and fishing dangerous. Eventually all residents had to be relocated and they have not returned.

For context, it’s important to know that the world has already seen testing of nuclear weapons far bigger than what North Korea is known to have, says Lam, and it hasn’t caused widespread radiation sickness or environmental devastation beyond the blast area.

“If they launched the warhead, we can safely say that it be real bad for any persons nearby … but it is probably not a big deal in terms of radiation release except for the local area.”

An atmospheric nuclear test would be far more dangerous than detonations in controlled underground environments, because of the force of the blast and unrestrained release of radioactive materials that could spread out over large areas. Such a launch would potentially endanger aircraft and ships because it’s highly unlikely the North would give prior warnings or send naval vessels to the area to control sea traffic.

Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert from South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, says missile tests can easily go wrong, and the consequences of failure could be terrifying if the missile is armed with a nuclear weapon.

If a misfire comes close to Japan, that could trigger retaliation from Washington, he told Reuters.

Electromagnetic pulse

Much more threatening to the broader world is the potential damage from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) triggered by an atmospheric nuclear blast, says Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security in the U.S.

EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy that destroys or damages satellite networks.

If North Korea was to detonate a certain kind of EMP-emitting bomb at high altitude, the low-earth orbit satellites would be destroyed or damaged, says Pry. “And they are vital to our ability to defend South Korea; they’re vital to our economy.”

“Even the GPS systems in automobiles, airplanes depend on these satellites. Our communications, both commercial and military, depend on these satellites,” says Pry, who has served on several congressional committees on EMP and other aspects of defense.

That means, not only would your cellphone network be down at home, military who normally perform high-tech targeted missions wouldn’t have the satellite data they rely upon to do so.

Without those space systems, the U.S. and its allies would move backward to an industrial-era military forced to counter threats like those from North Korea the old-fashioned way — through sheer numbers. “We’d be worse off, because we don’t train for that kind of war and they do.”

There’s a reason that the comprehensive nuclear-test ban treaty forbids this kind of high atmosphere tests, says Lam.

“We haven’t had this type of horror really since [the Second World War] and we’d much prefer we never see it again.”

Trump vs. Kim: Political theater or prelude to apocalypse?

, Detroit Free Press ColumnistPublished 6:00 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017 | Updated 11:35 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017

They hurl insults at each other like sweaty commuters consumed by road rage. The rest of us look on in confusion, unsure whether we are watching meaningless political theater or the realization of some apocalyptic biblical prophecy.

Kim Jong Un calls Donald Trump  “mentally deranged.” Trump responds that Kim is “obviously a madman.”

Practically everyone suspects that each man has a point. What we know for sure is that both control nuclear arsenals capable of wreaking destruction beyond anyone’s comprehension.

It has been going on all summer, this surreal spectacle of chest-thumping and name-calling. The prospect that Trump or Kim might actually do the things they have been threatening to do on an almost daily basis is so terrifying that the only response most of us can muster is to joke about it.

Dickerson: When lives are at stake, should it be a crime to look the other way?
Henderson: Michigan campaign finance rules make suckers of citizens

We understand that the sniper perched in the bell tower, the hacker who steals our financial data or the hurricane poised to pulverize a populous city are threats we have to do something about. In each case, there’s a list of actions those in harm’s way can take to make themselves at least a little less vulnerable.

But it’s unclear what ordinary residents of San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul or Pyongyang could do to protect themselves if Trump or Kim decided to unleash the fire and furythey are so fond of threatening in their tweets and propaganda videos. So we dismiss their bombast as the stuff of fantasy, like a science-fiction movie in which the protagonist travels across time or discovers that his spouse and children are really holograms.

Delusions of survival

For more than half a century, almost everyone with any responsibility for the deployment of nuclear weapons has shared the tacit understanding that their use would obliterate any meaningful distinction between belligerents and bystanders.

Distance and technological ingenuity might afford those at the periphery of a major nuclear exchange some temporary advantage. But in the long run, those privileged bystanders might end up envying those who had been instantly incinerated. (If global warming makes you anxious, then Google “nuclear winter” and learn what happens when climate change occurs so suddenly that no one has time to argue about it.)

What worries those trying to make sense of North Korea’s provocations is the possibility that Kim and his generals are either skeptical of that consensus or simply indifferent to the possibility that any nuclear exchange would end in North Korea’s annihilation.

Colin Powell at U-M:U.S. should ignore North Koreans when they shoot missiles
More: How would a nuclear bomb impact your city? Online tool lets you find out

There is anecdotal evidence to support both of these worrisome hypotheses. Evan Osnos, a veteran foreign correspondent who visited North Korea last month, says he was struck by North Koreans’ widespread conviction that a nuclear showdown with the U.S. would leave their country battered but intact.

“People go out of their way to tell you how comfortable they are with the idea of a nuclear exchange,” Osnos told interviewer Terri Gross in an interview after his return from Pyongyang.

“I had a conversation with a very smart and very alert, knowledgeable America analyst at the Foreign Ministry, a guy named Pak Song Il, whose job it is to analyze the United States, speaks extremely good English. And he said, ‘Look, we understand that a war would be devastating, but we’ve survived devastation twice in our recent history — the Korean War and then the famine of the mid-’90s which killed up to 3 million people.’
“And he said, ‘We would survive again.’

“And he took me down into the subway, which is built a hundred meters underground, twice the depth of the New York subway system, and he said, “This is where we would go in the event of a nuclear strike.’ He showed me the blast doors.”

Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corp. analyst who meets regularly with some of the most senior defectors to escape North Korea, likes to begin briefings with an even scarier anecdote dating to the early 1990s, when Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader and the first in the line of Kims that has ruled the country for decades, asked his most trusted military leaders what he should do if North Korea lost a war with the U.S.

“The North Korean military guys were all smart enough to know that it was a really good time to keep your mouth shut,” Bennett recalls in an overview published in the current edition of the Rand Review. “But his son, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader, spoke up and said, ‘If we lose, I will be sure to destroy the Earth. What good is the Earth without North Korea?’ ”

Trump poured gasoline on the paranoia when he asserted that North Korea’s current leader is “on a suicide mission,” suggesting that Kim’s provocations are not only likely to hasten his country’s annihilation but consciously designed to do so. If he’s right, we should probably stop arguing about Obamacare and eat more ice cream.

The confusion is mutual

The generals and analysts advising Trump seem less inclined to take such conspicuous displays of bravado at face value. They are proceeding on the optimistic assumption that Kim and the elite coterie that supports him are as interested in continuing to draw breath as anyone else, but have convinced themselves that the nuclear threat is the surest guarantee of both their country’s physical security and their own political power.

The Trump administration’s grown-ups want to believe they have counterparts in the North Korean intelligence community who are just as quick to discount the U.S. president’s public provocations as they are to dismiss Kim’s. But journalists who’ve visited North Korea say Trump’s tweets leave the Kim regime’s analysts just as puzzled about Washington’s intentions as U.S. strategists are about Pyongyang’s. You needn’t be paranoid to worry that either side’s miscalculation about the other’s motives could prove as dangerous as any overt military act.

When thinking about North Korea drives me to binge-eating, I like to contemplate ways the current crisis could end in something less dramatic than global catastrophe. Here are some of the more plausible ones:

The U.S. might have the capacity to disrupt Pyongyang’s breakneck schedule of tests and missile flights via cyber-measures or infrastructure sabotage that fall short of a conventional military attack. Such measures could covertly discourage Kim without providing a clear pretext for retaliatory action.

But this is a comforting scenario based on little more than conjecture. Bennett and others point out that such a strategy hinges on a combination of technical prowess and reliable intelligence difficult to secure in the world’s most opaque nation.

An ever-tightening vise of economic sanctions might convince North Korean elites and military leaders on whom Kim depends for support to replace his regime with one more eager to find accommodation with its neighbors.

But defectors say Kim’s well-publicized policy of brutality toward those suspected of subversion — the so-called three-generation rule, in which a disloyal official’s children and grandchildren are liable for offenses against the regime — discourages even the mildest dissent.

China might be persuaded to join U.S. allies in the Pacific to support containment measures that make North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons no scarier than, say, Pakistan’s.

But some U.S. analysts believe North Korea wants nuclear weapons not to defend its own territory, but to pursue its dream of reunifying the Korean peninsula.

For all its risks, the last scenario — a dug-in, nuclear-armed regime kept in line by the same threat of mutually assured destruction that deterred the U.S and the Soviet Union from annihilating each other through the Cold War era — may offer the best hedge against a war that leaves unprecedented carnage.

All we can be certain of now is that the well-being of millions on both sides of the Pacific depends on both sides remembering that no one should take their leaders’ public threats very seriously.