U.S. General Considered Nuclear Response in Vietnam War, Cables Show

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President Johnson with Gen. William Westmoreland in South Vietnam in 1967.CreditCreditYoichi Okamoto/Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library

WASHINGTON — In one of the darkest moments of the Vietnam War, the top American military commander in Saigon activated a plan in 1968 to move nuclear weapons to South Vietnam until he was overruled by President Lyndon B. Johnson, according to recently declassified documents cited in a new history of wartime presidential decisions.

The documents reveal a long-secret set of preparations by the commander, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, to have nuclear weapons at hand should American forces find themselves on the brink of defeat at Khe Sanh, one of the fiercest battles of the war.

With the approval of the American commander in the Pacific, General Westmoreland had put together a secret operation, code-named Fracture Jaw, that included moving nuclear weapons into South Vietnam so that they could be used on short notice against North Vietnamese troops.

Johnson’s national security adviser, Walt W. Rostow, alerted the president in a memorandum on White House stationery.

The president rejected the plan, and ordered a turnaround, according to Tom Johnson, then a young special assistant to the president and note-taker at the meetings on the issue, which were held in the family dining room on the second floor of the White House.
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The White House national security adviser, Walt W. Rostow, alerted President Lyndon B. Johnson of plans to move nuclear weapons into South Vietnam on the same day that Gen. William C. Westmoreland had told the American commander in the Pacific that he approved the operation.

“When he learned that the planning had been set in motion, he was extraordinarily upset and forcefully sent word through Rostow, and I think directly to Westmoreland, to shut it down,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview.

He said the president’s fear was “a wider war” in which the Chinese would enter the fray, as they had in Korea in 1950.

“Johnson never fully trusted his generals,” said Mr. Johnson, who is of no relation to the president. “He had great admiration for General Westmoreland, but he didn’t want his generals to run the war.”

Had the weapons been used, it would have added to the horrors of one of the most tumultuous and violent years in modern American history. Johnson announced weeks later that he would not run for re-election. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated shortly thereafter.

The story of how close the United States came to reaching for nuclear weapons in Vietnam, 23 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan to surrender, is contained in “Presidents of War,” a coming book by Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian.

“Johnson certainly made serious mistakes in waging the Vietnam War,” said Mr. Beschloss, who found the documents during his research for the book. “But we have to thank him for making sure that there was no chance in early 1968 of that tragic conflict going nuclear.”

The new documents — some of which were quietly declassified two years ago — suggest it was moving in that direction.

With the Khe Sanh battle on the horizon, Johnson pressed his commanders to make sure the United States did not suffer an embarrassing defeat — one that would have proved to be a political disaster and a personal humiliation.

The North Vietnamese forces were using everything they had against two regiments of United States Marines and a comparatively small number of South Vietnamese troops.

While publicly expressing confidence in the outcome of the battle at Khe Sanh, General Westmoreland was also privately organizing a group to meet in Okinawa to plan how to move nuclear weapons into the South — and how they might be used against the North Vietnamese forces.

“Oplan Fracture Jaw has been approved by me,” General Westmoreland wrote to Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp Jr., the American commander in the Pacific, on Feb. 10, 1968. (The admiral was named for the Civil War general and president, who was married to an ancestor.)

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The planned operation “Fracture Jaw” to move nuclear weapons into South Vietnam was to be set in motion under this Feb. 10, 1968, notice by Gen. Willam C. Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam.

The plan did not last long.

That day, Mr. Rostow sent an “eyes only” memorandum to the president, his second in a week warning of the impending plan.

Two days later, Admiral Sharp sent an order to “discontinue all planning for Fracture Jaw” and to place all the planning material, “including messages and correspondence relating thereto, under positive security.”

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“Discontinue all planning for Fracture Jaw,” the commander for American operations in the Pacific, Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp Jr., ordered in a terse cable dated Feb. 12, 1968. “Security of this action and prior actions must be air tight.”

The incident has echoes for modern times. It was only 14 months ago that President Trump was threatening the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea — which, unlike North Vietnam at the time, possesses its own small nuclear arsenal.

There have been other moments when presidents had to consider, or bluff about, using atomic weapons. The most famous was the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the closest that the United States and the Soviet Union came to nuclear conflict.

And before he was dismissed in 1951 by President Harry S. Truman, Gen. Douglas MacArthur explored with his superiors the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War. Truman had feared that MacArthur’s aggressive strategy would set off a larger war with China, but at one point did move atomic warheads to bases in the Pacific, though not to Korea itself.

But the case of Khe Sanh was different, the documents show.

“In Korea, MacArthur did not make a direct appeal to move nuclear weapons into the theater almost immediately,” when it appeared that South Korea might fall to the North’s invasion in 1950, Mr. Beschloss said. “But in Vietnam, Westmoreland was pressuring the president to do exactly that.”

The seriousness of that discussion was revealed in a lengthy cable about the Khe Sanh battle that General Westmoreland sent to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Earle Wheeler, on Feb. 3, 1968.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson with, from left, Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Westmoreland; and Robert S. McNamara, the defense secretary, in 1967.CreditAssociated Press

“Should the situation in the DMZ area change dramatically, we should be prepared to introduce weapons of greater effectiveness against massed forces,” General Westmoreland wrote in a cable that was declassified in 2014 but did not come to light until Mr. Beschloss cited it in his forthcoming book.

“Under such circumstances, I visualize that either tactical nuclear weapons or chemical agents would be active candidates for employment.”

Within four days, Admiral Sharp, the Pacific commander, wrote that he had “been briefed on the contingency plan for the employement of tactical nuclear weapons in the Khe Sanh/DMZ area which was drafted by members of our respective staffs last week in Okinawa.’’

He declared it “conceptually sound” with some minor alterations, and asked for a full plan to be forwarded to him “on an expedited basis so that the necessary supporting plans can be drawn up.”

Three days later, General Westmoreland wrote back that he had approved the plan. At the White House, Mr. Rostow noted to the president: “There are no nuclear weapons in South Vietnam. Presidential authority would be required to put them there.”

That notification led to the president’s angry eruption, and within days Admiral Sharp, once so eager to develop the plans, ordered a shutdown.

“Discontinue all planning for Fracture Jaw,” he commanded in a Feb. 12, 1968, cable to General Westmoreland, with copies to the Joint Chiefs. “Debrief all personnel with access to this planning project that there can be no disclosure of the content of the plan or knowledge that such planning was either underway or suspended.”

None of this was known to the American Marines and other soldiers who were being shelled at Khe Sanh.

“I don’t remember any discussion of atomic weapons on the ground at Khe Sanh,” Lewis M. Simons, then an Associated Press reporter on the ground with the troops, and later a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who worked at The Washington Post and Knight Ridder newspapers.

Mr. Beschloss’s book, which will be published on Tuesday by Crown, examines challenges facing presidents from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush. It also reveals that at the same time the nuclear debate was underway, senators were outraged to discover that the president and his aides had misled them about progress in the Vietnam War.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, told his fellow senators that “we were just plain lied to,” and that the lying meant that the United States had lost “a form of democracy,” according to transcripts obtained by Mr. Beschloss, who is a frequent contributor to The New York Times.

There was even discussion of the possibility of impeaching the president for those lies. That discussion was terminated by Johnson’s decision, announced later that spring, not to seek re-election.

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Conflict and climate change lead to a rise in global hunger

October 4, 2017 by Evan Fraser, The Conversation
Conflict and climate change lead to a rise in global hunger
122 million of 155 million stunted children live in conflict countries. Credit: Piyaset/Shutterstock.com

https://phys.org/news/2017-10-conflict-climate-global-hunger.html

Last year about 11 per cent of the total human population (approximately 850 million people on the planet) suffered from daily hunger, according to a recent United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world.

This is a tragedy no matter how you look at it. The numbers show a 4.5 per cent increase—or 38 million more hungry people —from the previous year. This rise in hunger is especially significant because it is the first rise in global hunger we have seen in more than a decade.

Though global hunger was at 14 per cent of the world’s population in 2005, each year since then, between 2005 and 2016, the number of hungry people on the planet dropped. Development officials were cautiously optimistic that we were on our way to eradicating hunger.

Conflict and  are the culprits behind this year’s rise in numbers.

According to the United Nations,  worsened across major parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Western Asia. For instance, South Sudan is mired in conflict and experienced a major famine earlier this year.

Bad weather can lead to conflict

If you overlay a map of the world’s conflicts with a map of the world’s worst  security problems, there is a clear connection. The UN notes 20 million people are at risk of dying of hunger not only in South Sudan but also Somalia, Yemen and the northeast tip of Nigeria. All of these areas are affected by conflicts that undermine people’s ability to feed themselves.

Similarly, deteriorating  have ravaged many of these areas. The UN report notes that Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Yemen all experienced bad floods in 2016 while Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria all suffered bad droughts.

What we are probably witnessing is an interaction between deteriorating environmental conditions that help exacerbate already existing social tensions and undermine the livelihoods of millions.

We’ve been here before; history shows us that there are often links between  and .

For instance, there is a complex but well-established connection between droughts and the start of the Syrian Civil War. It seems that faltering rainfall in the early 2000s upended Syria’s rural communities and brought people into cities where they began protesting political corruption in the Assad government.

Similarly, there is a link between droughts and the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s. And if we look further back in time, it is well-recognized by historians that the French Revolution began as protests over food prices after harvest failures sent waves of penniless refugees into the streets of Paris.

Possible solution: drought-tolerant crops

Luckily, there are potential solutions—even right here in Canada. For example, at the University of Guelph we are breeding more drought-tolerant varieties of our important crops. We can promote agricultural practices that build up the soil’s organic matter. The extra organic matter acts like a sponge by trapping rainfall and holding onto it for when it is needed.

In addition, we can support international development projects focusing in particular on female-headed households, to help small-scale farmers access markets and become more efficient. Focusing on women is critical because in Africa, as much as 80 per cent of food is produced by small farmers who are mostly rural women.

For years, academics and activists have been trying to raise alarm bells that population growth and climate change will make it increasingly hard to maintain food security over the next generation, and that conflict is almost inevitable as a result.

But until this year, there didn’t seem to be much data, outside of historic antecedents, to confirm these worries. With hunger decreasing every year, what was the big deal? But the uptick in  signalled in this most recent UN report should focus our attention.

In the future, will we remember 2017 as the year when we started to lose the battle to ensure the future is well fed? Or will we heed this warning and take the actions necessary to help communities everywhere build more resilient food systems?

 Explore further: Climate change aggravates global hunger: UN

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-conflict-climate-global-hunger.html#jCp

North Korea Agreed to Denuclearize, but When Will the US?

https://truthout.org/articles/north-korea-agreed-to-denuclearize-but-when-will-the-us/

A powerful economic incentive continues to drive the nuclear arms race. After the Singapore Summit, the stock values of all major defense contractors — including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics — declined.

Given his allegiance to boosting corporate profits, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump is counterbalancing the effects of the Singapore Summit’s steps toward denuclearization with a Nuclear Posture Review that steers the US toward developing leaner and meaner nukes and lowers the threshold for using them.

The United States has allocated $1.7 trillion to streamline our nuclear arsenal, despite having agreed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 to work toward nuclear disarmament.

Meanwhile, the US maintains a stockpile of 7,000 nuclear weapons, some 900 of them on “hair trigger alert,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If weapons are used they need to be replaced,” Brand McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network has argued. “That makes war a growth story for these stocks, and one of the big potential growth stories recently has been North Korea. What the agreement does, at least for a while, is take military conflict off the table.”

Moreover, economic incentives surrounding conventional weapons also cut against the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Eric Sirotkin, founder of Lawyers for Demilitarization and Peace in Korea, has pointed out that South Korea is one of the largest importers of conventional weapons from the United States. If North and South Korea achieve “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” as envisioned by the agreement between Trump and Kim Jong Un, the market for US weapons could dry up, according to Sirotkin.

Even so, US defense spending will continue to increase, according to Bloomberg Intelligence aerospace expert George Ferguson. “If North Korea turns from a pariah state to being welcomed in the world community, there are still enough trouble spots that require strong defense spending, supporting revenue and profit growth at prime defense contractors.”

The US Lags Behind on Denuclearization

Last year, more than 120 countries approved the 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.” It also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Since the treaty opened for signature on September 20, 2017, 58 countries have signed and 10 have ratified it. Fifty countries must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force, hopefully in 2019.

The five original nuclear-armed nations — 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. During negotiations, in October 2016, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

In advance of the Singapore Summit, dozens of Korean American organizations and allies signed a statement of unity, which says:

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula means not only eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons but also denuclearizing the land, air, and seas of the entire peninsula. This is not North Korea’s obligation alone. South Korea and the United States, which has in the past introduced and deployed close to one thousand tactical nuclear weapons in the southern half of the peninsula, also need to take concrete steps to create a nuclear-free peninsula.

Prospects for Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula

The jury is out on whether the statement signed by Trump and Kim after months of hurling incendiary nuclear threats at each other will prevent future nuclear threats and pave the way for global denuclearization.

On April 27, 2018, the Panmunjom Declaration, a momentous agreement between South Korea and North Korea, set the stage for the Singapore Summit. It reads, “The two leaders [of North and South Korea] solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”

The Trump-Kim statement explicitly reaffirmed the Panmunjom Declaration and said North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

However, when the summit was in the planning stages and before Trump anointed John Bolton as National Security Adviser, Bolton skeptically predicted the summit would not deter North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Bolton wants regime change in North Korea. His invocation of the Libya model — in which Muammar Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear weapons and was then viciously murdered — nearly derailed the summit. Bolton cynically hoped the summit would provide “a way to foreshorten the amount of time that we’re going to waste in negotiations that will never produce the result we want.”

Sirotkin told Truthout, “Sadly, [the summit] may be set up in this way to please the John Bolton neocon wing as this offers nothing but the peace we agreed to after World War II for all countries of the world in the UN Charter.”

Meanwhile, Trump claims he has achieved something his predecessors — particularly his nemesis Barack Obama — were unable to pull off. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted upon landing in the United States after the summit. Five minutes later, he again took to Twitter, declaring, “Before taking office people were assuming we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight.”

In an analysis shared via Facebook, H. Bruce Franklin, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, pointed out that — in a sideways fashion — Trump was correct when he tweeted there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea:

[Trump] of course omitted the simple fact that there never was a realistic nuclear threat from North Korea, which has been frantically building a nuclear capability to act as a deterrent against U.S. aggression. If the U.S. stops threatening North Korea, North Korea will have no motive to threaten the U.S. with retaliation. The United States never faced any nuclear threat until we forced the Soviet Union to create one in 1949 to serve as a deterrent against our aggression.

The significance of the Singapore Summit should not be underestimated. Trump is the first US president to meet with the leader of North Korea. Trump showed Kim respect, and Kim responded in kind. Trump and Kim made a major commitment to peace. We should applaud and support it, and encourage Trump to sit down with Iran’s leaders as well.

The joint agreement signed by the two leaders in Singapore was admittedly sketchy, and denuclearization will not happen overnight. But the agreement was a critical first step in a process of rapprochement between two countries that have, in effect, been at war since 1950.

Indeed, the United States has continued to carry out military exercises with South Korea, which North Korea considers preparation for an invasion. In a critical move, Trump stated at the post-summit press conference that the United States would suspend its “very provocative” war games.

Trump also announced a freeze on any new US sanctions against North Korea and indicated that the United States could lift the current harsh sanctions even before accomplishing total denuclearization. Kim promised to halt nuclear testing and destroy a testing site for ballistic missile engines.

Ultimately, however, it is only global denuclearization that will eliminate the unimaginable threat of nuclear war.

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

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-cdc-s-prescription-for-nuclear-war

GAR SMITH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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’

https://nextshark.com/malaysian-minister-wants-atheists-hunted/

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.”

Watch:

 

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.  https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

This is beyond irresponsible. Trump’s triggering widespread panic — and he seems perfectly okay with it. This alone = impeach. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

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. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656